Friday, 26 March 2010
Originally posted March 21, 2010 @ 10:53 PM.
Part One: KARMA --- Part Two: JUSTICE --- Part Three: GRACE
There are many ideas that have been going on for centuries and more that try to explain why things happen. Many are simplistic and many are very complicated. But all attempt to grasp the notion that when we choose to do something - whether good or bad - there are consequences. Oddly enough, many have not failed to notice that even the most genuine of choices have seemed to result in far worse endings. Even stranger are the bad things done that have the reverse effects!
Now, I won't claim that I can tell you why some things happen. I won't say "this" was the result of "that", end of story. It's not always so simple. While some things are quite obvious - if you stand out in the rain, you'll get wet - others are not always so easy to comprehend - why loving and firm-minded parents can still have a child who grows up to be bad and reckless. But what I hope to explain in this short series is how God intercedes for us both in the immediate and in the long-term. How things that ought to happen do not, and how things that should not have happened do sometimes happen anyway.
"What goes around, comes around" is the stereotypical message of karma. Karma, despite having an assortment of fundamental differences in the schools of thoughts and religions that employ it, is the idea that for every good thought or action, there will be a good result returned to the individual, and so on for every bad choice. It's like a boomerang. Unless you just completely throw it into the ground, typically however you may throw it, it's going to come right back to you. (DUCK if you're not very good at catching things.)
The general consensus behind all the different schools of thought (i.e.: Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, etc) is that "karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts" . (Although, Jainism does differ greatly on this in that karma is viewed more like the Force as mentioned by Qui-gon in Star Wars: Episode 1. Sort of.) Buddhism does take into account the motives behind the actions, but also makes a point to cite that ignorance can result in the opposite result than intended. And in Spiritism, the spirit, prior to reincarnation, can choose when to suffer for past wrongs.
But in short, "karma is [the] action and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction. Karma is a law in itself, which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external, independent ruling agency" . "[Karma] more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect. ... That is to say, a particular action now is not binding to some particular, pre-determined future experience or reaction; it is not a simple, one-to-one correspondence of reward or punishment. ... The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response" . Now, there is certainly a lot more to this topic, but where does this leave those of us who believe that there is more than some boomerang-Force of cause-and-effect in action?
In the Bible, John tells of this story:
As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. "Rabbi," His disciples ask Him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents' sin?"  HOLD THE PHONE! Isn't that interesting? Even the disciples way of thinking was similar to the idea that suffering is due to "bad karma". Someone - either the man or his parents - had sinned. Why else would the guy be blind? Jesus had a curious reply for them, though.
"It was not because his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered. "This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the One who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world."
Then He spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man's eyes. He told him, "Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "sent"). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! 
Jesus' words must have sounded so odd. Up until that point, the idea that anyone would suffer needlessly was apparently absurd. If you didn't do anything wrong, why are bad things happening to people? Jesus' reply was that this was so God's power could be shown to them in as plain a moment as we can see the sun rising. If we really want to go back and find out why people suffer, we have to acknowledge the destructive power of sin running its course through all of humanity. In general, sin was to blame; specifically no one sinned so that that man had to be born blind. The disciples were looking for a direct cause that produced the related effect of blindness and Jesus was telling them, "There is none."
So where does that leave us? If bad things can happen for no immediately obvious reason and it just happens to be so that God can somehow show us He's real, why does God not simply put up a big, tacky, 1970s neon sign and say, "Guess Who?!" instead of letting us suffer? To answer that, in part two of my series, I'm going to address the similar concept of justice. Stay tuned.
OTHER SOURCES (unused):
The book of Job in the Bible