Continuing the discussion from Why only one life and not many lives to receive God's grace?:
The topic of ‘reincarnation’ from a previous thread has lead to the discussion of ‘karma’. There seem to be only a few resources that have looked into this at depth.
Where do you all see karma fall short with its logic and relevance? I think there are many areas to explore as we think about issues with karma - identity of man, holiness of God, purpose of creation, ethical motivation, justice, suffering, redemption, unity, stewardship, righteousness, mechanisms of karma – administration, method of atonement, its evidence.
What follows is a summary of my understanding of karma. Look forward to some thoughts on this! Thank you!
Understanding Karma (Dvaita view)
What it means: Just as in nature we observe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the law of karma states that every action of moral responsibility also has a reaction that operates through multiple lifetimes. The reactions are determined by the intentions of actions, with bad karma being produced by selfish intentions and good karma being produced by selfless intentions.
How it works: The law of karma is considered to be impartial and inexorable and to act on all living entities indiscriminately. Its purpose is not considered to be retributive, but its purpose is to sanctify. Different karmas take different times for the fruition of reaction due to free-will, god’s purpose and his timing. Karma is not considered completely fatalistic. While bad karma have pre-determined and fixed reactions, the response to the reaction can be controlled by free will and so spiritual orientation is encouraged to allow wise choices that produce good karma and forgiveness of bad karma. This philosophy emphasizes dharma (loving service/duty/right course of action) even at the face of injustice with a focus of purifying intention rather than evading karmic reaction. Changing health, reading, eating, meditation habits are encouraged to increase the chances of man choosing good karma. The new family into which a soul is born into depends on the interplay of karma of the soul and its new family. Good karma alone is not considered to produce liberation but only temporary elevation. As a soul learns to spiritually orient itself, god has mercy on the truly repentant and promises forgiveness and liberation out of the cycle of birth and death.
Types of karma:
Actions that are performed in terms of one’s prescribed duties, as mentioned in the revealed scriptures, are called karma .
Actions that free one from the cycle of birth and death are called akarma (devotional selfless service).
And actions that are performed through the misuse of one’s freedom and that direct one to the lower life forms are called vikarma .
God disciplines those he loves through the process of karma as a loving parent. People will hold themselves accountable to their moral actions only if there is a specific consequence, which is fulfilled through the law of karma. Past-life karma is used to explain the afflictions of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked and the differential distribution of physical, emotional, spiritual, social status at birth.
Answers to some criticisms:
Not everyone knows about karma : Ignorance of gravity is no excuse to not be hurt by disobeying its law. A man is expected to learn about law of karma on birth.
It is payment for unknown karma : Remembering all the actions of all the lifetimes that are causing the suffering can overwhelm a soul and will not help in producing a good response.
It provides no consolation for the suffering : The philosophical explanation of suffering as karma, must come only after initial acts of love (dharma) to alleviate suffering. The way to go through suffering is taking shelter in god as no suffering can take away our core spiritual identity and relationship with god. God doesn’t share in the bodily pain but has concern for the soul’s pain because of his love.
It causes psychological burden to the disabled : The real burden is loss of spiritual realization. Love and spiritual education of disabled will elevate them to better status in next lifetime.
It causes division in society : Caste based division was due to misunderstanding of one’s dharma and the ability to move between castes through spiritual orientation.