The Problem With Karma Posted in: God On Our Side, Suffering and an all-powerful benevolent God, The Self Divine

One often finds the sanskrit word karma translated as action or work. But sometimes, and especially in the western mind, people take it to mean reaction rather than action, or something subtle that binds one to the cycle of birth and death (samsara) — administered by some sort of unseen cosmic debt collecting task-force requiring balance in the universe be restored. Others see it as a satisfactory way of separating God from the suffering in the world … i.e. people are getting their karma … suffering because of bad/wrong deeds they did in the past, perhaps in a forgotten past lifetime … nothing to do with God … they are just getting their deserved karmic reaction. Not dissimilar to the idea of punishment for sin. To me it sounds very much like those people are confusing karma (action) with Newton’s 3rd Law … for every action their is an equal an opposite reaction (When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body). I think karma is something completely different.

Is the karmic-reaction idea (bad karma means you suffer) really a satisfactory way of separating God from the suffering of the world?

Most people who believe in the existence of God would agree that God is

  1. in control of everything (i.e. not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of the Lord)
  2. benevolently inclined to us

My contention is that an all-powerful God cannot be subservient to a so-called law of karma (if it is a law at all) … and if it is indeed a law (we’ll talk about that later), certainly God must have the power to intervene or override such a so-called law. Otherwise what sort of God would God be? The non-intervention therefore means that God is implicated (for want of a better word) … any karmic-reaction that is flowing out is not going ahead against the will of God. In fact you could argue that as God has the means, God has a duty of care to step in. A little like if a passer-by witnessing an act of abuse, even though has the power to intervene without risk to themselves, turns their back and walks away is implicated in the eyes of the law.

The idea that karmic-reaction explains suffering in a way that leaves God blameless, or at least not implicated in anyway, is a nonsense to me. May be some find it reasonable and satisfactory. Not me.

Karmic bondage and self-divinity are not happy bedfellows

And what level of divinity do we possess if we are now obliged by reactions to long forgotten past life action? Obliged against our will? For this reason I find karma, or at least karma understood in terms of karmic reaction to which one is enslaved, incompatible with even the most basic level of surviving self-divinity. I am convinced our self-divinity is in no way lost by our forgetfulness or our denial of it. We remain divine always and I therefore propose another way of understanding karma. One fitting and compatible with the versions of God that we all are.

I propose that karma is not at all about reaction – it is about creation. Being a creator sits pretty well with our being divine, so that’s a good start. Any seeming entanglement is then understood simply our attachment to that which we create. As divine beings we are of course entitled to be attached to the results of our creative endeavours. Therefore that also sits happily with our self-divinity. But if this is really what is going on … surely that would mean we are creating our suffering? Common sense insists that’s unlikely. How about we think of our suffering as an essential stepping stone on the journey to a something else that we are creating? In other words not really against our will, but something that is important to realisation of our will? Say for example we choose to take a journey to forgiveness. We want to experience and explore being a forgiving person. A noble endeavour surely. Naturally and intrinsically the stage setting requires some sort of believable historic abuse event. Focus on the abuse as if it where the grand finale … who would choose that? See is as something enabling me to be a forgiver … maybe I start to think differently about it. Likewise, perhaps I would agree to forget so I can enjoy the exhilaration of remembering, or agree to get lost so I could appreciate my home-coming, or struggle in poverty so I would have context for later properly appreciating abundance? In other words the negative actually serves me in realisation of my desires. This type of thinking sits pretty well with the notion of self-divinity … maybe we are on to something?

God the project manager

Far from God as the judge/jury/punisher, the prescriber of right and wrong, the decider of the goal of life singular, I propose God is always the positive and active collaborator. That as God’s separated parts and parcels we are always exploring and expressing divinity and in so doing contributing by our uniqueness, albeit in finite and humble ways, to the completeness of God. That God is therefore always on our side. God is always positively engaged in facilitating expansion of His/Her own completeness.

The Victim Problem

Okay, this is all very lovely, but how do you explain the situation of murderer/murdered, rapist/raped, pedophile/child … surely God cannot be actively engaged on both party’s side simultaneously? Seems the aggressor is facilitated whereas the victim is abandoned. Easier maybe to decide the situation has nothing at all  to do with God … but if you subscribe to the idea that not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of God, you are contradicting yourself, are you not?

Imagine then that both parties are simultaneously facilitated. The aggressor perceives the situation as that they are imposing their will on a victim, and believes that to be against the will of the victim. This is their definite completely believable reality – thus they get the ‘abuser’ experience they are after – 100% delivered. The reality is in fact something different, but they don’t consider that possibility so they get their experience, according to their will. On the other side the victim perceives (probably) that their will is being usurped by the aggressor. In most cases this is not the experience they are after. My proposal is that it is a stage setting for an future act (perhaps in a subsequent lifetime — especially where they are being murdered) … an act yet to be played out. Perhaps a forgiveness, perhaps a revenge (two possibilities that spring to mind). Obscene idea? Or me thinking outside the box in a desperate endeavour to keep the idea of the self-divine alive … or the possibility of self-divinity at least?

[Work in progress – article is not yet complete]

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