Yesterday, a friend shared a quote which I find interesting and insightful. It says, “Karma has no menu. You get serve what you deserve.”
Generally speaking, religious people think that it is important to have a retributive system in order for people to behave morally. In the world’s religious systems, there are two major schools of thought. For the theists, it is God who is the enforcer of justice. For the non-theists, including both Eastern and Western pagans, Buddhists, Hindus and Taoists, it is karma which maintains cosmic justice.
Not long ago, I published an article in Medium titled The Dangers of an Anthropomorphic God. That article is very popular. Many of my readers respond favorably. Why is an anthropomorphic or “personal” God so dangerous? I quoted author Anne Lamott, who said, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Perhaps it is not God per se that is the problem. It is that theists typically create their own image of God.
An anthropomorphic “God” takes sides because humans are biased and not impartial. Humans tend to reward people from their own camp and punish people from the other camps. It is no surprise at all that “God” hates all the same people we do. For this reason, it is easy to invoke the name of God to justify all kinds of atrocities. People have invoked the name of God to invoke violence and justify persecution throughout human history. Let us remember that the First Crusade War started with Pope Urban II declaring that “God wills it.”
It is for this reason that karma is a better system. Karma is impersonal. There is no personal God driving karma. Hence, it is much more difficult to politicize karma. The Tao Te Ching says, “Heaven and Earth are not kind. They treat the people as straw dogs.” Many people find this verse difficult to understand. It took me a while to understand it too. Essentially, it means that the Tao does not take sides or play favorites. You cannot hijack the Tao to do your bidding. The Tao, being impersonal, does not favor any particular ethnic/political group or individual. The Tao does not even favor humans. One reason for our current environmental devastation is that humans believe that God is on their side and the earth is something they can do as they wish. In Genesis, God is supposed to have given humans dominion over the earth and all lives on it. But the Tao (or Dharma) does not grant such special privilege to humans. In fact, the current pandemic can be seen as nature’s way to right the balance. Whatever we sow, we reap. That’s karma.
Heaven and Earth are unkind. They treat all beings as straw dogs. What we may see as Heaven and Earth’s indifference is actually universal love. Herein lies great wisdom. Karma has no human agenda.