A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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Understand The Truth



This seems to be obvious: whence then arises the general instinct that success in life should accompany goodness? We can successfully combat an error only when we understand the truth which lies at the heart of it, gives it its vitality, and leads to its spread and its persistence. The truth in this case is that, if

a man puts himself into accord with the divine law, happiness is the result of such harmony. The error is to identify worldly success with happiness, and to disregard the element of time. A man going into business determines to be truthful, and to take no unfair advantage over others.


He sees those who are untruthful and unscrupulous going ahead of him; if he is weak, he becomes discouraged, even, perchance, imitates them. If he is strong, he says: "I will work in harmony with the divine law, no matter what may be the immediate worldly results": inner peace and happiness are then his, but success does not accrue to him; nevertheless, in the long run even that may fall to him, for what he loses in money he gains in confidence, whereas the man who once betrays may at any

time betray again, and none will trust him. In a competitive society, lack of scrupulousness yields immediate success, whereas in a cooperative society conscientiousness would "pay". To give starvation wages to workers forced by competition to accept them may lead to immediate success as against business

rivals, and the man who gives a decent living wage may find himself outpaced in the race for wealth; but, in the long run, the latter will have better work done for him, and in the future will reap the harvest of happiness whereof he sowed the seed.


We must decide on our course and accept its results, not looking for money as payment for goodness, nor seeing injustice when unscrupulous shrewdness reaches that at which it aimed.


An instructive, if not very pleasant, Indian story is told of a man who wronged another, and the injured man cried for redress to the King. When the punishment to be inflicted on his enemy was given into his hands, he prayed the King to enrich his foe; asked for the reason of his strange behaviour, he grimly said that wealth and worldly prosperity would give him greater opportunities for wrongdoing, and would thus entail on him bitter suffering in the life after death.


Often the worst enemy of virtue is in easy material conditions, and these, which are spoken of as good karma, are often the reverse in their results. Many who do fairly well in adversity go astray in prosperity, and become intoxicated with worldly delights. Let us now consider how a man affects his surroundings, or, in scientific phrase, how the organism acts on its environment.




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