CAPTION: Maat is Truth, the deep law, right, justice, balance and order of the universe. Maat is traditionally personified as a young woman goddess. Here Maat is depicted with the symbol of life (ankh) in her left hand. Her sceptre (was) in the right hand illustrates control over chaos. The ostrich feather represents truth-speech.
Hope to harvest blessed welcomes. Maat (basic truth and truthfulness, moral law, great harmony, all-encompassing and balancing order and justice) is present in all the world, in all the worlds, and ancient gods of Egypt are alert to it. After death, the heart-soul of the deceased is weighed against Maat's logos, Maat's holy designs. It is shown symbolically by Maat as an ancient goddess on a firm foundation, and wearing a large ostrich feather.
On being "scanned" after death, heavy hearts burdened with wicked deeds might "outweigh the feather of Maat" in the balance of good and bad doings, and then that poor soul would not enter the Blessed Land, whereas the souls of just and honourable persons would be welcomed. Thus, "If a man lived in accordance with maat, or divine order, he could expect to do well, both in this life and in the next. In the ancient Egyptian papyrus 'The Eloquent Peasant,' the main character suggests: 'Speak maat, do maat; for it is mighty, it is great, it endures.'" [Remler, sv. "Maat, the goddess of truth and justice"].
A basic outlook: When you die, your heart may be grieved or heavy with regrets of your own wrongdoings if your conscience did not get through and put you right earlier. A "little scan" right after death is soon followed by being preserved after death, or not.
And then? Would souls remain in a Blessed Land or go further, "up or down"? Or are they in a chain of life-spans on earth and in the beyond? Vedanta holds one is "dancing along in the realms - but may stop by becoming Free, set Free from the cycles of births and deaths, that is.
Buddha too is into that there is something more worthwhile than dancing along, gliding inwards-upward to heavens or inwards-downward to worse realms, they do not remain in the Blessed Land if it is taken to mean 'heaven' or 'heavens', and encourages us to go for Awakening rather than having good times in heaven.
Parts of the basic outlook - that makes much of some moral doings - are in the teachings of Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism too. There are some overarching similarities, and some differences.
Differences at a glance. Ancient Egypt's teachings were that a wicked soul could be destroyed after death, while Vedanta says the soul cannot be destroyed. Buddhism nowadays teaches the soul cannot be destroyed too - for it has no soul; they do not think there is a soul inside most Buddhists, but a Buddha-seed in some Buddist branches.
More on similarities. However, an optimist sees the good opportunities here as elsewhere: Good deeds are good for the soul (heart), and go with the dead person into the beyond. "We should make a lot of good karma for ourselves," is a teaching attributed to Buddha. Vedanta teaches similarly. By good karma the soul can rise to higher heavens and get a better fare in future earth-lives too, after the balancing of the karma of many lives are done. In the long run good deeds should pay, is Buddha's heart-teaching. [Buddha's karma teachings]
Enough of heavens - The above is just a sketch of outlooks. There are nuances to the teachings that good doings take us upwards somehow, sometime. Buddha regards several births and time-periods beyond the door of death in the wide perspective that the boons from good deeds are not necessarily coming already in this life, or in the first period beyond. Several lives may pass before the seeds of good deeds are starting to grow in a fit soil, and the other way round. It means such as "You do good in this life and go downwards after death anyhow, for your seeds of good deeds have not sprouted yet, or there were not many enough of them to outweigh the bad seeds. Take a trip to a hell, good guy!"
Buddha's views also allow for this: "You have done a lot of wicked things in this life, but because your karma (effects, fruits) have not matured or sprouted yet - not enough of them, not enough, at any rate - the total mass of your karma drives you upwards in heavens, in accordance with good deeds in a forgotten past. You go to heaven, badman - at least first.
"It is not simplistic. Living may not be easy, but try to adhere to good deeds and amass good karma. You may need it; it may save you one day, in, say, four or five lives. Be a good planner; think ahead."
Unavoidable karma teachings. Teachings of karma and reincarnation swim along together somehow. "Buddha says one should go for creating lots of good karma, and not trust in that alone. After all, seeds depend on conditions that allow them to grow. It may take time to get it arranged, and balanced with the sum of other karma-seeds you have got from many lives. (McClelland 2010)
It may be good to go for good doings. But what are they?
There are different ideas of what constitutes 'good'. McClelland informs that the Greek writer Diordus Silculus (60 BCE–30 CE) mentions that the Druids of Gaul [France] believed that the soul was immortal and passed from one body to another. Julius Caesar, who conquered Gaul between 58 and 50 BCE, states in book VI of his De bello galico (of the Gallic War) that Druids "are chiefly anxious to have men believe the following: that souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from one body to another: they regard this as the strongest incentive to valor, since the fear of death is disregarded." (p. 78) It may sound good, but not all-good, for Druids also sacrificed humans and resorted to enemy head-hunting.
"The one who does good in this life, should continue to do good - maybe try to do good for its own sake, or for lots of other reasons. And as with seeds, not all seeds gathered are sown all at once in just one plot of land. A seed deposit is a "bank of karma, good, bad and something in-between good and bed. Seeds are sorted in the light of "the whole seed bank", "the seeds selected to bear fruit in this life", and "seeds set off for lives to come and periods in between in some cases." That is the Vedanta outlook of three forms of karma, and all have Sanskrit terms that ends with '-karma'.
Sanchita karma. In Hinduism, sanchita karma (heaped together) is one of the three kinds of karma. It is the sum of one's past karmas – all actions, good and bad, from one's past lives follow through to the next life.
Prarabdha karma. Out of this, we each lifetime, we get prarabdha karma, a collection of past karmas that may be experienced through the present incarnation if the seeds sprout and grow tall. Can it be avoided? Some sages teach "No", and some teach "Yes, at least a bit or much, or very much, or all of it!" There are such differences of opinion.
What to do. Seeds and plots of lands relate to effects of good and bad doings and lives in a body.
Even if you cannot escape the karma that burdens or hampers you, you may still do good deeds to improve your lot or fare, here and hereafter, it is maintained. Some effects are long-term, as when you sow oak nuts. The oaks may take many decades to grow tall, and may outlive many generations.
If you sow lettice seeds good deeds, though, the lettuces are with you within weeks. So some deeds - good or bad or in-between - may be rewarded or reaped within days, others within months or years, and other seeds may bear fruits after still longer periods.
How fast the seed grows, depends on the climate, condition of the soil and much else. Similarly with some forms of karma. On you plot of land - your own body and surroundings and even further - you may sow and plant a bit here, a bit there, and make your life a good garden, eventually.
You also have to tend your garden, so that the effects of your works (karma) are not robbed. There are many robbers and intruders around. And this means we should not trust only in doing good deeds, for we may not live to harvest all of it. We have to get skilled in making something good out of our living. That is also part of the old teachings. The prime skill is to meditate well. Skills fit for making a decent living comes next for those who go for tall living.
Victim, for lack of good upbringing, fit schooling, faithful friends and shielding walls, or subject to betrayals. Among the other sides to fair living is that of being subjected to abuse, cruelty and faulty treatment, mistreatments and lots of that, rather than become like a transgressor yourself. If you can shield yourself, it may be far better than to suffer and die at the hands of murderers.
In the Jewish-Christian tradition it is called OK to let innocents suffer and die like sacrifices to live by. Among the Hebrews animals were butchered for it, and Jesus served as a sacrifice lamb for followers, is the current teaching of Christianity.
Standing tall while abused and so on. If others misbehave against you, their inner sides are getting deranged from it, and later they may be set from inside to redress their wrongs - for example in a future life five lives from now. The big question is whether the guys they mistreated, are still around, not demolished, not insane, not too crippled, and so on. If so, the balancing is too late! That is the lot of some, one may guess.
However, if the offended, slighted, mistreated, abused and wrongfully subjected or murdered ones will not stoop to vile doings themselves, but would rather die than become such creeps themselves, the uprightness of the victims help them in the wider perspective, so that the may be repaid, slowly. If they are erect, maybe some things may be compensated.
Then comes the question of how much they are to be paid to be restored - there are lots of concerns to exploit. Loss of jobs, loss of good opportunities, loss of developments, losses and losses. Besides paying for that, the question of interest comes in. What should be the percentage? Is ten percent per year, life after life, fair enough?
And should not the outlook of the victim be restored to one of glad, positive welcome. Fines of this sort can be of many sorts. The girl that was made insane by cruel harassment, has she been restored? Are all her relational troubles over? If not, there is more to pay, year after year.
Interesting, there may be good gettings in future lives of victims of nasty massacres and the like.
The idea: victims pay first, and later, when "it comes around, tides turn", the harried are to be recompensed with interest and interest's interests, and further. The violent transgressors, on the other hand, may first gain lots of lands and stuff like that, only to lose and lose after a few lives or so - lose a lot to formerly oppressed ones, provided the oppressed ones were not crushed by injustice and violence.
Stay firm if you can and stick to good behaviour (moral), improve yourself and go for formidable skills, and you might improve your lot in this life already. These are some more factors to reckon with in these matters.
By now it may pay to sum up: Various aspects and forms of karma have been classified and elaborated on in some books (Cf. O'Flaherty, 1980)
What about inheriting ill-gotten property? Greed soon overtakes weaklings in moral matters, and then the table is set for excuses and rationalisations that hardly smell well.
Here is another tricky side to it: Suppose a mother has lied, stolen small children, brought innocents in disrepute, driven one of the stolen children clearly insane through harrassments, and and gone insane herself afterwards, after a rather paranoid lifestyle in a sect. The cult life suits many of her deviant sides, so she may not be found out until she gets old, and maybe not even then. It happens in some cases. Then she dies and her children are about to inherit her ill-gotten gains based on stealing, lying, hypocricy and so on. Can they be worth inheriting?
Or what to do with treasures that others have stolen and made unrecognisable, and then found? Is it "Finder, keeper", or "Throw these gold bars into the ocean," or is there a better way?
In earlier times people often gave lands to the Church to be magically freed of sins and get a better afterlife. The Church got lots of lands as a consequence of the belief that it could really accomplish such magnificent feats.
In folklore it is further told and written that ill-gotten goods and property lacks something, and that missing thing is decency. And therefore stolen property or gains someone has got by bullying others and breaking lots of laws, will not last long in that family. A few generations more and it is gone, maybe, say folks. It may not be just as simple as that, however. Many other factors could creep in and off-set just retributions for some time, if they ever are able to get effective.
If by receiving old castles, gifts or inheritance from criminally dirty hands you automatically get infected by on receiving anything from them or their wills, think twice and seek to get a better lot in life. The open question is "How?" For receiving or inheriting quite "deranged" property full of bad seeds in its cellars and barns is not all that valuable, and may soon breed discord and lots of problems, and could cost a fortune to make functional again.
An all-inclusive solution has not been divulged here, only some sides to inheriting or taking over bad karma or not, or how. You have to let your heart into it also.
Expand 'no' and 'yes' deeming To deem is to judge or consider. The list of "I did not do it" items below could at least theoretically be responded to by use of a Likert scale, for it allows for a better survey [WP, "Rensis Likert"].
For example, "I have not stolen grain" may be graded into "Not extremely much, not tons on tons, for I'm not an usurper - Only a few tons - Kilos - Kilos, maybe - Not that I can remember. A fivefold division (a Likert scale, named after Rensis Likert) is typically made use of in questionnaires, to get a more accurate survey.
There is a difference between stealing much or little, and it should be taken into account for fit future karma and goings.
"I have not stolen grain" may also be regarded along the continuum of individual offences versus societal injustices. You may say "Not personally, but my large multinational concern where I'm employed, work on it and tailor laws to serve them" - "Yes, but my workplace work is decent." Buddha also advises that one finds a good occupation, one that does not exploit and create stress and suffering.
This is to show that karma may have a personal side, a work-force side, a societal side - and where massive mistreatments like underpayment, child labour and much else are possible. Much bad personal karma may for a while be outweighed by one's associates or workplace karma and culture, but when death comes, such going are over. Before that, you should have decided not to become a devil, although the odds are not to your liking. Much depends on the resolves too.
Go for character and sound fitness with TM This goes to suggest that there are nuances of and perspectives on them that are not so easy to rank, give value and put together in a subtle "bank of seeds with payment plans for lives on end".
Rudolf Steiner speaks of the value of good moral in his way: "When you try to do one step forward to attain knowledge about the hidden truths, then do the same time three steps forward to perfect your character." (Also: Steiner 1969)
If the outward rules do not appeal to you that much, there is a main road from being outer-directed to inner-directed, with one's own, strongly felt moral, heart-moral. If your hidden heart is sound, your conscience may be at work and, you reach lots of good decisions. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917-2008) aimed at enabling something like this moral development by teachings good meditation:
Jack Forem (2012) writes that Maharishi quetly insisted "that the experience of transcendence, which resulted in a naturally increasing refinement of mind and body, enabled people to naturally behave in more correct ways. "It is much easier to raise a man's consciousness than to get him to act righteously," Maharishi said [Forem 2012:250)."
To raise a mind requires a good way, though. Maharishi got it, he too.
After living in harmony with a fit and fair sort of "ain't misbehaving", one dies. In ancient Egypt, the heart of the deceased person was then weighed on the other side, and the deceased soul recited the 42 Negative Confessions ("I didn't do that!") while deities of Maat watched.
If turned about a bit, they contain over half of the Ten Commandments, but are much older (No. 3, 4, 8, 11, (15, 18), 27+37).
A "Do not debauch any wife" (No 20-21) and "Do not terrorise anyone by violence" (No. 23 + 22 and 28) could easily have been added to Ten Commandments, making them Twelve.
There are also subtle, crafty and underhand means and plots to desist from throughout life, and by that escape from becoming wily. (see No. 15).
Ancient ideals of Egypt were the basis for an admired, usually stable and long-lasting civilisation.
1. I have not sinned [Not a whole lot, as I understand the term.]
2. I have not committed robbery with violence.
3. I have not stolen.
4. I have not slain men and women.
5. I have not stolen grain.
6. I have not purloined offerings [not stolen or used them without permission].
7. I have not stolen the property of the gods.
8. I have not uttered lies.
9. I have not carried away food.
10. I have not uttered curses.
11. I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men. [I suppose the last part is not for women.]
12. I have made none to weep.
13. I have not eaten the heart [i.e., I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
14. I have not attacked any man.
15. I am not a man of deceit.
16. I have not stolen cultivated land.
17. I have not been an eavesdropper.
18. I have slandered [no man].
19. I have not been angry without just cause [or reason].
20-21. I have not debauched the wife of any man.
22. I have not polluted myself.
23. I have terrorised none.
24. I have not transgressed [the Deep Law].
25. I have not been wroth.
26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
27. I have not blasphemed.
28. I am not a man of violence.
29. I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
30. I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
31. I have not pried into matters.
32. I have not multiplied [increased in degree, overstated] my words in speaking.
33. I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
34. I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
35. I have never stopped [the flow of] water. [It reflects the conditions along the Nile on the concrete level. [It may be from a figurative angle as well, as "undermine life" etc.]
36. I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
37. I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
38. I have not acted with evil rage.
39. I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
40. I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the spirits of the dead.
41. I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
42. I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.
Brown, Brian, ed. The Wisdom of the Egyptians. New York: Brentano, 1923.
David, A, Rosalie. The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh's Workforce. London: Taylor and Francis, 2003.
EB. Encyclopedia Britannica. Online, sv. "Maat".
Karenga, Maulana. Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Manley, Bill. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt. London: Penguin, 1996. –– Much background information.
Redford, Donald B., main ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Vols. 1-3. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Remler, Pat. Egyptian Mythology A to Z. 3rd ed. New York: Chelsa House, 2010.
Ruiz, Ana. The Spirit of Ancient Egypt. New York: Algora, 2001.
van Blerk, Nicolaas Johannes. The Concept of Law and Justice in Ancient Egypt, with Specific Reference to The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant. Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts with Specialisation in Ancient Languages and Cultures. The University of South Africa, 2006. ⍽▢⍽ Discusses the interaction between the central principle of maat and law in ancient Egypt.
Wahlberg, Nina May. Goddess Cults in Egypt between 1070 BC and 332 BC: A Thesis Submitted to the University of Birmingham for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Birmingham: The University of Birmingham, 2002.
Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ Art focus. And recommended.
WP. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, sv. "Maat".
Forem, Jack. Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Rev. ed. London: Hay House, 2012.
Hart, George. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2005.
Knapp, Stephen. The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture. New York: iUniverse, 2006.
McClelland, Norman C. Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma. London: McFarland and Co, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ An essential and comprehensive reference work with about 1,200 entries.
O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger, ed. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions.. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1980.
Steiner, Rudolf. Manifestations of Karma: Eleven Lectures Given in Hamburg, 16th to 28th May, 1910. GA 120. 2nd ed. Reprint. London: The Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969.
Vasu, Srisa Chandra. A Catechism of Hindu Dharma. Cleveland, OH: E-Books Delivery Service, 2013 (1919).
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