We have youth programs that revolve around karma, it is regularly dropped into sermons and casual conversations. From my experience, questioning people about their reverence for it is considered out of bounds. In fact, when I have discussed my own feelings about it -- not in response to someone else's tenderly-held belief, but just speaking from my own experience -- the reaction has often ranged from "you just don't get it" to outright hostility.
It's a sacred cow, folks.
Hey, I was quite fond of it, too ... until I discussed it with someone who actually is a practicing Hindu. And that made me confront the other side of the equation.
We're human. We want to make sense of things. We are all Job's friends, sitting around with him as he scrapes his sores with broken pottery, trying to figure out what he did to cause himself such misery.
Karma makes us feel good. Because it takes an ounce of natural consequences, and expands it into a full-blown philosophy that allows us to feel that we have control over the events of our lives.
Look, if I walk around being nice to people, the natural consequence is that I have greater odds of people being nice to me. That's not karma, it's predictable consequence.
Karma expands that into the metaphysical. You do good, good things will happen to you. You do bad, you will be punished by bad things.
Sound fine, right?
But if 1+1=2, we must be willing to accept that 2-1=1. You can't just accept the first equation.
So ... if bad things happen to you, it's because of something you did. Either in this life, or a previous.
Soum Bunnarith, 41, (is) a former salesman whose wife blinded him with acid five years ago in a rage of jealousy. “I ask myself, ‘Why me?’ ” he said. “But then I think maybe I did terrible things in a past life, and that thought helps me to accept this.”I was at a multi-faith dialogue dinner, and we were discussing "why bad things happen." The example of a disabled, disfigured baby was brought up. The Hindu at the table explained that they believe that is karma, that the baby was a terrible person in a previous life and now is receiving the consequences.
It's his fault.
Now, obviously, as a mother of a baby diagnosed with cancer at 7 months, I can't pretend this isn't personal for me. But this is part of karma. We can't dismiss substitutionary atonement with disdain and then turn around and only see karma as sunshine and rainbows.
Do I think you need to just reject karma? No. I think that living as if there will be consequences for all your actions/inactions, whether it's through karma, the three-fold law, judgement day, etc, can produce positive results.
But go deep. Examine your belief. Educate yourself about how it is applied in reality. Look at not just the sunshine and rainbows, but also the acid burns and Down syndrome. Poverty. Abuse. Caste.
Examine the differences in understanding about karma. Buddhist karma is not that same as Hindu karma. And "American karma" is a whole other concept.
No sacred cows. Check the teeth. Sometimes they bite.