In our predominantly secular materialist Australian society, it seems the supernatural may not yet have been banished completely. In a recent newspaper survey about what readers thought about a large amount of cash having been returned to its owner by an honest couple who found it, 75% of about 200 respondents mentioned the role played by karma. The couple who returned the money would undoubtedly have good karma coming their way according to most people surveyed.
All those Bali vacations by Australians must have had an effect! The notion of karma seems to have crept into our everyday consciousness as a people. It certainly wasn’t the case a generation or two ago. People would once have said things like “they did the right thing” or “they showed good moral character”. Karma would not have been mentioned.
Finding this undeniable development interesting, and being a somewhat lazy researcher I consulted Wikipedia to find out a little about the term karma that is infiltrating conversations everywhere. Apparently it has its origin in eastern religion. Here is an edited extract from Wiki. I hope it does justice to the meaning:
“Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. Karma is not fate, for humans act with free will creating their own destiny. According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response.”
Up to a point I can’t see much here to disagree with. Sounds quite reasonable. There are some questions that are begging answers though.
For instance does karma operate in all situations and at all times? Is it a tame thing that we can trot out when it suits or is it a relentless law of nature and existence? If it is the latter we humans (people like you and I) could be in for some deep trouble ahead. How do you think you would stack up if everything you did, every thought you had in your life were to be weighed up in terms of karma? Would you come out ahead? I know I would not.
Being human the immense burden of your bad or uncharitable actions would mean karma would dictate that you would have a whole heap of woe headed your way. Humans just aren’t built to be able to live a faultless life. Anyway, I comfort myself with the belief that there is a special place reserved in deepest and darkest hell for the sanctimonious pretentious fools who delude themselves in imagining they have earned life rewards for being better than other people.
Is karma a plaything of our own self centredness?
How do we know karma will always act to balance things out? What authority or certainty can we invoke? At the vary least, how do we know it will not act according to how our enemy sees things instead of how we see things. If you are one of those people who has a refined sense of judgement and a faultless knowledge of right and wrong then how do you know you are not just deluding yourself and abusing others by requiring them to conform to your own worldview?
Culture Club’s Boy George says (in Wikipedia) of his band’s hit song Karma Chaleleon:
“The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”
While I can see what he means, I just don’t think he really gets it. Being true to yourself may be a good thing (depending on what it means), or it may simply be a euphemism for behaving with absolute self centredness. That certainly won’t bring good karma!
Most disturbing of all for me is that the view of humanity that underpins karma. It profoundly misunderstands human nature. Nobody but nobody is blameless. Nobody but nobody has done enough good things by the end of their life to wipe out all the bad stuff! That’s not to say people don’t do good things but to believe people are capable of anything other than making continual and habitual less than ideal choices is to be delusional, or at the very least to believe in fairy tales. There are no perfect people. Take any life story of anyone you wish and if you were able to dig deeply enough you would find blemishes they would not want you to see. (Sorry, perhaps I should make an exception for you!)
Put bluntly, if we need to dig ourselves out of a pit of pur own making using our own efforts, we are doomed by karma and doomed by hard reality. It aint going to work folks!
The saddest part for me of the popularity of karma in everyday culture is that it makes people deaf to the good news of the Christian gospel. If you don’t realise that you have no hope by yourself; if you allow yourself to believe that you can create your own salvation; you will not appreciate the free gift of the gospel. That gospel gift is one of immense value and it is so simple. Basically it is that you can do nothing meaningful to aid your own salvation. God has done all that is necessary. Your shortcomings, your laziness, your greed, your unfaithfulness, your selfishness, your dishonesty, all are wiped away. By God who chooses not to see them – not by you who wants to make excuses for them.
A person who has received this free and wonderful gift has no need to feel self satisfied or superior to others. Such a person will feel humbled, grateful and at peace. A person who persists with a belief that they themselves need to earn their own salvation will be eternally disappointed, envious and frustrated.
No comparison really. Bit hard to understand why so many people put faith in karma when the Christian gospel has so much more to offer. Maybe because they never really understood the gospel they rejected?