Prayer, Karma, and Compassion

“Pray not! Vex not your mournful minds with pious pains!”
– Buddha in “The Light of Asia”

When disaster strikes our fellow men, whether in the form of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, fatal accidents or indeed any catastrophe of any kind, what can we – who view ourselves as spiritual people – do about it?

Does it help the sufferers and others affected by such tragedies if we pray for them or send positive thoughts or “visualisations” in their direction?

Theosophy answers – NO.

Summing up the Theosophical perspective from the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, and the Masters of the Wisdom, Robert Crosbie (founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists) writes:

“We are still imbued with the old fallacy of praying to some outside power or being. Neither prayers to any supposed God nor to Masters even, are of any avail. Power either exists within, or not at all. All the power that any being exerts or can exert in any direction is what he himself is able to arouse within himself.

“Good and kind thoughts for others are good for those who think them, but they have no effect outside, unless the arouser of those thoughts has both the knowledge, will and power to direct them; and beings differ greatly in these. Most thoughts are like soap-bubbles and do not travel very far. Thoughts to be effective must not only be free from all selfish taint, but they must be sustained.

“The Masters, who of all beings are the most capable of sustained thought and have the power and knowledge, are not able to affect the minds of the people of the world, because those minds are constantly full of active, selfish thoughts. If Masters were able to affect humanity by their thoughts, they wouldn’t have to write books. If people, who can hear and read words intended to arouse the best in them, benefit so little by them, what hope is there in fugitive thinking?”

— “Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 234

When asked whether Theosophists pray, Madame Blavatsky answered, “We do not. We act, instead of talking. … we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and good-producing actions.” (See “The Key to Theosophy”, p. 66)

Why is it “fruitless and useless” to pray?

To take an example from Buddhism, which in some respects is very close to the Theosophical philosophy, Buddha taught that the universe is neither created nor governed by any type of God. It is all governed by absolute, immutable, impersonal LAW and not by any Being whatsoever.

The Law of Karma is the outworking of this Law. Since everything proceeds unfailingly according to the Law of Karma (in the past we created our present and in the present we are creating our future), Buddhism teaches that prayer is futile and pointless.

The Law of self-created destiny which is known as Karma (the law of cause and effect, action and reaction, sequence and consequence) is the means whereby the universe maintains its constant balance, harmony, and equilibrium.

Nothing can ever happen outside of Karma. Everything that happens to us in life is either karmically destined or karmically permitted. It cannot be otherwise.

Thus all petitionary prayer (whether for ourselves or for others) is ultimately vain and futile as Buddha taught. Everything proceeds according to Karma, whether we like it or not, whether we believe and accept it or not, and no amount of praying, crying, pleading, begging, interceding, affirming etc. – regardless of how sincere and filled with faith it may be, or how desperate the situation may seem – can interrupt or interfere with the Law of the Universe. One of many proofs of this is the fact that at least 95% of all prayers go forever unanswered, as any honest and sane religious minister will readily admit.

The Law knows what it is doing and everything proceeds perfectly and in divine order, as it should, although many times it may not appear that way to our currently limited perception.

As Narada says in his book “The Buddha and His Teachings” – “Petitional or intercessory prayers are denounced in Buddhism and in their stead is meditation which leads to self-control, purification, and enlightenment. Both meditation and service form salient characteristics of Buddhism.” The exact same thing can be said of Theosophy.

It is sad but true that those who pride themselves on their supposed spirituality are also often some of the least generous and most selfish of all people. When disaster strikes, the two most effective and worthwhile things we can do are:

#1. Contribute in whatever way – be it by donation of finances, direct practical assistance, offering a comforting and helpful support to the sufferers, etc. – to the relief of those affected by the tragedy. “Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin,” says H.P. Blavatsky’s “The Voice of The Silence,” where it is also stated that Enlightenment “is of loving deeds the child.”

It is not enough for us just to know and talk about the importance of compassion and selfless service…we must DO it, we must PROVE it, we must LIVE it…and until spiritual people become “doers of the Word, not just hearers only,” they can never expect to be taken seriously by the world at large.

#2. Study the teachings in depth about the Law of Karma and endeavour to gain an even deeper and more practical understanding of this great truth…not merely for our own sake but also so that we can work wisely to put these concepts into the public consciousness and to free the Western mind from the pernicious Christian conditioning which causes so many to attribute evil or unfortunate happenings to either an “angry God” or a “wicked Devil.”

The articles A Right Understanding of KarmaQuestions about Karma, There is No Injustice, Aphorisms on Karma, and Is Karma Merciful and Compassionate? may be helpful in this regard, as also these Meditation Points on Karma:

* Whatever IS, is Karma.

* Karma is the whole thing.

* Everything proceeds according to the Law of Karma.

* The unerring, incredibly far reaching Law of cause and effect, action and reaction, sequence and consequence.

* The Ultimate Law of the Universe.

* The way, the means, the method, whereby the Universe maintains its balance, harmony, and equilibrium.

* The great Adjuster.

* The Power that controls this Universe.

* Each one of us is always setting causes in motion, every moment, through every action, every word, and every thought.

* Every cause set in motion will always produce its corresponding correlative effect.

* Be not deceived, the Law is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap…in this life or the next.

* The Law of Karma is the Law of self-created destiny.

* In the past I created my present, in the present I am creating my future.

* We do all have a “lot” in life – our Karmic lot – our prarabdha Karma.

* Everything that happens to us is something which is either Karmically destined or Karmically permitted.

* Nothing can ever, has ever, does ever, or will ever, happen outside the Law of Karma.

* “Chafe not at Karma” … “Rigid justice rules the world.”

When properly understood along with its inextricable twin of Reincarnation, the teaching of Karmic Law will be found so logical, so self-consistent, so philosophical, and so satisfactory to the soul and the intelligence, that human beings will discard the ignorant notions of God, prayer, and cosmic injustice, in favour of the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom that the Masters teach: “the ONE Life, the ONE Law, the ONE Element.”

But when finally accepting that there is in fact no real injustice in the world and that everything a soul reaps is as a direct result of what it has itself sown, let none of us neglect for even one moment the practical and sincere application of compassion for all who suffer. We are always able to help others to the exact extent that their Karma will permit and thus we must always do our utmost.

The Master K.H. states that all “prayers and intercession” are the product of illusion, delusion, and ignorance. The Masters make it extremely clear that they do not believe in any God and that they do not pray to anyone or anything. Neither did HPB. We find the Master M. saying that –

“The Founders [of the Theosophical Society] prayed to no Deity in beginning the Theosophical Society, nor asked his help since” and also adds that “A constant sense of abject dependence upon a Deity which he regards as the sole source of power makes a man lose all self-reliance and the spurs to activity and initiative. Having begun by creating a father and guide unto himself, he becomes like a boy and remains so to his old age, expecting to be led by the hand on the smallest as well as the greatest issues of life.”

After being informed that Christians would be inclined to accuse her and other Theosophists of “pride and blasphemy” for their refusal to offer up prayers, pleas, and worship to an anthropomorphic God, HPB responds in “The Key to Theosophy” (p. 71) by saying, “It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as the possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the conditioned – will stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And it is they again, who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do!”

“Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself.

“Let thy Soul lend its ear to every cry of pain like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun.

“Let not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer’s eye.

“But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain, nor ever brush it off, until the pain that caused it is removed.”

The Voice of the Silence, translated by H.P. Blavatsky from The Book of the Golden Precepts

When others are suffering and in need, we do not waste our time and energy by praying for them. We apply our time and energy wisely and effectively by doing all that is within our power to help, comfort, and minister to them in a practical and actual way.

The only prayer that is worth having is “Help me to help others!” and the only one who can answer that prayer is ourselves.

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

Comments

  1. theIncredibleHAWK says:

    “95 percent of prayers go unanswered, so with that statement you readily admit that at least 5 percent GET answered? I am only challenging this so that i can get a better understanding from the perspective of the BTG. So what does it mean in the bible when it says “pray without ceasing?”, or “the feverant prayer of a righteous man availeth much” among another quotes about prayer. I’m somewhat confused because you’re saying that i create negative karma for myself by thinking harmful thoughts toward another being, but with the same thought process if i send a silent unheard prayer to someone in need, not invoking any kind of god,just a heart felt prayer of well being, it is all in vain???……please elaborate, i’m looking forward to your response …..

    • Regarding the Bible’s statements about prayer or anything else, Theosophy pays little attention and gives little – if any – credence to such things, since it considers the Bible to have been greatly distorted and altered from the originals of its texts, and would view much of those originals as being philosophically unsound in the first place anyway.

      The focus and spiritual perspective of the Theosophical teachings is that of Eastern esotericism and it’s said in “The Secret Doctrine” that this can only be effectively rendered to the Western mind through the channels of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, hence the very Hindu and Buddhist nature of much of the contents of Theosophy, although it must also be emphasised that Theosophy is not merely a form or expression of Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other religion.

      How is it that there is a very small percentage of petitionary prayers – especially very intense and powerful ones – which do occasionally receive answers? HPB says: “Intense prayer for the accomplishment of some object is only intense will and desire, resulting in unconscious Magic. In our own day George Muller of Bristol has proved it.”

      It is not the prayer itself which brings about the result in such cases, nor is it any type of God or external being, but simply the incredible force of will-power and focused intention. Such a faculty is well developed in a few individuals by reason of its development – either wittingly or unwittingly – over the course of several previous lifetimes, hence the occasional cases of some people (such as George Muller) “getting their prayers answered” in a seemingly miraculous and frequent way. Theosophy maintains that there is no miracle behind it but that the person is merely applying and using metaphysical laws and powers, usually unbeknownst to themselves.

      I think the last part of your question was referring to Robert Crosbie’s words quoted in the article, that “Good and kind thoughts for others are good for those who think them, but they have no effect outside, unless the arouser of those thoughts has both the knowledge, will and power to direct them; and beings differ greatly in these. Most thoughts are like soap-bubbles and do not travel very far. Thoughts to be effective must not only be free from all selfish taint, but they must be sustained. The Masters, who of all beings are the most capable of sustained thought and have the power and knowledge, are not able to affect the minds of the people of the world, because those minds are constantly full of active, selfish thoughts. If Masters were able to affect humanity by their thoughts, they wouldn’t have to write books. If people, who can hear and read words intended to arouse the best in them, benefit so little by them, what hope is there in fugitive thinking?”

      Doesn’t this in itself answer the question? I could add by means of elaboration that sending “a silent unheard prayer to someone in need, not invoking any kind of god,just a heart felt prayer of well being” is not in vain at all and Theosophy doesn’t say that it’s “all in vain.”

      On the contrary, this is an act of compassion, kindness, and altruism, which will certainly help to develop and increase those noble and important qualities within us even further. What Theosophy DOES say is that “unless the arouser of those thoughts has both the knowledge, will and power to direct them; and beings differ greatly in these” the thoughts are unlikely to be of any actual or direct benefit or help to the person for whom they are thought or to whom they are “sent”.

      Crosbie gives the example of the Masters (meaning the Masters behind H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement), who DO have the power and ability to direct their thoughts and attention properly and effectively, but who in spite of this “are not able to affect the minds of the people of the world, because those minds are constantly full of active, selfish thoughts.” Hence their putting down of right ideas in book form instead, although even “people, who can hear and read words intended to arouse the best in them, benefit so little by them.” But the best that can be done is what must be done.

      The Blavatsky Theosophy Group or BTG which you mention in your comments is really only a name applicable to this website and a few people who are connected with it in various ways. The views, concepts, and teachings presented in the articles on here are representative of those of the Theosophical Movement itself, particularly of the branch of the Movement known as the United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT for short. “Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK” only passes on what has already been presented to the world in the original teachings of Theosophy…it doesn’t promulgate any new or different ideas of its own.

      Thank you again for your comments and queries!

  2. Thank you- a very useful article and reminder of the core teachings.

  3. This response has greatly increased my capacity to distinguish between healing on the one hand, and channeling by mediums on the other. The explicatory comparison to the Masters ability to exercise their thoughts – concurrent with will – is enlightening. Issues on healers are indirectly adduced.
    Channeling remains abusive – excuse the epithet – by mediums. Crosbie’s contentions are quite valid on this subject. Meantime there are nuances – observations – to be considered.
    I have a sustained experience of Mama Mona, a healer in Soweto. She would frustrate some of her probationers by refusing to get into the act of healing some patients. Her allusion would be based on something similar – Crosbie’s elaboration of “active and selfish thoughts” prevalent in some in need. May refer to the latter as state of mind or consciousness? There are no such things as miracles. “The act of compassion, like kindness and altruism …. will certainly develop and increase these noble and important qualities within us even further”. Furthermore “unless the arouser of these thoughts has both knowledge, will and beings differ greatly in these”. This has nothing to do with like distortions in the Bible of prayer. Quan Judge has reiterated consistent with “we are gods in embryo” from “Letters which helped me”. I find the response from the secretdoctrine March 25 ,2014 lucid. Thank you. Knowledge is not to be underestimated.

  4. Well i am not agree with that prayer are pointless.. as per my own life experiences i can say that genuine prayers works … i do not know how it works..but it does work..I am not saying that prayer can changed the karma which we need to work on,But since everything in our life does not happens due to karma, 60-70% life condition or event could be destined due to karma but not 100%..

    Prayer is so effective that American psychic Edgar Cayce often said, “Why worry when you can pray?”

    • Thank you for your comment. You said “everything in our life does not happen due to karma, 60-70% life condition or event could be destined due to karma but not 100%.”

      In response, we would say that Theosophy teaches that whatever is, is Karma. Everything without exception proceeds according to the Law of Karma, which is the law of self-created destiny…cause and effect, action and reaction, etc.

      If Karma is truly a universal Law, then it must be the case that EVERYTHING is Karma. We cannot say that some things are and some things are not. If some things are not due to Karma then Karma cannot be a Law, since a Law – and especially one of cause and effect – does not fail and always operates.

      You are invited to visit the “Articles” page at https://blavatskytheosophy.com/articles/ and to read some of the other articles listed there under the heading “THE LAW OF KARMA.” Please feel free to disagree with these teachings…we are merely attempting to clarify them so that you may understand more of our reasons and rationale for saying such things about Karma.

      • Thank you for the reply!

        I am indian and as per my understading Everything does not happend by karma. If everything is Karmic then it would “fatalism”. Hinduism and buddhist does not teach fatalism.

        Misconceptions regarding Kamma or karma

        The misinterpretation or irrational views on kamma are stated in the Anguttara Nikaya which suggests that the wise will investigate and abandon the following views:

        – the belief that everything is a result of acts in previous lives;
        – the belief that all is the result of creation by a Supreme Ruler; and
        – the belief that everything arises without reason or cause.

        If a person becomes a murderer, a thief, or an adulterer, and, if his actions are due to past actions, or caused by creation of a Supreme Ruler, or if that happened by mere chance, then this person would not be held responsible for his evil action.Buddhists believe that man will reap what he has sown; we are the result of what we were, and we will be the result of what we are. In other words, man is not one who will absolutely remain to be what he was, and he will not continue to remain as what he is. This simply means that kamma is not complete determinism. The Buddha pointed out that if everything is determined, then there would be no free will and no moral or spiritual life. We would merely be the slaves of our past. On the other hand, if everything is undetermined, then there can be no cultivation of moral and spiritual growth. Therefore, the Buddha accepted neither strict determinism nor strict undeterminism.

        Yes Law of karma is perfect,But everything is not due to our Karma..Fate is nothing but Past karma,But every moment we have free will to perform action(Kriyamana or Agami Karmas), and that free will is not operated by Past karma, if you say that everything is due to Karma than i wont have free will to do any action.Our current situation is result of Past karma or Fate But every moment we have free will to shape our future destiny or Fate.What we have created must be reap or faced. Karma create a boundaries and we play within that boundaries.So in other word i am agree if our karma allow then we will get something else we wont,But our every present action is not subject to Past karma.We are creating new fate while playing within Past kamra(Fate)..
        Major events of our life are predestined due to Past karma because we are here to learn those lessons.Kriyamana or Agami Karmas are not subject to Past karmas..Every moment we have free will to do action which will create our Fate in future… We are master of our destiny!

        • I think you may have misunderstood our articles and comments.

          Everything you say in your latest comment is what we say on this site. Theosophy talks about and explains Sanchita Karma, Prarabdha Karma, and Agami/Kriyamana/Vartamana Karma. The Theosophical view of Karma is not fatalism at all. It always emphasises that we have power to change, power to choose, and power to shape and fashion our own destiny. In fact, we are doing this every moment, whether we realise it or not, through our every thought, feeling, word, and action. We are setting causes in motion and for every cause there will always be a corresponding correlative effect coming back in due season to the causemaker, i.e. the point of origin, the soul or Ego who first initiated that cause.

          Free will is a fact and there seems to be no actual disagreement or disharmony between your latest comment and the Theosophical teachings.

          Perhaps the apparent confusion will be fully clarified if we explain that in saying that “everything proceeds according to the Law of Karma” we are not using the term “Karma” solely in the sense of PAST or PREVIOUS actions but rather are speaking of Karma as a whole, i.e. past, present, and future actions. Another way of expressing it would be to say that “everything in the Universe is the result of action and reaction.” I’m sure we can agree on this, since it is largely a self-evident fact.

          There is never a moment, never a split second of time, when a human being is not both CREATING and EXPERIENCING Karma.

          • Thank you for explaining. Yeh i guess i misunderstood your article
            Yes i am agree with you that “Everything has a reason”..Actually “Karma” is very complicated to understand for each person. so Yes if you say karma as whole, than present action,thoughts also have effect.

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