The Concept of Karma in Hinduism
Describe the Hindu doctrine of karma and discuss whether or not you think it offers a reasonable or logical explanation and/or justification for human suffering.
The concept of karma is the fundamental aspect of the Hindu religion. There are versatile Hindu religions and all of them believe in the doctrine of karma. The principle of karma is deep rooted in the Indian psyche since the Vedic times. The karma is well described in Sanskrit texts of Samhitas, Brahmanas, Upanisads and the philosophical schools (Hick, 1994 p-38).The Puranas and the epics have concept of karma in the centre. According to Hindu mythology, Karma is the sum total of the bad and the good work of the people. It represents the collective action of the man. It is these actions that will have result in the future and even afterlife. The word karma has originated from the cognate words- Kartha (Doer), Karthavya ( Duty), Karana (Cause), Karana (instrumental) and so on (Hick, 1988 p- 2)Karma depicts the explanation for ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. It explains the wealthy conditions of the rich people may be due to the good sowing of the persons in the past life. Whereas the poor people are paying back the wrong deeds (Kaufman 2005 p-15). It also believes of the wrong deeds of the persons in past due to which they are suffering. There efficiency of doctrine of karma is the solution of the problems both in India as well as in the west. However, this is referred to as the consistent ‘theodicy’ to answer to the existence of suffering and the presence of evil. The reincarnation and the god’s punishment in karma is the inequalities of human birth (Chadha and Trakakis 2007 p-533).
The karma concept on the human suffering also brings in the existence of god. The word theodicy says the justifying ways of god. The suffering and evil are due to the torture and oppression of the human body and the human spirit. The western theology has given a different explanation for the suffering of the people or the existence of evil (Kaufman 2007 p-558). The doctrine of karma and rebirth is represented in strikingly different ways in the Western, Judeo Christian Islamic and the Indian religious traditions. Indian believes strongly in the idea of multiple human reincarnations. It is frequently claimed as the best explanation on the account of evil and suffering. It is termed as the best metaphysical achievement that can explain the emotions and the intellectual domains related to the human suffering. Apart from the enthusiastic endorsements, the doctrine of karma in its theodicy has received a less importance than the western ideas. The western ideas focus on ‘original sin’. Then again thousands of bibliographic writings are made with the ideas supporting the concept of karma in the context of suffering of people. They believe that the karma and rebirth theory can solve the problems of evil (Kessle., 2002 p-10) The assumption is that the present condition of mankind is regulated with the condition of the past life. Karma rejects the concepts of randomness, injustice or the inequalities. It does not see the present concepts of cause and effects. The doctrine rules the reincarnation with character based, memory based. All of these are the bearing of past (Perrett 1985 p-6).
The Reason for Human Suffering
In the Bhagavad Gita , it already explains the fact of this karma- It says just the person casts off worn out garments and puts a new one, the embodied souls cast off a body and is transmitted to other bodies. According to karma death is not evil. But then question arises why some people have painful and suffering deaths? The idea of karma is often debated in the classical Indian literature and in the modern Indian writings. The modern popular writings are raising an argument behind the concept of karma (Peterson et al, 2012 ch-8)The western religions believe that the souls are not eternal and it is destroyed. A new soul comes into existence with a birth. In this argument the karma concept became more attractive. Hinduism explains karma in describing evil. It is believed that both evil and good are considered to be real and is due to the human free will. The suffering is the self made cause or karma (Thrane 2010 p-340). Karma also says that the suffering due to disease is linked with the personal behaviours like the anger, greed, delusion. It is said that suffering could occur due to the moral evils or by any natural evils. However, the modern philosophy, science brings in new logical explanation behind the reason of man suffering or evil (Livingston 2001 ch-10).
The fundamental question that arises among the philosophers, psychologists and the theologians, who are perplexed and wants to find out the logical reason behind such sufferings and evil. The world’s religions have proposed various explanations behind the existence of evil, death and suffering. But the modern people are still struggling to find out the root cause of all of these. The question arises, that really that existence of god is permitting suffering and evil among some people based on their karma of their previous life. Witnessing reality of human conditions like children being stuck and suffering with cancer or people killed by tsunami, or Siberian people suffering, questions arises. Emotionally and logically the doctrine of karma fits well in explanation of the cause of such sufferings but that can never be the real logical reason. The development of science has already put a question in the existence of the concepts. Physicists and biologists could give some definitive conclusions like the death and suffering are inevitable. Every carbon atoms that makes a human body has originated several billion ago in the stars. The violent explosion with supernova created the heavier elements and the building blocks. The evolution has worked with the freedom in mutation, randomness and natural selection. Thus in the freedom there could be errors in mutation that causes cancer and other diseases. It is said that nature was created from the destruction. This gives the reason for the existence of natural catastrophes. The paradox of existence is governed with the destruction, death that will subject to the birth of new.
Theodicy and Evil in Western and Indian Religious Traditions
The suffering, sadness and depression are due to reasons of the matter of cognitive state or neurological adaptive responses of mind and not anything related to the gods will or karma. The cognitive state of mind explains that it is we who choose to be happy or sad in any depressive condition. The inequality in mankind in suffering is also not a fact of karma but solely due to the genetic differences that we have inherited from our parents. Since our genetic make-up is different, some people are subjected to a disease while the other is resistant to it. This is explained by the scientists as the genetic variation. Genetic variation is also a normal event in nature which is required for the natural selection and evolution. The suffering due to the terrorist attacks, murder and crime is again depended not on the evil but the evil state of cognitive problems that exists in some people. Thus logical explanation over-rules the fact as god being the chess player, playing with our lives. The existence of the evil within and around us is a fragment of balance with the good. The reality of evil is built as the requirement of the life to be.
In this explanation, the new question that arises is with the existence of god. The atheists argue in different issues of the existence of god and the concept of reincarnation. The traditional concept of god is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent. The question arises that if god exists then why is god not preventing the suffering of the people? There have been many responses regarding the problem of evil. There still has been no right logical reason behind it. The first logical response to the problem of evil is due to free will defence. Much of the evil in the world exists as we chose to create it. There still has been no correct logical reason behind the existence of good and evil. Arguments arise when any particular reasoning statement comes up with the logical explanation for the existence of evil and death.
With the doctrine of karma that has ruled the people and the researchers minds with the explanation for the suffering from the omnipotent being, god. The karma explains the deeds of our past life are the result of our suffering. Hindus think of our rebirth and multiple recreations. However, modern science is quite agreeing with the terms though indirectly. The science gives the logical explanation states that suffering is mainly based on our deeds that how e choose to live or act upon any situation. The suffering that is occurring to others is also solely due to the negative and evil thoughts of other people. The suffering due to disease by some is also due to the biological reason. The natural disasters are also a part of a normal process in creation of new.
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Kessler, G.E., 2002. Studying religion: An introduction through cases. McGraw-Hill Humanities.p-10
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Peterson, M., Hasker, W., Reichenbach, B. and Basinger, D., 2012. Reason & religious belief: an introduction to the philosophy of religion. Ch-8
Thrane, S., 2010. Hindu end of life: Death, dying, suffering, and karma. Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing, 12(6), pp.337-342.
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