A Yuga is a specific 'Age' or period of time;. . . . . The Kali-yuga, or the Dark Age, is the Yuga in which only one part of the truth prevails, because materiality and ignorance with their evil relations of selfishness and anger and indifference hold sway over men's hearts. We are now in the Kali-yuga of our present great race. — Judith Tyberg
Times are very scary now, our society is becoming more and more lawless and chaotic, and yet we know that as Kali-yuga progresses things will get much worse. What do we do to get along, to live as best we can with a daily more terroristic, desperate netherworld growing ever larger, ever nearer? We avoid bad parts of town, choose friends who are like us, live in relatively crime-free areas, work steadily, maintain a nice home. We read good and spiritual books, watch enlightening TV, try to hold good thoughts, give clothing and money to worthy causes as we are able, perhaps even work unpaid for some charity.
We can do all this and live quite separate from squalid lives and surroundings all about us. Karma may seem to have placed us unscathed in our present spot, we perhaps feeling we have passed that way before — we have already paid our dues to that frightening society and there is no need now to come into direct contact with it. But is this really the fact? Can we smugly assume this is so just because right now we are not poor, we are not crime-ridden, not addicted?
This we must remember, and it applies throughout our existences on the wheel of reincarnation: at any moment our lives can change, for we simply do not know ourselves or our pasts well enough to be complacent. It is true that one can generally judge a person's stature and place in society by his/her demeanor, conversation, way of speaking, manners or lack of them, etc., and a gently born person has usually been so for many lives (though not always). There may be dark corners left unswept from which leftover denizens emerge unexpectedly at one's weakest moment, to have their time in the light, to live and fulfill their and our karma. These find expression variously as addiction, dereliction, despair, self-destruction — and usually these will be crimes or violence against the self, not others, for such a person has indeed come far, but has only temporarily put off meeting and coming to grips with this past dark, personal karma.
As well as joys life can present us with so many terrible things accidents, loss of job, money, home, deaths of children, spouses; and it is true we must be tough to withstand them and in the end they do strengthen us. But sometimes the loss is so severe, the burden so heavy and the grief so punishing that the frail human part of us cannot stand it and we give up in one way or another. Some go down and down and end their life at the bottom, oblivion their only goal. Others go down and stop on the way, perhaps struck by a soul memory, and turn their lives around. Yet others are helped by loving friends or relatives, or by kind strangers whose outstretched hand of itself may be the impetus to recovery.
We are all in this together: we not only do not know the circumstances of anyone's past lives, we do not even know what triggered their lacks and failures in this one. All of us have so far to go, and not one of us can say with certainty that we have seen all the dark corners of our many lives scoured clean. We do not know the depths to which we also could descend were we presented with the same circumstances.
We can speak and orate and discourse in high-flown phrases forevermore, but if we turn away from someone we know who is hurting and asking for help, all the high-mindedness is only sham, meaning nothing. It is also fine and inspiring to hear about the great ones of the past, of the Buddhas and the Christs and Krishnas, but unless their compassion becomes our own we may overlook the currents abroad in our world that need diverting, to be made useful.
Those who are close to us, nearest to us perhaps only in distance, are there karmically. They may be the ones who need our help most and whom we can most directly aid. If karma has so worked in its evenhanded way that we may indeed be in a position to help others, then let us recognize the fact and put this blessing to use. None of us is so isolated that there is not another person nearby to care about.
So Theosophy tomorrow? It depends on how well we learn our life lessons. The only way to contain the deepening wickedness and amorality of Kali-yuga is by caring and giving selflessly of ourselves. Theosophy will endure as it always has — source of truth, self-knowledge, wisdom of the ages and, perhaps most of all, compassion.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1989; copyright © 1989 Theosophical University Press)