A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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Thought, The Builder



Now thought works on matter; every change in consciousness is answered by a vibration in matter, and a similar change, however often repeated, brings about a similar vibration. This vibration is strongest in the matter nearest to you, and the matter nearest to you is your own mental body. If you repeat a thought, it repeats the corresponding vibration, and, as when matter has vibrated in a particular way once it is easier for it to vibrate in that same way again than to vibrate in a new way, the more often you repeat a thought the more ready the

vibrationary response. Presently, after much repetition, a tendency will be set up in the matter of your mental body, automatically to repeat the vibration on its own account; when it does this – since the vibration in matter and the thought in consciousness are inseparably linked – the thought appears in the mind without any previous activity on the part of consciousness.


Hence when you have thought over a thing – a virtue, an emotion, a wish – and have deliberately come to the conclusion that it is a desirable thing to have that virtue, to feel that emotion, to be moved by that wish, you quietly set to work to create a habit of thought.


You think deliberately of it every morning for a few minutes, and soon you find that it arises spontaneously in the mind (by the aforesaid automatic activity of matter). You persist in your thought-creation until you have formed a strong habit of thought, a habit which can only be changed by an equally prolonged process of thinking in the opposite direction. Even against the opposition of the will, the thought recurs to the mind – as many have found when they are unable to sleep in consequence of the involuntary recurrence of a harassing

thought. If you have thus established the habit, say, of honesty, you will act honestly automatically; and if some strong gust of desire sweeps you into dishonesty on some occasion, the honest habit will torment you as it would never torment a habitual thief.


You have created the habit of honesty; the thief has no such habit; hence you suffer mentally when the habit is broken, and the thief suffers not at all. Persistence in strengthening such a mental habit until it is stronger than any force which can be brought to bear upon it makes the reliable man; he literally cannot lie, cannot steal; he has built himself an impregnable



By thought, then, you can build any habit you choose to build. There is no virtue which you cannot create by thought. The forces of nature work with you, for you understand how to use them, and they become your servants.


If you love your husband, your wife, your child, you find that this emotion of love causes happiness in those who feel it. If you spread the love outwards to others, an increase of happiness results. You, seeing this and wishful for the happiness of all, deliberately begin to think love to others, in an ever wider

and wider circle, until the love-attitude is your normal attitude towards all you meet. You have created the love-habit, and have generalized an emotion into a virtue, for a virtue is only a good emotion made general and permanent (See Bhagavan Das’ The Science of Emotions) Everything is under law; you cannot obtain mental ability or moral virtue by sitting still and doing nothing.


You can obtain both by strenuous and persevering thinking. You can build your mental and moral nature by thinking, for "man is created by thought; what he thinks upon, that he becomes; therefore think" on that which you aspire to be, and inevitably it shall be yours. Thus shall you become a mental and moral athlete, and your character shall grow rapidly; you made in the past the character with which you were born; you are making now the character with which you will die, and will return. This is karma. Every one is born with a character, and the character is the most important part of karma. The Musalman says that "a man is born with his destiny tied round his neck". For a man’s destiny depends chiefly on his character.


A strong character can overcome the most unfavourable circumstances, and overclimb the most difficult obstacles. A weak character is buffeted by circumstances, and fails before the most trivial obstacles.




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