'When We Die ...' -
Chapter 6, Rebirth, Karma and Other Information

Compiled by Geoffrey Farthing

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A comprehensive description, in outline, of the processes and subjective states in the period between lives, with some information about spiritualistic and psychic phenomena.

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We have now come full cycle. The Ego has had his heavenly rest and now takes a physical body again, but first for how long does this state of spiritual beatitude endure? (P. 103: 106): "For years, decades, centuries and millenniums, oftentimes - multiplied by something more. It all depends on the duration of Karma. Fill with oil Den's little cup, and a city Reservoir of water, and lighting both see which burns the longer. The Ego is the wick and Karma the oil: the difference in the quantity of the latter (in the cup and in the reservoir) suggesting to you the great differences in the duration of various Karmas. Every effect must be proportionate to the cause. And, as man's terms of incarnate existence bear but a small proportion to his periods of inter-natal existence in the manvantaric cycle, so the good thoughts, words, and deeds of anyone of these 'lives' on a globe are causative of effects, the working out of which requires far more time than the evolution of the causes occupied."

Reincarnation has now been introduced and Karma mentioned in enough contexts to give an idea of what it is. It is the Law of Action with very wide ramifications.

(P. 107: 110): "If you ask a learned Buddhist priest what is Karma? - he will tell you that Karma is what a Christian might call Providence (in a certain sense only)  and a Mahomedan - Kismet, fate or destiny (again in one sense). That it is that cardinal tenet which teaches


that, as soon as any conscious or sentient being, whether man, deva, or animal dies, a new being is produced and he or it reappears in another birth, on the same or another planet, under conditions of his or its own antecedent making. Or, in other words that Karma is the guiding power, and Trishna (in Pali Yanha) the thirst or desire to sentiently live - the proximate force or energy, the resultant of human (or animal) action, which, out of the old Skandhas [Note: see later] produce the new group that form the new being and control the nature of the birth itself. Or to make it still clearer, the new being, is rewarded and punished for the meritorious acts and misdeeds of the old one; Karma representing an Entry Book, in which all acts of man, good, bad, or indifferent, are carefully recorded to his debit or credit - by himself, so to say, or rather by these very actions of his. There, where Christian poetical fiction created, and sees a 'Recording' Guardian Angel, stern and realistic Buddhist logic, perceiving the necessity that every cause should have its effect - shows its real presence. The opponents of Buddhism have laid great stress upon the alleged injustice that the doer should escape and an innocent victim be made to suffer, - since the doer and the sufferer are different beings. The fact is, that while in the one sense they may be so considered, yet in another they are identical. The 'old being' is the sole parent - father and mother at once - of the 'new being'. It is the former who is the creator and fashioner, of the latter, in reality; and far more so in plain truth, than any father in flesh."

A paragraph is now devoted (P. 108: 111) to a description of the skandhas. These are the basic mechanisms, at all levels, even the physical, by which individual characteristics are transmitted from the old to the new personality and are the attributes "that form and


constitute the physical and mental individuality we call man (or any being)". "This group consists (in the exoteric teaching) of five Skandhas, namely: Rupa - the material properties or attributes; Vedana - sensations; Sanna - abstract ideas; Samkhara - tendencies both physical and mental; and Vinnana - mental powers, an amplification of the fourth - meaning the mental, physical and moral predispositions." There are two more, " ... they are connected with, and productive of Sakkayaditthi, the 'heresy or delusion of individuality' and of Attavada 'the doctrine of Self', both of which (in the case of the fifth principle the soul) lead to the maya of heresy and belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession."

"Now, returning to the question of the identity between the old and the new 'Ego'. I may (P. 108: I II) remind you once more, that even your Science has accepted the old, very old fact distinctly taught by our Lord, viz. - that a man of any given age, while sentiently the same, is yet physically not the same as he was a few years earlier (we say seven ... ): buddhistically speaking his Skandhas have changed. At the same time they are ever and ceaselessly at work in preparing the abstract mould, the 'privation' of the future new being. Well then, if it is just that a man of 40 should enjoy or suffer for the actions of the man of 20, so it is equally just that the being of the new birth, who is essentially identical with the previous being - since he is its outcome and creation - should feel the consequences of that begetting Self or personality."

This is a very important passage as, put another way, it means that during every moment of our present earth life, we are making "ourselves" in the next earth life. It also means that as well as "punishing" the guilty; Karma avenges and rewards the innocent.


Next comes another important passage (P. 109: I 12). "But perhaps, to our physiological remark the objectors may reply that it is only the body that changes, there is only a molecular transformation, which has nothing to do with the mental evolution; and that the Skandhas represent not only a material but also a set of mental and moral qualities. But is there, I ask, either a sensation, an abstract idea, a tendency of mind, or a mental power, that one could call an absolutely non-molecular phenomenon? Can even a sensation or the most abstractive thoughts, which is something, come out of nothing, or be nothing?"

At odd places in the Letters there are some incidental but none the less interesting pieces of information, for example (P. 114: 117), Sex ... "A mere accident .... Generally a chance work yet guided by individual Karma, - moral aptitudes, characteristics and deeds of a previous birth." (P. 129: 132): "Motive is everything and man is punished in a case of direct responsibility never otherwise."

(P. 197: 200): "The 'reward provided by nature for men who are benevolent in a large, systematic way' and who have not focused their affections upon an individual or speciality, is that - if pure - they pass the quicker for that through the Kama and Rupa-Lokas into the higher sphere of Tribuvana, since it is one where the formulation of abstract ideas and consideration of general principles fill the thought of its occupants. Personality is the synonym for limitation, and the more contracted the person's ideas, the closer will he cling to the lower spheres of being, the longer loiter on the plane of selfish social intercourse. The social status of a being is, of course, a result of Karma; the law being that 'like attracts like'. The renascent being is drawn into the gestative current with which the preponderating


attractions coming over from the last birth make him assimilate. Thus one who died a ryot may be reborn a king, and the dead sovereign may next see the light in a coolie's tent. This law of attraction asserts itself in a thousand 'accidents of birth' - than which there could be no more flagrant misnomer. When you, realise, at least, the following - that the skandhas are elements of limited existence then you will have realized also one of the conditions of Devachan which has now such a profoundly unsatisfactory out-look for you. Nor are your inferences (as regards well-being and enjoyment. of the upper classes being due to a better Karma) quite correct in their general application. They have a eudaemonistic ring about them which is hardly reconcilable with Karmic Law, since those 'well-being and enjoyment' are oftener the causes of a new and over- loaded Karma than the production or effects of the latter. Even as a 'broad rule' poverty and humble condition in life are less a cause of sorrow than wealth and high birth, ... "

There is in the letters more information on how Karma affects our new lives but the foregoing give the principles with enough illustration to see generally how the process works.

We are given for our information (P. 104: 107) a list of the kinds of beings who inhabit the Kama-Loka and Rupa-Lokas of Devachan. This is it as given:

(1) 'Rupa-devas' - Dhyan Chohans having forms;



(2) 'Arupa-devas' - Dhyan Chohans having no forms;

There is a footnote about Dhyan Chohans. "The Planetary Spirits of our Earth are not the highest, as you may well imagine" ... "no Eastern Adept


would like to be compared with an angel or a Deva."

(3) 'Pisachas' - (two-principled) ghosts.


(4) 'Mara-rupa' - Doomed to death (3 principled).

(5) Asuras - Elementals - having human form

} Future

(6) Beasts - Elementals - 2nd class - animal elementals

(7) Rakshasas (Demons) Souls or Astral Forms of sorcerers; men who have reached the apex of knowledge in the forbidden art. Dead or alive they have, so to say cheated nature; but it is only temporary - until our planet goes into obscuration, after which they have nolens volens to be annihilated."


[Note: Stock 3, Pisachas, are the shells (4th and 5th principles) from which the Ego has departed on its becoming conscious in Devachan. In the letter Stock 4, Mara-rupas, are described as "bodies doomed to annihilation" .]

It is of particular interest to note from this list of beings, future men, men and ex-men (devas), only one line of development, not two, with the devas separate, as is sometimes suggested.

"It is these seven groups that form the principal divisions of the Dwellers of the subjective world around us. It is in stock No. I, that are the intelligent Rulers of this world of Matter, and who, with all this intelligence are but the blindly obedient instruments of the ONE; the active agents of a Passive Principle." We are given another piece of incidental information (P. 106):
"Between the Kama-Loka and the Rupa-Loka there is a locality, the dwelling of ‘Mara' (Death). This Mara filled with passion and lust, destroys all virtuous principles, as a stone grinds corn." (Footnote: "This


Mara, as you may well think, is the allegorical image of the sphere called the 'Planet of Death' - the whirlpool whither disappear the lives doomed to destruction. It is between Kama and Rupa-Lokas that the struggle takes place)."

Apropos Mara, in the Theosophical Glossary there is a definition of Kama, "Evil desire, lust, volition; the cleaving to existence, kama is generally identified with Mara, the tempter." This definition of Kama is interesting here in its connection with Mara. Kama can be and is sometimes used in a much broader and deeper sense. (See also "Kamadeva" in the Glossary.)

There are two passages which refer to Devachanees not being able to know what is going on Earth nor being able to be contacted by mediums. (P. 103: 106): " ... 'the life of Earth' can be watched by none of these, [Note: i.e. "those who have gone before"] for reasons of the Law of Bliss plus Maya, already given."

(P. 109): "As soon as it [Note: The Ego] has stepped outside Kama-Loka, and crossed the 'Golden Bridge' leading to the 'Seven Golden Mountains' the Ego can confabulate no more with easy-going mediums .. No 'Earnest' or ']oey' has ever returned from the Rupa- Loka - let alone the Arupa-Loka - to hold sweet intercourse with mortals."


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