Author Topic: Karma- overused/misunderstood?  (Read 5365 times)

Offline marymargaret (OP)

Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« on: June 01, 2014, 01:01:37 AM »
Hello. I'm not a Buddhist but I have spent some time reading about it. It appears that Westerners have a different take on some of the concepts. Maybe those of you who have a better understanding could offer your opinion.

One thing that annoys the heck out of me is hearing some one gloat over another person's problems by saying "it's karma" or "what goes around - comes around". They act as if there's a cosmic scorekeeper or god punishing people. I don't share this belief- I understand the basic meaning of karma as simply action. I get the cause and effect aspect, but I think it's more about the variables in play. Status, culture, and public opinion determine the outcome more than any metaphysical concept.

I visited a Buddhist site and by reading the threads on the subject- it's a hot button subject. They seem divided on the technicalities and how rebirth comes into play.  I'm curious how an atheist leaning Buddhist sees it.

   

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. � Steven Weinberg

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2014, 01:11:25 AM »
I don't know that I lean Buddhist, but I tend to think in the western instant-Karma way: if you treat people like shit they are going to treat you the same way. I know this isn't actually "karma" (it has nothing to do with rebirth and all that) but that is how most Americans use the term--to simply mean "your actions have repercussions".
"Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches" Voltaire�s Candide

Offline Hijiri Byakuren

  • ULC Minister, Honorary Doctor of Divinity
  • *
  • Posts: 5148
  • Total likes: 1755
  • That's DOCTOR Hijiri, to you!
    • The Lore Of Samsara
Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2014, 01:13:43 AM »
It's just as much woo as the idea of gods, and I'm content to leave it at that.

Offline marymargaret (OP)

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2014, 01:28:57 AM »
I don't know that I lean Buddhist, but I tend to think in the western instant-Karma way: if you treat people like shit they are going to treat you the same way. I know this isn't actually "karma" (it has nothing to do with rebirth and all that) but that is how most Americans use the term--to simply mean "your actions have repercussions".

I understand your point- cause and effect. It fits in many cases, but it also depends on the people/circumstances. There's a phrase- " No good deed goes unpunished". It sounds cynical but there are those who enjoy taking advantage of well meaning people. We have an epidemic of bullying, for example. I suppose those people get targeted because they don't fit into the social norms. People then explain that this is due to past lives nonsense and they deserve the abuse. I think belief in karma and rebirth can rob people of empathy and encourage indifference.
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. � Steven Weinberg

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2014, 02:50:43 AM »
All I know about karma is 1) it decays 2) it does tons of damage to you if you have a lot of swamps in play

I'm not very religious.

Offline SGOS

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2014, 07:09:49 AM »
Before I ever heard of Karma, I remember being taught the fundamentals of the Christian Hell by one of those vindictive Christian types that would gloat with an evil smile, while she explained about all the non-Christians who would burn and suffer in Hell for not accepting her god.

As Drunkenshoe pointed out, the concept of Karma seems to be universal.  People want to see other people punished, usually for things that the watchers don't like, but sometimes just for the enjoyment of watching others get punished.  It's starts early in life with children who like to "get others in trouble at school." 

Hell is like the ultimate Karma.  All those bastards that pissed you off during your lifetime get sent there, while you are vindicated by being the last man standing.  And Hell isn't just some random consequence.  It is totally assured by an imaginary all seeing all powerful score keeper that records all the things they did that you didn't like.  The all powerful score keeper thus does your bidding, and makes all those bastards permanently sorry forever for pissing you off.  In Christianity, Karma in the form of Heaven or Hell, are not just things that exist.  Their dynamics are even explained.

This ultimate Karma is just one of many juicy carrots that make Christianity and other whacky religions such a seductive belief.  They appeal to universal needs one would invent for their own perfect world.

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2014, 09:06:27 AM »
What goes around comes around. I don't know that karma can be described or defined as a natural law, but life does seem to balance the scales.

Offline aitm

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2014, 09:32:05 AM »
People like the idea of karma because it obviously means ass-holes get their just "reward" sooner or later. But rarely do we suggest karma when a person is nice and friendly to us. Its karma bitch, it what we say when the ass-holes finds a large dent in their car and no one to blame. But when a nice person gets a nice surprise we call that luck most of the time. We hope karma smacks the ass-holes but figure luck is for the nice people....or not.
A humans desire to live is exceeded only by their willingness to die for another. Even god cannot equal this magnificent sacrifice. No god has the right to judge them.-first tenant of the Panotheust

Offline marymargaret (OP)

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2014, 11:42:02 AM »
I agree- karma does seem to be applied according to one's biased view. It's just the same carrot and stick tool used by all religions. I do think there is an elegance and logic that governs (not sure if that's the right word to use) the universe. Have any of you seen the movie, Cloud Atlas? I don't think it got great reviews but I loved it so much that I read the book, too. The movie and book were done in an unusual format that skipped from 6 characters' lives and how their actions affected others. This is how I see karma. Our actions as individuals and as cultures create the future for those who follow. We have a huge responsibility. I think religion trivializes it. What we allow to grow will become dominate forces that create our living conditions. I think many in power understand this and employ those skilled in manipulation. I hope I don't sound too "out there" in my first post but I think this is the only group where you can talk about this stuff without having an avalanche of religious dogma bury the OP. Thanks for so many thoughtful responses.
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. � Steven Weinberg

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2014, 11:51:11 AM »
Modern Buddhism and it various schools have been corrupted by other religions and even though some aspects of what Buddha taught are still taught, there were no prayer, rituals, spirits, though shall not's written in stone, or a belief in God. Buddha never believed he was a god or had divine help in his teachings. In later life he said death was like blowing out a candle. I've been told by modern Buddhist that the western mind cannot understand Buddhism, and he didn't mean what he said. Outside of being so arrogant, how else can it be interpreted as being non existence? In Hinduism he is considered one of the gods. He died eating poison mushrooms, not very spiritual, or mental to me. I think his original teaching are a good philosophy to live by, and his suggestions on how to do it, but not absolute rules, also good. Basically he is saying live life to the fullest and do everything in moderation, don't worry about metaphysical subjects, and relax. Solitary
There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

Online Mr.Obvious

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2014, 12:06:17 PM »
The problem is that a lot of people who don't believe in actual 'karma' still subcontiously believe in a moral well-orderedness of society. Basically, we designate moral worth to everyone on the basis of two different processes. On the one side we want to give everyone the same moral worth, as through basic human rights or citizen rights. But subconsciously we form a hierarchy of attributes which we give more or less moral worth to. We link these attributes to visual factors; like appearance or a very visual family drama etc. ... Because of this inane belief in a well-orderedness we justify the linking these attributes to these visual factors and thus the devision of moral worth to those factors. Basically, we justify our own preconceptions.

(Sayer, A. (2005). Class, Moral Worth and Recognition. Sociology, 93, 947-963.)
« Last Edit: June 01, 2014, 12:08:03 PM by Mr.Obvious »
E = Mc²

In the end, we are all standing in the dark,
trying to figure out why we are here.
But let us not choose one direction
without proof of where it is headed.

Check your pocket for matches
so we can observe and learn together
as fast friends and relative idiots.

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2014, 05:32:27 PM »
The whole "what goes around, comes around" has some very valid reasoning behind it.
It has nothing to do with karma or transcendental stuff. Basically, if you're an asshole, eventually someone else is going to be an even bigger asshole to you in return, either as a consequence of your assholery, or as a consequence of pure chance.
I typically see this in bad drivers. Someone cuts me off and causes me to slam on the brakes. My immediate emotional reaction is one to get mad at them, but I reason my way out of that emotion by rationalizing the fact that they will eventually cause an accident and hopefully not injure someone, and as a result learn a lesson and drive better.

On the flip side of assholery is being a leader by example. That is what I personally strive to do. When others see you as a model and start shaping their behavior to be more like you in order to better themselves is when you know you have an actual positive impact on people. That is a big part of my job, just so I don't say it is contingent on it.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2014, 05:34:21 PM by Shol'va »

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2014, 06:40:31 PM »
People justify all manner of dumb shit from murder to swiping things at stores by saying things like, "They had it coming because [insert bullshit]."  Karma is just another excuse for bad behavior because most people believe the dumb shit they do isn't actually dumb shit. The same applies to peoples self perception of their own intelligence. Some of the dumbest fucks you meet believe they're smarter than everyone else.
I understand the concept behind karma, but I also know a lot of shitheads who continually get away with rotten shit and never seem to pay a price for it. Likewise I know good, decent people who seem to always pay the price for the shitheads. Luckily most people are pretty decent because if they weren't the worlds population would probably decrease dramatically.
All hail my new signature!

Admit it. You're secretly green with envy.

Offline PickelledEggs

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2014, 06:44:18 PM »
Karma is real, but I don't think it has anything to do with "energy" or some similar bullshit. It's just another way of saying "word travels fast".

If you do something good, chances are someone will spread the word that you're a nice person. If you do something to be a dick, someone will spread the word that your are a belligerent asshole.
"Tell Pilate to release the files!!!" - Bill Hicks
"I have an open mind, but not so open that my brains will fall out" -James Randi
"One who truly hates himself cannot love, he cannot place his trust in another." - NGE

Offline Shiranu

Re: Karma- overused/misunderstood?
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2014, 07:40:27 PM »
I don't think "negative" karma will necessarily effect the doer, nor "positive". Imo it's a way of saying that one's "negative" action will cause a negative action at a further point in time; I bully a kid, he grows up to be a bully, who's kid grows up to be a bully, etc.. Or I give a guy money, who then is in a happy mood and helps a woman who stumbled, who feels nicer than normal and donates to a charity, who...

“Life isn't long enough to enjoy and understand all at the same time. You have to decide which is more important." - Pedro Juan Gutierrez

"Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be." - Miguel de Cervantes