Buddhist doctrine of Karma

Edwin Arnold, in his wonderful poem, “The Light of Asia,” which tells the story of the Buddha, explains the doctrine of Karma from the Buddhist standpoint. We feel that our students should become acquainted with this view, so beautifully expressed, and so we herewith quote the passages referred to:

“Karma–all that total of a soul
Which is the things it did, the thoughts it had,
The ‘self’ it wove with woof of viewless time
Crossed on the warp invisible of acts.

* * * * *

“What hath been bringeth what shall be, and is,
Worse–better–last for first and first for last;
The angels in the heavens of gladness reap
Fruits of a holy past.

“The devils in the underworlds wear out
Deeds that were wicked in an age gone by.
Nothing endures: fair virtues waste with time,
Foul sins grow purged thereby.

“Who toiled a slave may come anew a prince
For gentle worthiness and merit won;
Who ruled a king may wander earth in rags
For things done and undone.

“Before beginning, and without an end,
As space eternal and as surety sure,
Is fixed a Power divine which moves to good,
Only its laws endure.

“It will not be contemned of any one:
Who thwarts it loses, and who serves it gains;
The hidden good it pays with peace and bliss,
The hidden ill with pains.

“It seeth everywhere and marketh all:
Do right–it recompenseth! Do one wrong–
The equal retribution must be made,
Though DHARMA tarry long.

“It knows not wrath nor pardon; utter-true
Its measures mete, its faultless balance weighs;
Times are as naught, to-morrow it will judge,
Or after many days.

“By this the slayer’s knife did stab himself;
The unjust judge hath lost his own defender;
The false tongue dooms its lie; the creeping thief
And spoiler rob, to render.

“Such is the law which moves to righteousness,
Which none at last can turn aside or stay;
The heart of it is love, the end of it
Is peace and consummation sweet. Obey!

* * * * *

“The books say well, my brothers! each man’s life
The outcome of his former living is;
The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrow and woes,
The bygone right breeds bliss.

“That which ye sow ye reap. See yonder fields!
The sesamum was sesamum, the corn
Was corn. The silence and the darkness knew;
So is a man’s fate born.

“He cometh, reaper of the things he sowed,
Sesamum, corn, so much cast in past birth;
And so much weed and poison-stuff, which mar
Him and the aching earth.

“If he shall labor rightly, rooting these,
And planting wholesome seedlings where they grew,
Fruitful and fair and clean the ground shall be,
And rich the harvest due.

“If he who liveth, learning whence woe springs,
Endureth patiently, striving to pay
His utmost debt for ancient evils done
In love and truth always;

If making none to lack, he thoroughly purge
The lie and lust of self forth from his blood;
Suffering all meekly, rendering for offence
Nothing but grace and good:

“If he shall day by day dwell merciful,
Holy and just and kind and true; and rend
Desire from where it clings with bleeding roots,
Till love of life have end:

“He–dying–leaveth as the sum of him
A life-count closed, whose ills are dead and quit,
Whose good is quick and mighty, far and near,
So that fruits follow it.

“No need hath such to live as ye name life;
That which began in him when he began
Is finished: he hath wrought the purpose through
Of what did make him man.

“Never shall yearnings torture him, nor sins
Stain him, nor ache of earthly joys and woes
Invade his safe eternal peace; nor deaths
And lives recur. He goes

“Unto NIRVANA. He is one with Life
Yet lives not. He is blest, ceasing to be.
OM, MANI PADME OM! the dewdrop slips
Into the shining sea!

“This is the doctrine of the Karma. Learn!
Only when all the dross of sin is quit,
Only when life dies like a white flame spent.
Death dies along with it.”

And so, friends, this is a brief account of the operations of the Law of Karma. The subject is one of such wide scope that the brief space at our disposal enables us to do little more than to call your attention to the existence of the Law, and some of its general workings. We advise our students to acquaint themselves thoroughly with what has been written on this subject by ourselves and others.

In our first series of lessons–the “Fourteen Lessons”–the chapter or lesson on Spiritual Cause and Effect was devoted to the subject of Karma. We advise our students to re-study it. We also suggest that Mr. Sinnett’s occult story entitled “Karma” gives its readers an excellent idea of the actual working of Karma in the everyday lives of people of our own times. We recommend the book to the consideration of our students. It is published at a popular price, and is well worth the consideration of every one interested in this wonderful subject of Reincarnation and Karma.