Karma Police

Sharon Stone’s recent comments about whether or not the earthquake in China was due to bad karma over Beijing’s occupation of Tibet has caused quite a stir. Stone is now facing a backlash in China with her films being boycotted (Um, what films?) and luxury retailer Christian Diorpulling advertisements featuring Sharon Stone from stores. TheChinese earthquakekilledat least68,000 people. China has been under much scrutinyin recent months over Beijing’s policies in Tibet. “I thought, is that karma – when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?” she mused at the Cannes Film Festival. However, many people feel that Stone’s contextual use of Karma issimplistic and in fact,inaccurate (the actress later apologized for her remarks).

Karma is an important concept for Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. Translated from the Sanskrit, it means simply “action”. Because karma is used in a number of ways and contexts this can be confusing…Stone’s take on karma is common – glossed over as an outcome that is the result of something done in the past – or even a past life. But the law of karma states that it’s the motive behind one’s actions that affects the outcome of that particular act. “The earthquake in China or the cyclone in Burma have much to do with environmental factors,” says Dhammadassin. “To invoke karma is more to do with our desire to nail things down and find someone to blame. But that’s not ours to do.”[Link]

So, it got me to thinking aboutwhat Sikhi says about Karma. Sikhs use the term generously (and sometimes, not so generously) but perhaps we don’t have a solid understanding of what it really means. The doctrine of karma, according to Sikh belief, is a part of the Divine law (hukam). “The whole universe,” says Guru Arjan, Nanak V, “is bound by action, good or bad” (GG, 51). Guru Nanak declares in the Japji that “all forms, beings, greatness and lowliness, pain and pleasure, bounties and wanderings are subject to the indescribable hukam and there is nothing outside the realm of hukam,” (GG, 1) and then adds that “karma determines the kapra, i.e. body or birth we receive and that it is through nadar (God’s grace) that one secures the threshold of moksa” (GG, 2). [Link]

Do you believe in Karma?


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20 Responses to “Karma Police”

  1. Maestro says:

    I believe in some form of Karma. I think it's a good way to keep us accountable instead of living in a way where our actions don't have consequences.

    Nice Radiohead reference by the way :)

  2. Maestro says:

    I believe in some form of Karma. I think it’s a good way to keep us accountable instead of living in a way where our actions don’t have consequences.

    Nice Radiohead reference by the way :)

  3. Dyb says:

    Do u believe in 911/Katrina a Karma?

  4. Harinder says:

    I also got a similar feeling when the quake took place.

    But I did not write for some where down in my heart I knew it was aflawed logic.

    I had alway felt TIBETIANS were being wronged by use of force.

    But seeing the Plight of CHINESE people I felt sad and a sense of common human bond suffering ran thru me in their momnet of grief.

    I felt sad for chinese people in their suffering and I dont want to believe that GOD can ever be harsh in to any one.

    He is after all " NIRVAIR"

    I hope GOD will be able to give compassion and wisdom to these two set of great people (Chinese and Tibetian )on this planet to live in harmony and dignity together as good citizens of this beautiful planet called "EARTH "

  5. Dyb says:

    Do u believe in 911/Katrina a Karma?

  6. Harinder says:

    I also got a similar feeling when the quake took place.
    But I did not write for some where down in my heart I knew it was aflawed logic.
    I had alway felt TIBETIANS were being wronged by use of force.
    But seeing the Plight of CHINESE people I felt sad and a sense of common human bond suffering ran thru me in their momnet of grief.
    I felt sad for chinese people in their suffering and I dont want to believe that GOD can ever be harsh in to any one.
    He is after all ” NIRVAIR”
    I hope GOD will be able to give compassion and wisdom to these two set of great people (Chinese and Tibetian )on this planet to live in harmony and dignity together as good citizens of this beautiful planet called “EARTH “

  7. sizzle says:

    as a sikh, i believe in karma because it gives me a sense of consequence and thus keeps me grounded. that said, i can't claim to understand how it works or how it imposes on free will. and i don't really care because it's impossible for to ever understand but is in back of my head enough that there's no need to consciously think about it….has bearing on any sense of existentialism.

    anyways, to the point of the post: sharon stone's statement is akin to southern baptist preachers claiming that hurricane katrina and 9/11 were god's wrath for a nations' sins – and both interpretations are perversions of their respective religions. speaking to dharmic karma – how can one invoke karma, in any sense, when speaking of an entire populace? the very idea of karma is in regards to the consequence/cause/effect on the most personal of scales; perhaps the very concept is to spur self introspection in relation to the world and one's happiness. and here, stone has somehow extrapolated it in a macro sense, as if the collective wrongs or guilt of the chinese government or people, 99.999999% of whom have nothing to do with tibet, brought upon a wrathful karmic shift. (if anything, it highlights so many westerner's conception of a wrathful Abrahamic God when speaking of the idea of a dharmic God/Light/Salvation/Bliss/etc). but more significantly, it is so confused of a statement, it displays ignorance that is just as perverse as any preacher who says mardi gras brought about katrina.

  8. sizzle says:

    as a sikh, i believe in karma because it gives me a sense of consequence and thus keeps me grounded. that said, i can’t claim to understand how it works or how it imposes on free will. and i don’t really care because it’s impossible for to ever understand but is in back of my head enough that there’s no need to consciously think about it….has bearing on any sense of existentialism.

    anyways, to the point of the post: sharon stone’s statement is akin to southern baptist preachers claiming that hurricane katrina and 9/11 were god’s wrath for a nations’ sins – and both interpretations are perversions of their respective religions. speaking to dharmic karma – how can one invoke karma, in any sense, when speaking of an entire populace? the very idea of karma is in regards to the consequence/cause/effect on the most personal of scales; perhaps the very concept is to spur self introspection in relation to the world and one’s happiness. and here, stone has somehow extrapolated it in a macro sense, as if the collective wrongs or guilt of the chinese government or people, 99.999999% of whom have nothing to do with tibet, brought upon a wrathful karmic shift. (if anything, it highlights so many westerner’s conception of a wrathful Abrahamic God when speaking of the idea of a dharmic God/Light/Salvation/Bliss/etc). but more significantly, it is so confused of a statement, it displays ignorance that is just as perverse as any preacher who says mardi gras brought about katrina.

  9. bdb says:

    karmashmarma. Its not provable. So many ppl get away with evil, what happened to their karma. So many good ppl suffer-what about their karma. Bottom line-nobody really knows. Just do the right thing and hope people do the same for you.

  10. bdb says:

    karmashmarma. Its not provable. So many ppl get away with evil, what happened to their karma. So many good ppl suffer-what about their karma. Bottom line-nobody really knows. Just do the right thing and hope people do the same for you.

  11. Sundari says:

    I agree that Karma is a very complex and difficult thing for us to understand, so i am not surprised that Sharon Stone would use the term incorrectly. I agree with the above comments that using the idea of Karma to explain tragedies that occur on such a macro level would be incorrect. In our community, people tend to use the term when something bad happens to someone… "well, it was their Karma." And i think i still struggle with that because i doubt those placing the blame actually have an understanding of what Karma is. I agree that actions have consequences but can a person who does only good, have bad things happen to him/her, and if so, then is that because of Karma? Can we change our Karma?…

  12. Sundari says:

    I agree that Karma is a very complex and difficult thing for us to understand, so i am not surprised that Sharon Stone would use the term incorrectly. I agree with the above comments that using the idea of Karma to explain tragedies that occur on such a macro level would be incorrect. In our community, people tend to use the term when something bad happens to someone… “well, it was their Karma.” And i think i still struggle with that because i doubt those placing the blame actually have an understanding of what Karma is. I agree that actions have consequences but can a person who does only good, have bad things happen to him/her, and if so, then is that because of Karma? Can we change our Karma?…

  13. confused says:

    I don't know if Sharon Stone really used this in the wrong way or not. Who knows if it was really karma. Sometimes the truth hurts. Karma for Tibet only? probably not. But karma in general, yes. Gurbani says ape beej ape hi khau – you shall reap what you sow. So then everything happening in the world is a result of actions that we committed in this lifetime or another lifetime. Whether or not people want to believe that is another story. See the truth is always very hurtful when it comes and hits us in the face. But we love using it to hit others.

  14. confused says:

    I don’t know if Sharon Stone really used this in the wrong way or not. Who knows if it was really karma. Sometimes the truth hurts. Karma for Tibet only? probably not. But karma in general, yes. Gurbani says ape beej ape hi khau – you shall reap what you sow. So then everything happening in the world is a result of actions that we committed in this lifetime or another lifetime. Whether or not people want to believe that is another story. See the truth is always very hurtful when it comes and hits us in the face. But we love using it to hit others.

  15. Mewa Singh says:

    Interesting topic Sundari. In my interpretation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the term 'karma' has a different application than that in traditional Brahmanical thought and literature.

    The Karma theory through the lens of Brahmanism is rather bleak. Once caste hierarchy has been ritualistically accepted, ‘karma’ theories become a justification for the injustice. A Brahman upon meeting a woman or an ill-treated woman of a so-called lower caste, need only shrug their shoulders and think that they must have committed some great sin in a past life to now redeem themselves. This is not to suggest that Karma was originally a concept to support caste hierarchy, but in the hands of Brahmans it was pliant enough to be used for their ends. And I think it is from this usage that Sharon Stone makes her leap to apply it to China's present situation. To use Christian terminology, China must now atone for the sins of its past (never mind the hubris is Sharon Stone, it is interesting that it is the common people that suffer most, not the Chinese government, if that is what she is referring to). Sikhs, too, often link the idea of 'karma' to 'transmigration' and I believe that this is a misreading as well.

    As I read Gurbani, Karma is linked to 'action,' but as you pointed out is all subject to Hukam. Guru Nanak, in his beautiful Japji, in the pauri writes, "Hukam Rajai chalna, Nanak likhia naal." Guru Nanak was writing to the beat of the Hukam.

    As I read the Guru Granth Sahib, the word 'karma' has different meanings in different contexts. It is not so much an 'account sheet' and this is the creative genius of our Gurus, they interpret and utilize the word to ONLY mean good action in accordance to the Divine.

    The fifth Nanak in Raag Maajh (p. 131) beautifully poses the questions that illuminates the multiplicity of the meanings of the word:

    kaun karam kaun nih-karmaa kaun su kahai kahaaiai jio ||2||

    Who is subject to karma, and who is beyond karma? Who therefore can say, tell us O Waheguru?

    The question is later answered:

    gurmukh karam gurmukh nih-karmaa gurmukh karai su subhaaiai jio ||6||

    The Gurmukh (Guru-facing revolutionary) performs deeds of benevolence and (thus) the Gurmukh (Guru-facing revolutionary) is beyond karma. The Gurmukh's actions thus are in good faith, O Waheguru. ||6||

    In fact Karma as it is implied by Brahmanical philosophy is to be avoided. A preeminent Sikh scholar, Sardar Jagjit Singh, in describing the vows taken during Khanda-da-pahul lists the five freedoms of the Khalsa as:

    5 Freedoms of the Khalsa: freedom from the shackles of 1) earlier religions; 2) earlier Karmas; 3) caste, clan, and race; 4) earlier taboos and customs; 5) superstitions, rituals, etc.[link]

    Thus, those that underwent ‘initiation by the double-edged sword’ were said to be reborn.

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    Interesting topic Sundari. In my interpretation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the term ‘karma’ has a different application than that in traditional Brahmanical thought and literature.

    The Karma theory through the lens of Brahmanism is rather bleak. Once caste hierarchy has been ritualistically accepted, karma theories become a justification for the injustice. A Brahman upon meeting a woman or an ill-treated woman of a so-called lower caste, need only shrug their shoulders and think that they must have committed some great sin in a past life to now redeem themselves. This is not to suggest that Karma was originally a concept to support caste hierarchy, but in the hands of Brahmans it was pliant enough to be used for their ends. And I think it is from this usage that Sharon Stone makes her leap to apply it to China’s present situation. To use Christian terminology, China must now atone for the sins of its past (never mind the hubris is Sharon Stone, it is interesting that it is the common people that suffer most, not the Chinese government, if that is what she is referring to). Sikhs, too, often link the idea of ‘karma’ to ‘transmigration’ and I believe that this is a misreading as well.

    As I read Gurbani, Karma is linked to ‘action,’ but as you pointed out is all subject to Hukam. Guru Nanak, in his beautiful Japji, in the pauri writes, “Hukam Rajai chalna, Nanak likhia naal.” Guru Nanak was writing to the beat of the Hukam.

    As I read the Guru Granth Sahib, the word ‘karma’ has different meanings in different contexts. It is not so much an ‘account sheet’ and this is the creative genius of our Gurus, they interpret and utilize the word to ONLY mean good action in accordance to the Divine.

    The fifth Nanak in Raag Maajh (p. 131) beautifully poses the questions that illuminates the multiplicity of the meanings of the word:

    kaun karam kaun nih-karmaa kaun su kahai kahaaiai jio ||2||
    Who is subject to karma, and who is beyond karma? Who therefore can say, tell us O Waheguru?

    The question is later answered:

    gurmukh karam gurmukh nih-karmaa gurmukh karai su subhaaiai jio ||6||
    The Gurmukh (Guru-facing revolutionary) performs deeds of benevolence and (thus) the Gurmukh (Guru-facing revolutionary) is beyond karma. The Gurmukh’s actions thus are in good faith, O Waheguru. ||6||

    In fact Karma as it is implied by Brahmanical philosophy is to be avoided. A preeminent Sikh scholar, Sardar Jagjit Singh, in describing the vows taken during Khanda-da-pahul lists the five freedoms of the Khalsa as:

    5 Freedoms of the Khalsa: freedom from the shackles of 1) earlier religions; 2) earlier Karmas; 3) caste, clan, and race; 4) earlier taboos and customs; 5) superstitions, rituals, etc.[link]

    Thus, those that underwent initiation by the double-edged sword were said to be reborn.

  17. Camille says:

    This might be a first, but I agree with sizzle 100% on Stone's comments.

    Re: karma, I could be very ignorant, but I don't think the intent of Sikhi is that one is bound to their karma in the way that is oft-ascribed to Hinduism. However, there is a sense that one "reaps what one sows", and that this also impacts the afterlife. In that way, I think trying to distill the concept of karma to "what goes around comes around" (which is how I read Stone's insensitive statement) is inappropriate, not to mention callous. I keep thinking of other tragedies — e.g., the cyclone in Burma — and I wonder if people would use the same rationale.

  18. Camille says:

    This might be a first, but I agree with sizzle 100% on Stone’s comments.

    Re: karma, I could be very ignorant, but I don’t think the intent of Sikhi is that one is bound to their karma in the way that is oft-ascribed to Hinduism. However, there is a sense that one “reaps what one sows”, and that this also impacts the afterlife. In that way, I think trying to distill the concept of karma to “what goes around comes around” (which is how I read Stone’s insensitive statement) is inappropriate, not to mention callous. I keep thinking of other tragedies — e.g., the cyclone in Burma — and I wonder if people would use the same rationale.

  19. Sam says:

    Interesting to see how people tend to confuse dharmic thought with brahminism. If you actually study dharmic thought you'll see very subtle and not-so-subtle difference in the concept of karma. Sikhi has a very affirmative and positive spin on karma – that is – guruparsad will merge you back into acting constantly in hukam by loss of ego. Having said that, there are hindus and buddhist who also subscribe to similar principles – dhyan (meditiation), seva, good thoughts will also destroy our ego and free us from this cycle of karma and being out of synch with Naam. To me, this affirms the universal message of the Sikh gurus. Bottom line, karma is a complex concept that existed before sikhi; it has been perverted by bhraminism this is true – but to completely dismiss well over a couple of thousand years of thought and meditation on the concept of 'karma' in a non-Sikh context as simply 'bhraminism' (read: 'those hindus') is at best naive, at worst, deceitful and bigoted. Sikhs need to be more secure in the divine treasure we have rather than feeling we need to put down other faiths to prove our worth.

    Peace

  20. Sam says:

    Interesting to see how people tend to confuse dharmic thought with brahminism. If you actually study dharmic thought you’ll see very subtle and not-so-subtle difference in the concept of karma. Sikhi has a very affirmative and positive spin on karma – that is – guruparsad will merge you back into acting constantly in hukam by loss of ego. Having said that, there are hindus and buddhist who also subscribe to similar principles – dhyan (meditiation), seva, good thoughts will also destroy our ego and free us from this cycle of karma and being out of synch with Naam. To me, this affirms the universal message of the Sikh gurus. Bottom line, karma is a complex concept that existed before sikhi; it has been perverted by bhraminism this is true – but to completely dismiss well over a couple of thousand years of thought and meditation on the concept of ‘karma’ in a non-Sikh context as simply ‘bhraminism’ (read: ‘those hindus’) is at best naive, at worst, deceitful and bigoted. Sikhs need to be more secure in the divine treasure we have rather than feeling we need to put down other faiths to prove our worth.

    Peace