This post aims to address an issue that has been tickling my brain cells for quite some time-that of karma versus fatalism. Are people who believe in karma delusional? Are people who believe in fate better able to adjust to the vagaries of life? Is karma just a theory? For that matter, is God just a theory? How do you decide? Does it even matter?
There are a lot of people out there who think that people who believe in karma have no control over their lives and are total wimps. I beg to differ. It takes extraordinary guts to face up to yourself and take responsibility for your life and do something about it, while it is very easy to be a victim and blame everyone and everything else. A person who is afraid of taking responsibility will never be able to digest karma as true!
First off, a definition of both terms.
Karma, according to the tenets of theosophy, is the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person's deeds in the previous incarnation. And fatalism, to take a philosophical definition, is the doctrine that all events are subject to fate or inevitable predetermination.
Now that we are done with the definition given by experts, let’s go on to a more individual level. I believe the real worthiness of any theory, practice, or belief is the value it adds to one’s life. It doesn’t matter if there is no proof; if it works, that’s enough proof! Does it empower you as an individual? Are you able to face life in a confident, responsible, compassionate way because of it? Which one makes you a better human being?
For the adherents of fatalism, they believe that their lives are controlled and guided by a Higher Power, by whatever name you wish to call it, much like a puppet is controlled by the puppet master. So in effect, you really do not have free will. Everything is pre-determined and whatever happens to you, good or bad, could not have been different or changed in any way. You just learn to accept life as it comes. Does this approach empower the individual? Do you feel you have any power in your life? Many a time, I have seen people caught unawares by a setback or tragedy in their lives, who become so embittered and depressed, that they lose faith in God. They rave and rant at God for letting them down (if you have seen the movie Signs, Mel Gibson’s character of the priest-turned-atheist because of his wife’s untimely death, is a classic example). They feel powerless over their future. In effect, they lose faith in themselves, in life, and in God, because it is God they hold responsible for their destiny.
Now, for those who believe in karma, whatever happens in life, good or bad, is a direct consequence of whatever good or bad deeds they have done, either in this life or the previous one(s). Yes, karma need not be restricted to something you have done in your previous incarnation. It can also be instant, it can catch up with you in a matter of days, months, years, doesn’t necessarily have to take lifetimes to balance out the accounts! What does the belief that one will either enjoy or suffer the consequences of one’s actions do for an individual? What if it’s not something you get to enjoy or suffer in the after-life but in this very lifetime or possibly the next? What if heaven and hell is played out in our lives here on earth itself? Of course you would be extremely careful about what you do to whom and why you do it and how you do it. Of course you wouldn’t blame anyone else, least of all God, for any of the tragedies or setbacks in your life. Of course you would make sure that even if you are suffering something now, you are not going to go through that again! It makes you more responsible and empowered. It doesn’t make you curl up into a ball and live out the rest of your life a victim of unseen forces or very much can-be-seen people.
Awareness leads to empowerment. This by itself leads to a complete change in the way you think about what happened to you and could be very liberating. Here, you are not the victim, but the perpetrator, and as such, the strings of this puppet play is in your hands!
While there may not be any conclusive proof that reincarnation does exist, there are circumstantial proofs. For example, if you believe in a God, how can that God be partial and cause some people to be born in the lap of luxury or perfectly healthy or intelligent while others are born into poverty, handicapped, mentally retarded? How do you explain child geniuses? How do you explain the predilection for some to take up the violin like a maestro at the age of 3, or be a math wizard or virtuoso painter, in circumstances where there is nothing in the child’s immediate environment or family that justifies such exceptional talent?
I believe in God and I do not believe that the God I believe in is partial to anyone. I don’t believe in fate. I believe that although there is a Higher Power, It is far too intelligent and loving to make puppets out of us. It guides us, advises us, if we are willing to go within and hear that still small voice that some call intuition, but it never force-feeds or manipulates us. There is such a thing called free will and it is this free will that creates karma. This Power, while never getting in the way of our decisions, is always there. Even when we don’t take that guidance, it is still there to hold our hands and take us through the hell that we have created for ourselves, through to the other side. Karma teaches us, if we are willing to learn, to become better human beings.
The way I see it, karma is pretty democratic!