A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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Out of the Past



Another point of great importance to remember is that the karma of the past is of very mixed character; we have not to breast a single current, the totality of the past, but a stream made up of currents running in various directions, some

opposing us, some helping us; the effective force we have to face, the resultant left when all these opposition have neutralized each other, may be one which it is by no means beyond our present power to overcome.


Face to face with a piece of evil karma from the past, we should ever grapple with it, striving to overcome it, remembering that it embodies only a part of our past, and that other parts of that same past are with us, strengthening and invigorating us for

the contest. The present effort, added to those forces from the past, may be, often is, just enough to overcome the opposition.

Or, again, an opportunity presents itself, and we hesitate to take advantage of it, fearing that our resources are inadequate to discharge the responsibilities it brings; but it would not be there unless our karma had brought it to us, the fruit of a past desire; let us seize it, bravely and tenaciously, and we shall find that the very effort has awakened latent powers slumbering within us,

unknown to us, and needing a stimulus from outside to arouse them into activity.


So many of our powers, created by effort in the past, are on the verge of expression, and only need opportunity to flower into action. We should always aim at a little more than we think we can do – not at a thing wholly beyond our present powers, but at that which seems to be just out of reach. As we work to achieve it, all the karmic force acquired in the past comes to our aid to strengthen us. The fact that we can nearly do a thing means that

we have worked for it in the past, and the accumulated strength of those past efforts is within us. That we can do a little means the power of doing more; and even if we fail, the power put forth to the utmost passes into the reservoir of our forces, and the failure of today means the victory of tomorrow


When circumstances are adverse, the same thing holds good; we may have reached the point where one more effort means success. Therefore did Bhishma counsel effort under all conditions, and utter the encouraging phrase; "Exertion is

greater than destiny." The result of many past exertions is embodied in our karma, and the present exertion added to them may make our force adequate for the achievement of our aim.


There are cases where the force of the karma of the past is so strong that no effort of the present can suffice to overbear it. Yet should effort be made, since few know when one of these cases is upon them, and, at the worst, the effort made diminishes that karmic force for the future. A chemist often labours for years to discover a force, or an arrangement of matter, which will enable

him to achieve a result at which he is aiming. He is often

thwarted, but he does not acknowledge himself defeated. He cannot change the chemical elements; he cannot change the laws of chemical combination; he accepts these ungrudgingly,

and there lies "the sublime patience of the investigator". But the knowledge of the investigator, ever increasing by virtue of his patient experiments, at last touches the point where it enables him to bring about the desired result.


Precisely the same spirit should be acquired by the student of karma; he should accept the inevitable without complaint, but untiredly seek the methods whereby his aim may be secured, sure that his only limitation is his ignorance, and that perfect knowledge must mean perfect power.





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