If everthing that happens is a result of karma…

26 Jul

If everything that happens is a result of karma…

…then why should you have compassion for someone who was murdered?

Let’s get to a real world example:

If Daniel Pearl’s throat was slit ear to ear by Muslims extremists, according to the concept of karma, quite literally, wasn’t he was getting exactly what he deserverd? Wasn’t this the karmic fruition of his previous actions?

Is this what all Buddhists are really saying? If not, then what am I missing?

This is where the jump from embracing the benefits of meditation to embracing faith-based ideas like reincarnation and karm quickly leads to dangerous ideas!

It’s a slippery slope, man!


I had this thought while seeing a live presentation tonight from Robina Courtin, a world famous Buddhist nun, known for her blunt and to-the-point teaching style. I wanted to ask her how can you have compassion for someone who was murdered since their karma dictates they’re simply getting what they deserve, but honestly, she is quite intimidating. Judging from the way she answered other questions from the audience, I was too scared to ask mine for fear that she’d bully me around.

Still though, I want to know the answer. If people who are murdered – and even the people murdering them – are simply fulfilling their karmic “duties” or whatever, then why feel compassion & empathy for them?

eternityIn fact, if you combine the ideas of an infinity existing universe, in which we are all infinitely manifested, infinitely carrying out our karma, in a way…

…doesn’t this make everything pointless?



Never has Buddhism seemed so much like a religion as it does now after seeing this presentation from Robina Courtin.

6 Responses to “If everthing that happens is a result of karma…”

  1. OptimistLab.com July 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Hi Ben,

    Love your questioning, and your line of reasoning. I’m not a big fan of Buddhism myself. I find it to be as repressive as any other organized religion, and also somewhat ironic that many people in the west who adopt Buddhism do it as a rebellion against Christianity–to me, same bed, different sheets.

    As to your specific question, can’t tell you how a Buddhist would explain/justify it obviously, but I do think you’ve come across some sort of flaw in logic. Persoanlly I don’t beleive in karma, tho I do believe in reincarnation.

    The empathy and compassion thing? I believe it comes naturally with spiritual development, so no need to force it. In fact the focus on e/c reminds me very much of Christianity’s take on forgiveness.

    In essence e/c and forgiveness are a natural consequence of growth, but both religions misuse them, and turn them into essentially a tool to control followers, with guilt being the mechanism of control.

    I’ve also noticed that the most helpful spiritual teachers are those in who’s presence you feel inspired and accepted. My take on a religious teacher who gives the impression of bullying, is that that person is actually bullying themselves, forcing themselves to adhere to strict externally imposed religious rules and regs, that don’t actually mesh with what I think of as the True Self.

    But essentially, I think that IS the problem with organized religion, it asks, actually demands, that one follow its rules, rather than follow one’s own internal guidance.

    I think that’s why I like your post, becuae I like that you are thinking through, and getting in touch with yourself about this, instead of just blindly accepting the doctrine.

    Anyway, I’m new to your blog, and I’m looking forward to seeing more!

    Cardin Lilly

  2. Ben July 26, 2007 at 5:45 pm #


    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I hope you stick around and participate often. 🙂

    I can accept the idea that compassion and empathy could flow naturally from spiritual development, but from the standpoint of a Buddhist perspective, I feel like I’m stuck in some circular argument; this idea of karma seems to be robbing everything of any inherent meaning or effect on others it might have.

    This Buddhist teacher talked about nuns who were imprisoned, raped, and tortured for 2 years. But once it was all said and done, they had compassion for these monsters. This is amazing and I’m not sure if I find it beautiful or sick. But here’s what really disturbs me- these women who were raped and tortured felt that this was happening because of their own karma.

    This completely blows my mind!

    If Buddhists believe that the horrible atrocities against these women are the result of the actions, thoughts, and intentions built up from these ladies previous lives, how does compassion fit in with this perspective? Why feel compassion when it’s no more relevant to what’s happening than if you felt jealously, happiness, rage, or hatred?


  3. penitus luminarium August 22, 2007 at 10:45 am #

    hi ben ,
    you know what ? everything that we can imagine ,sense, see, hear, smell, touch etc. is already here . from lovely things to murder to quantum physics and beyond.
    my feel in this is what do we choose for , even on an unconscious level , what doe we really focus on, what’s in our mind , those will be the energies that show up in your life.
    it all comes down to feeling ,focus and choices if you really analize it all, although I’m aware this is all very simplified into words.
    there is a whole range of all kinds of energies to this concept ,for which we don’t even have words for but I hope you can understand what i mean.
    thanks for your blog being around ben.

    safe journey 🙂

  4. Oneironaught August 24, 2007 at 9:23 pm #

    There is more than one meaning to the word ‘karma’. Many Buddhists and Hindus accept the literal take on it – ie. you get what you deserve, karma is retributive, all gets balanced. I do not accept the literal view. Karma can be translated as ‘volitional formations’ and these as a whole make up the fourth skanda or grouping of things that make up a person (the others being body, feelings, perceptions, and consciousness). Every time you act, whether in word or deed, an imprint is left in the mind. The net result of these imprints is to determine your future actions and NOT what happens to you. This more philosophical interpreation of karma suggests that you carry in your mind a set of probabilities that affect your future actions and (due to the law of inter-dependence) your body, feeelings, perceptions, and consciousness.

  5. Ben August 30, 2007 at 1:21 am #

    The idea of karma is certainly a bottleneck for me in my, I don’t want to say “induction” but perhaps “exploration” of Buddhism… thanks for this different perspective. I can agree that every time you act, whether in word or deed, an imprint is left on the mind, and the net result of this imprint determines ones future actions… if this karma, then I think karma certainly exists.
    Would you say this understanding of karma is held by many Buddhists from traditionally Buddhist countries or only by Western Buddhists / Buddhists who have grown up in a scientific culture?

  6. Munisha December 18, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    Buddhism does not teach that everything that happens to us is a result of karma.

    True, this is what some Tibetan Buddhists and others teach, but the earliest scriptures show the Buddha teaching quite specifically that this is not the case and that this is not what he teaches. (I am a UK Buddhist with the FWBO, Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.)

    The Buddha taught that everything we do has an effect, but that what happens to us is a result of a number of different kinds of causality, of which our own previous actions are only one type.

    For example, if I am run over by a passing car, my presence on the street at that moment is determined by the choices I made to walk there at that time. But the car was being driven by someone else over whom I have no influence, whose choices are also involved. And maybe the car skidded because the road was slippery, because of bad weather, over which neither of us has any control.

    But all these different causalities were involved in the outcome.

Leave a Reply