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Karma

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The Pandava prince Arjuna chooses to have the ...

The Pandava prince Arjuna chooses to have the unarmed Krishna as his charioteer rather than the reinforcement of Krishna's large army - via Wikipedia

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, karma is a theory that’s often forwarded by intellectual and religious fundamentalists as an unshakable fact.

It’s probably most accurate to call karma a belief. Whether or not it’s a true or false belief, this is for God to know and us to, perhaps, find out.

The belief in karma involves a kind of a cosmic justice system, which includes another belief, namely, reincarnation.

According to most doctrines of reincarnation, ethically good thoughts and actions are positively rewarded, whereas evil ones meet with negative rewards. Moreover, the effects of good and bad thoughts and deeds may transfer from one lifetime to the next.

But the situation is complex. Rewards and retribution may come about in a given lifetime, or they may occur in afterlife realms (i.e. heavens and hells).

Both scholars and yogis say that the law of karma is not entirely deterministic. At every moment in the karmic chain (i.e. deeds and their outcomes), one has free will.

One may always choose one’s attitude and action, regardless of past actions and attitudes. Ignorance of this supreme personal freedom tends to bind one to a condition that might be comparable to the ‘bad faith’ of Existentialism.

According to J.-P. Sartre, bad faith is the slavish devotion to an inauthentic life, to ideals and outcomes not truly one’s own. Instead of passionately choosing one’s ideals and commitments, the man or woman of bad faith just toes the line. He or she may gain a sense of economic security, but essentially loses that which makes us most fully human: our integrity, creativity and freedom.

In theistic schools of thought, karma is further complicated by the idea that personal devotion and God’s grace may, at any time, lessen or release one from the effects of accumulated bad karma.

This final complication is noted by the Indologist Wendy Doniger in her discussion of karma transfer, and is colorfully illustrated in biographical accounts of the Hindu holy man, Sri Ramakrishna.

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