by Karen Moreton

Which gets your vote?

Karma versus compassion

photo illustration

While I was sitting in the shade after a morning session at pony club, one of the ladies came and sat beside me and casually started to chat. Her mother has been in hospital for many months after another driver nearly wiped her out on the highway. It seems her mum may never walk again — may never return to her farm again, and this has got my friend thinking about the bigger questions. I’m going to let you eavesdrop on part of our conversation…

“Do you believe in Karma?” She asked curiously.

“Well I’ve always felt Karma is a cruel philosophy. Karma says that every child that has been abused, every wife that has been bashed, every person dying prematurely deserves it. How can we say to victims of abuse, ‘you had it coming’?”

“Yeah that’s pretty negative. Well what do you believe?” she questioned me.

“I believe in mercy. Mercy says to the suffering, ‘Let me help you, let me support you, let me encourage … I’m here for you!”

“Actually, when you put it like that,” she continued, “It makes me realise that when it’s my time to die and meet the man upstairs, I hope He treats me with mercy and not Karma!”

It’s interesting to think about. A lot of people treat faith like a smorgasbord and don’t realise that cannot work. A faith is a set of answers to life’s ultimate questions and each set fits together as a group. Let me explain; if you own a horse it will have four legs, hooves, a mane and a tail. If you have a bird it will have a beak, wings and feathers. If you own a dog it has fur, paws and smelly breath! If you try to mix them — like having a horse with wings, paws and a beak, you get a fantasy but nothing based in reality, because their components go together and don’t mix and match. Faith is the same…

The Christian faith believes in the Creator of the universe and the Creator has a personal compassionate interest in His creation. He stands for love, forgiveness, mercy and justice. To those who have rebelled against Him (and all of us have) He offers mercy; but only if they give Him their lives and ask for His forgiveness. But those who are resolute in doing wrong, who scoff at forgiveness, for them God promises justice - and justice is scary to those on the wrong side of the law.

The Eastern religions don’t believe in a God who is interested and involved in his creation; but rather their pantheon has a hierarchy of millions of gods who together make ‘the power of the universe’. Karma somehow ensures everyone gets paid back for what they have done, either from this life or a previous one which they have no recollection of. There is no forgiveness, love, mercy or heaven in this belief system. Karma is one of the components in the set we call Hinduism.

One of the most fascinating books I have read is THE DEATH OF A GURU, the autobiography of a Hindu priest Rabi Maharaj. He was raised in an extremely devout Hindu family; he and his father were regarded as Avatars (living gods) by their community. His story unfolds in captivating detail but after many experiences he became disillusioned in Karma by four things:

1. How is it that 95% of the billion plus people in India are trying to live a good life so they go up in the Karma scale, yet 95% of Indians are born back into slums and abject poverty? Karma’s math doesn’t work.

2. He felt the idea of Karma made him a worse person because if he was kind or showed mercy to the poor he was interfering with their Karma. But if he left them to their Karmic fate, wasn’t he being unmerciful and therefore deserving of bad Karma himself? Karma contradicted itself.

3. He struggled for years with a violent temper and wanted to quit smoking but he became exasperated because he could not overcome his weaknesses. He questioned, “If I am so devout, why do I find no power to help me in my personal life?”

4. Lastly, he questioned, “If I am on the right track, then why, though I spend more and more hours every day meditating, do I find I have less and less inner peace?”

These questions stirred Rabi to really question his mystic faith. His story turned when twice he was in a life and death situation (once cornered by a striking cobra, and once when his appendix burst). Both times as he realised he was dying, his mother’s words came back to him; “Rabi if ever you are in a situation where our gods don’t help you... call out to the God called ‘Jesus’ and he will help you.” Both times Rabi called out “Jesus” and miraculously lived. Rabi eventually turned away from his former beliefs and turned to the God of the Bible and found the peace, power and mercy he had been searching for.

I hope this gives you food for thought. I wish you certainty and truth in life’s big questions.

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