This morning, I saw a tweet on “karma” from Connie Jakab, a dear friend. It had just three words: “Karma is stupid” with a link to her latest blog post.
I immensely respect Connie. She is an author, social justice crusader and passionate about removing poverty. In short: she is an amazing woman, a loving wife (her husband is a good friend too) and a great mother.
The headline got me interested (good work Connie!), so I went to her site to read the post.
After finishing, I let out a sigh! I agree with every word Connie has written on the karmic principle, but here is the problem: the karma she talks about doesn’t exist as a principle in the Indian karmic philosophy.
Connie has written about karma based on the way the word and the karmic concept have evolved in the West (not her personal doing), in a very linear pattern:
– You don’t recycle, karma will come kick you in the butt
– You lie, you will get punished
– You work hard, you will become rich
– You lazy around, you won’t have enough for retirement, and so on…
Connie is correct when she says:
“What if I do good and horrible things happen to me? What if a dear one dies? I get fired because of a misunderstanding that wasn’t my fault? I get dumped by my significant other? I get in a car accident?”
Her questions are those of a logical mind. The principle of karma doesn’t make sense in this context and kudos to Connie for standing up for logic.
Now here is the real deal: Karma is not what the West has made it out to be. There is no classification called good karma and bad karma! As I wrote in my last blog piece there is an inherent danger in culturally appropriating a concept, a ritual and a philosophy.
The philosophy of Karma is integral to the philosophy of Yoga, but the way Yoga and its philosophy are evolving in the West, such confusions and rejections are bound to happen.
If you have been following my blog, I wrote in my very first post on Yoga:
The way Yoga has evolved in the west, it has come to be associated with only one aspect – the physical body poses, called the asanas. The word Yoga is interchangeably used for asanas, which is not correct. Though very important to the discipline of Yoga, the asanas themselves don’t define Yoga; they find their meaning within the complete philosophy of Yoga.
So, when you take a slice of the holistic Yoga philosophy, and work on that one aspect, the contradictions are sure to arise.
And that was the reason I wrote my last blog post: Stop cultural appropriation of Yoga: Yoga is all about Hinduism, albeit without the ism. The post invited over 100 comments and a spirited debate about Yoga ownership and Yoga appropriation. But my principal argument was to point out that such appropriation has inherent dangers, where people armed with half-baked knowledge and practice of a vast philosophy can end up confused or even harmed – philosophically and emotionally. (Even though I got Yoga philosophy in cultural heritage and I’ve consciously applied it in my life, I still claim no perfect mastery.)
What Connie has written is absolutely correct. I congratulate her for pointing out the anomalies in the Karmic philosophy as seen from a western perspective. And by western perspective, I just don’t mean the perspective of a White person who practices a non-Eastern faith. I am referring to any person from any faith, including those from Eastern religions, who don’t practice, believe or understand Yoga philosophy in its entirety.
Connie hasn’t rejected karma; she has rejected the concept as propagated in the West. I stand with her. I reject it too. Because the way karma has evolved in the West, as a cool, exotic thing to say and blame things on, doesn’t make any sense.
Karmic philosophy is like a well-composed beautiful song. When you read, understand, apply and live the karmic philosophy, it is music to the soul. When you take the lyrics, the tune, the voice, the music all-apart, the philosophy falls apart too. You can’t have just one component of a good song and desire the same effect.
So, what is Karma?
Wait for part two of this post. I promise I’ll post soon.
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Hi Anu ,
I don’t know how you got an impression that Connie has not rejected the Karma philosophy because after reading last three paragraph of her blog I felt she rejects the Karma philosophy because it doesn’t “give way to reach road of love.” Anyways I am too bad at reading between lines.
I follow your blogs and really like them. Waiting to learn more about Karma !
Because she doesn’t understand karmic philosophy, because karma is not what West has made it to be, because karmic philosophy has layers, intricate philosophical patterns, and the biggest belief of all – reincarnation. And again, reincarnation not as the West understands it – not you (Parikshit) or me (Anu) taking rebirths, but the cycle of life and death of our Consciousness that hasn’t recognized the reality of the Brahm. She has based her piece on the western idea of karma – hit the ball and it lands a certain distance. Karmic principle isn’t linear or that simplistic. I will explain more in my following post. It is a challenge to say it concisely in one blog post, but I am going to try – thanks for engaging, I really appreciate it.
Precisely , when I couldn’t found any mention of reincarnation and many such concepts I was shocked ! I thought how can someone say something is stupid without knowing the basics !
But now I understand the western (or may be her) idea of Karma . I never had that simplistic view on Karma so her comparison (understanding ) of Karmic philosophy with Jesus Christ’s teaching shocked me !
That is why a lot of people (including me) warm about the dangers of cultural appropriation. People translate it to mean that “we” are screaming ownership, and miss the whole point. It is like I met someone who was on Yogi path and was a yoga teacher. I generally referred to him as a guru and he took great offence to it. To him, Guru was just for his own teacher. I tried to explain the vast nature and usage of the word guru, but he had understood the word just for one person, so he stuck to it. I felt very odd talking in Yogic terms and calling him a teacher. But I understood his perspective as well – it is hard to understand the nuances of a culture, from outside, and also as an adult, but the key is to keep the mind open and not “take away” only what suits the perception.
Karma is surely there in life, u do good u get good and u do worse u get the same. I love this quote – When a BIRD is alive, it eats ants…when the bird is dead, ants eat the bird! Time and circumstances can change at any time…Lets not devalue or hurt anyone in Life…We may be powerful today…But remember, TIME is more powerful, one tree makes a million match sticks.. But when time comes….only one match stick is needed to burn a million trees…lets be good and do good earthlings!!!!!!!!
What goes around, Comes Around! WATCH OUT and check – are you mean, argumentative, bossy, putting others at fault always, doing bad to others, ……….soon u will know 😉
Thanks for your comments Eye Opener. What I referred to here is the Karma as laid down in the Indian scriptures which is very layered and complicated and definitely too huge a topic to address in a single post. That is why my (yet) reluctance to write about it as a blog post.
Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re making someone else’s life miserable. Watch out, karma ALWAYS comes back.
Well, wishing ill of someone who has done bad to you also results in bad karmic activity for the person wishing it. That is why I said karmic philosophy is not linear. It is very interesting and a real eye opener to understand why things happen.
I believe that when someone does ill to us that person does not know that Karma will come back to them. Its not that we want bad for them as well, but yet we remember them that what they did and how they made us feel, and they say if god likes u, he surely gives u a chance to show how they are screwed in return without your input but due to their own immature mistakes. So basically we don’t have to think or do ill of anyone in return, let people do what they do, soon time will show us all what brings what next.
Also, we should not think Silence of others means they are weak, they say ;those who bluff the most, are the most who needs what they are bluffing to others. Silence has power, do not ignore it without its fruitful eye openers.