Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society

August 2009 Vol. 12 Issue 6

Karma and Balance

There is an inherent tendency in nature to restore balance and harmony wherever these have been disturbed.

If the branch of a tree is bent out of position it reacts with an equal and opposite force which will return the branch to its original position when released.  If a stone is thrown up into the air it returns to earth with a velocity equal to that with which it was thrown. If a weight is suspended by a rope it produces a tension in the rope equal to the weight, but pulling in the opposite direction.

These are examples on the material plane of an automatic tendency in nature, which in mechanics is expressed by the formula: "to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  We see other examples of this tendency to restore balance in such common phenomena as water resuming its level after it has been disturbed; the air of the atmosphere moving from high pressure areas to those of a lower pressure or a swinging pendulum returning eventually to its position of rest.

The ancient teachings tell us that the same tendency operates throughout the universe on all its planes, unseen as well as seen. We human beings are also governed by the same law, since we too are parts of nature.  In our innermost essence we are one with the universal life. Through this inner source we are united with one another as are the leaves of one tree or the cells and organs of the human body.  The natural relationship between human beings is therefore one of harmony and cooperation for the common good. If this harmonious relationship is broken, nature responds by setting up reactions of a similar kind.  Thus if our motives, feelings, thoughts and actions are of a detrimental nature the same will return to us, and if they are of a beneficent nature the reaction will be beneficial.  Thus life gives us back what we put into it.

The tendency in nature to respond to external impulses by producing equivalent reactions is described by phrases such as the law of cause and effect, the law of consequences, etc.  In Hindu philosophy it is referred to by the Sanskrit term karma.  Literally translated karma means "action," but to the Hindu this word has a more comprehensive meaning than it does to an Occidental.  To the Hindu the effect is inherent in the cause.  He considers that an initial act is only one half of an operation that is not complete until the reaction has taken place. The term karma therefore includes both the cause and the effect.  It is sometimes referred to as a "law," but this should not be understood in its judicial sense as an edict pronounced by some outside authority, but in the scientific sense as a quality inherent in nature.

Karma is the fundamental law that governs all actions.  It is the preserver of equilibrium, the restorer of disturbed balance.  It does not punish or reward, it merely adjusts. from Life's Riddle by Nils Amneus


In life there is harmony, rhythm, more or less regular occurrences.  Sure, it is easier sometimes to let go of all rules and to do what you want to do.  But here duty steps in: you must fulfill your daily obligations.  Man is the only creature on earth who can neglect his duty, and I think this point is worth observing.  If we studied ourselves and our surroundings more closely, we would be astonished at how both great events and little details occur at regular intervals.

We all at times get confused and feel we just can't move or take the next step.  Then is the time to strive. Don't give up! If you should despair one day and think you have lost your inner harmony of body and mind, go for a long walk in nature.  Think of your specific duties and your loved ones, that they need you, each in their special way.  Then you won't feel  like a piece of driftwood floating in a big ocean, but rather like a tiny drop of water, mingled with countless others which all together make up the great body of water.  Soon a ray of light will stream through you and give you fresh hope, courage, and love to start a new episode of your life.  Judy A. Jachimow


NEW!  We have added photos with inspirational quotes to our website, in a section titled Wallpaper.  Check it out!

Monthly Discussion Group

"Finding Balance in Life" is our subject.  We will discuss such questions as: How can we balance the many aspects of our lives, including our various needs and desires and those of others? Should we seek to eliminate or minimize what we consider negative?  How can we decide what our responsibilities are?  What are ways of becoming more calm, centered, and peace-filled?  How can we encourage harmony and good will?   Come and share your ideas!

  • When: Thursday, August 27, 7:30 to 8:45 pm
  • Where: Bellevue Library, 1111 - 110th Ave NE, Bellevue

Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge

Upcoming Topics

These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.

September 17: The Seasons of Our Lives
October 8: Peace and Justice
November: The Universe Within
December: Service to Humanity
January: Collective Consciousness

Theosophical Views

The Fourth Paramita: Indifference to Pleasure and Pain

By James A. Long
Question Could we start with the fourth Paramita [one of the Six Glorious Virtues of Buddhism] which you called "Indifference to pleasure and pain"?  I have been thinking about it, but I can't see the logic in becoming indifferent.   Of course, if we all want to be hermits, that's one thing; but I've always felt we should be pretty well aware of everything if we want to understand the other fellow's problems.  Why should we try to escape from either pleasure or pain?

Comment Certainly we do not want to escape from our responsibilities by becoming hermits and trying to find quick salvation for ourselves.  That is far from the true aspirant's goal.  In fact, we shouldn't try to run away from anything, much less from the problems that pleasure and pain bring. That would be escapism pure and simple and of a most selfish kind.  However, even if for a time we succeeded, we couldn't run away for very long, for the "pairs of opposites," heat and cold, night and day, pleasure and pain, or north and south, are intrinsic in nature.

Let me read the full definition of this fourth Virtue:  Dispassion "indifference to pleasure and pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived."  When we see things as they really are, not as they appear to be, then the truth of a situation will be perceived.

To clarify the definition of "dispassion," let us see what the dictionary says:  "dispassion freedom from passion;  dispassionate: free from passion; not carried away; calm, impartial; synonyms: cool, collected, serene, unruffled." An excellent definition to my mind.  We can say then that dispassion is the quality of viewing any situation or condition of life with an impartial eye, hence with clarity of vision, because the clouds of passion or illusion, whether of over-elation or depression, have been dispersed.

Thus, this fourth Virtue does not advocate escape from the pairs of opposites; but rather the practice of calm indifference to the effects on ourselves of either pleasure or pain so that we can meet with equanimity whatever extremities life has in store.

It may seem that it would be a rather dull existence if we never experienced the extremes.   But I can assure you there's nothing nondescript about trying to put this particular Virtue into practice.  As one wit expressed it: it may be a child's school, but it takes a man to go through it.  Try for one week to meet every event, from morning to night, with equanimity, and see if it doesn't take a lot of moral strength to sustain the effort.  To be sure, there are people in every walk of life who are so insensitive they don't feel anything, and what is more, don't give a hoot about the suffering of others.  Fortunately they are in the minority.  Of course it is not for us to judge the inner sensitivity of another, however crude or apparently insensitive his personality may be.

Most of us are just ordinary people neither reprobate nor genius who in our better moments try to find that "golden mean" or, as the Buddha phrased it, that "middle" course where spiritual growth can go hand in hand with, if not lead, our material development.  To be dispassionate then is to be free from the dominance of any particular desire. Obviously, such indifference or dispassion must apply first and foremost to ourselves, for it would be contrary to the compassionate law of Being if we felt a callous indifference to the pain of others.

And to strive after "indifference to pleasure and pain" does not mean you shouldn't have desire!  It simply means that we have to try to live in the center of every experience, rather than swinging so far on the pendulum of life that we hit our head (and heart too) first at one end and then rebound violently toward the other.  We are enjoined here to try to live and work without succumbing to the effects of either pleasure or pain, beauty or ugliness, or any of the pairs of opposites. There is the whole key, as I see it.  Certainly we must have desire it is the powerhouse of evolution. There is an ancient saying from the Vedas: "Desire first arose in IT" and the world came into being, the divine seed of a world-to-be had first to feel the pulsing flame of desire to manifest before it could assume material form.  So with every last one of us: we have to experience the desire to grow, to evolve, otherwise we are supine.  The gods know only too well that supine individuals will never make their mark in spiritual (or even in material) things.

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