Our Karmic Apathy

The doctrine of Karma originated among Hindus but now has widespread social currency all over the world. Among Hindus, it is seen as something that takes the focus away from divine authority and puts the individual in charge of her destiny. It is seen as something that makes you responsible for your own actions.

Unfortunately, that all is pure feel-good theory. In reality, Karma hardly ever becomes anything more than an excuse. It becomes an excuse to look at the suffering of others and say things like “they brought it upon themselves”. It becomes a method using which people kill feelings like remorse and guilt, a method to escape accountability.

The other problem with Karma is a little more obvious. People tend to cite Karma as an explanation for other people’s suffering but they hardly ever apply it to the actions that they themselves are engaging in right now. They’ll look at someone else and say “he must have done something in the past” but they will never look at themselves and say anything on the lines of “the Karmic consequences of my actions will come back to haunt me”. Karma, as a lot of us practise it, is always meant for other people.

Religious and spiritual practices are human inventions. They don’t have any independent objective nature and become what we make them. And what we have turned Karma into is an excuse and a justification for apathy. The way out of this is to start focusing on our own Karma and to ask if our apathy towards suffering and our tacit approval of bigotry isn’t something that might one day return to haunt us.

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