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Karma and Grace


   Two essential and complementary universal laws: Karma and Grace, or Self-effort and Grace / Karma and Forgiveness


   Karma - (Sanskrit) - “action or deed”
   Karam - (Persian) - “grace, mercy, kindness, compassion”


   How closely related they are in etymology! Karma and grace, not easy to separate:

   “You must believe in the fineness of Divine mercy even when that mercy humbles, afflicts and tries you. It is a certainty that the soul never really loves and believes more than at those times when it is afflicted. Whether you believe it or not (and whether you consent to it or not), those doubtings and fears and tribulations that beset you are nothing else but the refinements of His love.” - Michael Molinos (1)

   Plotinus writes: " Even a sage may not always be able to distinguish between Providence (Grace, Divine Mercy) and Necessity (Karma)." (1a)

   Sri Ramakrishna once told this story:

   “Once a king went hunting in a forest with his minister. The king’s finger was accidentally cut and he asked the minister, ‘Why did I get this cut?’ The minister replied, ‘O kind, there must be a deep meaning behind this accident.’ The king was not satisfied with this answer, so he pushed the minister into a deep well. Fortunately there was not much water in the well. Then the king asked the minister, ‘Is there any hidden cause behind my cruel action?’ ‘Of course,’ replied the minister.
   In the meantime some robbers were passing through the forest, and they came upon the king alone and decided to chop off his head in front of their deity, Mother Kali. After performing a ritual they took the king to the sacrificial place, and then noticed the cut on his finger. Now according to their custom, a defective body cannot be offered to the deity, so they verbally abused see the king and set him free. The king thanked God, and remembering the wisdom of his minister, rushed back to the well and rescued him. Then the king narrated what had happened and apologized to the minister for his rude behavior. The latter said, ‘O king, what God does is good for us. If we had both been caught by those robbers, I would have been beheaded. You saved my life by pushing me into the well.”
(Ramakrishna As We Saw Him, Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1990, p. 106)


   “Unfathomable is the way of Karma.” says Lord Krishna (Bhagavad-Gita 4.17)

   And,

   “There is much that we must let stand as inexplicable, must accept as a mystery, and thus avoid falling into the trap of smooth intellectual theories.” - Paul Brunton


   In poetic language the mystic Hafiz appears to suggest that karma and grace are one:

   “To the tavern of ruin, by my own wish.
    Everything that has happened to me
    Took place through some agreement
    Made in pre-eternity.”
(1b)


   Fenelon writes:

   “With the exception of sin, nothing happens, in this world, out of the will of God. It is He that is the author, ruler, and bestowed of all. He has numbered the hairs of our head, the leaves of every tree, the sand upon the sea-shore, and the drops of the ocean. When He made the universe, his wisdom weighed and measured every atom. It is he that breathes into us the breath of life, and renews it every moment. He it is that knows the number of our days, and that holds in his all-powerful hand, the keys of the tomb to open or to shut.” (Spiritual Progress, p. 73)



   But still, with all these varying views by way of introduction, let us see if some further clarification can be given on this important matter.


Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, all quotes from Vol.12, Part 2, chapters 4, 5, excerpt where noted:

   "The eternal laws of karma will not cease operating merely for the asking and cannot violate their own integrity. They are impersonal and cannot be cajoled into granting special privileges or arbitrary favors to anyone. There is no cheap and easy escape from them. If a man wants to avoid hurtful consequences of his own sins, he must use those very laws to help him do so, and not attempt to insult them. He must set going a series of new causes which shall produce new and pleasanter consequences that may act as an antidote to the older ones."

   "Those who say that the idea of Grace violates the concept of universal law do not look into it deeply enough. For then they would see that, on the contrary, it fulfils the law of the individual mind's effort, which they believe in, by complementing it with the law of the Universal Mind's activity inside the individual, which they ought also to believe in. God cannot be separated from man. The latter does not live in a vacuum.”

   “Would forgiveness be an impossible nullification of the law of karma? If there is no way out of one Karmic consequence leading to and creating a further one in an endless and hopeless series? I believe an answer to the first question has been given by Jesus, and to the second by Aeschylus. Matt.12:31: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,” was Jesus’ clear statement. As for the difficult problem propounded by the second question, consider the solution suggested by Aeschylus: “Only in the thought of Zeus, whatever Zeus may be.” Karma must operate automatically, but the Power behind karma knows all things, controls even karma itself, knows and understands when forgiveness is desirable.
(2) No human mind can fathom that Power; hence Aeschylus adds the qualifying phrase, “whatever Zeus may be.” Forgiveness does not destroy the law of karma; it complements the work of that law. “All of us mortals need forgiveness. We live not as we would but as we can,” Menander wrote nearly four hundred years before Jesus’ time.”

   “When we can fully accept the truth that God is the governor and manager of the universe, that the World-Mind is behind and controlling the World-Idea, then we begin to accept the parallel truths that all things and creatures are being taken due care of and that all events are happening under the divine will. This leads in time to the understanding that the ego is not the actual doer, although it has the illusion of doing, working, and acting. The practical application of this metaphysical understanding is to put down our burdens of personal living on the floor and let Providence carry them for us: this is to surrender the ego to the divine.”

   “The deeper mind is so close to the source of our karma that we may at times get its right guidance not only intuitively from within but also circumstantially from without.”
(Vol. 14, 1.100) (2a)

   “Because we have with us residues of former reincarnations in the form of karma, it is impossible for most persons to distinguish whether any happening is a result of karma or of Grace, but sometimes they can, for instance, if they wake up in the morning or even in the middle of the night remembering some difficulty, some situation or problem, but along with it feeling a Higher Presence and then with this feeling beginning to see light upon the difficulty of problem and especially beginning to lose whatever distress, inquietude, fear, or uncertainty may have been caused by it. If they feel the negative reactions vanish and a certain peace of mind replaces them, and especially if the way to act rightly in the situation becomes clear, then they are experiencing a Grace.”

   “There are three types of Grace: firstly, that which has the appearance of Grace but which actually descends out of past good karma and is entirely self-earned; second, that which a Master gives to disciples or aspirants when the proper external and internal circumstances exist - this is in the nature of a temporary glimpse only but is useful because it gives a glimpse of the goal, a sense of right direction, and inspiring encouragement that continue on the Quest
[Note: on the path of Sant Mat much more is explicitly promised, namely, ongoing spiritual protection and help, and the elimination of the sanchit storehouse of karmas perpetuating rebirth] ; thirdly, when a man attains the fullest degree of realization, he is enabled in some cases to modify overhanging negative karma or in others to negate it because he has mastered the particular lessons that needed to be learned. This is particularly evident when the Hand of God removes obstructions in the path of his work. The philosophic conception of Grace shows it to be just and reasonable. It is indeed quite different from the orthodox religious belief about it, a belief which regards it as an arbitrary intervention by the Higher Power for the benefit of its human favorites.”

   “If at times it seems to intervene specially on his behalf, that is an appearance due to the immense wisdom in timing the release of a particular good karma.

   “To make any spiritual venture explicitly efficacious and to bring it to complete success, certain conditions must first be fulfilled. Most of them can be provided by the venturer himself but a few of them must come from outside themselves. These are grace and favorable destiny.”

   “Grace can be a ripening of karma, or a response to a direct appeal to a higher power, or can come through a saint’s appeals. Faith in the Power is rewarded by grace. If the appeal fails, adverse karma must be too strong.”
[Note: Patient endurance then being a noble virtue].

   “The failure to appreciate the role of grace because of faith in the law of karma is as deplorable as the tendency to exaggerate it because of faith in a personal deity.”

   “The law of recompense
[karma] is not negated by forgiveness but its own working is modified by the parallel working of a higher law.”

   “The Overself acts through inexorable law, yes, but love is part of the law. Grace violates no principle but rather fulfills the highest principle.

   “It is not generally known that a master not only can give illumination but also can remove the obstacles to it, that he may be used by the disciple’s higher self for both these purposes...Nevertheless, no master is free to exercise this power with arbitrariness or with favouritism but only in obedience to the laws governing it.”
(Vol. 15, Part One, 3.48)

   “Many Yogis are made but some are also born. Destiny transcends all training and often it needs but a mere touch of an illuminate’s finger to release the pent-up stores of secret power within a soul.”
(Vol. 14, 5.88)

   “We must exert our own will and strength to prepare the way for, and make us receptive to, the divine grace. This the one complements the other; both are necessary parts of the World-Idea.”

   "The Grace works from his centre outward, transforming him from within, and therefore its earliest operation is unknown to his everyday mind."

   “Whoever invoked the Overself’s Grace ought to be informed that he is also invoking a long period of self-improving foil and self-purifying affliction necessary to fit him to receive that Grace.”

   “The fact is that the higher power dispenses grace to all, but not all are able, willing, or ready to receive it, nor can all recognize it and so many pass it by.”

   “If he cannot compel or command grace, he can at least ask, work, and prepare for it. For if he is not prepared properly by understanding he may not be willing to submit when it does come, if the form it takes is not to his liking.”

   “The ultimate secret of Grace has never been solved by those who do not know that previous incarnations contribute to it. Some men receive it only after years of burning aspiration and toil but others, like Francis of Assisi, receive it while unprepared and unaspiring.”

   "The psychological laws governing the inner development of spiritual seekers often seem to operate in most mysterious ways. The very power whose presence he may think has been denied him - Grace - is taking care of him even when he is not conscious of this fact. The more the anguish, at such a time, the more the Higher Self is squeezing the ego. The more he seems to be alone and forsaken, the closer the Higher Self may be drawing him to Itself."

   "When, therefore, the really earnest disciple who has asked for a quickened advance on the Quest finds that all kinds of experiences begin to follow each other for a period, he should recognize that this is part of the answer to his call. He will be made to feel loss as well as gain, bliss as well as pain, success as well as failure, temptation as well as tribulation at different times and in different degrees. He needs both kinds of experience if his development is to be a balanced one. But because he is still human, he will learn more from his sufferings than from his pleasures. And because their memory will last longer, he will not pass through this period of quickened experiences and extreme vicissitudes without much complaint."

   "He must be forewarned that, at certain stages, he will be examined by his higher self and tested by the beneficent forces or tempted by the adverse ones. From this epoch-making date, the major episodes of an aspirant's life are purposely sent into it. Both good and evil powers pay special attention, within his personal karma, to his affairs. Once he has committed himself to this quest, he will find that events so arrange themselves as to indicate his sincerity, examine his motives, display his weaknesses, and find out his virtues. His loyalty to the goal will be tested."

   "The Overself's grace will be secretly active within and without him long before it shows itself openly to him."

   "The grace may be barely felt, may come on slowly for many months, so that when he does become aware of its activity, the final stage is all he sees and knows."

   "It is not within the power of man to finish either the purificatory work or its illumination-sequel: his Overself, by its action within his psyche, must bring that about. This activating power is Grace.”

   "Although personal effort and the will toward self-mastery do much to advance him on this quest, it is grace, and Grace alone, which can advance him to the goal in the last stages or assist him out of an impasse in the earlier ones
."

   "The ego, the personal limited self, cannot lift itself into the Higher Self, and if the student has felt dismally powerless to make progress by self-effort, he will have learned the priceless lesson of the need of Grace."

   “The man’s effort must be met by the Overself’s Grace. What he does attracts what the Overself gives. This he can understand. But what he seldom knows, and finds hard to understand, is that in certain cases the aspiration which impels such effort is itself impelled by Grace.

   “With the coming of Grace, his development takes on life of its own and is no longer to be measured in direct ratio to his effort.”

   “When a sensitive man loses faith in his own goodness, and even his own capacities, to the point of despairing hopelessness, he is really ready to pray properly and practice utter dependence upon the Higher Power’s grace...When he abandons further trust in his own nature and clings to no more personal hopes, he really lets go of the ego. This gives him the possibility of being open to grace.”

   "Since the very "I" which seeks the truth and practices the meditation is itself so illusory, it cannot attain what it seeks or even practise with success, unless it also receives help from a higher source. Only two sources are possible. The first and best is the Overself's direct grace. This must be asked for, begged for, and wept for. The next best is the grace of master who has himself entered into truth-consciousness."

   "He cannot bring this enlightenment into being - much less into permanent being - by his own willpower. It can only come to him. But although striving for it may probably end in failure, the masses' indifference to it is worse. For whereas he will at least be open to recognize and accept it when it does happen to come, their doors of perception will be shut to it, or, bewildered and frightened, they will run away from it."

   "He who told us to note the lilies of the field also told us the parable of the talents. Whatever the divine Grace brings us, it brings it through our personal efforts."

   “We may strive and weep but unless Grace falls on us we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. How and when it should come depends partly upon our karma, partly upon our yearning, and partly upon the channel which God uses...Constant self-effort can thin down the egoism but not eliminate it. That final act is impossible because the ego will not willingly slay itself. What self-effort does is to prepare the way for the further force which can slay it and then make the operation timely and its success possible. What it further does is to improve the intelligence and intuition and to ameliorate the character, which also prepares the individual and attracts those forces. They are nothing else than the pardoning, healing, and, especially, the transforming powers of Grace.”

   “He resigns himself to God’s will...because he realizes that it will only bring him what is best for him or only what is needed by him or only what has been earned by him. He believes that God’s will is a just will...If he intelligently accepts the suffering that the Overself, under the law of recompense, brings him, the evil will be transmuted into good. If he blindly clings to a completely egoistic attitude, he fails to show his discipleship.”

   "In the end, and after we have tried sufficiently long and hard, we find that the knot of self cannot be untied. It is then that we have to call on grace and let it work on us, doing nothing more than to give our consent and to accept its methods."

   "The time may suddenly arise when Grace will take a hand in the matter, and the student's outward life will begin to conform to the mental ideal which he has so long - and, seemingly so vainly - held for it.”

   “Your karma is being speeded up; everything is being accelerated to a certain extent. This is necessary for a period to bring quicker progress through forcing different parts of mind and character into activity."

   "If his evolutionary need should require it, he will be harassed by troubles to make him less attached to the world, or by sickness to make him less attached to the body. It is then not so much a matter of receiving self-earned destiny
[i.e., karma] as of satisfying that need. Both coincide usually but not necessarily. Nor does this happen with the ordinary man so much as it does with the questing man, for the latter has asked or prayed for speedier development."

   “The Law is relentless but it is flexible: it adjusts punishment to a man’s evolutionary grade. The sinner who knows more and who sins with more awareness of what he is doing, has to suffer more.”

   "There is however an unpredictable element in the pattern of human life, which increases rather than decreases as the quality of that life rises above the average. We see it markedly in the case of a maturing aspirant who has to undergo tests and endure ordeals which have no karmic origin but which are put across his path by his own higher self for the purpose of a swifter forward-movement.
[“The soul that is destined to have no other support but God himself, must pass through the strangest trials. How much agony and how many deaths must it suffer before losing the life of self.” - Pere La Combe] They are intended to promote and not delay his growth, to accelerate and not impede his development. But they will achieve this purpose only he recognizes their true aim...Thus human life is not wholly confined within the rigid bounds of karmic law. The Overself, which is after all its real essence, is free. He who has entered his name in this high enterprise of the quest, must be prepared to trust his whole existence into its sacred hands...He has entered a stage where he is being assayed from within and without, where his yearnings and attachments, his virtues and vices, will be forced to show their real strength."(Paul Brunton, Essays on the Quest, p. 197)

   The Overself does not always play the part of a witness however. Still and unmoving though it be, nevertheless its presence paradoxically makes possible all man's activities and movements. In a broad sense it is not only the hidden observer but also, by virtue of its being a function of the World-Mind, the inner ruler of the person. Thus it arranges the karma of the coming incarnation before birth, for it contains all his karmic possibilities out of the past, and it is the secret actualizing agent which passes them down into time and space for his ultimate progress. At critical moments in the personal life it may suddenly and dramatically interfere by engineering unexpected events or by imparting a powerful urge toward a sudden decision. This also is an act of grace. In the result the man is super-rationally guided or miraculously guarded...More precisely, grace is a mystical energy, an active principle pertaining to the Overself which can produce results in the fields of human thought, feeling and flesh alike on the one hand, or in human karma, circumstances and relations on the other hand. It is the cosmic will, not merely a pious wish or kindly thought, and can perform authentic miracles under its own known laws. Such is its dynamic potency that it can confer insight into ultimate reality as easily as it can lift a dying person back to life again or instantaneously restore the use of limbs to a crippled one." (The Wisdom of the Overself, p. 240, 236)

   "With the descent of Grace, all the anguish and ugly memories of the seeker's past and the frustrations of the present are miraculously sponged out by the Overself's unseen and healing hand. He knows that a new element has entered into his field of consciousness, and he will unmistakably feel from that moment a blessed quickening of inner life. When his personal effort subsides, a further effort begins to do for him what he could not do for himself, and under its beneficent operation he will find his higher will strengthening, his moral attitude improving, and his spiritual aspirations increasing." (Notebooks, Volume 9)

   Further,

   “The horoscope indicates the future only for ordinary people and can never be a fixed certainty for the spiritually awakened. For whenever an individual has come under Divine Grace, he directly or indirectly through a teacher can be rendered independent of his past karma at any moment that the Divine wills it to be so. The will is free because Man is Divine and the Divine Self is free.” (Ibid, Vol. 6, 9:3.459)

   He concludes:

   "And because the Overself is the source of [his] karmic adjustment, it may be said that each man is truly his own judge. For it must never be forgotten that fundamentally the Overself is his own central self; it is not something alien to or remote from him. The real nature of karma is not grasped if it is believed to be a power external to the self, ruthlessly dictating its decrees for our helpless submission. On the contrary, by virtue of the fact that the whole world is mental it is a power working in everything and everyone. This yields the clear implication that what happens to him happens by the secret will of his own innermost being. From this standpoint the sufferings he may have to endure are not evils in the ultimate but only in the immediate sense and what appears as a blind external and ruthless force is really a conscious internal and purifying one." (Ibid, p. 231)


   (See full PB chapter on grace)



Anthony Damiani

   "If you're under the guidance of a sage, the sage can release you from a certain destiny which is indicated in your chart...The Master can assign you to a certain work or God can assign you to a certain work. A Master can release you from certain compulsions that you feel your destiny allotted to you...We're speaking about the quintessence of Divinity as far as humanity is concerned...about someone who is in touch with the Lord of the Universe...The sage is guided by the Logos in the other person's soul as to how to relate to that person...If you talk to a sage, the sage doesn't tell you what you want to hear, the sage tells you what you need to hear." (Living Wisdom, p. 235-236)

   "There are even times when the World-Mind [i.e., God] will bring in experiences that are not even destined for you in terms of your karma, but are just brought in ad hoc! Just out of curiosity, you know: "Let's see what you're going to do with this one!...Ultimately you'll see that the World-Mind is teaching you...you get the greatest education that can be conceived of, and you're not even grateful for it." (Living Wisdom, p. 50)



D.T. Suzuki, from Shin Buddhism

   "...Jiriki is self-power. Tariki is other-power. The Pure Land school is known as the other-power school because it teaches that tariki is most important in attaining rebirth in the Pure Land or regeneration or enlightenment or salvation. Whatever name we may give to the end of our religious efforts, that end comes from the other-power, not from self-power. This is the contention of Shin followers...

This doctrine, other-power... is based on the idea that we humans are relative-minded, and as long as we are so constituted there is nothing in us, no power which will enable us to cross the stream of birth and death. Amida must come from the other side and carry us on the boat of all efficient vows - that is, by means of his hongan, his friendly Dharma.

There is a deep and impassable chasm between Amida and ourselves, and we are so heavy-laden with Karma hindrance that we cannot shake it off by our own power. Amida must come and help us, extend his arms of help from the farther end. This is what generally is taught by the Shin school. But from another point of view, however ignorant and impotent and helpless we may be, we will never grasp Amida' s arms unless we exhaust everything we have in our efforts to reach the other end.

It is all right to say other-power does everything by itself. We just let it accomplish its work, but we must nevertheless become conscious of the other-power's doing its work in us. Unless we are conscious of Amida's doing his work, we shall never be saved. We can never be conscious or sure of the fact that we are born in the Pure Land and have attained our Enlightenment. To acquire this consciousness, we must exhaust all our efforts. Amida may be standing and beckoning us to come to the other shore where he is standing, but we cannot see Amida until we have done all we can do. Self-power is not what is needed, really, to cross the stream. Amida will extend his arms of help only when we realize that our self-power is of no account.

Since we cannot achieve the end we try to accomplish, Amida' s help must be recognized. We must become conscious of it. In fact, recognition comes only after we have strained all our efforts to cross the stream by ourselves. We only realize the inefficacy of self-power when we try to make use of that power, when we become conscious of how worthless self-power is. The other-power is all-important, but this all-importantness is known only to those who have striven, by means of self-power, to attempt the impossible.

This realization of the worthlessness of self-power may also be Amida's work. In fact it is, but until we achieve recognition we do not realize that Amida has been doing all this for us and in us. Therefore, striving is a prerequisite of realization. Spiritually or metaphysically speaking, everything is finally from Amida, but we must remember that we are relative beings. As such, we cannot survey things unless we first try to do our best on this plane of relativity. Crossing from the relative plane to the transcendental or absolute plane - the plane of the other power - may be impossible, logically speaking, but it appears an impossibility only before we have tried everything on this side..."




Richard Rose

"That's one side of the equation - persistence. The one you have control over. The other side is grace. A person on the path has help. Once a person makes a commitment to the Truth - I mean truly demonstrates a sincere desire to find his Real Self at all cost - then this commitment will attract assistance and protection. Opportunities arise. Blocks are removed. Decisions may even be made for you."

My thoughts were incoherent and confused but I couldn’t stop asking questions. "But who...? What makes these decisions? I mean, where does this help come from?"

"I won't presume to name it. All I’m saying is that there are levels of intelligence that help other levels of intelligence. There is an interpenetration of dimensions. But you can't count on this help or get too secure in the knowledge that it's there. Just when you think you need it most, it will desert you and leave you to suffer the ‘dark night of the soul,’ as John of the Cross calls it. Because despair is necessary. Despair is part of the final formula for cracking the head. You have to maintain a state of between-ness the whole time. Because no matter how hard you push, in actuality, you can't change your being. You're being is changed for you.”


   (from After the Absolute)



Fenelon, from The Complete Fenelon

   "It is hard to convince us of the goodness of God in loading those whom he loves with crosses. "Why," we say, "should he take pleasure in causing us to suffer? Could he not make us good without making us miserable?" Yes, doubtless he could, for all things are possible with God. In his all-powerful hands he holds our hearts, and he turns them as he will, as the skill of the workman can give directions to the stream at the summit of a hill. But able as he may be to save us without crosses, he has not chosen to do so, just as he has not seen fit to create people at once in the full vigor of adulthood, but has allowed them to grow up by degrees amid all the dangers and weaknesses of childhood and youth. In this he is the Master: we have only to adore in silence the depths of his wisdom without understanding it...In this process of detaching us from our self-life and in destroying our self-love, it would take a powerful miracle to keep the work of grace from being painful. Neither in his gracious nor in his providential dealings does God work a miracle lightly. It would be as great a wonder to see a person full of self become in an instant dead to all self-interest and all sensitiveness, as it would be to see a slumbering infant wake up in the morning a fully developed adult. God works in mysterious ways in grace as well as in nature, concealing his operations under an unseen succession of events. In this way he keeps us in the darkness of faith. Not only does he accomplish his designs gradually, but also he does so by means that appear the simplest and best designed to accomplish the end in view, in order that human wisdom may ascribe the success to the process, and in this way make his own working be less evident! Otherwise every act of God would seem to be a miracle, and the state of faith, in which it is God's will that we should live, would come to an end."

   "God renders the working of grace slow and obscure, then, so that he may keep us in the darkness of faith. He makes use of the inconstancy and ingratitude of the creature, and he makes use of the disappointments, the surpluses, and the excesses that accompany prosperity, in order to detach us from them both. He frees us from self by revealing our weaknesses and corruptions in a multitude of back sliding. All this dealing appears perfectly natural, and it is by this succession of natural means that we are burned as by a slow fire. We would like to be consumed at once by the flames of pure love, but such an end would scarcely cost us anything. It is only an excessive self-love that desires to become perfect in a moment and at so cheap a rate."




Jean-Pierre deCaussade, from Spiritual Counsels

“If the violence of this trial prevents her seeing clearly the value and use of it, let her rely on her faith, and let her glorify God by patience and an unreserved submission... “But,” she will answer, “this comfort would be just if my state were a trial only, but I have every reason to believe that it is a punishment inflicted by God.” I acknowledge this, but in this life no punishment is inflicted by divine justice without a loving intention of divine mercy. This is particular the case with those souls whom God most loves. God often permits their faults in order to be enabled to derive glory from them, and to make them serve for the salvation of these souls. The chastisements He inflicts sanctify while humiliating them, and dispose them to unite themselves more closely to God, at the same time as they become more detached from self. Therefore they are chastisement as well as trials; chastisements inasmuch as they atone for the past evil and satisfy divine justice; and trials because divine mercy makes use of them to prevent future danger, and for the exercise of many meritorious virtues.”

   “All our crosses come certainly from Him when they are the necessary, natural, and inevitable consequences of the state in which divine Providence permits us to be settled. These are the heaviest crosses, but also the most sanctifying because they come from God. Crosses from our heavenly Father, crosses from divine Providence, how much easier to bear they are than those we fashion for ourselves, and embrace voluntarily. Then love yours, my dear Sister, since they have been prepared for you by God alone for each day. Let Him do this; He alone knows what is suitable for each one of us. If we remain firm in this, submissive and humbled under all the crosses sent by God, we shall find in them, at last, rest for our souls.”

   “Be convinced that all the trials that God sends us in this life are sent in mercy more than in justice; this is why the prophet says that God remembers His mercy even when He is angry with us.”

   “There is no intelligence nor power in the world capable of wresting from the hand of God a soul He has seized in the rigour of His mercy to purify it by suffering.”




Sant Kirpal Singh, from Life and Death

   “A Jagat-Guru can annihilate karmas by his look and Word. In his presence karmas fly like autumn leaves before a wind.”

   “Karmas have been classified by Saints into three distinct categories:

   (i) Sanchit or the gathered and stored Karmas, going far back into the unknown past.

   (ii) Pralabdha: Luck, fate or destiny, or that portion out of the Sanchit (store-house) which constitutes a person's living present, which none can escape however one may wish and try.

   (iii) Kriyaman: The Karmas which one is free to perform as a free agent in his present earthly span of existence, and thereby make or mar his future.
[Note: this is called Agami karma in other traditions]. (3) Ordinarily, some of the Kriyaman Karmas bear fruit in this very life; while others - the unfructified ones - are transferred to the General Account of the Sanchit Karmas, which go on accumulating from age to age.

   The moment He [the Master] accepts an individual as His Own, He takes in His own Hand the process of liquidating the endless process of Karma coming down from the unknown past. He calls a halt to the mad and reckless career in which one is engaged. "So far and no further" is His command. He does not usually interfere with the Pralabd or destiny, for it has of necessity to be worked off as well as possible, so as to complete the allotted span of life and to reap the fruit; while the Sanchit or the vast storehouse, He, by being a conscious co-worker with the Divine Plan, singes by contacting the spirit with the spark of Naam. Contact with Naam or the Holy Word at once reduces to ashes the storehouse of Sanchit Karmas as well as the unfructified Kriyaman Karmas done hitherto, just as a spark of fire reduces to ashes the entire forest or the heap of fuel that may be lying on the ground.”

   This is important because as he says of the Sanchit Karmas:

   “These are latencies lying in the store-house to one’s account from endless ages, ever since the world began. No one escapes from them unless the same are worked off (without making any more addition thereto, which of course in the nature of things, is an interesting impossibility) in innumerable lives that lie ahead. It is not possible to exhaust this tremendous credit balance in one’s account. Is there no way to cross over the great chasm that lies between the conscious and the sub-conscious and again the gulf that separates the sub-conscious from the unconscious?...The Sanchit Karmas can be seared and scorched with the fire of Naam or Word and rendered harmless for the future, for then one becomes a conscious co-worker with the Divine Plan...”

   A looming question is whether or to what degree the paths of knowledge or contemporary non-duality accomplish (or even acknowledge) the crossing of the aforementioned chasms, and if the agency of the Holy Spirit or Naam is needed. As Kabir wrote, “for who can part with the seed-mind within?” (4)

   “The Master-Saints come into the world with a mission. They are commissioned from above to liberate man from karmic bondage. When one is fortunate to find such a Holy Man and surrenders himself to His will, the latter takes charge of the spirit...All the troubles of the devoted disciples are greatly mitigated and softened. Sometimes the intensity of bodily and mental troubles is increased a little to shorten the duration of suffering involved, while at others the intensity is greatly reduced and the duration is prolonged as may be considered appropriate...He may even take over by the law of sympathy the burden of the Karmas of His devoted disciples on His own shoulders to bear Himself, for the Law of Nature has got to be compensated in one form or another. This happens in very rare cases as the Master may think fit...A disciple must learn to really pray to his Master sincerely and if he does so, all feasible help is sure to come to relieve him or to soften the situation and to minimize the resultant suffering...The Master is the Lord of Compassion. In His kingdom which is boundless, there is no account of deeds.The atmospheric range of a Master-Saint is a vast immensity which man can hardly imagine...The Saint is present everywhere and His sway extends to realms undreamed of. He never leaves nor forsakes His disciples to the ends of the world.”

   "I have my dealings with the Saints and my only concern is with them,
   The angel-of-death cannot now touch a single hair of my head,
   When the entire record of my deeds has been consigned to the flames."
(Nanak)

   "The moment [a competent spiritual Master] accepts an individual as His own, He takes in His own Hand the process of liquidating the endless process of Karma coming down from the untold past...All Karmic debts are to be paid and their accounts squared here and now, and the speedier it is done, the better, instead of keeping any outstanding balances to be paid hereafter. In the time of Hazrat Mian Mir, a great Muslim devout and mystic, it is said that one of his disciples Abdullah, when down with an ailment, withdrew his sensory currents to the eye-focus and closed himself safely in the citadel of peace. His Master Mian Mir when He visited him, pulled Abdullah down to the body consciousness and ordered him to pay what was due from him for he could not indefinitely evade the payment by such tactics.”

   [You can find the free e-book Life and Death and others at ruhanisatsangusa.org or kirpalsingh-teaching.org ]

   [This quote about Mian Mir has a special fondness for me. In 1973 I lay prostrate with fever at Sawan Ashram and could not meditate, being also in a very “descended” condition (see Death of a Dream and a Gift of Truth on this website). I mentioned this story to someone who relayed it to Kirpal Singh. I was told that when he heard what I had said he laughed. My feeling was that, one, that was partly out of delight that someone would recall a rather obscure passage from one of his books, and, two, partly because it precisely reflected my actual condition!]

   “Every initiate has a lot of karma to be worked off during physical existence. The terminology of good or bad karma cannot be adequately justified as both entail some debts requiring fair liquidation. Suffice it to note that the decrees of heaven are subject to no error and the divine dispensation is invariably flavored with mercy. The inner rare bliss from regular and devoted meditations changes the entire outlook of the initiate when he/she finds the gracious Hand of the Master protecting him/her at every step. You should know it for certain that every thing whatever comes to your counting is definitely for your spiritual progress, and you should gladly withstand the trials and tribulations of this life, by reposing your hopes and aspirations in the gracious Master Power overhead.”

   “The span of life can neither be extended nor shortened. Even by one single breath. Fate cannot be altered. Health and disease are connected with past karma, and come and go as determined by the cycle of karma. Medicine does not cure the disease. Karma is at the root. When the karma has been gone through; the disease has run its course; and the medicine is effective. No medicine is effective as long as the disease has not run its course. But it is good to take medicine in disease as advised by doctors. Medicine keeps the patient consoled. Friends do not unnecessarily trouble and press the patient, while others get no chance at all to call the patient a miser or a stupid person. Again, it is an opportunity for the paying up of old debts through the doctor’s fees and apothecaries bills.”
(Spiritual Elixer)

   [No doubt there is a significant point here, although parts of this will surely be controversial!]

   "The Guru may give happiness or misery, for he has to make a beautiful form from a rough piece of stone and therefore has to wind up all the karmas; but a true follower will never complain, no matter what condition he has to face in life - no matter what hardships the Guru allows." ("Joyfully I Surrender", Sat Sandesh, Feb. 1972)

   “The sowing then is of prime importance for quality of the harvest depends on the quality of the seeds sown. Next comes the proper tending, the humanizing process which usually takes quite a long time covering a few incarnations depending on the past make-up of each individual. But with the right type of steadfast devotion and the grace of the Master-power, one can easily traverse the otherwise hard and tortuous path. “A perfect Master, conversant with the turns and twists of the road,” says Kabir, can, however, take the disciple through in no time.” The pilgrim-soul with a competently Guide and honest endeavor, can easily swim over the Ocean of the world even in the midst of worldly life.” (The Wheel of Life, p.49)

   “Whatever comes, either it is a reaction of our past [karma] or it comes from above [grace].” (Morning Talks, 1982 ed., p. 126-127)

  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

   [Here again we have the mystery spoken of at the outset by Plotinus, that even the sage may not always be able to distinguish between karma (or Necessity) and Providence. Karma may be said to be the universal law of God in terms of actions and reactions, while Providence is the intelligence or guidance represented by the divine grace, bringing us what we need or is best, and coming “from above.” Both are complementary aspects of God’s will.]


Rumi

   “Even if an arrow has been shot from God’s bow,
   The Murshid
[Godman] has the power
   To turn it from the half-way mark
   Back to the quiver whence it came.”


   (Compare to story of Krishna where an ‘arrow’ once in flight can NOT be turned back. Krishna, in Sant Mat terminology, had the role of an avatar; but not that of a Perfect Master, whose domain is higher and power greater)


Bhai Sahib (from Daughter of Fire by Irena Tweedie)

   "There is only one Teacher; only one Spiritual Guide in the whole world for us. For only he alone is allowed to subject a free human being to sufferings and conditions; only he, and nobody else...Ancient karmas form part and parcel of the blood (unconscious memories are stored in the blood-stream: C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections). It was in you. It would have dragged you back again and again into the womb, but from now on it will burn itself out. From time to time this fire will burn in your body. This is purifying fire, this suffering, and you will need a lot more. When you meet your Spiritual Guide, this is supposed to be your last Karma-bound life. After that, one is supposed to be free to go where the Teacher directs you. There are many planes, besides the earth plane, where Service can be rendered.”

   [re karmas forming “part and parcel of the blood”, see Kirpal Singh: ”Karmas are the most contagious form of invisible diseases to which a man is ever exposed. They are even more...destructive than the deadliest and most poisonous germs transmitted into the innermost cells of the human system, and worm their way most surreptitiously into the bloodstream.” (The Wheel of Life, p. 38)]

   "But..Bhai Sahib...I am afraid of new sufferings you may give me; it seems I have had enough of them by now." "Sufferings?" he asked. "You have not begun yet! It has still to come. On our line such suffering is given that there are no words for it....[But] if you knew what I have in mind for your future, you would never cry, never be upset."

   "I remember L. telling me that the disciple is subjected to such states of loneliness and longing that it could be almost suicidal. A great Master is needed to get the disciple through this state of separation.”

   “He replied: I was in this state many times with my Rev. Guru Maharaj. He never spoke to me in a kindly way...Many, many times...Now I can laugh, but then...it was not a laughing matter."


   Bhai Sahib said that many karmas of an initiate are worked out in dreams:

   “When you are on the Path earnestly and seriously, your Karmas are taken away from you. Either you have to suffer them..in your physical life, or they will come to you in dream. One second of dream-suffering is like three years of real suffering in life. When you are on the Path, you are speeded up, and you pay for them in your dreams. If you stay away from the Path, once decided, all the Karmas you will pay in full in your daily life. But once on the Path, the Grace of God reaches you, catches up with you, and the mental Karmas will go away in dreams. Emotional sufferings are cleared up by the suffering Love causes, but the Physical Karmas one has to suffer in the physical body. We are not supposed to have another one, if we are with the Teacher. So, clearly, all has to be cleared in the present one. There is a place where Karmas cannot reach if it so pleases God. His Grace is infinite, and Karmas fall away from you.”

   [Kirpal Singh also mentioned the clearing of karma in dreams. He emphasized, however, that it is the Master who does this, not the disciple. So the latter need not be concerned with it (although over time he may get intuitive feelings as to when it may be happening):

   “I tell you, the Master is to wind up all reactions the best He can. The initiate prays, “Oh God, I pray I should go to Your Home forever, that I should not return.” So He’s working to wind up all actions and reactions. Most of them are paid off in dreams, and like that their severity is polished down to the minimum possible. Whatever reactions cannot be set aside you’ve got to pass through, but with a little help on the side. Generally in the life of an initiate he’ll find many changes in his life…Many things are omitted, sometimes things are delayed, some things are minimized.” (Heart-to-Heart Talks, Part One, p. 54-55)

   “Sometimes it happens that a man has to be born into another life but in special cases the Master can pass of that life in dreams. You feel and see everything. It happens rarely. [Q: And we can work off that other life in dreams?] The Master makes it work off, not you.”
(Ibid, p. 90)]

   Bhai Sahib also makes some interesting comments about destiny after death for the sincere devotee of a Master, which is also echoed in Sant Mat and certain Buddhist schools. The advaitin may cringe, but “there may be “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” said the great bard:

   “He began to speak of xxxx who died seven years ago of a brain tumor, and who, he said, was the best of all the European disciples he had until now.
   “Where is he now?” I asked.
   “In heaven,” he said. I retorted that it is not a very high state - Swarga Loka. He shook his head.
   “He will not come back. He will go to other Lokas where there is no death and where one goes from Loka to Loka without birth or death. Without coming into the womb,” he said with emphasis:
   When we are in the Mirt Loka
[the physical plane], if we are attached to the Spiritual Guide, or Master, and if the Master is powerful from the spiritual point of view, he will leave no desire with the disciple at the time of death; the desire would lead to another incarnation. The Master serves as a focus of attention for the mind, for the mind needs something to hold on to.
   The Love for the Master is also Vasana (subtle desires arising from samskaras, seeds of karma, which are impressions of actions in Chitta, universal mind), but it is this Vasana which will lead one beyond the Lokas of change. It will carry one right through. There are four other Lokas in which there is neither birth nor death. According to desire or necessity, one goes from one to another in a glorious body made of light.”



Ramakrishna

   “You know, if you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.”


Baba Jaimal Singh, letters to Baba Sawan Singh

   “Whatever pleasure or pain comes, accept it cheerfully. Always realize that “The Sat Guru is everything. “I” am nothing. “I” am not. Thou art. Thou alone art... Please do not worry now. Hazur Din Dayal [Swami Ji] will forgive you by His Grace. All the karmas of the past lives have to be gone through now. The disciples of the Saints do not have to be born again. You should therefore bear this affliction with courage. Both pleasure and pain pass away in course of time...A Satsangi is made to finish off in days only, the painful karmas which would otherwise last for years. You should not, therefore, feel anxious or worried about anything.”



Baba Sawan Singh, from Spiritual Gems, (Sat Sandesh, April, 1975)

   “The Supreme Creator and the individual spirit in the creation are connected together through the Sound Current. But Kal, also the creation of the Supreme Being, separates the individual from the current by coming in between as mind and forms.

   Hence the individual feels disconnected; but not so the Creator. There are three minds, and corresponding to these three minds are three kinds of forms. In Trikuti the Nijman (innermost mind) or Brahm (universal mind) covers the spirit. The forms here are made up of very pure Maya (mind), so much so that a majority of the seekers have failed to see here the spirit apart from the Maya or mind and therefore considered Brahm as all-pervading
[Note: keep this in mind when reading Reynold’s Buddhist account of creation below]. Lower down in Sahansdal Kanwal the forms of Trikuti get another covering of mind and form, both coarser than the above; the astral form here being governed by the Andi man (astral mind).

   In this zone there are the hells and heavens and numerous other lokas (regions). The tendencies of the mind are directed inward and are elevating. This mind behaves like a wise enemy (seeking to keep us here). Further down in Pind, the astral form gets another covering of coarse material with which we are all familiar.

   The mind that governs this form is called the Pindi man (physical mind). Its tendencies are outward and diffusive, and it is most difficult to control. Now, a body actuated by mind and spirit cannot help performing Karma, and the Karmic Law - "As you sow, so shall you also reap" - continues to work, and the account is complicated with time. The more one works the greater the entanglement, like a bird struggling in the meshes of a net.

   So cunningly has Kal arranged the snare of forms and minds that it is well nigh impossible to escape from their working in these minds and bodies. No matter how good and godly we may be, it will not take us out from these regions. Says Lord Krishna: "Good actions are as binding as bad actions; good actions may be likened to fetters of gold and bad actions to those of iron, and both equally keep us tied." The escape is through the Sound Current which is the substratum at the bottom of these minds.

   Only when the attention catches and follows the Current does the mind become dormant and gets out of action. At all other times, when the attention is off the Current, the mind gets the upper hand. Through the long and indefinite time since the spirit separated from its ocean and associated itself with the minds and bodies, not only has the upward passage been blocked, but the spirit has been so bewildered, entangled and enfeebled that it has lost all memory of its home, and is contented to live a wretched life in this wretched material world."

   "Now, there are two ways of looking at this creation: from the Creator's point of view and from our point of view - or in other words, from the top end and from the bottom end. From the top it looks as though the Creator is all in all. He is the only doer and the individual seems like a puppet tossed right and left by the wire puller. There seems no free will in the individual, and therefore no responsibility on his head.

   It is His play. There is no why or wherefore. All the Saints, when they look from the top, describe the creation as His manifestation. They see Him working everywhere. Now, looking at the thing from below, or the individual viewpoint, we come across variety as opposed to oneness.

   Everybody appears working with a will, and is influenced by and is influencing others with whom he comes in contact. The individual is the doer, and is therefore responsible for his actions and their consequences. All the actions are recorded in his mind and memory, and cause likes and dislikes which keep him pinned down to the material, astral or mental spheres, according to his actions in an earlier move in the cycle of transmigration.

   The individual in these regions cannot help doing actions and having done them cannot escape their influences. Individual is the doer, and therefore bears the consequences of his actions.

   As stated above, the observations differ on account of the difference in the angle of vision. Both are right. The individual clothed in coarse material form sees only the external material forms. His sight does not go deeper than that. If he were to rise up, the same individual from Sahansdal Kanwal will see the mind actuating all forms. The form will be secondary only; mind will be the mover in all. The same individual from Daswan Dwar will see the Spirit Current working everywhere and will see how the mind gets power from the spirit.

   From Sach Khand the whole creation looks like bubbles forming and disappearing in a spiritual ocean. An individual is endowed with intelligence and does every action knowingly. It is therefore incumbent upon him to find a way of escape from this entanglement. To raise his spirit he must struggle against the mind; for he lives by struggle. And where there is a will, there is a way.

   He cannot say this is no part of his duty. Now, the Karmas are divided into three groups: Kriyaman or new actions; Prarabdha or fate; and Sanchit or reserve. Take the case of a farmer: he prepares his land for seed; he has the option to sow whatever he likes. Suppose he decides on wheat and sows it. The crop matures and he gathers it. Some of it he keeps for his consumption during the coming year, and the surplus he puts in store. For the next year he will have to live on wheat, for he has nothing else by him.

   If he now wants something else - say, corn - he can sow that next season. Suppose he now sows corn and gathers the crop at the end of the year. Like his wheat crop, he keeps some for his consumption and keeps the surplus in his store. Year after year he is living on the previous year's gathering and increasing his reserve in store to be utilized in time of scarcity or need.

   You will see that he is living and hopes to live on what he himself sows and gathers. Similarly, whatever we do in this life becomes fate for our next life; and some of this is kept in reserve by Kal to be given to us if by any chance (of course, the chance is practically nil) we run short of Karma. Without Karma Kal cannot keep down a spirit in a body, and without a body no Karma can be performed.

   It is open to Kal to add from reserve to Fate, or deduct from Fate for reserve. Like the farmer who is preparing his land for the coming season, and is living on the gatherings from the last season, with a confidence based on his reserve, we are doing our fate, in which we have no choice. But we have the choice to work anew as we please for our future good. And we have a surplus which is our reserve from past lives, of which we have now no knowledge.

   We are therefore at present doing a dual function: (a) in regard to fate, we are helpless; but (b) in new actions we have a free hand to sow for the future. To distinguish between these two types by intelligence alone is not easy for the individual; but a rough rule may be laid down: that what comes in spite of our efforts and spontaneously is due to fate. But those whose attention is concentrated and who have access within can read their fate easily. It is an open book to them.

   Now, in the physical body actions are done from the heart center. As long as the mind is centered here (in ordinary individuals, heart is the center of mind action) it will be influenced by mind actions. The sensations of joy and sorrow will be felt as the body is worked by mind from this center. When the mind has been elevated to the eye focus by concentration, or in other words, when the mind has changed its seat or center from the heart to the eyes, then the feelings caused by outward influences working on the physical body will be felt imperceptibly.

   Joys of the world will not elevate and its sorrows will not depress him. The fate actions are stored in the eight-petaled lotus in Anda above the eyes. Their influence is felt forcibly as long as that center has not been crossed. When that center is crossed and the Master's astral form is seen (for that form resides there) the influence of the fate actions will be perceived nominally. The mind has then become strong and it has the power to bear them without eflort.

   But fate cannot be effaced or altered; it will have to be undergone. An arrow after leaving the bow must find its mark. The reserve actions are stored at the top of Trikuti; and only when a spirit has crossed the third mind or Trikuti, is it said to be free from all Karma. Below this the spirit suffers from the ills of Karma.

   All actions are performed with a motive and the motive is binding. It is not easy to conceive of an action which is performed without a motive. The mind is consciously or subconsciously active, and it is ridiculous to talk of Karma without a counter-Karma. There is no escape from counter-Karma. By doing actions, however good, there is no escape. Charity, offerings, or pilgrimages must bring their reward, and the soul doing these things must receive the reward in one body or another.

   Men are reborn and reincarnate with a span of life pre-fixed on the Karmic reactions of our past lives - "no more, no less." Christ said, "Thy days are numbered." The length of life depends on the breaths we take. Proper use and misuse thereof can prolong or shorten our lives on this earth. Normally a man breathes fourteen or fifteen times in a minute, but in passionate moments of life one breathes 24 to 26 times in a minute. Thus the allotted breaths are exhausted in a shorter period. If, however, you are of temperate habits and are devoting time to spiritual practices the number of breaths goes down to four to six per minute. In this way life is prolonged. Yogis control the breath in kumbhak for months and sometimes years, prolonging their lives for hundreds of years.

   The escape from Karma lies in the protection afforded by Saints. They are themselves Karmaless. Their actions are not binding on them, for their spirit works from Daswan Dwar, a center above the three spheres of mind and forms, as stated above. They show us the way out.


   [Note: this is interesting - usually it is said that the Sant works from Sach Khand, or that Sach Khand is the 'office of the Master', not Daswan Dwar; one who has reached Daswan Dwar is usually considered to be a Sadh. One may wonder what Sawan Singh meant here. Daswan Dwar, in some systems is also considered the Buddhic plane, or the plane of Unity (Sach Khand or Sat Lok being considered by some to be the Divine or Monadic plane), and may be the intermediate position between the lower and higher worlds, a sort of resting place for a Master to work above or below - ?]. In either case the Sants work from a plane beyond karma.

   “They say, let new actions be performed in the name of the Master, the individual working in the capacity of an agent only. The new actions, DONE IN THIS SPIRIT, will not be binding. The fate actions will have been undergone by the time the life comes to an end; the reserve actions Saints partly take upon themselves, and partly are undergone by the devotee as the Saints think proper.

   They put the individual spirit in touch with the Sound Current, the substratum; and as the spirit catches it and rises up and throws off the influences of mind and matter it gets stronger and stronger. The more the individual works on these lines, the easier the Path for him. Otherwise the course becomes lengthy; but the Saints are pledged to see him through, after they have initiated him. The practice of the Sound Current cuts the root of Karma.

   The Current acts like a magnet on the spirit. It attracts the spirit to itself, and if the spirit were not covered by the rust of mind and matter it would go up like a shot. The rust of attachments and impressions is removed by repetition. The repetition of thoughts of the journey within replaces our common day thoughts; and the mind instead of wandering outside begins to take rest and peace within; and when it comes in, the spirit comes in with it; and when the spirit is in, the Current in its turn pulls it up, and when the Trikuti has been crossed (which will only be when all Karmic accounts are settled) the soul never goes back in transmigration. It will go up to merge in its ocean.”




Some food for thought

   First, two obviously very high views:

   “For the truly enlightened man subjection to the law of cause and effect and freedom from it are one Truth.” - Yasutani Roshi

   “Karma is nothing but the Ultimate Reality itself, and as such can never bind you...Your liberation is not an escape from bondage, but an expression of real Freedom behind that apparent bondage, knowing that bondage also is but an expression of Freedom.” (Shree Atmananda, ed., Nitya Tripta, Notes on Spiritual Discourses, 2009, Vol.2)


   Second, a view shared with many sages:

   "All life forms, excluding humans, do not have karmas, because there is no sense of doership in their actions. They are simply awareness expressing itself in conjunction with the macroscopic vasanas." - James Swarz (6)

   And:

   “Man, by contrast with the animal, is an individualized creature. He is aware of his own separate identity and special personality. The animal is not individually responsible for its actions, being entirely responsive to its surroundings and herd instincts. If man feels the same responsiveness, he modifies it by his own particular characteristics.” - Paul Brunton


   Third, barring perhaps advaita and early buddhism, it is recognized in numerous traditions that, in the lower realms of relativity where karma holds the most sway, there are beings tasked as “lords of karma” or “karmic judges” to moderate and arrange things in best accord with divine law. The mystic Daskalos refers to this while discussing the “second death” mentioned in Christianity:

   “Some people hear about a second death and they are horrified. They imagine something analogous to earthly death. The second death is the dissolving of the psychic body in Kamaloka. You don't even recognize it because it is a very gradual process. It is not something that happens suddenly, it is unlike the death of the gross material body which, after it dies - or rather, after you drop it - you can see lying there. The second death is the gradual cleansing of the psychic [or astral] body from its negative vibrations whereby the surrounding environment becomes increasingly numinous. It is something analogous to the illumination over landscape as the sun rises...The second death is a process toward higher levels of awareness and illumination...All human beings have the potential of having this experience. They will have it, assuming they have come to their senses and assimilated the lessons of life just lived. Otherwise the masters of karma will put the ego to sleep. That is, the psychic body will dissolve instantly, will pass momentarily through the noetic dimension and descend down to the gross material level in a new incarnation. In such a case the individual will not experience or have consciousness of the noetic body. It is a very complicated process...It is an individual matter of how long you stay within the psychic dimensions and not a fixed mathematical formula which is the same for everyone." (Kyriakos Markides, Fire in the Heart (London, England: ARKANA, 1991), p. 207-209).

   A second example is given in a story from the book, Flowering of Grace, by devotees of Sant Rajinder Singh. A friend of mine writes:

   “One of my favorite stories in that book which you recommended to me is #97 in which Fannie is shown, during a Near Death Experience, a result of a cerebral stroke, the blemishes on her soul which would make difficult her advancing spiritually. I especially like the story because it portrays the Lords of Karma (or, as she called them, Karmic Judges), as concerned with her growth and with providing her with opportunities, rather than as just cold, heartless meanies - even though she was to return to life paralyzed. Then Sant Rajinder Singh - a master commissioned to dispense grace, not the law - steps in and negotiates a compromise, “No, not paralyzed, no, no!”, promising to take responsibility for her growth, heals her on a subtle plane, and she returns to earth made whole. Great story.”

   Similarly, the following is an bridged letter from a devoted Kirpal Singh initiate, somewhat long, written upon the death of Master Darshan Singh, when Master Rajinder Singh became his successor, which, among other things, purports to show some of the ways the masters of Sant Mat deal with their initiates’ karmas.

   “Dear Brothers and Sisters,

   When Master placed us in meditation he told me to look carefully at his form, which began demonstrating the radiation, which supports all of creation; that is streams of light, energy and love poured out of Master intermingling into rays of sustenance maintaining all of existence. The rays encapsulated and sustained each particle of existence as well as the entire physical universe including inner planes.

   Then Master Darshan told me the living Master sustains and loves all of existence from the tiniest particle to its totality. As he spoke, he showed me the smallest possible particle of matter, a squiggle-like note of light, completely surrounded by Master’s radiation and love. There was no way to penetrate this cocoon. The only possible means of reaching physical matter is through the offices of the living Master because if this protecting shell were disturbed, the matter would cease to be.

   Then Master Darshan told me dozens and dozens of times that masters have equal love for all souls no matter what the soul’s current state because each soul contains the Godhead and Master could do nothing but love it. He then showed me one of the Lords of the Planes and told me of Master’s great love for this soul who was due for a human birth and the good fortune of initiation in his next life. He continued that although his love for this soul was great, it was no greater than when the soul was mired in sin and showed me truly horrifying past lives of the soul that was now the Lord of a Plane. I saw him as a man wallowing in the torture and degradation of his fellow man. In one life he even tore apart other men and ate them raw. Then I saw him in a hell where he existed as a bacteria-like creature around the edges of a pool that emitted a steamy atmosphere of vomit and ammonia. Yet even there, Master showed me how the Master’s love was unflagging as he sustained the soul in its punishment.

   Then Master Darshan held out a bug, I believe an ant, toward me and said he loved this creature as much now as before. He showed me this soul when it had, in its turn, inhabited the body of a Lord of a Plane during a previous existence and many subsequent existences which led the soul into its present form. (6a) Master said over and over again that he loves every soul, that the living Master always loves every soul and that the world could never be without a living Master. Then he showed me each of the masters in turn from Nanak and Kabir to the present living Master manifesting this power and love. Then Master Darshan’s form changed into that of his son, Raji, and he said that Raji was his successor; that when he left, Raji would be the Master and administer existence with the same love that Master Darshan has shown.

   Next Master Darshan showed me two more areas that the masters control, the distribution of karma and guidance of souls through the inner planes. I saw initiations where Master Darshan approached the bar of justice, which looked like a rough granite block, and physically removed the record of a soul from the care of the Lord of Death, who bowed obsequiously to the Master. Then in some cases, Master Darshan kept the entire record himself, in others he physically gave the rest of it to Raji’s form, and in still others he kept some himself, gave some to Raji, and some to other subsequent masters. As he did so, Master Kirpal and Hazur explained over and over that only the living Master can administer a soul’s karma and that when one master leaves his body, the subsequent one takes over his duties in assisting initiates on the physical plane. Then Hazur and Master Kirpal showed me initiation ceremonies from the time that they were the living Master. Hazur entrusted Master Kirpal with the care of disciples; Master Kirpal entrusted Master Darshan and so forth.

   Then Master Darshan told me that Raji would guide souls across the inner planes just as the other masters had done and he showed me Raji’s Radiant Form transversing plane after plane as the Lords and inhabitants of each region paid him, and the souls he escorted, homage. Finally we came to a throneroom which Master Darshan told me to observe carefully and tell him what it was. He confirmed it was the throneroom of God where evolved souls are received. He told me to look at God’s throne and tell him whom I saw. I saw Master Kirpal come out and sit in the throne. He told me to watch carefully and turned into Master Darshan, then Raji, then quickly to Hazur and one after the other hundreds and hundreds of masters most of whom I couldn’t identify and finally back to Master Kirpal and then Master Darshan and Raji over and over again.

   Another place the masters repeatedly took me was to the courtyard of the masters where protected souls who leave the earth plane go, and deliberately contrasted it to the judgement place of the Lord of Death. The masters insisted I carefully note the shinning material and beauty of the courtyard where Master Kirpal sat on a throne on a raised platform. The important element in the place was the brimming over love with which the masters inundated the entire area. This light, love and music formed an atmosphere so uplifting and joyous that each arriving soul immediately perceived the masters’ solace and love for it.

   In conjunction with this courtyard, the masters took me to the judgement place ruled over by the Lord of Death. The stark, lifeless stone of his cold area contrasted totally with the love and light of the masters’ courtyard. When the Lord of Death stood behind the Book of Judgement which was on an alter-like slab in front of him, he radiated complete, accurate justice. Master Kirpal and Swami Ji were usually the ones that would point out that the Lord of Death was entirely free of any animus just as surely as he lacked mercy and compassion. The souls judged by him found no comfort. Frequently at this point the masters again showed me what would happen to a soul at the time of initiation. The living Master, Master Darshan, would enter the actual judgment place and approach the Book of Judgment at which point the Lord of Death would step back and relinquish his control over it. The living Master would then remove the records of the initiate from the book. If the initiate’s life on the earth plane was going to extend beyond that of the living Master, the living Master discussed the disposition of his karma with his successors each successor acquiring control of the parts that would occur while he was the living Master. The Master who was explaining to me what was happening would always emphasize that an initiated soul was henceforth free of any dominance by or debt to the Lord of Death. The masters controlled the karma of an initiate and dispensed it with the complete love of the courtyard. Again, I have no words to adequately convey the difference to the soul between the austerity of justice and the love of the masters, nor can I articulate how important and precious this boon is.

   Another area the masters repeatedly took me to was to a beautiful throne that guarded a passageway to Sach Khand. Usually I went there with Hazur, Gurus Nanak or Kabir, or Swami Ji and after saying the names for a while, they directed me to look at the throne where Master Kirpal was sitting. They explained that he was sitting on the throne of God and he would change into Hazur, the living Master and then Raji and then to hundreds of other masters and back to himself. Then one of the masters would explain that the only possible way to traverse the pathway into Sach Khand was under the guidance of the living Master of the time. Without this guidance, no soul could pass Master’s throne into Sach Khand. They were exceptionally emphatic about this.

   Master has repeatedly said that seeing is believing and that we should all see for ourselves. I offer this letter not in an attempt to tell anyone else what to believe, but to share what Master has shown me.”


   Note: this account appears to be a genuine experience, but not unlikely to a degree influenced by some subjective interpretation by the initiate, which is common if not relatively inevitable in most visions. It gives the impression, for instance, that initiates of an earlier master, such as Kirpal Singh or Darshan Singh, are incapable of reaching Sach Khand without the grace and guidance of the current living master Rajinder Singh. That is to say, if for whatever reason initiates of Kirpal Singh are not active followers of the current living master in this line, and there are many, they are out of luck as far as Sach Khand is concerned. This is not supported in most of Sant Mat literature. One may choose to benefit from the company of a successor master, and it is in fact recommended, but the disciple’s relationship with his initiating master is the main thing of paramount importance. For new initiates on this path, however, the living master is necessary. Further, according to Darshan Singh, if there is to be any alteration of ones karma it is the living master that can effect that because to do so requires a body. The subjective component in what seems like an ‘objective’ vision may be considered in assessing descriptions of hells and beings therein, conceptions of accessing ‘physical’ matter only with a master’s help because it ‘only exists within a cocoon of the master’s sustaining power’ (a similar conception I had heard of before from a very advanced initiate, that “it is only the Master’s love that keeps the whole world from falling apart.” Here might be a high soul capable of perceiving the Master at the level of Isvara, at least). Nevertheless, this person was on a ‘subtle’ plane making conclusions about seeing ‘physical’ matter, about what physical matter is, and in fact even assuming that so-called matter is an actual ‘thing’ separate from ones perception of it, and other related topics and revelations - all interesting and undoubtedly valuable for the devotee concerned. But the objective or ultimate truth of it all is another matter, because visions almost by definition are received only according to the state of the receiver. Is there actually such a thing as ‘physical’ matter - or is it all mental?, i.e., in consciousness - might be considered a basic metaphysical question which no vision in itself could prove or disprove. Paul Brunton in a somewhat but similar context wrote of what he referred to as even high Glimpses of the Truth or Reality: ”They are the ultimate phenomenon - that is, appearances and experiences before realization. They differ at different times, or with different persons, but that is because they come into being as human reactions, as the self’s final point of view before before its own dissolution.” (Notebooks, Vol. 14, 8.84) One may very well wonder, as a soul approaches closer and closer to the inner, ultimately subjective realization of the Self, he will necessarily see exactly the same conceived-as-objective ‘structures’ on his inward ascent?

   We have wandered a bit off topic, but all in all, however, very fascinating material.


Summary and comments

   Now, just to give some further perspective. These are my own very limited observations and opinions. The teachings of the Sants is that there is a power controlling the human being; in one respect it is the soul that gives power to the intellect, mind, pranas, and physical body. In the body is the attention of the soul, or the emanant of the soul, which is consciousness, and which gives power to the human being. However, the Power of the All-Soul or Oversoul is within and controlling and sustaining all creation, including the souls. The Oversoul manifests all of its creation through the soul. So within the body are said to be both the soul and ‘God’ or the Oversoul. [This is from a 'bottom-up' perspective; from the top-down', it is all One]. The Oversoul is All-consciousness, and its expressive Power is the Light and Sound, or Word, which is not just Light and Sound but a current of Life and Love as well. This Power, then, along with the souls, are emanations of the All-Soul or Oversoul, the Sat Purush, which proceeds from the nameless One.

   The sage Plotinus described this arrangement as the The Divine Mind or Intellectual Principle (God), itself the eternal outpouring of the One (Godhead), emanating eternal Souls as well as the Divine Idea of all creation. Paul Brunton re-interpreted this philosophically as a World-Mind emanating individual Overselves, as well as a ‘World-Idea’ which is simultaneously projected through each Overself, manifesting a sensible world and body. The divine Soul then projects an emanant of itself into that World-Idea in order by experience to come to self-consciousness through a process of evolution. This puts a positive spin on what in gnostic teachings is often a negative ‘fall’ of man or the soul. Thus, we have the paradox that the Soul is in the world and the body, and from a higher point of view the latter are also within the Soul:

   "But soul is not contained in the universe, on the contrary the universe is in the soul. Soul is contained in the Intellectual Principle [Nous, Absolute Soul, or God] and is the container of body." (Enneads, v.5.9).

   The Soul, while in truth omnipresent, is said to have its true Home in Sach Khand, the first plane that came into being by His Will. To say the ‘first’ is unavoidably misleading due to our dualistic language, because this is happening atemporily, prior to the mind. It is a ‘realm’ of All-consciousness, beyond the physical, astral, mental or causal, and super-causal bodies and planes (or Pind (physical), Anda (Sahansdal Kanwal), Brahmand (Trikuti), Par Brahmand (Daswan Dwar/Bhanwar Gupta). At every plane until full realization there is an apparent dualism of the Soul and the Current or Naam, both being of the nature of consciousness and ‘magnetically’ attracted to each other, and both coming from the same Source. Thus, the ultimate truth of non-dualism is not violated. Moreover, the notions of both 'controller' and 'controlled' are ultimately transcended in mystery.

   While in theory non-duality is always realizable, Sach Khand might be said to be the first of the 'inward-bound' non-dual stages, as previously explained.

   The path of Sant Mat has generally as its first task for a person to merge his attention in the light and sound current and transcend all bodies to know itself as pristine soul in Sach Khand, where the All-Soul merges it by stages (Alak, Agam) into Anami or the Nameless One. This is ‘seeing no longer in a glass darkly, but face to face.’ When returning to the physical plane, one has of necessity to take on again the coverings of the soul and function as a normal human being once again, but now with perfect knowledge of who and what one is and what God in its expressive aspect is. One retains the realization of the higher planes, but still, experiences things at somewhat of a lesser intensity or directness, inasmuch as the lower planes are reflections of the higher. This is probably why the Buddha spoke of his nirvana, and then paranirvana: at death or in the higher planes the reality is more directly and fully known. But a great value is gained by the ascent. As it is written in the book, Mount Analogue, by Rene Daumal:

   “You cannot stay on the summit forever, you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

   A higher task remains, some argue, which is to integrate the awareness of Sach Khand or the true Home with every plane quit by the soul on its upward journey. This leads to a complete non-dual realization. All may not fulfill this to the same degree, and that may depend on various reasons, including one’s destiny for service. In any case, residual karma is played out until the bodily term is over, and one then can return home forever. It is perhaps somewhat misleading to say, “From Sach Khand the whole creation looks like bubbles forming and disappearing in a spiritual ocean” - from the perspective of this no dual integration - because of course on earth the liberated soul will see things as others do, but also with depth of knowledge and penetrating vision.

   While the Master on this path puts a direct hand to the work of eradicating one’s karmas, this process must also be seen in terms of our everyday life, and not just in meditation or by His grace. This implies experiencing what is known as tapas, or ‘heat’ in the traditions - the burning up of one’s karmas in the lower three bodies, which interpenetrate, and also exist in worlds of their own. This happens 'at our own expense', as the Christian mystics might say, through the resistance that comes up in our attempts at right living. Coming from another school, the sage Papaji writes along these lines:

   “I feel such strong heat. Strong burning fire. What is it? All the store that you have accumulated and collected with great care and much interest—you have put a match to it and burned it. Now enjoy. This is a fire that burns all karmas so you won't have to appear again in this suffering. You have seen your own cremation. All the karmas are finished. This burning is the fire of knowledge. The ego, mind, senses, and pleasures are all burned and over. Everything is over. This is called fire. It is a very lucky person who will see his own cremation while alive. And he is putting fuel into the fire, until the corpse is completely burned. And then he will dance! This is called Shiva's dance. He has  won. Everything is finished. No more notions or thoughts or desires. All ended in the fire. And then happiness will come and you will dance the eternal dance.” (from an internet post)

   The Rig Veda seems to declare that, while there is mud and obscuration, the overall process is one of fire, as saints previously mentioned also expressed:

   "He tastes not that delight (of the twice-born) who is unripe and whose body has not suffered in the heat of this fire; they alone are able to bear that and enjoy it who have been prepared by the flame."

   "He sent fire into my bones, and hath taught me.” - Lamentations i, 13

   “He that is near to me is near to the fire.” - Origen (Jeremiam Homiliae, XX3)

   The early life of Sri Ramakrishna went through alternations of anguish and ecstasy as his divine moods increased. The transformation of his body-mind was marked by numerous physical symptoms: a burning sensation, oozing of blood through his pores, loosening of the joints, and a shutdown of physiological functions. Such changes sometimes occur when the human vehicle is penetrated or infused with divine force. A tangible glow or golden radiance may also be apparent on the body of a yogi passing through the fires of ecstasy. Romain Rolland wrote:

    “The yogis of India constantly note the effect of the great ecstasy caused by an efflux of blood. Ramakrishna could tell as soon as he saw the breast of a religious man, whom he was visiting, whether or not he had passed through the fire of God.” (Romain Rolland,The Life of Ramakrishna (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1979), p. 50)


   Obviously this is not the experience of every sadhaka, and may not be a requirement, especially for those not on the paths of yoga. But then, something equivalent to it very well may not be unexpected. Sant Darshan Singh wrote:

   "We are people of little faith and fail to recognize and appreciate the hand which guides and which sustains. Hazur (Baba Sawan Singh Ji) used to say that once a saint has taken a soul under his wing, he is keen to compress the progress of twenty births into a single one. And if we desire to pack the accomplishments of twenty lives into a single one, we must pay for it." (source misplaced)

   And also, for those on his path:

   “The Master's job is to see that our karmas are wound up in this life, that we are cleansed and purified so that he can take us to our Eternal Home.”

   Bhai Sahib similarly said:

   “My disciples, if they live as I expect them to live, and they follow me in everything, they realize God IN THIS LIFE. Absolutely. And if they are old, or the progress is too slow, I make them realize on the deathbed. God MUST be realized in one life, in this life.” (Daughter of Fire, p. 267


   Sant Kirpal Singh spoke of the 'scrubbing' one often undergoes once he is initiated, in which process his back karmas are gradually wound up:

   "It is during this probationary period that the soul will feel some discomfort. It has become so besmeared with the dirt of the senses that it has lost its original purity of heart and is not fit to be raised out of the prison house is of the body."

   "Even though the door has been opened, it is so attached to the things of the outside world that it does not wish to be free. It is only when the soul begins to regain its original purity of heart and mind that it can at last want to be free of the desires of the flesh and outward attachments. The loving Master tries to avoid all possible discomforts to the child disciple by explaining what are the vices to be avoided and the virtues to be developed in order to regain this purity."

   "Unfortunately, more often than not the words of the Master do not sink in and little or no action is taken by the disciple to amend his ways. Therefore, the Master Power must take firmer measures to bring home to the disciple the importance of the truths that have been explained in words. Hence the discomfort that is sometimes felt by the dear ones in their day-to-day living...If a child gets itself so dirty that the only way the mother can wash it clean is by using a scrubbing brush,can it be said that the child will feel comfortable during the scrubbing process? It will only feel comfortable after the scrubbing has ceased and it is shining clean and pure."

   "Help and protection is always extended by the Master to his followers. He looks after their comforts in every way, both outer and inner. Even the effects of the reactions of the past - from the gallows to an ordinary pin prick - so much concession is given. As the mother sacrifices everything for the sake of the child, even so does the Master sacrifice everything for the sake of his children. The follower does not dream of what the Master does for him.
(7) He fills his followers with his own thought, with his own life impulses. When we remember him, he remembers us with all his heart and soul." ("The Cage of the Soul", Sat Sandesh, September 1976, p. 25-26)


   One of the ways on this path that the disciple comes to know himself and the Oversoul is by rising above body-consciousness during meditation. He then sees what is what in greater and greater degrees. Yet there is a lesser known 'method' or process by which one also comes to know of this Controlling Power. This is when it, while still controlling, for it cannot do otherwise, apparently lessens its 'sustaining' power for a time, leaving one 'high and dry'. Here one 'knows without seeing', and is sustained by faith. This traditionally has gone under the name of the Dark Night of the Soul. It can be a short or very long process. Please see the comprehensive article on this website, The Deeper Meaning of the Dark Night of the Soul for more on this important topic. Paul Brunton writes:

   "If the Overself did not lead him into and through the final dark night, where he becomes as helpless as an infant, as bereft of interior personal possessions as a destitute pauper, how else would he learn that it is not by his own powers and capacities that he can rise at last into enduring illumination?" (Notebooks, Vol. 15, 3.54)

   This need not happen for all, but it happens enough that it is worth mentioning.


   For some of the paradoxes of a related pairing, i.e., self-effort and grace see Caught on the Path - the Master Trap. And for much more on karma, see Bedtime Stories: Are They Real?

   “Forgiveness is the only sweet water that will wash away all dirt. Justice won’t do it, mind that. If you want justice, then that will react. Forgiveness only washes away all dirt. Forgive and forget, this is the way to Spirituality.” - Kirpal Singh (Morning Talks, p. 18)

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   “The Guru will be waiting for the disciple to get mature. When the disciple matures, the Guru will give him one glance. At that time all others, other than the disciple, will disappear as if burnt by fire.” - Ramana Maharishi

   “Destiny transcends all training and often it needs but a mere touch of an illuminate’s finger to release the pent-up stores of secret power within a soul....With the passage of well-spent time and the coming of well-deserved Grace, he will finally reach the serenity and mastery that characterize the past stages of the path.” - Paul Brunton

   “A few minutes of the Master’s grace...and then?” - Kirpal Singh (8)


Notes

[The way this article worked out, these footnotes are not peripheral to the discussion but a large part of it, so do please read through them].

   1. “Divine Providence determines the Reason-Principle (or Logos) of the Cosmos to be a principle of Good, and not of Evil.” Plotinus says that Evil is caused not by Providence, but by Necessity. Evil can only exist as a lack of Good. Human beings are free to choose their own actions, and are not forced to be evil. (Enneads)

   Some of the philosophers distinguish between Grace and Providence. Providence is Divine guidance or care, of a person or the universe itself, in general. Grace refers to help given directly to man by the Divine, advancing him spiritually and/or eradicating otherwise inevitable Karmas or Necessity.

   Sometimes Providence is equated with Fate or Destiny, as in a “predetermined course of events,” or the “fixed natural order of the universe.” Or it is referred to as “a power or agency that cares for or guides” either of these. Finally, “Divine Providence” is sometimes used as a name of God.

   The Turkish word “Kismet” [Persian “Qismat,” Arabic “qisma”, meaning division, portion, fate, destiny, the Will of Allah] is of similar meaning and has been contrasted with karma by one theravadin practitioner [source misplaced] as follows:

   “Kismet” means fate, destiny, pre determination by God or some inexplicable forces. Which means there is nothing you can do to change it as everything is pre decided for you.

   “Karma” in Sanskrit or “Kamma” in Pali means volitional or intentional action in Buddhism. “Vipaka” is the result of the volitional action or Kamma. Hence Kamma Vipaka means volitional action and its result or effect popularly translated as cause and effect. Good begets good and evil begets evil as it is known. Our past Kamma can give effect to us in our present life, in our immediate subsequent life or future lifes. So in a way and certain extent, our present life is predetermined by our past Kamma. Our present Kamma will determine our future either in this lifetime or future lifetimes. So in this respect, we can say that Kamma determines our fate or destiny or Kismet in certain circumstances. The difference being Kismet is predetermined by an external God or inexplicable forces but Kamma is created by our own self using our thinking mind. Of course, the workings of Kamma is not as straightforward as one plus one equals two. According to the Buddha, the workings of Kamma Vipaka is very complex and cannot be understood by ordinary worldlings. Not all that happens to us is due to our Kamma but I would say Kamma plays a big part. We can alter or influence our destiny or fate by our intention of creating good kamma through our body, speech and mind but its not possible in the case of Kismet.”



   So perhaps we are back to where we started. It can be seen that a “predetermined course of events” could be easily interpreted as either karma or providence. Either way faith and acceptance are called for. Such acceptance, however, does not rule out responding to alter or try to change situations for the better. Thus corollaries to karma and grace then are the issue of self-effort and Grace, as well as free-will and determinism The Sants generally say that man has 25% free will, with the rest determined by God (as either Providence or Karma). But as far as that 25% goes for working towards our spiritual progress, Paramhamsa Yogananda says that it represents 100% of our efforts! Brunton explains:

   “This blind abject apathy of many fatalistic Orientals is based, not on real spirituality, but on fallacious thinking. “Because the whole universe is an expression of God’s will, and because every event happens within the universe, therefore every calamity must be accepted as expressing God’s will.” So runs the logic. The best way to expose the fallacy lurking in it is to place it by the side of a countersyllogism. Because the whole universe is an expression of God’s will, and because every individual resistance of calamity happens within the universe, therefore such resistance is the expression of God’s will!” (Notebooks, Vol. 12, Part 2, 4.55)

   And:

   “No man need resign himself to utter helplessness in the face of fate. Let him try to change what seems inevitable, and his very trying may be also fated!”

   “In other words, what is destined to happen, paradoxically comes to pass through the exercise of free will.”
(Vol. 6, Part One, 3.126-127)


   The reader will recall how closely this mirrors the quote of Roshi Yasutani above, “For the truly enlightened man subjection to the law of cause and effect and freedom from it are one Truth.” The reader will also remember that it was after Lord Krishna gave Arjuna the cosmic vision, that he told him his dharma was to go out and fight against his enemies. Was this situation, and his subsequent actions, destiny or karma? No doubt opinions will vary, but the lack of personal volition or choice on his part argues against a simple designation of karma.

   Are we reborn only because of karma? That is another mystery. PB writes, suggesting further distinctions for us to ponder:

   “None of us is thrown into this world against his will. All of us are here because we want the be here. We reincarnate in part through the pressure of accumulated karma and in part through the presence of habitual tendencies. Some are eager to descend into a body again, but others are half-dragged down...All things contribute to the making of man - the history of his past and the climate of his land, the people among whom he is born, and his own particular tendencies. The most important is his karma.”(Ibid, Vol.6, Part Two, 2.14-16, 21)


   But then he seems to argue against anything like group karma. Gurinder Singh said likewise: that all karma is individual. PB states:

   “It is true that the whole of what man experiences is not wholly of his own direct making and that only part of it is so. It is true that his nation’s life affects and is responsible for some of the color which his own takes on. But why was he born in that particular nation during that particular period? The answer must again be that he is getting the recompense of his own past making. For his nation may be defeated and wounded, or it may stride triumphant and prosperous.” (Ibid, 2.49)

   No doubt the buddhists would consider all of these things part of ones karma.

   But the law of Nature that breaks up ones karma into repeated embodiments is, arguably, not karma, but the divine mercy. PB writes:

   “When he looks back upon the long series of earth lives which belong to his past, he is struck afresh by the supreme wisdom of Nature and by the supreme necessity of this principle of recurring embodiment. If there had been only one continuous earth life, his progress would have been brought to an end, he would have been cluttered up by his own past, and he could not have advanced in new directions. This past would have surrendered him like a circular wall. How unerring the wisdom and how infinite the mercy which, by breaking this circle of necessity, gives him the chance of a fresh start again and again, sets him free to make new beginnings!”

   “The law which pushes us into, or out of, physical bodies, is a cosmic law. There is no blind chance about it.”
(Ibid, 2.161-162)


   While a maturing aspirant may intuit the meaning of seemingly predetermined events, the answer may perhaps be definitively known only by access to what the ancients referred to as the “three sisters of the spinning wheel,” or what the mystics of Sant Mat identify as the uppermost dimension of the plane or level of consciousness beyond the trigunatmic domain of the physical, astral, and causal bodies - wherein the seed karmas are weaved into destiny - but not yet the region of pure Spirit which alone is free, and the source of grace. This may refer to the level of what the theosophists referred to as the “seed-atom” of the body and its experiences. PB explains:

   “All his experiences during the ages upon ages of his existence as a finite center of life and consciousness have left their record in the mysterious and measureless seed-atom of his body.” (Ibid, 2.97)

   Might this be akin to where the sanchit or reserve storehouse of karmas are stored - above Trikuti as Sawan Singh wrote above?

   In any case, a grand mystery is karma indeed, as both Krishna and the Buddha have proclaimed! But then, the Master is a grand mystery as well:

   “On the day of reckoning thou shalt know for certain, in the land of darveshes there is no count of deeds.” - Hafiz

   Brunton writes that one

   “resigns himself to God’s will...because he realizes that it will bring him only what is best for him or only what is needed by him or only what has been earned by him.” (Ibid, Vol. 12, Part Two, 4.78)

   Thus Providence and Necessity, Grace and Karma are two complementary laws behind fate or destiny. The divine Overself or divine Master can, if so moved, even release a portion of favorable karma to smooth or accelerate ones spiritual path. Swami Rama of The Himalayan Institute called that, “putting a comma” in ones karmas. This could also be called an act of grace.

1b. The Illuminated Hafiz, p. 4
2. Buddhists generally believe in karma, but not grace or its ability to alter or eradicate karmas. They generally also do not believe in God or a power governing and controlling the universe. (See note 5) PB has another quote that attempts to, at least partially, historically reconcile these contrasting views:

   “Buddha found himself in a land where degenerate priestcraft had cunningly persuaded the masses to believe that every sin could be expiated, and its present or future effects in destiny circumvented, by some paid-for ritual, sacrifice, or magic. He tried to raise the moral level of his people by denying the pardon of sin and affirming the rigorous governance of karmic law, the strict unalterability of unseen justice. Jesus, on the contrary, found himself in a land where religion proclaimed harshly, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” He too tried to raise the moral level of his people. But a wisdom not less than Buddha’s made him meet the situation by stressing forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God. “The law of recompense brings every man his due and no external religious form can change its working” is, in effect, the gist of much Buddhist teaching. “True,” Jesus might have said, “but there is also the law of love, God’s love, for those who have the faith to invoke it and the will to obey it.” Let us grant that both the prophets were right if we consider the different groups they were addressing, and that both gave the kind of help that was most needed by each group. Let no one deny to divinity a virtue which is possessed by humanity. The higher self’s response to the ego’s penitence is certain. And such response may stretch all the way to complete forgiveness of sins.” (Vol. 12, 4.85)

   “I know that many dispute the existence of Grace, especially those who are Buddhistically minded, strictly rational, and they have much ground for their stand. My own knowledge may be illusory, but my experience is not; from both knowledge and experience I must assert that through one channel or another Grace may come: dutiful, compassionate, and magnanimous.”

2a. “There comes a time when out of the silence within himself there comes the spiritual guidance which he needs for his further course. It comes sometimes as a delicate feeling, sometimes as a strong one, sometimes as a clear formulated message, and sometimes out of the circumstances and happenings themselves. Not only does it tell him and teach him, but sometimes it does the same for others. Such is the effect of the Divine Life now working increasingly within him.” (Vol. 15, Part 2, 4.146

3. An example from astrology may help illustrate these principles. A natal chart, representing the ego at the time of birth for the present incarnation, shows the characteristic modes of functioning of the ego. The planets at the time of birth occupy the twelve houses of a circle of 360 degrees. Some of the houses appear empty, however. Does that mean we are not able to function or are not called to function in the areas of life represented by those “empty” houses? No, or course not - but the ego by tendency might prefer not to. Now visualize the entire circle of 360 degrees as representing the witness self, which, spiritually, we are meant to grow into. The ordinary person is fairly predictable because the ego as represented in his chart is fairly predictable. But the more one grows beyond that set of born tendencies and gets closer to realizing and living as the witness self, the less predictable one will be and the more capable he will be of responding to what is required by any given set of circumstances of life - whether or not he has any planets in those houses in his natal chart.

The sage is permanently identified with the witness self, not the ego, and, therefore, he is much less predictable than his natal chart would represent. He may function in his ego or he may not. This is one meaning to Kirpal Singh’s saying that the masters are beyond the stars. They are not limited to the predictability of the ego. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a characteristic personality demoted by the natal chart, although they are not limited to it. Further, his influence on his disciples will change their destiny, and even alter some of their prarabdha karmas. This would be the influence of grace. And inasmuch as a disciple by his own efforts, progresses out of his natal tendencies, growing more into identification with the witness position, his prarabdha karmas may also change, to the degree that his reaction to them changes, thus foregoing further reactions, and so forth. Thus, for both of these reasons, the disciples of the masters are to varying degrees “above the stars” also. While there is no way to quantify it, one might speculate that their degree of free will may expand beyond the general 25% estimated by the Sants. Shri Atmananda sums all of this up this way:

   “It is a process of calculation and application of mathematics, in establishing the relationship of cause and effect, reduced to the terms of their source: ‘time’. In these calculations, many other things have also to be taken into consideration. If all these are given due consideration, the predictions will be mostly correct. Still, facts relating to the body alone can be predicted successfully - facts relating to the ‘sharira-yatra (the ‘journey of the body’) as they technically call it. Even here, sometimes it goes wrong, whenever Consciousness from beyond the realm of the mind brings to bear its influence upon the activities of the body, either directly or indirectly. For example, when a Sage’s thoughts in any way intervene from beyond the limitations of time, the predictions fail. Therefore, with regard to the life of yogins or sadhakas progressing under a Sage, good astrologers usually refuse to predict anything. Here, something other than the body element, from beyond the body level, comes into operation...This means: If your free will becomes predominant in your activities, you gradually transcend your prarabdha-karmas [conditioning from the past].” (Notes on Spiritual Discourses, #209)

Note: Atmananda does not here deal with the issue of sanchit karmas, addressed in note 4.

   A few relevant quotes from Paul Brunton on astrology:

   “The only planets do not control your individual destiny, but their movements determine the time when the latent karma which you have earned shall become active and operative.” (Vol. 6, Part Two, 3.429)

   “The horoscope is a map not only of the present reincarnation but also of the relation existing between the ego and the soul. It indicates what particular lessons have to be learned” (Ibid, 3.431)

   “Astrology rests on the ground of karma in tendencies and deeds. Freedom of decision rests on the evolutionary need to let man express the creativeness he gets from the Overself. He must put both factors together to find truth.” (Ibid, 3.436)

   “Whatever happens to a man is in some way the consequences of what he did in the past, including the far-gone past of former births. But it may also be in part the imposition of the World-Idea’s pattern upon his own karmic pattern. If it comes, such imposition is irresistible for then the planetary rhythms are involved.” (Ibid, 3.439)

   So once again we find the idea of a Universal Mind’s activity inside of or super-imposed on an individual mind’s efforts; grace influencing or altering karma; Fate-Destiny-Karma, interconnected with Divine Providence; an evolutionary impulse or Guiding hand, modifying or shaping or releasing aspects of a person’s karma. In short, two basic complementary laws influencing events.

   Fate and destiny, as used by the Romans and Greeks, are sometimes used interchangeably with the term karma of the Hindus. “Character is fate” is a well-known expression. Brunton at times, however, distinguishes destiny and fate, as well as karma and fate, as follows:

   “The destiny of man is whatever happens to him, be it self-earned or ordained by a higher power. The fate of a man is the special kind of destiny which is ordained and hence beyond his control.” (Ibid, 3.22)

   “Karma, being made by human will, is subject to human modification. Fate, being decreed by the higher power, is not. The general fact of death is an example of fate, and in this sense the poet James Shirley’s line: “There is no armour against Fate,” is true. But the particular fact of death, its time and manner, may be alterable.” (Ibid, 3.31)

   Confused? He then says:

   “Events happening to us are not necessarily karmic in the sense that we earned them. They can also have a non-karmic source. No physical doing on our part brought them on, but they are what we need at that point for character or capacity, development or correction. Both kinds are fated. In that sense they are God’s will.” (Ibid, 3.20)

   “The victory of the spiritual nature in man is foreordained and unavoidable, but the hour of that victory no man knoweth.” (Ibid, 3.23)

   And finally:

   “It would be an error to separate karma from the universal power and to treat it as an independent power. This error accounts for the difficulty in understanding its role in bringing the cosmos into manifestations. [compare Reynolds, notes 5 and 8] Treat karma rather as an aspect of God and as inseparable from God, or as one of the ways in which God’s presence manifests itself.” (Ibid, 3.30)

   Plenty of food for thought here.


   4. While differing on the method used and view on what is required, advaitins like Shri Atmananda seem to agree that the eradication of samskaras - subconscious imprints - essentially the same as or related to what the Sants refer to as sanchit karmas - is crucial for complete liberation:

   “Death is liberation if it is ultimate death, that is the death of everything objective including even samskaras. But ordinary death is only partial, being the death of the gross body alone. It is no more than a change and does not deserve the name of death.” (Notes on Spiritual Discourses, #820).

   While the Sants say the samskaras get “scorched” by internal practice of the Sound-Current, the advaitins revert to Guadapada in the Mandukya Karika who affirms that “exercise of discrimination and higher reason (vidya vritti) alone can destroy your samskaras (innate tendencies) and lead one to the ultimate Truth.” (Ibid, #1120)

   Ramana Maharishi seemed to be of this position also:

   Q: Why is it sometimes I find concentration on the Self so easy and at other times hopelessly difficult?

   Bhagavan: Because of vasanas. But really it is easy since we are the Self. All we have to do is to remember that. We keep on forgetting it and thus think we are this body or this ego. If the will and desire to remember the Self are strong enough, they will eventually overcome vasanas. There must be a great battle going on inwardly all the time until the Self is realized. This battle is symbolically spoken of in scriptural writings as the fight between God and Satan. In our Sruti, it is the Mahabharata, where the asuras represent our bad thoughts and the devas our elevating ones. All such thoughts as ‘attainment is hard’ or 'Self-realization is far from me', or ‘I have many difficulties to overcome to know Reality’, should be given up, as they are the main obstacles, created by the false self, the ego. They are untrue.”
CONSCIOUS IMMORTALITY

   [Samskaras and vasanas are related. Vasanas have been referred to as chains of samskaras that through volition have formed and exist as latent tendencies].

   I simply ask, that depending on how one visualizes “ultimate Truth” and “complete Liberation”, might not, at various stages, these methods be not either/or but complementary? Especially when one is engaging the “downward” practice, that is, when he returns to the world after scaling the heights - or depths - of consciousness-in-itself, and must now make sense of, reconcile himself with, and understand what he left behind. Shri Atmananda states:

   “Certain shastras hold that everything from intellect down to the gross body is dead, inert matter, as it is. They ask you to get away from all that matter and get to Atma in its pure form, in a state called the nirvikalpa state (samadhi). In that state, there is no sense of bondage, it is true. But, coming out of that state, you find the same world. To find a solution to this, you have to examine the world again, in the light of the experience you had in samadhi. Then you find that the same Reality that was discovered in samadhi is found expressed in the objects also as name and form. And that name and form, which the shastras also call maya, are nothing but the Reality itself. Thus you find yourself to be one with the world, and all doubts cease.” (Ibid, #35)


5. “The Buddhist view may be described as non-theistic. It does not assert that God, here called Brahma, thinks or otherwise brings the universe into existence as its Creator, or that his thinking sustains its existence, or that, if he ceases to think (or dream or breathe, as the case may be), the universe ceases to exist. On the contrary, according to the Buddhist teachings found in both the Sutras and the Tantras, our universe is the aggregate result of the actions in their past lives of all the sentient beings who inhabit our universe. When the world appears in the same way to a group of sentient beings, such as the human race, for example, it is because all the members of that group share a common karmic vision (las snang), that is to say, a particular way of perceiving things determined by a karmic cause. To the first question found in the catechism, “Who made the world?,” the Buddhist teachings unhesitatingly reply, “It is karma that made the world.” (John Reynolds, Self-Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness (Tarrytown, New York: Station Hill Press, 1989), p. 88-89

The Islamists throw a twist in the whole affair, countering this Buddhist view by declaring both man and the universe’s very existence as being due to the “divine Mercy.” How high a view indeed!


6. Swartz, James, How To Attain Enlightenment (Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications, 2009), p. 119

   (See also The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 16, Part Two, 4. 51)

   These quotes of course brings in much more of great Mystery: do animals ever pass upwards into the human kingdom, or are they on a parallel track of evolution, if any? The philosphers and sages appear divided on this issue. If they do so, how is it possible if they can not accrue the positive karma to merit such a transition? Many Sufis (one being Bhai Sahib, guru of Irena Tweedie) adamantly deny that animals can become human, while others refer to Rumi’s famous poem, “I died as a mineral and became a plant, etc.” as evidence for an opposite claim. The former point to separate lines of development for animals and humans, while the latter acknowledge only one. Paul Brunton solves the problem posed at the outset by allowing evolution as well as karma as guiding Divine Ideas within the World-Mind and its expression, the World-Idea. He posted that units of mind - emanents of a Divine Soul, not the Soul itself - do incarnate and evolve through the diverse kingdoms of nature, guided by the “Idea of Man,” which he terms a “master Idea,” to eventually reunite with their divine parent, but with an individuality and self-consciousness gained in the process. And for Brunton, included in this evolutionary design is the human agent of grace:

   “And somewhere, sometime, for every man who sincerely seeks there must come a Guide, merely because this personal opening of the gate is part of Nature’s program...The purpose of human evolution requires the presence at all times through human history of some spiritually fulfilled individuals to act as guides or teachers. At no period has the race been left entirely without them, no matter how bleak, how savage, or how materialistic the period has been.” (Vol. 2, Part Two, 6.134, 6.27)

   Kirpal Singh seems to side with the second class of Sufis mentioned above, when he wrote: “The spirits on coming out of the nether world of Pluto, gradually work their way up from the mineral to the vegetable kingdom and then to the world of insects and reptiles and on to the feathery fraternity and next to the quadrupeds and finally to human beings.” (The Wheel of Life, p. 26). Theosophy complicates things further in positing an evolution of animal forms up to the human, into which pre-existing Human Monads then incarnate. The possibilities are contrasting arguments are immensely complex, however: see “The Idea of Man,” “In the Bosom of the Lord: Death for the Unliberated,” “The Secret Doctrine: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Occult Evolution But Were Afraid to Ask,” and, “If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go” on this website for further discussion about this fascinating topic.

   But for instance, Reynolds, cited above, argues that it is willing intention that makes an act karmically binding. Thus he basically agrees with Swartz on this point. Reynolds also goes to great length to deny the evolutionary theories of theosophy as in total opposition to the Buddhist position regarding karma as the fundamental law of existence. He denies any guiding intelligence such as a Divine Mind, World-Idea or Logos having anything to do with an evolutionary process. He particularly takes objection to the Theosophical view that once one becomes a man he will not go back in the evolutionary scale to a lower form. He feels this contradicts the inviolable law of karma. Some yogis such as Paramhansa Yogananda felt this was possible, but only for one incarnation as a form of punishment. Ramana Maharshi claimed that a cow named Lakshmi attained liberation in his company. Exceptions to the rule abound in the traditions. We might speculate that a reversion is possible, but not likely for most people, and certainly not practitioners.

   But what is most interesting is that while decrying most evolutionary designs by a higher power (what PB affirmed as the “power behind karma”) - designs which also recognize the law of karma - Reynold’s then presents as seemingly authoritative a Buddhist view of Genesis, i.e., the genesis of our planet and its inhabitants, a fascinating story, that bears a striking resemblance to the Theosophical views, although somewhat more negative in its implications:

   “In the Sutras there is found a Buddhist account of Genesis (It is found in Sanskrit texts like the Abhdharmakosa and the Sikshasamuccaya and in Pali texts like the Dighanikaya, the Anguttaranikaya, and the Visuddhimagga). In reply to questions from His disciples, the Buddha explained that the humanity found on this planet earth once inhabited another planetary system. Ages ago when the sun of that world went nova and the planet was destroyed in the ensuing solar eruptions, the bulk of its inhabitants , as the result of their arduously practicing the Dharma for ten thousand years, were reborn on one of the higher planes of the Form World or Rupadhatu, a plane of existence known as Abhasvara or “clear light.” Here they enjoyed inconceivable bliss and felicity for countless aeons. Then, when their great store of past karma came into maturity, our own solar system and owner earth began to evolve and some among their numbers were reborn on the lower planes of the Rupadhatu in the vicinity of the nascent earth. This plane of existence where they found themselves reborn is known as Brahmaloka. The first of these beings to reawaken and be reborn, upon seeing the solar system evolving below him, exclaimed in his delight “I am the Creator!” In this way, he came to believe that he was the actual creator of the universe which he saw about him, for he did not remember from whence he came, and was born without any parents. But in actuality the manifestation of this universe was due to the collective karma of all in that company and his own individual manifestation, which was a case of apparitional birth, was due to his own great stock of meritorious karma coming into maturation at that time because the requisite secondary conditions were present. Nevertheless, he persisted in this delusion, in this idea that he was the actual Creator of the universe because he was the first born within the evolving solar system and he saw no others there before him. But this belief was only his limitation and his own obscurantism, a primordial ignorance of his true origin, and so he fell victim of his own pride. This was the first appearance of the ego or the belief in the real existence of the self, in our universe. However, although he believed himself to be self-originated, actually his appearance in the center of our world-system was the fortunate consequence of his karma. And because he was the first among the Brahmas to be reborn out of Abhasvara, he became known as Mahabrahma or God.
   Then after existing by himself alone in solitary splendor for many aeons as the solar system evolved, he came to experience loneliness and thought how nice it would be if there were others in existence who might reflect his magnificence. And just at that precise moment, due to their own ripening, a large number of other beings from Abhasvara were reborn in Brahmaloka as Brahmas. When the Mahabrahma saw them, he thought that they must have appeared just then in space before him because of his desire. So he exclaimed proudly, “I am God, your Creator!” - even though, in actual fact, all of these exalted beings before his throne were reborn at that time he use of their own karma maturing and not because of any desire of his. Then Mahabrahma organized these myriads of beings who were at earring in the space about him into well-ordered celestial hierarchies. The first born and most radiant among them were grouped below his throne as his own personal priests and ministers known as the Brahmapurohitas, whereas those who were reborn later became his entourage known as the Brahmakayikas. In this way, he surrounded himself, filling all the tiers of heaven with celestial hierarchies, believing all the time that he was their Lord and Creator, since he was ignorant of their own, as well as his own, real origin. Gradually, as time wore on, due to the presence of a series the new of secondary causes, some of the Brahmas entered into the cycle of material existence and began to reborn on the surface of the newly evolved earth, first as animals and then later as human beings.”
(Reynolds, op. cit., p. 99-100, 142)

   So, after having evolved to a relatively advanced state in one solar system, then being reborn in one of the higher planes of Form, where they resided in bliss for aeons, a good among of these poor souls, transferred to another world-system, suffered being reborn as animals, seemingly starting from the bottom rung of the ladder once again! A rather heartless cyclical rather than spiral view of things. With many unanswered questions, primarily, how did the animals without volitional intentionality accrue the necessary meritorious karma to advance to humanhood? How comes it that kundalini lies coiled at the base of the spine? How does karma account for the chakras? The human form? How is the breathe of life (prana) breathed into us from moment to moment, including during sleep - an unconscious but intelligent process? How is that just mechanical karmic factors at work? And a host of other mysteries. Must one stay in the higher realms of Form, or anywhere else, until ones karma there “runs out?” There are in fact many Buddhist accounts of great Masters leading groups of souls out of hells and other Bardos. What is this if not grace? Ramana Maharishi said that at the age of sixteen “a great Power took him over.” What was this if not grace, even if one argues that it was due to his past karmas? Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Sufism, the Masters, all extoll grace. Adyashanti wrote a book on grace! Only among Buddhists and Jains are there sceptics.

   Even Reynolds said that as the Buddhist dharma evolved to the Mahayana it was recognized that those who reached “non-returner” status could progress to Buddhahood from higher celestial realms without their remaining karma there to run out. In later Mahayana sutras, the Surangama and Lankavarara as but two examples, references to the grace of the Buddhas are abundant. it was affirmed in the latter that those in higher realms become “sustained in their samadhis by the transforming power of the Buddhas.” What is this but grace moving them beyond any lingering conditionality?

   “What is this twofold power that sustains the Bodhisattvas? The one is the power by which they are sustained to go through the Samadhis and Samapattis, while the other is the power whereby the Buddhas manifest themselves in person before the Bodhisattvas and baptise them with their own hands...This is in order to make them avoid the evil ones, karma, and passions, to keep them away from the Dhyana and stage of Sravakahood, to have them realise the stage of Tathagatahood, and to make them grow in the truth and experience already attained. For this reason, Mahamati, the fully Enlightened Ones sustain with their power the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas...Thus it is said: The sustaining power is purified by the Buddhas' vows; in the baptism, Samadhis, etc., from the first to the tenth stage, the Bodhisattvas are in the embrace of the Buddhas." (D. T. Suzuki, trans., The Lankavatara Sutra (Boulder, CO: Prajna Press, 1978), p. 89-90)

   This concept is almost a given in the path of Sant Mat, where the soul initiated and looked after by a Param Sant Satguru, has his destiny karmas swiftly wiped out, and is helped both before and after death. The grace of such a Master has been said to be boundless. There is a story in The Ocean of Divine Grace wherein a disciple of Kirpal Singh asked if his uninitiated father would at least come back into a good family where he could have favorable conditions for spiritual practice. Kirpal replied, “And what if he need not return at all?”

   Another story of the power of grace is told by teacher Ishwar Puri, a disciple of Hazur Baba Sawan Singh:

   “When my father died, I was curious to know where he was because one of my uncles used to say, “He could have reached halfway to the universal mind,” which we call Trikuti or the causal plane. I said, “Maybe he’s gone further, but I don’t know. I’ll check with my Master.” I was driving down to Delhi where I had a meeting, and on the way I checked up through meditation. My master said, “You can’t see him.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because the moment he passed from his physical body, he merged completely with me and he is in the same place where I am, where totality is.” That was a great experience. I said, “Did he meditate so much?” He said, “No. It’s not meditation that takes you beyond a certain point [the causal plane and the dark void or “nothingness” beyond that which the Sants call Maha Sunn], it’s love and devotion.”


   In my opinion, the type of creation story told by the Buddha as recounted above, is both illustrative of the law of karma and also a form of “scare story” to motivate followers to serious practice. It was not a complete exegesis of the teaching, which the Buddha said was vast and that he had only given out the smallest portion, comparing a handful of leaves to all the leaves in a forest. Further, the teachings as such were carried on by oral tradition, and not written down for hundreds of years after his death: must one then accept it all uncritically as the be-all and end-all?

   The Buddha also is said to have been predicted that in five hundred years another would appear who was greater than he. Was that person Jesus? One can not help but wonder.

   Anadi comments:

   "In Buddhist psychology, there is a concept of so-called five skandhas. This concept is missing the elemental understanding that our body-mind operates as an alive and coherent organism of intelligence in a purposeful and meaningful way." (Aziz Kristof (anadi), Enlightenment Beyond Traditions (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidas, 1999), p. 77-80)

   By similar reasoning, the necessity for an intelligence, a Mind, a Providence guiding in some fashion, under its own laws, the entire cosmic process, seems a reasonable assumption. While the realms of Desire, Form, and the Formless, including even the Pure Abodes of the Gods, may be impermanent and conditioned, as Buddhism maintains, does the collective karma of their entities entirely account for their manifestation itself? Moreover, according to Buddhism, Akinistha is known as the highest plane in existence, while beyond that lies Mahakanistha, which, according to Reynolds, is the plane of existence at which the Sambhogakaya aspect of the Buddha manifests itself. Might that not be the Sach Khand of the Masters, or the Empyrean of the Sufis and Christians?


6a. Various religions have their unforgiveable or nearly unforgiveable sins. For instance, instilling distrust or dissention among the sangha, and especially, injuring or killing a Buddha, guarantee one a destiny in hell in Buddhism. In Hinduism a rebirth into an animal body is considered possible for subhuman behavior, but, according to teachers such as Paramhansa Yogananda, as a punishment and for one birth only, and not a fall to the bottom of the ladder of evolution. Being a false teacher seems particularly egregious sin, as the following story from Guru Nanak suggests. Who knows if it is true? “The ways of Karma are unfathomable,” said Lord Krishna...

   “On one of his journeys, Guru Nanak, accompanied by his companions Bala and Mardana, met with a strange sight on their path. A large worm was writhing on the ground as hundreds of ferocious ants were biting it to death. Being tender hearted, Bala asked the great Guru what terrible deeds this poor worm had committed to warrant such suffering. Nanak replied that in a former life that worm had been a false master and the ants were his disciples. They had to be reborn in this form - cruel though it may seem - to balance the scales of karmic justice.” (Kirpal Singh, Morning Talks, 4th edition (Bowling Green, VA: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1991) pp. 257-258).


7. Shri Atmananda remarked, similarly to Sant Kirpal Singh saying “the follower does not dream of what the Master does for him,”

   “A disciple need never bother himself about what the Guru is doing for him. A disciple can never conceive or understand it, in its real significance. You need only know that the Guru takes you from the phenomenal to the Absolute.”
(#251)


8. The general consensus is that an enlightened Master does not perform miracles or absolve karmas by his personal will-power, and that he has no personal will as such. Ramana Maharshi described it in this way in the case of a jnani:

   “...a person’s bad karma will be considerably reduced while he is in the presence of a jnani. A jnani has no sankalpas [will or intentions] but his sannidhi [presence] is the most powerful force. He need not have sankalpa, but his presiding presence, the most powerful force, can do wonders: save souls, give peace of mind, even give liberation for ripe souls. Your prayers are not answered by him but absorbed by his presence. His presence saves you, wards off the karma and gives you the boons as the case may be, [but] involuntarily. The jnani does save the devotees, but not by sankalpa, which is non-existent in him, only through his presence.” (The Mountain Path, 1968, p. 236)

   Being paradoxical and mysterious, however, this may not exactly portray the entirety of this process, but more likely serve to counter prevailing dualistic conceptions about it!