THE THEORY OF KARMA AND
I have been writing a series of blogs on the reasons why I am writing my second novel on the theme of reincarnation. In my previous blog I had discussed the theory of karma as a behavioural paradigm. I had suggested that the theory of karma is too complex for our mind to comprehend. Therefore our sages have fictionalized it in the form of reincarnation. I had written that whether the theory of karma is true or not is not important because due its emotional appeal , we would anyway believe it. Therefore the theory of karma is true in psychological sense. This results in a situation where the theory of karma becomes a behavioural paradigm. It is possible to evaluate our behavior in the context of the meaning of the theory of karma and values embedded in it. In order to understand how our belief in the theory of karma shapes our behavior , it is necessary to evaluate our behavior patterns with respect to general consequences of the theory of karma. In my last blog I had selected three most widely held beliefs about karmic theory. They were accepting the inevitability of consequences of one’s karma , absolving oneself from the responsibility of that karma and fatalism. In this blog I would discuss these beliefs in some details.
The cornerstone of karmic theory is that each and every action of an individual creates consequences. More importantly , these consequences are inevitable. The theory of karma , in its purest form , does not provide any method of annulling these consequences. Though , some religious interpretations do provide various forms of atonements , the theory of karma does not. The theory of karma , in that sense, transcends religious beliefs. However , the theory of karma is still a deeply moral theory because it holds sanctity of truth in its core.
This inevitability of the consequences of one’s actions is most widely held belief. Let us see how it shapes our behavior. At a superficial level , this inevitability of consequences of one’s karma makes us defensive in handling challenges of our lives. One is always subconsciously wary of doing something that might have some unfavorable consequences. Thus this belief acts as a moral compass. While this creates some kind social constraint on how we choose to behave , it also discourages any radical course of action that we could have thought of otherwise. As a result , we tend to behave in manner that is harmless in one sense and timid in another sense. It is natural that our civilization has been , by and large , a conformist civilization.
The second most widely held belief in theory of karma is that individual responsibility can be rationalized and that individual concerned can be absolved from such a responsibility. There are two types of reasonings involved in this belief . Firstly ,as mentioned above , the religious interpretations of the theory of karma have articulated a doctrine that one’s bad karma can be annulled by some kind of atonements. Of course what constitutes a bad karma and how it can be atoned , varies from one religious sect to another. The details may vary but the principle does not. If you were to think about it minutely , you would realize that this notion of bad karma and it’s atonement is not logically consistent. Ideally , if you were to commit a good karma as an atonement of a bad karma , you would set in two sets of consequences by your actions. One chain of consequences arising from bad karma and another chain of consequences arising from good karma. It is not necessary that one chain of consequences would nullify the second chain of consequences. The key insight in this dilemma is that the idea of annulling of bad karma by atonement works not because it is logical. The idea works because it appeals to our emotions. It is our psychological compulsion to feel guilty and seek catharsis that makes this idea of atonements so popular.
The second reasoning behind the popularity of absolving oneself from responsibility for the consequences of bad karma is based on inevitability of karmic cycle. The logic behind this is labeled as determinism in philosophy. The argument is that if the theory of karma is true , then consequences would follow no matter what we do. Since the bad karma could have been performed in one’s past incarnation and therefore it can not be changed. Thus we can always console and condone ourselves simply by pointing out our inability to change our karmic past. Strangely , this form of karmic determinism provides us with an escape route from blaming ourselves. In turn , we tend to condone most of the bad things that we do in our lives and what others do to us.
The fallacy of this logic lies in the fact that the theory of karma is not about individual egos but about the universe at large. Therefore our attempts at an individual level to rationalize our bad karmas is a subjective interpretation. It has beneficial effects on our psyche. It soothes our our sense of guilt. Therefore it is , like our belief in theory of karma , is a psychological truth.
This brings me to third belief of fatalism. The karmic determinism that I mentioned above is a form of fatalism. Fatalism is a belief that our past , present and future are already decided. Fatalism denies any possibility of changing the our own fate.It helps us to accommodate conflicting consequences of two other beliefs. If consequences of karma are inevitable then there is no way individual can absolve herself/ himself. However the fatalism , in the form of karmic determinism , enables us to believe in these two contradictory beliefs simultaneously.
This brings me to the topic of my next blog. I mentioned above that the theory of karma is not about individuals but it is about the universe at large. What does this assertion really mean ? To understand that , I would discuss the complexities of karmic theory and the extent of individual ownership of bad karmas in this theory in my next blog.
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