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Karma

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Karma is a notion of cause and effect, common to many Eastern religions and philosophies, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. There are subtle differences in the ways Hindus and Buddhists understand karma which can be confusing to outsiders.

Through karma, one's actions are believed to have positive or negative consequences during one's life, or even to determine one's nature when reincarnated. Strictly speaking, karma is simply the concept that actions have consequences.

Simplified, abstracted or dumbed-down versions of karmic philosophy have been adopted in many western New Age belief systems ever since the hippie era, and also widely used in popular culture. The westernized conception of karma boils down to the idea that if you do good things, good things will happen to you. In most traditional Indian and Indian-derived religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, and especially Jainism) all karma is considered ultimately unhelpful, and the goal of the serious practitioner is to refrain from incurring any kind of karma, even "good" karma. However, in Buddhism, it is taught that the development of the Eightfold Path is "called [karma]… leading to the ending of [karma]."[1]

Karma has historically been used as justification for a hereditary caste system.

Hindus believe, as they must believe, in reincarnation [and] transmigration, they must know that Nature will, without any possibility of mistake, adjust the balance by degrading a Brahmin, if he misbehaves himself, by reincarnating him in a lower division, and translating one who lives the life of a Brahmin in his present incarnation to Brahminhood in his next.
—Mahatma Gandhi[2]

Offensive implications[edit]

Some people have reasoned (backwards?) that those who have encountered misfortune must have somehow deserved it, if only in a previous life – for example Glenn Hoddle who was forced to resign after claiming that disabled people must have done something bad in a previous life to have been born with physical deficiencies.[3] Even worse, Shirley Maclaine hypothesized that the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust must have done something bad in their past lives.[4]

In genetics[edit]

The Karma gene is a transposon in the intron of the gene DEFICIENS. Karma is found in oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and rice. In oil palm, methylation of the gene causes the fruits to grow normally, but lack of methylation causes a shriveled ("mantled") fruit. Methylated Karma is known as the Good Karma epiallele, and hypomethylated Karma is known as the Bad Karma epiallele.[5][6]

Platitudes[edit]

  • "Karma's a bitch."
  • "My karma ran over your dogma."

References[edit]

See also[edit]