Karma - The cross

Asia gives the concept of "karma" a very different meaning from what is attributed in the everyday Western language.

What does the concept of karma refer to?

This word, which comes from the Indo-European root "Kr" what action means means both an act and the fruits of that act. This concept is central to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. But in Western beliefs inspired by it, like the New Age, this concept, derived from its Asian context, is reduced to a law of materialistic punishment: the difficulties and trials of existence are explained by a "bad" karma " …

This Western conception of karma can not be achieved without some popular wisdom: happiness is worthy of good conduct and misfortune can be prevented by respecting moral rules. In reality, as the saying goes "We collect what we sow"those who live in a morally correct way seem more likely to be happy in the long run … But this understanding does not correspond to Asian karma at all.

What is the doctrine of karma in Asian religions?

In Asia karma is conceived as a sort of mechanical law of the universe, impersonal as the law of gravity, and therefore totally independent of a transcendence or a judge of God that would punish or reward. According to this karmic law, any deliberately positive act creates an incentive for a happy rebirth, while any deliberately negative act can only lead to an unfortunate rebirth. You can not accidentally perform a karmic act without intending to put it down.

Intentionally positive actions derive from ten virtues (not killing, working to save those who are threatened, stealing, living a chaste life, not lying, not meditating, not wishing, sharing, sweetening thoughts and distinguishing with knowledge) and deliberately negative actions , of their opposite (murder, theft, lust, lie, slander, offensive words, lust, malice and wrong visions). Moreover, karma in Asia is pre-eminently individual: there can not be collective karma, as we sometimes hear in the West. The karmic law presupposes the belief in samsara, the cycle of births and deaths of which every living being would be a prisoner, because it would appear thousands of times, from all possible forms of life on this earth, which is higher forms (human beings o) ) or inferior forms (animals or beings coming from the underworld) to act. It is in an attempt to finally leave samsara, that Buddha, on Vis century before our era, he discovered the path that led to enlightenment and that he decided to share with all mankind.

What is karma in Hinduism?

To talk about karma, Hindus like to use the image of a stone thrown into a lake: just as the resulting waves reflect on the surface of the water for a long time, karma manifests itself in the life of the lake. a soul during different cycles of reincarnation. " Karma is the eternal confirmation of human freedom. Our thoughts, our words and our actions are the ropes of the network that we throw around us Said the Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902).

And in Buddhism?

According to the Dalai Lama, karma is a logical and understandable law: intentional actions, favorable or unfavorable, that individual forms in this life, will have inevitable consequences in this life or in a future life. It would not be injustice, even if it sometimes seems that innocent people suffer horribly and uselessly.

In Buddhism every act must be understood as short-lived, which does not prevent us from leaving "karmic traces". These karmic traces unite with others and thus create, in the individual, tendencies and behaviors that are difficult to uproot and avoid. Every karmic act produces, sometimes after different forms of existence, a fruit that will be favorable, unfavorable or neutral.

Can Christians believe in karma?

In Christianity, salvation is not achieved by effort or merit, but by the grace of God: it is freely given by the death and resurrection of Christ, the son of God. What Saint John summarizes as follows: God so loved the world that he sent his Son, not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17) Divine forgiveness is given free, access to eternal life is also granted as soon as it opens to the love of God. Like the thief nailed to a cross beside him, Jesus does not say that should be reborn in a new existence … but: " Today, with me, you're in heaven "(Lk 23.43).

Likewise, the doctrine of Christ, performed by those who claim it, gives priority to the excluded, the humiliated and the needy, without asking whether their adversities derive from unfavorable karma. Mother Teresa in Calcutta was not worried if an untouchable and unassailable road was & # 39; paid for & # 39; he became for negative actions in a previous life; he saw Christ in him and he conformed to his word: " When you did it with one of those little ones who are my brothers, you did this to me "(Mt 25.40).

Furthermore, faith in samsara is incompatible with faith in the resurrection. In fact, the redemption of humanity is given once and for all: " Because human beings die only once, after which there is a judgment, once Christ has offered to take away the sins of many, Christ will appear a second time for those who are waiting for him. to give them salvation (Heb 9:27) The God of Christian revelation creates every human body, every soul and every spirit, and it is by name that all have been baptized for salvation and resurrection on the last day.

If you think in terms of multiple rebirths, in different circumstances and in an incalculable time, the question arises: which of these rebirths will open to the promise of resurrection? What could be a promise of eternal life if the cycle of births and deaths continued for an unpredictable time? And what efficiency would baptism (and all the sacraments that always mobilize the body, mind and soul) if this sacrament were given to a man who after his death could no longer be a human being? Christian salvation would be completely devoid of content.

Claire Lesegretain