We are often told to watch our virtues, for our vices are already obvious and known to us. Hidden in any virtue is the tiny speck of poison that turns it into a vice. Even almost at the end of our journey through lives it is but "one single thought" about the past that will drag us down.
In these days of intricate machinery it is not difficult to understand the importance of the minute. We are often reminded of the old saying that the strength of a chain depends on the strength of each link; in other words, that it depends on the weakness of a single link.
To apply this idea is, however, very difficult. Mr. Judge tells us, for instance, to "use with care those living messengers called words," and some examples of this come to mind. The first object of the Theosophical Movement was stated by H.P.B. to be the formation of "the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity." Students, however, sometimes speak of "a nucleus" instead of "the nucleus." Is there any difference between the two? A nucleus implies that there are other nuclei; the nucleus implies that there is only one. That nucleus must, therefore, be based on TRUTH, and TRUTH is one.
The other example that comes to mind is what is said in the Third Fundamental Proposition, that each being is "checked by its Karma, but the emphasis here is on the fact that it is our own actions, or our refraining from actions, in the past that check our efforts today. This is a more potent thought for us to have.
Perhaps we might refer to still another example. We say, "I am the Ego," and Krishna says, "I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings." Are we, then, Krishna? The answer, we know, is both "yes" and "no." It is just this slipshod reading and thinking that has made us miss one of the essential teachings of Theosophy as brought out in The Key to Theosophy (p. 34):
It is interesting to note in this extract that "I am I" is a "simple feeling," whereas "I am Mr. Smith" is a "complex thought." Perhaps a meditation on this idea would be worthwhile.
There is another side to this effort of ours to emphasize accuracy; it may lead us into pettifogging criticism. Here we have another instance of a virtue merging into a vice by small degrees. We can get into the habit of losing sight of the forest while we see only one tree!
How often do we emphasize impersonality and forget H.P.B.'s injunction "to rather sin through exaggerated praise than through too little appreciation of one's neighbour's efforts" (The Key to Theosophy, p. 250). Many a budding writer or speaker has been put off from making further effort by the stony silence of others after his efforts, whereas genuine sympathy and encouragement might have been the very things he needed.
With regard to actions, how often have we been warned that heedless actions, even seemingly inconsequential actions, can cause catastrophes! We know of how a little neglect may breed mischief:
An action has to be judged by the reaction of the environment in which it is performed. That environment implies not only a place, but also all those affected by the action, and as every person differs from the others, the same word or action will produce different effects on different persons. The environment is not necessarily only of today, for today makes the Karma of tomorrow, next incarnation, lives ahead. Mr. Judge puts this well in Letters That Have Helped Me, Book II, Letter II: "The fruture, then, for each, will come from each present moment. As we use the moment, so we shift the future up or down for good or ill." And in Letter VI he wrote: "It is the small rift in the lute that destroys it; in human history small and unexpected events alter the destiny of nations."
So let us watch for the small things in life. Let us not leave undone what should be done, nor do what should not be done; and more than anything, let us not do what is not necessary, for by doing the unnecessary we set in motion a new action which will nor be harmonious. This is true of actions (the result of feeling-thought), as also of feelings (the result of thought-action), and of thoughts (the result of our entanglement in the mass of humanity and in Nature, of which we are a part). We have to do, in fact, our duty, in its deepest aspect, and not undertake something which is not our duty or is the duty of another; and that duty has to be performed with all the care and attention we can muster, for by carelessness we start a cycle of disharmony in our already disharmonious world.