Echoes from the Orient by William Q. Judge
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Chapter 18

That the doctrine of Karma is unjust, unsympathetic, and fatalistic has been claimed by those who oppose it, but such conclusions are not borne out by experience among those races who believe in it, nor will the objections stand a close examination. The Hindus and Buddhists thoroughly believe in Karma, convinced that no one but themselves punishes or rewards in this or any life, yet we do not find them cold or unsympathetic. Indeed, in the relations of life it is well known that the Hindu is as loving and tender as his American brother, and there are as many instances of heroic self-sacrifice in their history as in ours. Some go further than this and say that the belief in Karma and Reincarnation has made the Hindu more gentle in his treatment of men and animals than are the Europeans, and more spiritual in his daily life. Going deeper into their history, we find the belief in Karma side by side with material works of great magnitude, whose remains to this day challenge our wonder, admiration, and respect; it is doubtful whether we could ever show such triumphs over nature as can be seen at any time in the rock-cut temples of Hindustan. So it would appear that this doctrine of ours is not likely to produce bad or enervating effects upon the people who accept it.

"But," says an objector, "it is fatalism. If Karma is Karma, if I am to be punished in such and such a manner, then it will come about so whether I will or not, and hence I must, like the Turk, say 'Kismet,' and do nothing." Now, although the Mohammedan doctrine of Kismet has been abused as fatalism, pure and simple, it was not held by the Prophet nor by his greatest disciples, for they taught that it was law and not fate. And neither is Karma amenable to this objection. In the minds of those who, having vaguely apprehended Karma as applying to one life only, do not give the doctrine its true majestic, endless sweep, fatalism is the verdict. When, on the other hand, each man is seen as the fashioner of the fate for his next fleeting earth personality, there can be no fatality in it, because in his own hand is the decree. He set in motion the causes which will inevitably have certain results. Just as easily he could have made different causes and thus brought about different results.

That there are a repellent coldness and want of tenderness in a doctrine which thus deals out inflexible justice and compels us to forever lose our friends and beloved relatives, once death has closed the door, is the feeling of a few who make sentiment their rule in life. But while sentiment and our own wishes are not the guiding laws of nature, there is no reason even on the sentimental ground for this objection; it is due to a partial knowledge of the doctrine which, when fully known, is found to be as full of opportunity for the exercise of what is dear to the heart as any other theory of life. The same law that throws us into life to suffer or enjoy, as may be deserved, decrees that the friends and the relatives who are like unto each other must incarnate together, until by reason of differentiation of character they cannot under any law of attraction remain in company. Not unless and until they become different do they separate from each other. And who would wish to be eternally tied to the side of uncongenial relatives or acquaintances merely because there was an accident of birth!

For our aid, also, this law works well and ceaselessly. "Those whom you help will help you in other lives," is the declaration. In ages past perhaps we knew those who long since have passed up to greater heights. The very moment in the long series of incarnations we come near to where they are pursuing their pilgrimage, they at once extend assistance, whether that be on the material or moral planes. And it makes no difference whether one or the other is aware of who is assisting or who is being assisted. Inflexible law guides the current and brings about the result. Thus the members of the whole human family reciprocally act on one another, forced into it by a law which is as kind as it is great, which turns the contempt we bore in the past into present honor and opportunity to help our fellows.

There is no favoritism possible in nature; no man has any privilege or gift which he has not deserved, either as a reward or a compensation. Looking at the present life spread before our limited vision, we may see perhaps no cause why there should be any such reward to an unworthy man, but Karma never errs and will surely repay. And it not only rewards, but to it solely belong those compensations which we with revenge attempt to mete out. It is with this in view that the holy writ of the Christian says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," for so surely as one hurts another so is the certainty of Karma striking the offender — but let the injured one beware that he does not desire the other punished, for by Karma will he be punished also. So from all this web of life and ceaselessly revolving wheel, Karma furnishes the escape and the means of escape, and by reincarnation we are given the time for escape.

Chapter 19