The Countdown – Day 5: Say Goodbye To Karma!

by Haider on December 28, 2010 · 16 comments

in Personal Growth

Say Goodbye To Karma!
Karma is one of those destructive ideas people try to pass off as a natural law, proven by science and pretending to be an example of cause and effect: You do good, you see good. You do evil, you see evil.
I get worked up about the topic of karma because it leads to so much guilt, misery and confusion that it acts as a massive obstacle on the path to success and happiness.
If you’re offended by my jab at karma, I’d like you to consider the following examples:
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, some evangelical ministers said that it was divine punishment (i.e. karma) against the city because of it’s sexual sins. Isn’t that offensive?
When Haiti was struck by an earthquake in early 2010 when some 230,000 people were killed, Pat Robertson, an evangelical minister, said that the earthquake was a result of a “pact with the Devil” that the founders of Haiti had made. Isn’t that offensive?
I know a woman who had a string of miscarriages and was asked by her husband: “What have you done in your life that God is punishing you in this way?” Isn’t that insanely offensive?
I find these examples offensive to human intelligence, a distortion of morality and a recipe for suffering.
When you see natural disasters and human suffering to be a cosmic response to sin, you won’t empathize with the victims, but condemn them as sinners.
Karma isn’t a natural law and it certainly doesn’t explain a cause-effect relationship in the world.
Giving karma any sort of significance or consideration is unhealthy.
Will you sever ties if you disrespect others? Of course you will. But karma has nothing to do with that.
Causal relationships aren’t proof that karma is true. They’re proof that causality is true.
If you eat at a restaurant and get food poisoning, causality would point to the food as the likely suspect. Karma will point at your past for something bad you may have done. And astronomy will point at the stars, because that’s where your fate is written (apparently).
Do you see why karma is a problem?
For one thing, you’re overlooking the real cause of your ailment. Karma shifts your focus in the wrong direction. It assumes that your moral conduct defines the level of success and failure you experience in life.
If you fail, then you have done something immoral in your past. If you succeed, then you can clear your conscience.
I’m not saying that morality is irrelevant in your life. It’s an essential aspect to healthy living, but not the root cause of all your problems.
At times you need to acquire knowledge you don’t possess.
At times you need to develop skills you lack.
At times you need to focus on the present rather than question your past.
Your circumstances may be the result of past decisions, but you can also be the victim of other people’s poor decisions. You can’t blame yourself for that.
It’s time that you ditch karma and embrace causality. Look at the real factors that are shaping your life and decide what you will do about them.

Karma is one of those destructive ideas people try to pass off as a natural law, proven by science, and pretend to be an example of cause and effect: You do good, you see good. You do evil, you see evil.

I get worked up about the topic of karma because it leads to so much guilt, misery and confusion that it acts as a massive obstacle on the path to success and happiness.

If you’re offended by my jab at karma, I’d like you to consider the following examples:

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, some evangelical ministers said that it was divine punishment (i.e. karma) against the city because of it’s sexual sins.

Isn’t that offensive?

When Haiti was struck by an earthquake in early 2010 and some 230,000 people were killed, Pat Robertson, an evangelical minister, said that the earthquake was a result of a “pact with the Devil” the founders of Haiti had made.

Isn’t that offensive?

I know a woman who had a string of miscarriages and was asked by her husband: “What have you done in your life that God is punishing you in this way?”

Isn’t that insanely offensive?

I find these examples offensive to human intelligence, a distortion of morality and a recipe for suffering.

When you see natural disasters and calamities to be a cosmic response to sin, you won’t empathize with the victims, but condemn them as sinners.

Karma isn’t a natural law and it certainly doesn’t explain a cause-effect relationship in the world.

Giving karma any sort of significance is unhealthy.

Will you sever ties if you disrespect others? Of course you will. But karma has nothing to do with that.

Causal relationships aren’t proof that karma is true. They’re proof that causality is true.

If you eat at a restaurant and get food poisoning, causality would point to the food as the likely suspect.

Karma will point to your past for something bad you may have done.

And astrology will point at the stars, because that’s where your fate is written (apparently).

Do you see why karma is a problem?

For one thing, you’re overlooking the real cause of your ailment. Karma shifts your focus in the wrong direction. It assumes that your moral conduct defines the level of success and failure you experience in life.

If you fail, then you have done something immoral in your past. If you succeed, then you can clear your conscience.

I’m not saying that morality is irrelevant in your life. It’s an essential aspect to healthy living, but not the root cause of all your problems.

At times you need to acquire knowledge you don’t possess.

At times you need to develop skills you lack.

At times you need to focus on the present rather than question your past.

Your circumstances may be the result of past decisions, but you can also be the victim of other people’s poor decisions.

You can’t blame yourself for that.

It’s time that you ditch karma and embrace causality.

Look at the real factors that are shaping your life and decide what you will do about them.

Don’t burden yourself with unnecessary guilt or cloud your judgment with considerations about karma.

You don’t deserve it. :)

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mick
Twitter: theMickMorris
December 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

WOW!…

I read this thinking YES to almost every question you posed… those comments were HIGHLY OFFENSIVE and inappropriate… but they weren’t about karma! Karma is not and to my knowledge has NEVER about a direct cause/effect relationship.

In my opinion the comments of fundamentalist christian preachers (or people infused with their type of belief) with their fire and brimstone preaching about gods punishment have nothing to do with the ancient concept of Karma from the buddist philosophy, and only demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the concept of Karma…

So you are right to bag the populist understanding of Karma and it’s misinterpretation and manipulation by ignorant fools… but lets not through out the baby with the bathwater…. how about we just show up the ignorance of the fools that make comments like those you mentioned!
Mick´s last blog ..Guaranteed way to fail at your new years resolution My ComLuv Profile

2 Haider December 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Hi Mick,

Thank you for your valuable input in this issue.

Karma is a compound concept, with many elements to it and can be interpreted differently by different people.

In essence, it’s the belief that “you reap what you sow,” and that you will experience the consequences of your own actions. I tend to agree with this concept, as long as the consequences have a natural causal relationship with the action.

For example, if I mistreat my wife, she may choose to leave me. My action would have been an important factor in my wife’s decision, and I would bear the consequences of my action. Makes sense.

But I don’t believe that my wife leaving me is a result of speaking harshly to a beggar, and “karma” was getting me back for it. There is no causal relationship between bad deed (mistreating a beggar) with bad experience (being left by my wife).

The aim of this post is to direct people’s attention to the right causes of their problems and to address those, without questioning their character or their past in the process (unless the character traits directly contributed to the problems).

If what I described doesn’t sound like the original concept of karma to you, then I’m only attacking the “populist understanding of Karma.”

I happen to think that the examples I gave are variants of the original concept, but with a religious twist to them, although I could be wrong.

p.s. no marriage was harmed during the writing of this blog post. :P

3 Dru Nichols December 31, 2010 at 9:23 am

I have to agree that the problem is not the concept of Karma, but the fact that very few people (in the West, anyway) actually know what it means. They think of it as some kind of divine hand coming down out of the sky to slap you senseless.

Did you hear the one about the Buddhist skydiver who parachute didn’t open? He yelled out “BUDDHA!” and this giant hand reached down and scooped him out of the sky.

“Thank God” he said, in relief, and the hand turned over and dropped him out. Plop.

4 Haider December 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Hi Dru,

I heard the joke about the skydiver before, but without the sound effects at the end. ;)

If “Karma” is taken as the acknowledgment and acceptance of the consequences of our actions, then I have absolutely no objection to that.

The concept I was attacking is the idea that when something good or bad happens to you, then it’s only a result of past actions.

I believe bad things happen to good people. Not because they deserve it, but because they happen. Our focus should be how we deal with the circumstances and challenges we face in life, without questioning our own characters to make sense of these circumstances.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and adding a humorous twist, as well! :D

5 Suresh
Twitter: Captaink99
December 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm

What I find offensive is that you have COMPLETELY minsterpreted Karma.

You have made your case by citing examples where fundamentalist Christians have humans have suffered whether in natural disasters or of “God teaching those people a lesson”

No one has ever said “divine punishment” is Karma – you asserted that.
No one has ever said “pact with the devil” is Karma – you asserted that.
No one ever said that “god punishing” is Karma – again, you asserted that.

SO lets start by explaining what Karma is and then come to your other points on “divine intervention”.

Karma = Action.

You can have right actions and wrong actions, good actions and bad actions.  

Therefore Karma can be seen as positive or negative – depends on our actions.

What is good and what is bad?  Such labels are subjective and absolute in its judgement.  One good action doesn’t make a person good, likewise one bad action doesn’t make a person bad.

If you have done good your all life — does that mean you are less likely to be run over by a bus? or die from a tsunami?  are we less likely to be abused by someone?  – of course not!

We therefore need to get out of the mindset that we are gauranteed good fortunes in our life, it is the nature of life that bad things could happen to good people.

In life there will always be good and bad.  One cannot exist without the other.  Indeed the question that how can there be a God when there is so much bad things in the world is just the point, God is not there to dish out good fortunes to some people or bad foruntes to others, it is the way of nature, it is the way of the universe, both are important, and both exist, the universe cannot exist without both such kinetic forces (good and bad).

Things go wrong when people believe that they are supremely good and that others are supremely bad, thats when it become fanaticism.  This is true of religions as well as nations.

Lets get back to the discussion on Karma.

Karma means Action.

At its most simplest theory, your mind observes the world, it interacts with the world; you interact with other people, who interact with other people.  Its a complex matrix of interactions.  your mind acts upon that.  If you focus on right thinking, right thoughts will arrive in your mind and right actions will be manifested by you.  It therefore follows that with good actions the probability of good actions being received by you are higher as well as more good actions being manifested in your mind are higher.

Our Actions or our Karma is driven by our desires.  These desires that manifest themselves in the material world are the cause of human suffering and pain.  It is our attachment to them that influences our actions.  

By focusing our efforts and our life on Duty we avoid the pitfalls that keep us caught within the woes of everyday triviality, thus further sealing our fate.

From that we can understand that fate is our past Karma.  Free-will is our future Karma.  

Karma imprints a human psychology that promotes individual responsibility.  This responsibility gives each individual the freedom to lead ones life as they see right.

BTW — Karma is part of a broader and diverse school of Indian philosophy, if you want to learn more, then investigate the teachings of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita or Swami Vivekananda on “Karma Yoga” and also the Sankyha school of philosophy.

6 Roger Malleustein December 31, 2010 at 6:53 pm

“And astronomy will point at the stars, because that’s where your fate is written (apparently).”

You’ve confused astronomy with astrology.

7 Haider December 31, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Hi Suresh,

I’m sorry to have caused you offense and I hope you can forgive me for that, because I don’t wanna earn bad karma (my comments table crashed today, so I’m beginning to suspect this post has something to do with it :P ).

I’d like to elaborate on a few points:

- Karma does not *only* mean action. It means that we will experience the *consequence* of our actions. As a concept, it is not specific to any one religion, so the examples I cited remain valid of the idea that the fate we experience is a result of our actions. In other words, we *deserve* what we get, because of what we’ve done.

- I didn’t actually say that a “pact with the devil” is karma. But to believe that an earthquake was a *result* of such a pact (i.e. the consequence of an action, and the fate of a people) is karma. Hindus and Buddhists may not agree that this is the cause of the earthquake, but that’s only because it’s a Christian variant of the concept of karma (you reap what you sow).

- Do all religious traditions where the concept of karma (by that I mean the idea that the fate of individuals is a consequence of their own actions) agree that “it is the nature of life that bad things could happen to good people”? I’m not entirely sure about that. The concept of karma *on its own* doesn’t include such an observation (which is why it needs to be placed in a broader context).

- I’m certain that not every religious individual will agree with the statement that “God is not there to dish out good fortunes to some people or bad fortunes to others.” Some people do believe in divine intervention, and according to the Wikipedia entry on karma, the concept of karma in the Hindu tradition does involve divine intervention (please correct me if I’m mistaken).

- While the idea of karma may promote individual responsibility, I’m strongly against the idea of taking responsibility for things we have no control over. Plus, I’m not refuting the possibility that good can come out of the belief in karma. But we cannot overlook the negatives because positives exist (I admit my post is unbalanced, but it’s only because I wanted to highlight the negative effects of believing that all your circumstances are the result of past actions). The belief in a Day of Judgment can also promote individual responsibility, but a morality based solely on such accountability has its dark side.

- I’m going to have to disagree with you about the following 3 ideas:

1- The bad is needed in the universe
2- Desires are the cause of human suffering
3- Duty is a positive moral value

But I’ll elaborate on why I disagree in future posts. This comment is already longer than the post itself. :P

Thank you very much for your feedback and sorry, once again, for any offense.

8 Haider December 31, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Roger, you’re a life-saver!

I made the correction. Thanks for pointing it out! :D

9 Suresh
Twitter: Captaink99
December 31, 2010 at 8:53 pm

agreed. karma I not just Action, but understanding the consequence of that action.

I don’t understand what you mean the Christian variant of Karma – there is no such thing.

The examples you cited, (e.g. natural disasters) from evangelical ministers is based on their idea that god is the final arbitrator for their outcomes – you have then drawn the conclusion that they are talking about Karma or your Christian variant of it. And yiu have used that as the basis of this article to discredit the concept of Karma!

“it is the nature of life that bad things could happen to good people” – I fully stand by that statement. Cold is the absence of heat; darkness is the absence of light; silence is the absence of sound; bad is the absence of good; this duality exists constantly across the universe and plays out as forces in our lives.

There is no divine intervention in Karma – not even in the Hindu one. Karma is just about personal responsibility.

I would agree with you that we don’t need doctrines that punish people for situations which are not in their control – that was never the definition of Karma.

10 Jagadeesh January 1, 2011 at 8:35 am

Hi Haider,

Your questioning clearly point towards the human nature of running away from actual reasons behind effects. But super-imposing that with the term Karma made me, like most others to comment here.. :)

From a news report, I read while the Tsunami struck, the international center for Tsunami detection couldn’t inform the nations, just because the personal wasn’t there in the control room and when he got there, he couldn’t find any contact to pass the alert. Now there might be explanations in terms of Karma for this too. But what we learn from this and how to move forward seems to be a more relevant question rather than lamenting on the past actions. Wise people say – past is a cancelled cheque, future is uncertain, only the present is what we have.

The concept of Karma is far deeper and broad.
It’s disheartening to us who believe in Hinduism and Vedanta while coming across such

I recommend you read this explanation on Karma and its effect in Character. http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_1/vol_1_frame.htm

11 Haider January 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Suresh and Jagadeesh,

Happy new year!

Thank you for taking time out to share your thoughts. I think the concept of karma needs to be elaborated on further in future posts, so that I get to offer a more accurate definition of the concept, and encourage further discussion.

This is true of many concepts we use very liberally, such as freedom and justice, and it’s even more pertinent to religious terms, such as karma, God, etc. Dictionary definitions don’t encapsulate the complexity attached to such words.

Jagadeesh, I read the entry on character and the one on duty. I’m going to have to disagree with a lot of what I read. For example, I don’t believe that knowledge is in us, nor do I believe that morality is based on unselfishness. But I’d need to explore these further in future articles (although I dealt with Selfishness in the past, and have dedicated a blog category for it).

I don’t want you to feel disheartened by what I mentioned, and I’m sorry if it was on the offensive side. I hope we can have fruitful discussions about religious matters in the future. :)

12 Jagadeesh January 3, 2011 at 7:45 am

Happy New Year Haider!

I appreciate your open mindedness and forthright approach. I will never feel disheartened if anyone disagree with my views. My only concern was to give you more insight into the deeper realms from which concepts like Karma evolved. I am also only a student here.
I am sure i am ending this note with smile :) for you.
Our views might be different but i think irrespective of all boundaries, we all believe in goodness :)
Jagadeesh´s last blog ..Pomodoro Technique My ComLuv Profile

13 Ikid Unot October 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

God does not punish anyone. God is Love and Light (along with being everything else in existence). As the Creator of all that is, God also set into motion Laws (God as a manifestation of Divine Order in the Cosmos) which ensure that all things automatically conform to a Divine Equilibrium. An example of this manifestation of “God the Governing Force” in the world of matter, one might consider Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, the ubiquitous underlying absoluteness of certain numbers, such as Pi and Phi (Tau), for examples, or the Law of Gravity. One may stand on the side of a cliff, declaring that he does not believe in the Law of Gravity, but if he steps off of the cliff (on this planet) he will fall at the rate of thirty-two and one half feet per second, per second with various adjustments for wind resistance, etc. Likewise, one may intellectually reject the Law of Karma (which one has every right to do under the gift of free will), but the much more arcane Law of Karma, or action and re-action, will always, and without fail, sooner or later bring back to the actor in this or a subsequent incarnation a payment of like nature to the good or evil which was originally “sown” through thought, word, feeling, or deed by that individual. The Law of Karma is “the Law” of which Jesus so often spoke, particularly in Matthew 13: 3-13. A careful reading of that passage should certainly entice the reader to explore the concept of metaphysical cause and effect more deeply in his own life. Elsewhere, St. Paul states, “Be ye not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. He that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, while he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit eap life everlasting.” It has been said that when one is ready for a thing, it will put in its appearance (also a more subtle working of Karmic Law). Hopefully, you will reach a level of readiness within yourself which magnetizes you in such a way as to attract an experiential awareness of the truth and Divine Fairness of the intricate working of the Law of Action and Reaction (Karma). Seeing is believing, and no one expects you to accept any precept on faith, alone. You must grow into ever expanding levels of personal consciousness on an individual level, based ultimately on your own inner and outer behavior and on your own inner perception. Here’s a hint: Your opposition to the idea of Karmic Reaction as a governing Law is actually a part of your inner self urging you to higher understanding. If you are true to that inner self you will eventually accept whatever emanates from your Creator and is proven to you on an individual basis, irrespective of preconceived beliefs. I wish for you as painless a journey toward your continuing Great Awakening of this particular Aspect of Reality (God), as possible. The two-sided sword of personal responsibility and Karma is probably the greatest gift your Creator bestowed upon you. Give the idea another chance, my friend.

14 Haider November 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Ikid, my sincere apologies for such a late reply.

I accept that there are consequences to our thoughts and actions, but I don’t believe that every evil action will necessitate a karmic reaction. The scope and nature of the reaction is probably where we disagree on this issue.

15 Nishant January 25, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Ah, Well,I wont act egoist as I am also Indian, and I just thank you for your article,I don’t want to believe that my friends who died in some crash deserve it for their past actions. God bless you brother.

16 Haider January 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

Thanks, Nishant.

That’s precisely the thought process that I want us to avoid: accusing ourselves and others of ill intention or bad deeds because of the bad circumstances that may befall us.

Bad things happen to good people. We simply have to accept them and do our best with what happens to us. :)

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