from The Theosophist July 1980

Hugh Shearman

Question and Answer Page

Question: Karma

In no Theosophical literature have I seen it expressed that, although the law of karma is immutable, it is possible that certain people can, consciously, share their good karma with others and also take on themselves the burden of the heavy, or bad, karma of others - the supreme example of such a person being Christ Jesus.

To state that we are merely the agents of karma is to devalue the quality and quantity of the Love, Wisdom, Knowledge and Will of those who endeavour to do this will "on earth, as it is in Heaven".

Are we "agents", of the Supreme Being or are we beings in our own right?

Kiki Mathews 

Somerset, England.


In the little essay on Karma which is printed with Light on the Path it is said that the operation of the actual laws of Karma is "not to be studied until the disciple has reached the point at which they no longer affect him".

The reason for this advice is that those who debate the laws of karma are discussing the justice of life in terms of our supposed but illusory separateness from one another. By asserting that separateness, moreover, we imply that it is a competitive separateness, involving a subtly invidious comparison of one individual with another, even though we may be doing this in some way that is felt to be acceptable.

The word "karma" means "action": and in our moments of deep insight we know that there is only one Actor. That is the theme of the Bhagavad-Gita, and it renders pointless the question of whether we are "agents" of the Supreme Being or "beings in our own right", since all selves are discovered to be expressions of the One, Who is the only source of "right".

It is when we think in terms of our separateness and discuss "your" karma and "my" karma that we have to take account of reaction as well as of action. Then we get into all sorts of problems about "good" karma and "bad", karma - convenient relative terms, no doubt, but philosophically quite unsound. Pure action which comes directly from the one Actor is shadowless. It is not reactive and involves no problems.

In human life there must be many gradations between compulsively reactive living and a state bordering on "karmalessness"; and the "laws" are bound to express themselves differently under these various conditions. In some scriptures, liberation from karma, or some equivalent of it, appears to be represented as an unearned gift from on High. But surely, when there is a gift of grace or liberation, it happens when the Giver and the receiver are one, or in so far as they are one, and calculations of debits and credits or externally conceived standards of "justice" cannot enter into it.

Dr. Hugh Shearman

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