I wonder how many of the complexities and perplexities of life we are ourselves responsible for because we view things from the wrong end or angle. Many instances could be drawn from the ordinary outlook of the average human being; and they occur from one end of the scale to another, in children who have not attained to the wider perspective of adults; in men and women who view anything from this world-angle and the one life they are living here; or again by ordinary human beings who are not evolved to a higher status.
A child thinks it is a burden to go to school, until he approaches adulthood and learns the fascination of exploring new intellectual fields; and to most children the thought of going to bed is distasteful, but when they grow up a night's rest is rather alluring. An adult looks upon the hard experiences of life as things to be dreaded and avoided, not as opportunities for strengthening character and finally becoming of greater service to his fellowmen.
We so commonly talk about good and bad karma, when after all karma is really colorless or neutral, unless we consider it from the larger standpoint and realise that all karma is good because it is the paying off of debts. If we look at all karma that comes to us as coming from that great store which each person has accumulated from past lives, then when we meet some "fortunate" karma, we are lessening by so much the store of that kind of karma (until we make some more!; but when we have gone through trials and difficulties, we most certainly are putting that much of evil karma definitely behind us, and there is less for us to face in the future.
But after all, can we ever call karma bad? The clearing off of debts is always a welcome relief, and we have been told that pain and suffering are truly our greatest friends, and who has not found from actual experience that some seemingly unfortunate incident or the denial of some wished-for thing has been the very means of opening a door or paving the way for some of the greatest good fortune that our lives have brought us. There has been more than one instance of a person being prevented from taking a very much longed-for ocean voyage (or other trip), and then the ship was wrecked on that particular trip. It just wasn't his "bad" karma to lose his life then; though at the time of his disappointment he thought it was bad karma that made him miss the trip.
What it all amounts to is that so much of life is viewed from our own small personal limited viewpoint, what is going to be of advantage or the reverse to us, entirely neglecting in our minds and consciousness to distinguish what is the real Us. But we don't need to go into metaphysical realms for instances of distorted vision. Take fire as an example. Fire is a natural phenomenon in Nature, neither good nor bad; but the man who comes into his home on a cold winter's evening and is greeted by a warm fire, thinks of it as a great benefactor to mankind; while the man who sees his home swept away in flames curses this evil destroyer.
Then there is the matter of death. Fortunately in these days people are beginning to comprehend the beneficence of death and to realise that it is not the antithesis of life, but merely of birth; and that death, which is one aspect of life, opens the door to fuller experiences for the inner and higher parts of man, experiences which man cannot undertake while he is chained to his physical body On the other hand, neither should this physical life be looked upon as a necessary evil to be borne with fortitude. It is only by going through this phase of our evolutionary pilgrimage that we can finally raise these lower parts of ourselves to something higher.
But though we are gradually getting the right perspective on the periodic appearance and disappearance of man on earth, we still think of Nations or Races which have reached their summit of flowering and then their old age and decay, as facing a catastrophe, when they are only following the natural cyclic law of rest for a while, to recuperate and store up vigor and energy for their new life
What it really means therefore is that the greater cosmic laws have their true reflexion down here on earth, and if we apply such teachings as the Law of Cycles, the Doctrine of Karma, the Evolutionary Pilgrimage of the Soul, and in fact everything that Theosophy teaches, to the life we are living right now, we must admit that everything that happens to us is for the best, each circumstance holds a lesson to be learned, and every step in life can lead us forward and nearer to the Goal. Even when the forces of destruction come into play, they are clearing the ground for something finer and nobler to be built up.
Perhaps by trying to readjust our viewpoint we will move one step nearer towards that "Indifference to pleasure and to pain" which we are told is a sine qua non of the disciple, and will bring more real happiness not only into our own lives, but add to the world's general share.
1. Reprinted from The Welsh Theosophical Forum, May-June, 1944. (return to text)