Karma and Christian Providence. Misunderstandings about karma in the West.
Good day Dharma friends,
Some people speak of “good” karma much like other’s speak of providence, or rewards of good-works. But I sometimes wonder if karma is somewhat like thermodynamics,
by implying that so-called “bad” karma (and I wince to use such a judgmental word)
is like heat, and karma which is neutral or having no-recourse is like cold....which in
thermodynamics is actually the absence of heat. Thus, there is karma that is some kind of energy/seed that needs to be worked out; and there is no-karma. This is very, very different than Christian providence.
(maybe even Judaic....thinking that the story of Job is about faith, obedience and providence)
I was thinking of an acquaintance of mine recently. He has been an ardent, practicing buddhist (and teacher of same) for decades, and many years ago gave up a career in the medical/pharmaceutical business to take up the environmental cause of restoration of wildlife (particularly song birds) in the impacted urban/suburban regions of Utah. Leave it to say, a non-profit community group provided him a modest income, but no security. (ahh, the wisdom of insecurity)
Way back then, his change in career lead to a divorce. It didn’t cause the divorce but was indicative of many changes in his life at that time. Later he remarried, and he and his spouse were loved, noteworthy figures in the local environmental and buddhist communities.
A few years ago, the spouse inherited a more-than-modest estate from her parents, and then sadly, she died of cancer just over a year ago. He, coming to retirement age was still not showing much materially/economically for his right livelihood/efforts (no retirement plan in the NPO). But, he was fortunate inasmuch as he was able to retire from the inheritance of his spouse’s estate. Neither were directly responsible for the creation of this financial resource, but nonetheless “blessed” to be recipients.
One might say that the untiring, compassionate efforts resulted in today’s modern cultural axiom of “what goes around, comes around” although that was never his motivation.
But, such a scenario does invite us to reflect on whether we (and maybe particularly western-culture human beings) equate terms of karma and christian providence too closely.
If you look at an original definition of providence, it implies a very marginal divine assistance (God provided them just enough to survive the harsh winter); whereas modern culture has morphed it into abundant divine assistance.
But karma doesn’t seem to be this way. And I often see karma as “seeds” coming from the fruits of previous thoughts, beliefs, words and actions; that sprout under right conditions. But, admittedly it implies something coming to fruition requiring release/purifying, letting go; otherwise, conditions are content to produce new seeds. That suggests a more “negative” aspect of karma. Is your first thought, upon hearing "You reap what you sew" some negatively tinged?
And “good” karma is like no-karma.....no baggage....no trace.
Other TreeLeafer’s thoughts?
Should karma ever be seen as other than energy/seed that manifests under an appropriate condition, resulting in fruition ?
I know we’ve touched on karma in previous strings. I suppose I am interested to know if y’all have a knee-jerk reaction to beliefs in providence (or the lack of it....as some of you have shared some rather difficult stories lately) and how you attempt to “see” or “live” within karma in your ordinary and extraordinary experiences.