Friday, August 23, 2013

Understanding Karma and The Hindu's Response to Suffering

Karma is an essential Hindu belief, based on the idea that our actions and deeds affect the future. Bad karma will bind your soul to the cycle of rebirth, while good karma could lead to a better rebirth in the next life.

How does karma explain the terrible disasters that plagued India this year like the mass pesticide poisoning of school lunches in July, or the floods in the state of Assam that dislodged dislodged five million people in the same month?  Could all this be explained by bad karma?

In a thoughtful essay for the Huntington Post, Joe McKnight, a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary and a freelance journalist,  talks to two Hindu teachers in an attempt to understand the role of karma in these disasters.

Dr. Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California,sees a difference between individual karma and societal karma. Corruption had long plagued the school lunches. That corruption led to the poisoning. The program itself collected bad karma and that led to the poisoning. The individual karma of the children had nothing to do with it.

McKnight says that another Hindu writer related the flooding to the cumulative effect of society's treatment of the environment. He suggests that when we exploit the envrionment
Earth has to react. According to this writer, "anytime a living thing is being taken advantage of, it reacts. This is not about punishment, but cause and effect."

This is a fascinating essay, maybe a little too sophisticated for the overview of religion in 9th grade world history, but certainly good for a religion class that studies religion in more depth.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leonard Cohen Recites the Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is probably one of most well-known Tibetan Buddhist texts in the West. It describes the stages of death from...