The Theosophical Forum – September 1943


The next number concludes this series of radio talks on Theosophical subjects given over Station XQHB, Shanghai, China, during 1941, by Miss Inga Sjostedt and Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist. In this article Miss Bergqvist shows the fallacy of the argument held by some that Karman is a cruel doctrine, and quotes from the Book of Golden Precepts: "Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin."

Good evening, everybody:

Last week the speaker explained the Theosophical doctrine of hierarchies, of how the different units in nature are composed of smaller units and form the parts of larger units in infinite extension in all directions.

This week I want to clear up a misapprehension that has been brought to my notice. It seems that there are people unacquainted with the Theosophical teachings, who have received the impression through a casual acquaintance with only one aspect of Theosophy, that Theosophy is a cruel doctrine.

It would appear that the teaching which has given rise to this wholly erroneous idea is the doctrine of Karman in one of its aspects. Karman, if you remember, is the name given to the law of harmony in nature, which is perpetually readjusting the balance of events, which renders suffering and joy as the just result of thoughts and deeds. It is Karman, even, which gives us the capacity to enjoy or to suffer, for it is in ourselves and our reactions to surrounding circumstances that lies the cause of our joy or sorrow.

On the strength of this, some people who have given but superficial attention to the doctrine would tend to pass by suffering with a shrug of the shoulders and the casual thought that it's the sufferer's Karman; and it is here that has arisen the said misunderstanding and the accusation of cruelty. This is entirely wrong. The following much-quoted saying of our Society's Founder and first Leader proves this beyond doubt: "Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin." Any thoughtful person will realize the truth of this. When we see suffering which we have the power to alleviate, how can we know that we are not face to face with an opportunity of paying off an old debt incurred in some previous life? We may even be responsible for the suffering that we see. In fact, a deeper study of Theosophy and logical speculation along these lines will show us that we are to a very great extent our brothers keepers. It is our simple duty to help others in every way we can, and to waste an opportunity of doing good is a sin — to ourselves as well as to the sufferer, whom we decline to help. It is a very shallow viewpoint to say: "Let him suffer, he has deserved it." It may be the sufferer's Karman to be helped by you, and if you refuse your help, Nature's law of compensation will adjust the balance in his favor, while your callous indifference will also bring its own result. Thus it is strictly true that inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin.

The Theosophical doctrines are based on the fundamental postulate of the brotherhood of man, and the only prerequisite to membership in the Theosophical Society is a sincere acceptance of this postulate. This is no mere Utopian imagery though it requires a little thought to fathom. As before explained, it is the logical outcome of the realization of our common divine root. It has been said before, but it will bear repetition, that Divinity to be divine must be infinite and eternal, wherefore everything that is must contain its own spark of divine fire, from which it sprang and into which it will return. We heard last week how the speaker classified the various hierarchies of Nature, and we were shown humanity as one such hierarchy. Therefore each human being is a unit of that hierarchy and each unit is inseparable from the whole. Humanity as a whole is only a unit in a still greater hierarchy. As human beings we are all dependent on one another and no man can live for or by himself alone. We share the same qualities that mark us as human and depend on one another in every way, physically, mentally and morally. According to the ancient teachings there is only one heresy, the heresy of separateness, and from this spring all human mistakes. The belief that each man can live for his own selfish aims and ambitions is an offshoot of this. Selfishness lies at the root of all human troubles. There is not one sin or one sorrow that cannot be traced back to the selfishness that arises from the belief in our separateness. In a world where each man lived not for himself but for the community, there could be no suffering and no sin. Selfishness is at the bottom of all wrongs. There is individual selfishness, giving rise to greed and personal ambition. There is national selfishness, producing the same faults on a larger scale. There is even racial selfishness. All these forms of selfishness arise out of the mistake of believing ourselves separate from the humanity of which we are the parts, and so long as we persist in this belief and in acting in accordance with it, there will continue to be suffering and misery among the individual members of the community, among the nations and among the races.

When we see poverty and misery on all hands and the faults in the social order that are their immediate cause, we can do much to alleviate the suffering and poverty, but as long as our social order is based on individual gain and selfish ambition, these things will continue to crop up. It is not enough to alleviate the suffering — that is necessary too and a sacred duty; but we must go deeper than that and eliminate it by searching out the cause of it and destroying that cause. The keynote of the Theosophical teachings is unselfishness, and Theosophical students all over the world try to the best of their individual ability to live up to the high standards of these teachings. If we fail as individuals, it is not the teachings that are at fault, but the imperfect human beings who fail to live up to them. Unselfishness based on the rational and philosophical concept of human brotherhood is surely the last thing in the world that can be called cruel; and those who on a superficial acquaintance with one tenet of the Theosophical teachings, believe them cruel, should make a deeper study of the subject and — judge for themselves.

The great Teachers of Theosophy, those who worked publicly like Christ and Buddha, and those who work silently and in seclusion, are shining examples of unselfishness of the highest degree. Those who try to follow in their footsteps and who enter the path of training and initiation, even today, for the purpose of helping humanity in its evolutionary course toward spiritual perfection, leave behind them all thoughts of self, for in their training it is not only impossible but dangerous to try to achieve wisdom unless every selfish thought has been permanently banished from their minds. Such men exist today, but they wouldn't come and tell you about it, for every trace of personal ambition is excluded from their make-up, and so we know next to nothing about them; but humanity has good reason to be grateful to those who give up their personal lives entirely in order to enlighten and inspire anyone who sincerely aspires to wisdom and truth without selfish motives.

We have often mentioned the Masters before. People sometimes think that they are some fabulous creatures from another world; others don't believe in their existence. As they don't advertise themselves, this latter is the more common view. There isn't anything fantastic about them really. They are human beings, who have made the most of their experiences on earth during many lives and who have directed all their energies toward the goal of truth and perfection, instead of vacillating and wasting time as most of us do, and whose efforts have been crowned with success. They know the laws that govern our world and work consciously in harmony with these laws. As the laws of Nature involve altruism and compassion, they exert these qualities to the utmost and — because of their infinite compassion — remain on earth to help humanity rather than proceed with their own evolution on higher planes. In case any one should wonder why they don't interfere when the world is in a state of political upheaval, it would be as well to mention that they cannot and will not hinder the workings of Karman, which is a natural law, but they continually help and inspire those whose motives are pure and unselfish, and thus they help to prevent much of the evil that would arise in the future from present mistakes. In conclusion I should like to quote another of H. P. Blavatsky's sayings. This is what she says: "It is easy to become a Theosophist. Any person of average intellectual capacities, and a leaning toward the metaphysical; of pure, unselfish life, who finds more joy in helping his neighbor than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasure for the sake of other people; and who loves Truth, Goodness and Wisdom for their own sake, not for the benefit they may confer — is a Theosophist." With this high ideal before us we readily see that Theosophy teaches — not cruelty but compassion — and more compassion.

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