We have a tendency to try and understand something by referencing our life experience. For example, if someone describe durian (a kind of tropical fruit) as sweet, with a tinge of bitterness that has a strong pungent aroma. What comes to your mind? If you have never tasted it, you will probably imagine it by trying to recall a similar taste that fits the description.
When we speak of karma, we say, the good begets good and the bad receive retribution. It sounds like a system of reward and punishment, doesn’t it?
Thus, many people misunderstand karma to be a mystical or divine or natural force of judgement. I think, that is a very wrong idea. This is because when we think of a judge, we tend to think about an authoritative figure who decides what is good and deserving of reward, versus what is bad and deserving of punishment.
The 1st person in our life who plays this role is our guardians. Parents, grand parents, teachers etc. Then our supervisor at work or the judge in court etc So I was told screeching and screaming is bad. But when I grew up, I realized that the best screecher earns million by screaming high unearthly pitch on stage?
They taught us the concept of punishment and reward. However, this is not the Ultimate Truth. Simply because the definition of good versus evil is a design of non enlightened people. A flawed knowledge that is passed on from one generation to another.
Now, if you love durian, then being reborn as the son of a durian plantation owner is good karma?
What if the smell of durian make you puke? Then living in a house surrounded by durian trees is a bad karma?
One man’s meat is another’s poison.
Take another example. In one of the ancient Tibetan tribe, a woman is married into a family and becomes the wife of a few biological brothers. All her children are the responsibilities of her few husbands. That is a happy family unit for them. However, the ancient Chinese society that is influenced by Confucius , frown upon such marriage as barbaric and animistic.
You see, we tend to make judgement and impose our own idea of right and wrong unto others. People who does not behave according to our standard of living must be creating bad karma or suffering from bad karma?
Not necessary so. Our mortal opinion of reward and retribution is based on our own myopic perception of the world, influenced by our imperfect education.
In another example, traditionalist Buddhist opined that being born gay is a punishment. Some say that being gay is a result of bad karma. I do not think it is an absolute truth and it could have been taken out of context by ignorant people.
It is similar to the following situation back in the 1980s. Someone asked a monk about being reborn as a starving baby in Ethiopia. The monk commented that it could be due to bad karma. Ignorant people sitting in the sermon then started spreading that being reborn in Africa is bad karma. ( Bhante said so) Then another group started spreading, being born black is bad karma. (Bhante said so). I think the spreading of misinformation is also bad karma! This resulted in a kind of misplaced compassion among the Buddhist.
“Oh you black, so bad karma. May you be well and happy.”
“Oh you are from Africa? So bad Karma. May you be well and happy.”
No matter how I look at it, it just doesn’t sound right. (That kind of misplaced “compassion”) Why? Because we inevitably condemn a type of people as inferior. (Bad Karma?)
Bhante was commenting on a situation about suffering of hunger and famine. Not the person. But ignorant people just like to stick a label. “Oh lucky we are Chinese and not African.” You can almost hear that silent glee radiating from their mind when they go around spreading fake info.
While some gay people experience suffering due to social injustice and persecution (not the fault of the gay victim), other gay people enjoyed a wonderful and meaningful life.
To classify gay as bad karma will mean that we have to classify if being born woman is good or bad karma. (Yah the traditionalist says it is bad karma.Gasp!) What about being born Chinese, Caucasian, African and etc. Is it good or bad karma. When we ask such question, it simply shows that we are fixated about labeling things in life.
We are judgmental. Karma is not a tool to facilitate our judgmental habit. Karma is just action and its consequential results.
Let us not be concerned about the karma of others. We should just focus on the Karma we are creating. May all be well and happy.