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 Karma, Questions 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.