. REINCARNATION AND
THE THEORY OF KARMA.
This is my eighth blog on my forthcoming novel. I have discussed various reasons why an author would find the theme of reincarnation as a rich source of weaving a good story. I have also discussed earlier in this series why the theme of reincarnation appeals to readers. One of reasons , mentioned in my earlier blogs , was that the idea of reincarnation also expresses our religious beliefs. In a pluralistic society like ours , it is difficult to confine oneself to any particular denomination of religious beliefs and deconstruct the theme of reincarnation. However , there is one religious belief that is almost universally accepted across the religious spectrum. Moreover , this belief is the foundation of our idea of reincarnation. I am referring to the belief that fate of each one of us is defined by the theory of karma. Therefore , in this blog and next few blogs , I would discuss variety of facets of this theory of karma. Since the theory of karma is universally believed , I think it would be easier to understand why we believe in reincarnation as well.
I would like to admit ,at the outset , that I do not claim to have any new insights into either reincarnation or into the theory of karma. Both these topics have been commented upon in great length in religious and psychological literature. I am going to focus only on two aspects in my blogs. Firstly , I am going to talk about the possibility that the idea of reincarnation itself maybe a fictionalization of the theory of karma. It is my belief that sages who scripted our vedic texts were conscious of the need to reach out to laity in the simplest way. Therefore they created our mythological stories as fictionalization of fundamental philosophy described in our holy books. Similarly , I believe , the theory of karma is difficult to understand and to explain it in simplest form to laity.Therefore it was fictionalized into an idea of reincarnation.
The second aspect that I am going to focus is that the theory of karma , by itself i . e. without its fictionalized form , is very intricate and detailed scheme. These details deserve to be investigated for their own sake. I am not suggesting that the theory of karma is right or wrong. I do not think I have wherewithal to prove it either way. All I am interested in is whether these details , by themselves, are created to fulfill our subconscious needs. There is a distinct psychological perspective behind the details of the theory of karma. I would focus on these aspects in my next few blogs.
Let me begin by looking at the relationship between the theory of karma and the idea of reincarnation. One of the central assumptions about the theory of karma is that there are always some consequences of every action that you perform. This , by itself , is a logical and intuitive assertion. In fact , it is almost scientific. It is comparable to law of physics that asserts that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When viewed in this perspective , this basis of the theory of karma appears to be axiomatically true. The reason why this perspective is not scientific is that it doesn’t tell us how this is accomplished. While it may be reasonable to say that there are always some consequences of every action that we perform , it is equally important that the theory of karma must explain how these consequences come about.
The solution offered by the theory of karma is that these consequences come about through reincarnation. An individual can not be immortal. Therefore there is not enough time for all the consequences of each of hers/ his karma to come into effect. For instance , what if an individual were to perform some karma just before her/ his death ? Obviously , the consequences of such an act can not be experienced by that individual because there is not enough time. In order to accommodate this problem , the theory of karma has to postulate that it is the soul of that individual that would have to bear the consequences of the karma that that individual performs just before death. Since the soul is immortal , the problem of shortage of time does not arise. The soul would , according to the theory of karma , would bear the consequences in its next birth. One can see that reincarnation solves the basic dilemma of death intervening in the process of facing consequences of our karmas.
While there is no basis to support such an assumption of soul being the entity that performs and faces the consequences of karma , this assumption fulfills our emotional requirements. On one hand , it individualizes impersonal notion of action to personalized karma since individual soul is responsible for its karma. In Scienve we talk of impersonal notion of action whereas this theory ascribes individual authorship to it and calls it a karma. This transformation from impersonal action to personalized karma enables us to identify ourselves with all the karmas that we perform as our own. On the other hand , it also fulfills our natural sense of justice and redemption. This is precisely what fiction does. It gives us a chance to identify with what characters in fiction are doing and through that identification , the fiction enables us to redeem ourselves. Therefore it is correct to say that reincarnation is a fictionalization of the theory of karma. This theory appeals to us because it makes us believe that we too can redeem ourselves by patiently undergoing the consequences of our past karmas.
Once we accept this interpretation of the theory of karma, the questions that arise are of two types. Firstly , how our belief in the theory of karma changes our behavior? Secondly , does the theory of karma stand up to logical analysis ? In my next blog , I would discuss how our emotional acceptance of the theory of karma has shaped our behavior. In later blogs I would discuss how does the theory of karma stand up to rigorous analysis of logic.