Those of us who were born in the Christian faith are familiar with the saying: What ye sow, that shall ye reap. Those born in the Hebrew faith are acquainted with the same principle in the Mosaic Law: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Hindus and Buddhists recognize the law of karma — the inviolable law of cause and effect. The Moslems have their Kismet, indicating each individual's portion or lot in the circumstances of life. The Greeks their Nemesis, their goddess of retributive justice. So likewise every Sacred Scripture includes a reference to this common law of balance that operates in the lives of all.
It is regrettable that in most cases we have been trained to think of the operation of this law with fear in our hearts: "if you don't live right, you will go to hell"; "you had better be good, or God will punish you"; and so forth. It is difficult with an open mind to conceive of any God — whether Christian, Buddhist, Moslem or Hindu — as watching each individual, ready to strike him down if he errs; or if he is good, to reward him with specially conceived favors.
Man may have been "fearfully and wonderfully" made, but it does not follow that he was made in fear. The curse of dogmatic belief that we were "born in sin" has had effects both far-reaching and devastating. Man is wonderfully made, and with the qualities of a divine potential in his nature — qualities which surely must spring from a divine trust and not a divine fear. That Almighty Intelligence which pervades every minute atom of our universe could not have allowed its essence to manifest without a complete trust that each life-atom in time would become as that from which it sprang. To limit our concepts to a Deity who would on the one hand personally supervise this whole evolutionary unfoldment individual by individual, and on the other relegate us to "sin" at birth, confines us not only to a narrow but indeed a degrading view of the true purpose of life and the place that man has to fulfill in it.
It would seem reasonable to assume, therefore, that the harmony of balance in all Nature is and must be maintained by the impersonal operation of some law that attaches effect to its rightful cause, reaction to corresponding action, and result to effort — and this in the mental and moral aspects of life too, just as science recognizes its operation in the physical spheres. Have not all of the great teachers endeavored to help man realize that he is truly the arbiter of his own fate, and the maker of his destiny?
We have been told that from the very day in the Garden of Eden that man tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he became a self-conscious unit of the human kingdom, responsible for his every thought and act. If this be so, then from that moment we truly have been the shapers of our own character, and the makers of our future destiny; and that divine law of sowing and reaping has brought about the very circumstances in which we find ourselves today — whatever their quality, good, bad or indifferent.
Should we presume to believe that that divine essence which pervades all, and which is represented to have the highest intelligence and greatest understanding, could think of our respective situations in terms of punishments and rewards? Isn't it more likely that such Intelligence would view the situations in which we find ourselves as a vast field of opportunity? Would not these circumstances represent in very fact an accumulation of effects of causes which you and I had set in motion in the past — the perfect stage-setting upon which the qualities of our natures in the present could find expression?
Webster's Dictionary defines this doctrine under the word "karma" as the "whole ethical consequence of one's acts considered as fixing one's lot in the future existence" — a thought offering a sane foundation upon which all manifested life can grow.
If then, as all the great Scriptures indicate, an aspect of the Divine Intelligence is in each one of us, we as individuals can use our free will consciously to direct our growth and progress. Without fear, but with full trust, we can go to work from where we stand, meeting our circumstances with intelligence, knowing that our right thoughts and right actions must in time bring about their corresponding effects.
We may know also that that essence of the Divine in us is likewise in the other fellow, and that we are here to help each other bring more and more of that quality into manifestation — not only in the future but now, in the daily circumstances in which we find ourselves. It makes each moment an opportunity — a challenging opportunity to fulfill our destined responsibilities, not alone to ourselves, but to all with whom we come in contact.
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