Karma – the Law of Cause, Effect and Responsibility



Ladies and gentlemen,


I welcome you to Broadcasting 7 of our Series "Introduction to Agni Yoga". Today, we shall be speaking about Karma, one of the fundamental laws of the universe. Without the knowledge of this law you can neither understand nor cope with your fate.


How many of the suffering, of the sick and of the dying are complaining: "Why I"? If they know nothing about Karma, they will be unable to find the answer.


There is so much suffering due to ignorance. Ends the ignorance, ends the suffering.


1. Existential Question of Crime and Punishment


One of the existential questions of mankind is: Do we have to suffer for our evil deeds? The ignorance about this point is a source of the prevailing intellectual confusion.


Mortal man sees that evil deeds produce their effects not necessarily in the same earthly life. He sees that injustice prevails on earth. He therefore actually believes that he can get away with a bit of luck and escape responsibility for his thoughts, words and deeds. Thus, the mistaken belief that our existence ends with death produces an awful irresponsibility.


The new, immortal man, however, feels that he is placed in a higher order, which is inconceivable without justice. If the spirit is eternal, man will not be able, ultimately, to escape the effects of his acts.



2. Merciful or punishing God?


The faith of the Christians, as it has evolved over the centuries, encounters an inextricable question:


Should we imagine God as all-merciful, granting the grace of salvation to all of us, whether deserved or undeserved, whether we repent, do good or not?


Or is the Supreme Being a ruthless avenger and punishing judge who sends the Flood, visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation (2. Moses 20, 5) and threatens us with hell, damnation, weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 7, 13; 22, 13, 14; Luke 13, 28)?


This lack of knowledge has tormented mankind for centuries: Why does our "dear God" allow earthquakes and fires, floods and wars, misery and suffering to happen? There being not a sparrow which falls on the ground against his will (Matthew 10, 29)! Today's philosophy has no convincing answer to this question. Christianity has lost itself in a dead end without exit.



3. The Law of Karma


It is about time that the Western world as well solves this existential question. There helps us the wisdom of the East:


There is an iron law, which governs the whole universe. In its work, not even a God can interfere: Karma - the law of cause, effect and responsibility. All nations know this law, whether they call it Fatum, Nemesis, Kismet, compensating justice, providence or fate.


Karma establishes justice. Accordingly, there falls back on everyone that what he has committed in the past – until evil is atoned for. Evil deeds produce evil, good deeds produce good results - for ourselves! He who inflicts suffering on others must himself endure suffering – so long until he has learned not to do this again.


The ancient Romans said: Suum cuique - everyone gets what he deserves. We shall have to pay for everything.


The evil that we have committed in this or in a past life brings us misfortune - until the sheer suffering forces us to wake up, to change our way, to solve the evil by good deeds and no longer to succumb to temptation. He who is struggling today to do good, in the middle of all the confusion in which he lives, pays off old debts and creates for himself a better fate in the future.


Therefore, it is much better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.


Your earthly Karma ends only then when you have nothing more to learn down here. Then further trials are unnecessary. Then you may be admitted to a new round on a higher planet. So if you are suffering from the earthly conditions, you should quickly learn your lesson - then you will soon be relieved of the necessity to come back here.


4. Cosmic Law


It is a wrong concept to comprehend Karma only as punishment. Karma works like a law of physics: unchangeable, not subject to any influence, and valid everywhere in the universe. All our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds form as energies causes, which later must necessarily and with the exactitude of a law of nature produce the corresponding effects.


The law of Karma provides the answer to the question of Christianity: Yes, God is merciful - but with the course of universal justice even He cannot interfere. He, too, is tied to this cosmic law.


The Higher World can give hints, it can show a path, it may even send help when our power seems exhausted - but we all of us have to solve our own Karma ourselves.


It is not the grace of God or Jesus' death on the cross which brings us all, whether we sin or do good, indiscriminately "into heaven". Jesus Christ was a great spiritual leader, like Buddha and Mohammed. But he is not the saviour from all guilt, to whom St. Paul and the church have made him.


It is our own striving for good, for truth, for the higher, that brings us closer to the divine, during the course of many lives - the one sooner, the other later.



5. Free Will and Responsibility


How can Western man approach the law of Karma? He finds a bridge in the principle of responsibility:


Unlike the animals, human beings have acquired, during the course of evolution, the ability to act freely and consciously. But free will has a reverse side: it requires necessarily that responsibility is being taken. The order of the universe is not so constructed as to allow living beings, who have attained the high level of free will, to escape the consequences of their actions.


There is no freedom without responsibility. Freedom without responsibility would not be a great achievement, no ornament of mankind, but a monstrosity of cosmos.


Everyone knows in his heart that he must carry the consequences of his thoughts, words and deeds. We teach our children to shoulder their responsibilities and to remove themselves the dirt that they have caused. But we adults should try to get away by referring to the crucifixion of Christ or by taking a bath in the Ganges!?


People burden themselves with guilt when they behave unethically (for example when they support factory farming). This is clearly confirmed by all religions and by our heart-knowledge. Upon guilt, there must necessarily follow either reparation or suffering.



6. Effect after Death


The principle of responsibility provides us with difficulties, because not all the causes that we set can produce their effect already in the same earthly life. In this short span of time, justice cannot be completely established. He who believes that human existence ends with death, therefore, will hardly be able to convince himself of the working of universal justice. Only the immortal man is really aware that all his thoughts, words and deeds continue to be effective and to influence his eternal way.


The Christian doctrine and the eastern wisdom therefore agree: The consequences of our actions will reach us to a large extent only after death.


But how are we to understand this compensation after death? Here, the doctrines separate:


The old belief that man is judged at Judgment Day and either received into heaven or condemned to hell for all eternity, is no longer acceptable. Far more natural and plausible to the heart is the concept that we shall be given the opportunity, during later lives on earth, to make good our offences.


Modern thinkers have recognized that hell is on earth and that we are preparing it ourselves. The meaning of the earthly "hell" is, then, like a purgatory to force people to finally begin their purification and to prepare for themselves a better fate in the future.



7. Bible and Karma


The Bible contains an abundance of evidence that only he can attain salvation who lives according to God's commandments. Those who ignore the Higher Will will be punished, cast aside and rejected. We have suppressed the meaning of these passages in the wake of a false theology of cheap grace.


The Old Testament is full of God's punishments for the disobedience of his people, starting with the Flood (1. Moses 6, 5 ff) and the annihilation of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrha (1. Moses 18, 20 ff). The subsequent history of the people of Israel is an endless series of defection, punishment, suffering and rapprochement to God.


In the New Testament it is no different. The Gospels know nothing of grace without merit. They speak not only of God's mercy, but also of his justice. They contain many clear references to the law of Karma, such as:


Verily I say unto thee: Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (Matthew 5, 26)


For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6, 7)


Many parables speak of the necessity of compliance with the higher commandments in man’s own interest: For example, the parables of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 22, 2-14), of the wise and the foolish virgins (Matthew 25, 1-13) and of the prodigal son (Luke 15, 11 ff): We are accustomed to overlook that the son had to bitterly repent his earthly desires before he was allowed to return to the father.



8. No Fear of God


The idea of a punishing God is terrible. The approach to the higher spheres is achieved by love, not by fear.


Fortunately, fear of God is obsolete. God does not punish. He ensures that justice prevails. We punish ourselves by creating a bad fate for us through our own bad behaviour.



9. No Complaining


The widespread notion that the higher powers pour suffering equally on the guilty and on the innocent is absurd: This concept is not compatible with the iron principle of justice.


People should not complain about their fate. Rather they should make sure, through a lawful life, that their lot is improved.


On careful observation you will recognize the causes of your suffering one day. Is not one doctor or the other surprised to hear that his patient knows exactly with what he has deserved his suffering?


We should not complain about the misery in the world, about the suffering of apparently innocent children, about famine, disease and war: There is no effect without a cause. The law of Karma, the higher justice stands above all of this and brings it into balance: Either the suffering atones for earlier misdeeds, or it serves to enable a person to climb a new step, a higher level.


The frequent question of why our "dear God" allows this or that evil to happen, is evidence of ignorance of the fundamental laws: All evil comes from man himself. In our freedom to do good or evil, even God does not intervene. Furthermore: What do we know about all that which has been prevented by help from Above?



10. Joy about just World Order


Do you suffer from the abundance of injustice on earth? Then, only joy can reign over a law that ensures that in the universe as a whole, in the long run, justice rules.


Karma should be studied scientifically. Then the researchers will unveil the exact and lawful working of this spiritual principle on the material plane! This will give us the joyful confidence that absolute justice rules the cosmos.


A law that restores the balance after a violation of the cosmic order is in truth a healing and a loving power!


It is certainly a stronger, healthier and more dignified philosophy to rely on the higher justice, rather than to try to evade responsibility and to shy away from the consequences of one's own actions.



11. Joy about Control over one’s Destiny


Is it not, indeed, a relief when you know that you will be given the opportunity to remove the evil that you yourself have brought into the world? Will you not even accept suffering willingly, when you know that you have previously inflicted similar suffering to others?


Penance was used to be perceived as severe, depressing load. Today we are glad and thankful to be able to pay off old debts!


Above all, the rule of justice allows you the joyful confidence that you can master your destiny. You are not subject to blind fate. You can rely firmly on a reasonable, unchangeable und unerring law and free yourself from all evil: You yourself are the architect of your own fate! By your actions today you are determining your own future tomorrow.


With the recognition of the law of Karma, you can joyfully accept and dominate your fate - that is, your responsibility.



12. Karma and Compassion


The knowledge of the law of Karma must not lead to precipitate or pitiless judgments. It must not lead either to the fatalistic attitude, unfortunately widespread in the East, which says: Help is neither appropriate nor necessary, everyone is himself to blame for his suffering and needs to cope with it alone.


There is not only the Karma of the individual soul, but further the Karma of the family, of a group of people, of a nation and, indeed, the Karma of the whole planet, that needs to be solved. So it is not always immediate personal guilt that is the cause of suffering. We are so manifoldly caught up in the fate of our fellow human beings that we have to make good their failings as well.


Of course, those who suffer are entitled to our compassion and help. This tells us quite clearly our natural feeling. Nowhere is it written that Karma has to be solved alone. On the contrary, the Karma of all of us we humans can only solve together.



13. No Suffering in a perfect World


Most of you think: The world is imperfect because there is so much suffering. The true attitude, however, is: There is so much suffering, as long as the world is still imperfect.


Per se, there is no need for suffering. In a healthy world there is no suffering.


An ideal world is not ideal, because in it there is no suffering. Rather the reverse is true: In an ideal world suffering is unnecessary, and therefore unexistent, because it serves no purpose.


Suffering is caused by ignorance and by the wrong actions resulting therefrom: By violations of the cosmic law, of the Higher Will. Ends the ignorance, ends the suffering.



14. Necessity of Suffering in an imperfect World


In an imperfect world, however, suffering is necessary. It purifies. It is a nagging power, which indicates violations of the order and the need for change.


Pain draws the attention of the body to weak points and to wrong behaviour. Suffering draws the attention of the soul to weak points and to wrong behaviour. Both show injuries – of the body, of the cosmic order. Without them we would not even notice that we are living wrongly.


Therefore, you should indeed be grateful for the suffering, without which you cannot perfect yourself. It teaches you to seek and to heal what is imperfect and vulnerable within yourself.


Here comes a most decisive point: A great, strong soul does not suffer, just like a healthy body does not hurt.


Recognizing this, you can understand and accept your destiny, no matter how hard it is: Suffering shows a weakness: You encounter that, from which you - unlike others! - still suffer, from which you still have to learn. Once you have finished your learning, once you have become a truly great soul, you will not suffer any longer, what ever the circumstances may look like, into which you have been exiled.


He who is familiar with the laws of existence; he who is thinking well, rightly, beautifully and greatly – he will not be suffering. He welcomes hardship joyfully as a guide. By following this guide, he finds the shortest path to the necessary improvements of his life – which means: to the next level of his personal evolution.


Suffering, spiritually subdued, actually refines us, as shows the beautiful face of Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.



15. Impulse


We need an impulse to develop further according to the plan of evolution and to get rid of outdated beliefs, habits and lifestyles.


The law of Karma serves to drive the evolution on. He who does not want to learn voluntarily to refrain from violations of the divine order and to give up those traits of character which obstruct the further evolution, can be forced to do so only by sheer suffering. As the saying goes: He who will not hear, must feel.


If you analyse your own life, you will find that the most important insight and progress were based on your learning from suffering. Without suffering, most humans would not move forward at all.


It is wiser, however, not to let it come to suffering and to voluntarily make the necessary changes in your life.



16. Why do good?


The common opinion that "Karma" is an Eastern concept foreign to Western thinking is wrong:


Already Plato's dialogue "The State," written almost 2500 years ago, is concerned with the existential question: Why should we do good?


"Does not the unjust, who manages not to be caught, live much more advantageously than the just?" So inquire the students to Socrates and ask him to refute this appearance. They believed with their heart in the benefit of justice, but did not manage to find the way thereto with the intellect.


Socrates shows that the righteous, already on earth, but even more so after his death, leads the better life: The righteous is happier because he brings his animal ego under the control of the divine part of himself (Book 9, XII, XIII). The Gods, who love the righteous, send him only events that - even if they are seemingly bad- in fact lead him to the highest happiness (Book 10, XII).


So the Platonic wisdom knew already the law of Karma, the higher order of a balance between good and evil. The conscious adoption of this law today allows us a clear answer:


Do good, because, in your own interest, it is the only rational and useful thing to do! Only the good improves, evil worsens your fate. Reasonably acts he who uses the knowledge of the law of Karma to his advantage by purifying his thoughts, words and deeds and by so creating a better fate for the future.


You see: Self-interest and morality do not exclude one another, on the contrary: the moral thing is the useful thing to do. This knowledge must lead people to strictly ethical behaviour: In view of the inevitable back-stroke of Karma, it is simply not useful to act immorally.



17. No eternal Damnation


None of you will be banished for all eternity in hell just for one single offence, no matter how grave it might be – what a nonsensical and inhuman idea! Everyone has the opportunity to make good his misdeeds.


A sensitive Christian must suffer unspeakably under the current ecclesial doctrine: How can he desire for himself paradise, knowing that others will have to suffer the torments of hell? What a kind of heaven would that be, troubled by the thought of brothers and sisters frying in hell?


He must despair, seeing death and thus Judgment Day approaching so quickly - feeling that he himself and all the others are far from being ripe for heaven. How could he hope that people can change, during the remainder of this one short life, to such an extent as to become worthy to be received into the heavenly realms? As it stands today, we are all addicted to hell! What a suffering results from ignorance!


The earthly reality has long overtaken the Church's teaching: We have abolished the death penalty, even the immutable life sentence, because it is incompatible with his dignity to completely reject a man and to refuse him any opportunity for insight, repentance, reformation and atonement.


And God should do this, condemn one of his children for all eternity? Do we really know what we are saying here?


Because this cannot be true, the church - unlike the Bible! - hardly mentions punishment and hell any more, but speaks instead only about the grace of God. But then it is not clear: What kind of an atonement is it that the sinner will have to offer?


18. No Forgiving of Sins


It is absurd and dangerous when the Church teaches that Christ died to redeem us from all guilt; or when it claims to be able to give absolution and thereby to relieve from the responsibility for crimes. There is no forgiving of sins, no absolution of sins, and no purification by last rites to the effect that past wrongs are removed. This is in no one's power, not of the higher beings, and certainly not of men, not even of priests.


Such ideas are essentially childish superstition; no better than trying to redeem oneself of guilt by buying a letter of indulgence or by a bath in the Ganges.


Evil is firmly rooted in the world. It must be cleared out from there. Who should do this if not the one who has committed it? By itself the dirt does not disappear. Do you really want to impose this load on someone else’s – Christ’s - shoulder?


Evil is also existing within ourselves. From there it can be driven out neither by external rituals such as absolution nor through Christ's death on the cross. Who should tear it out, if not we ourselves? The sinner, the criminal must change his own nature. He must purify himself from the desires that have led to evil deeds. How could this happen, if not by his own tedious inner work? No one else can do this job for him.


The teaching of the Church addresses the lower self of the people in a dangerous way by suggesting to them that they are able to slip out of responsibility. This leads to a frightful irresponsibility of the individual. The propagandists of the easy path overlook: If they take away from us responsibility, they actually take away what is human, and they take away our dignity.



19. No Distortion of the Principle of Justice


The idea of sin redemption by priests, God’s grace or Christ's death on the cross is in fact an insult to the divine principle of justice!


At best, the victim can forgive the offender. Even thereby, guilt is not extinguished, but only one’s own and the other’s Karma made easier.


A confession can help to recognize a sin and to understand the need for reparation. But by confession alone, the evil is not removed and the violation of the cosmic order not healed.


People do not take seriously the rule of the spirit. You need to make a decision: either there governs justice in the universe or not.


But the idea of a “Son of God” who, as a "Redeemer", overthrows the most elementary principles, corrupts our natural feeling for justice and the sense for the working of the universal principles.


In truth, man tries to escape the loving rigour of justice. He behaves like a stubborn child who rebels against the order established by his father in heaven.




To finish this Broadcasting, let us conclude:


The message of the law of Karma is very simple: We ourselves have to live more purely. We ourselves must free ourselves from the evil that lies within ourselves and in the world. This can only be achieved through vigorous striving and constant practice.




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