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 Post subject: ‘Karma’ ‘Rebirth’ and the Western mind
 Post Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:32 pm 
Buddhist Era 2549 Vesak New Moon - Monday June 06, 2005

‘Karma’ ‘Rebirth’ and the Western mind

By Elmo Fernando

In the Sutta Nipata, one of the oldest Buddhist scriptures, Ananda says of karma to the Blessed One, “How deep is the Causal Law and how deep it seems! And yet do I regard it as quite plain to understanding”. To which the Compassionate One replied, “Say not so, Ananda say not so! Deep indeed is this Causal Law and deep it appears to be. And yet do I regard, Ananda. It is by not knowing, by not understanding, by not penetrating this doctrine that the world of men has become entangled like a ball of twine unable to move beyond the barriers of suffering and the ceaseless rotation of rebirth. Even the ramifications and interrelations of cause and effect in all the departments of the Universe are so immensely complex that none would presume to understand them; how infinitely more enlightened must that being be whose understanding can embrace this law at the fountain head of its eternal majesty.

Only by studying, and to some extent grasping, an outline of the wisdom of which Karma and Rebirth are part can the meanest vision of the doctrine be attained and even then it is difficult to examine it apart from the wisdom itself from which as sunlight in the air it is inseparable. Yet the difficulty is largely of our own making.

Western mind

For centuries the western mind has been building up an utterly false concept of a separate “I”, and it is hard for us to grasp a view of existence in which the separative ‘selfs’ is viewed as an illusion and the promoter of all suffering. It follows, whether or not the idea be pleasing to the scholar, that only he who treads the way which leads to the end of separative self-hood will reach to understanding of the wisdom wherein self as something separate can have no abiding place.
Study, deep study, quiet meditation on the living principles revealed in that study and the constant self-regardless application of those principles to daily life these alone will provide the final proof of the Laws of Karma and Rebirth and only he who knows them will be in a position to offer to the West by the written and spoken word and by the force of character, the wisdom of which the west has so abundant and so urgent needs.
What is Karma?

Karma in its neuter form, Karman (In Pali, Kamma) is a Sanskrit word from the root “Kri” meaning to do or to make. Karma is therefore ‘doing’ or making but as time flies (Tempus fugit) in Latin, the word has been applied to what Lessing has described as the oldest doctrine in the world. It may be viewed esoterically from the material point of view in which case it is merely the Law of Causation, the balance of cause and effect, this fact known in every science laboratory that action and reaction are equal and opposite. Esoterically from the spiritual point of view, Karma is the law of moral retribution whereby not only every cause have an effect, but he who puts the cause in action suffers the effect.

Prof. Radhakirshnan has called it “the law of the conservation of moral energy.” It is marvellously analysed in the eight book of the “light of Asia” one important stanza of which must here suffice. “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.

This law of merit and demerit, Karma in the sense of the reign of moral law, is neither particularly Hindu, Buddhist nor Theosophical. It is fundamental in all oriental philosophy, and preached by St. Paul. “Brethren, be not deceived. God is not mocked for whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” For the first few centuries of Christianity it remained a cardinal belief in the West. But at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 551 the Christian Fathers, finding the doctrine of Rebirth incompatible with the curious system of thought which they were in the process of creating, decided that belief in Rebirth should be henceforth anathema, and with this doctrine went that which it makes it necessary of acceptance Karma.

Now, under the double influence of English translations of the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and the reproclaiming by Madam Blavatsky of the Ancient Wisdom or Theosophy of which all religions are part Karma and Rebirth have returned to the West. Conscience is a karmic memory. The essence of mind is deathless and its ray “Vijnana” which moves from Life to Life is a store-house of immensely complex memory.

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