"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows"
A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.
Dr. Johnson’s Karma March 30, 2008
Eastern philosophy the concept of karma is often used to explain the
seeming unjustified suffering of innocent lives. To some
practitioners karma is the universe’s balancing scheme where peoples’
souls accumulate credits and debits. In the Radha Soami Satsang Beas’
1939 book, “The Path of the Masters” it claims: “There is no such thing
as innocence suffering at the hands of tyranny or cruelty… If not in
this life, then in a previous one, that “innocent” person had done
something to earn exactly what he is now getting.” In other words,
this is a philosophy that claims there are no victims.
the notion of previous life experience, karma and reincarnation are but
a few of the spiritual foundations of Eastern philosophy, they can be
easily misapplied and made to excuse actions that Western thinking
perceives as unjust. The Radha Soami book, authored by Dr. Julian P.
Johnson, a California surgeon and "ordained minister of the church,”
who went to India to study Sant Mat with the Great Master, Maharaj
Sawan Singh. His book is filled with spiritual knowledge garnered at
the feet of this Master, a risen adept whose teachings incorporate many
Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Our respectful disagreement with the
karmic teachings is predicated upon a belief that while previous life
experience informs our present day soul - it does not condemn it. Dr.
Johnson, utilizing the logic of an accountant or Wall Street broker,
claims that all we receive in a life is exactly what we have earned in
our previous lives. We garner debits for actions considered “bad” and
credits for those apparently “good.”
this philosophy refuses to acknowledge is that human life and the works
of the Divine cannot be considered in the simplistic terms of a
monetary transaction. For unlike an accounting system where agreed
upon numbers represent debits and credits, life is far more complex.
If we were to accept Dr. Johnson’s premise we would need also to accept
a definition of those things deemed “good and bad.” Those things
worthy of being considered a credit or debit. This of course requires
that some body become a judge - which curiously is another tenet of Dr.
Johnson’s wisdom; that we should not judge the actions of other
people. But without the ability to weigh the results of a person’s
actions we have no measure for this interpretation of karma. Thus the
Doctor’s claim that people receive nothing more or less than they have
earned, is a contradiction. Because who is the arbiter of those things
“good or bad?” Who determines if your behavior is a credit or debit?
disagreement with the teaching, Dr. Johnson writes: “Do not accuse the
Creator of mismanagement of his affairs. What seems injustice
in so many cases is only an appearance.” Again, we respectfully accuse
the Creator of no such thing. We simply point out that this view of
karma requires judgment which the Divine has no need of. Only people need
to account for each others’ actions as good or bad, credit or debit.
The Divine, having no reason to question its own Creation, leaves
judgment to people. And with that power in hand, people go forth to make the world into what they believe it should be.
problem with a claim that karma is the universe’s system of checks and
balance, is that it asks us to accept fate without question. It begs
us to remain docile in the face of peoples’ exploitation of each
other. We are to assume that a child, abducted by war lords and forced
to fight an adult’s war, is getting exactly what he deserves. That a
man imprisoned and starved to death by virtue of his ethnic background
has, in previous life, brought this fate upon himself. That thieves
who conspire to steal a man’s life savings are merely satisfying a
“debt” the man has previously incurred. Those who claim there are no victims,
do so with the ulterior motive to inhibit action. If we each are
“responsible” for our own fate; if we each have brought our suffering
upon ourselves - then we have no reason to rise in outrage. Dr.
Johnson would have us believe we are destined to suffer and should
accept the same with humility and without question.
Dr. Johnson’s philosophy and our philosophy take two different points
of view. Each hearkens back to the ancient argument of fate versus
free will. We prefer to believe that while fate paints the infinite
paths of life, it is man’s free will that chooses which path to take.
We believe that when a brutal man beats his wife and children, they are victims
of injustice and our action to prevent it creates our good karma. We
believe that when one people exploit and enslave another people it is
not karmic destiny to do so, but rather the result of a conscious
superiority complex inflating the collective ego. And we believe that
it is a God-given Divine right to oppose forces that demand obedience
based solely on knowledge or power. That respect and honor and
obedience must be earned by respectful and honorable conduct.
will continue to study Dr. Johnson’s teachings keeping in mind that the
world in 1939 was a vastly different place. We had yet to experience
the evil of the Third Reich, the relativity of the atomic bomb, or the
misery of dysfunctional Marxism. The modern teachings of karma state
that the love we create is the substance of what we are given in later
life. That negative acts do not have to carry forward as debits in an
accountant’s book. That on rebirth we are each given a clean slate
with threads of our previous lives woven throughout. And that Divine
love is infinite, all powerful and in no need to judge its own perfect
work. It is only the less than Divine that must do that.