Karma

Hinduism: Week 2

Karma
Monday, September 21, 2015

We have moved closer to the Eastern understanding in our more recent use of the term karma, but it is still said like a joke. “Bad karma!” or “Good luck!” or “What goes around comes around” we might say in half jest. For the Hindu, karma is an inviolate law and not just a clever aphorism. It is the nature of the universe and moves people toward purification of motive and honesty about why they are doing what they are doing. Karma is an absolute law of cause and effect. Even thoughts and desires have a predictable karma. You are responsible for your own thoughts and motives, and you cannot avoid the consequences. Thoughts and motives are real and create the Real. You cannot walk around thinking negative thoughts, or they will destroy you.

Conversely, no love is lost in the universe. I believe you are actually punished by your sins; whereas Western religions tend to teach that you are punished for your sins. Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment, karmic law would say. These are two very different world views, and frankly, I am convinced that Jesus taught the karmic one. “You cannot pick grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. A good tree will bear good fruit,” he said, “and a bad tree will bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18). Jesus also said, “If you show mercy, mercy will be shown to you.”  (Matthew 5:7, Luke 6:37) and “The standard you use will be used for you” (Mark 4:24).

Jesus sought to create a deep sense of personal choice, responsibility, and freedom right now, and not just disconnected payoffs in the afterlife. But we have understood much of the Gospel in terms of divine threats and artificial rewards—a delayed schedule of merits and demerits. This deeply distorted the transformative message of the Gospel and appealed to our self-interest instead of love. In other words, it fed us at the ego level instead of the soul level.

I believe Jesus teaches that rewards and punishments for behavior are inherent and now, and only by karmic implication are they external and later. Karma, rightly understood, creates responsible and self-actualized people instead of fear-based people. Your choices matter now! Threats of punishment or promises of candy later create perpetual adolescents and very well-disguised narcissism at every level of Christianity.

Gateway to Silence:
The Christ in me sees the Christ in you. Namaste.

Image credit: Dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Bhagavad Gita; The San Diego Museum of Art Collection

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