Sunday, April 3, 2011

Baad Karma

Baad Karma
by Scott Bradley

I'm going to bad-mouth the doctrine of karma here. Perhaps I can do that without attacking other peoples' beliefs if I begin by saying that I realize that the doctrine has facets that I don't understand and that, in the end, everyone must follow what seems best to them.

This doctrine, innate to both Hinduism and Buddhism, basically goes like this: We have accumulated a load of karma, both good and bad, through our many lifetimes and this karma determines our present station in life and the events which happen to us. This even pops up in Zen. I was reading a modern day guru not long ago and he said he thought our present behavior affects our after life -- karma.

It has long amazed me how people can so glibly espouse this belief. It requires the existence of an individual soul. It requires that this soul somehow reincarnate throughout the eons. It requires that Reality be ruled by moral principles. It requires that one labor under the burden of past sins and constantly strive to make up for them through doing good works (which more often than not become so ritualized that any true benefit to other human beings is negligible). I don't even touch upon how this has created the perverse caste system found in India.

This is way too much belief for me to swallow. It is pure religious dogma, an invention of the mind of man. More than that, it negates for me what is the central intuition of philosophical Daoism, that all is affirmed and nothing is lost. That all is well.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. For myself, I don't find karma a useful concept. The Buddha said there were five reasons for things happening (I forget the terminology) and karma was only one of them. But who can say whether that guy who robbed you was from which of those causes? And who cares?

  2. If you leave the before-and-after-lives out of it, karma is simply a another way of saying you reap what you sow. And if you regard the afterlife as what happens to other people who come after you (future generations) then karma is a useful ethical concept. If you sow bad stuff, sometimes those who come after you get to reap it. And you reap some of the bad karma of previous generations.

    I think karma can be usefully understood apart from concepts of individual soul or reincarnation. Especially when there is so much talk here on how we are all one and connected.

  3. And as for "the central intuition of philosophical Daoism, that all is affirmed and nothing is lost," this is just a statement of the first law of thermodynamics, which is of course, not at all incompatible with Taoist philosophy (and certain of its esoteric practices).

    So, where do you go from there? Karma might be thought of as a kind of transformation of energy. Bring on Law #2. Karma as entropy?

  4. Karma is action. Phalum is the reward therof.

    Phalum (the fruit) of the Karma (action).

    It is plain cause and effect and negated fully by enlightenment.


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