Do you believe that Karma shapes your life?

Do you believe that Karma shapes your life?

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In theory, I like the whole idea of karma, which basically translates as cause and effect. If you do something wrong now, it will catch up with you in a later life. Many Thai Buddhists believe this, as well as people from other religions around the world. On one level it is good as it keeps the population in check. They won’t do any bad deeds because they know that they will be punished later. But, it also has it drawbacks. Many people in Thailand are very subservient which means that they often accept whatever is given to them without complaining. If they are poor in this life it is because of consequence of a bad deed in a previous life.

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Quite often at Thai temples, I have seen notices that teach you the consequences of your actions. The other week, I visited Wat San Suek in Bangsaen that had models depicting Buddhist Hell. It quite clearly showed what would happen to you if you did bad in this lifetime. Have you ever wondered why everyone is not rich or very beautiful? It is all to do with their past deeds. Here are just a few of the things that Thai people believe in:

* If you build or maintain public roads in this lifetime, you will have your own car in the next.
* If you donate robes to a monk in this lifetime, you will have fashionable clothes in the next.
* If you donate food to the poor in this lifetime, you will have plenty of food in the next.
* If you are stingy with your money in this lifetime, you will be poor in the next.
* If you donate money to the temple in this lifetime, you will have a large house in the next
* If you put flowers on the shrine in this lifetime, you will be beautiful or handsome in the next.
* If you pray often in this lifetime, you will be clever in the next.
* If you release birds or fish* you will enjoy a long life in the next.
* If you kill people in this lifetime, you will die young in the next.
* If you abuse your husband in this lifetime, you will be a spinster in the next.
* If you have affairs with married women in this lifetime, you will never find a wife in the next
* If you donate oil for lamps at the temple in this lifetime, you will have bright eyes in the next
* If you are rude to your parents in this lifetime, you will be deaf and dumb in the next
* If you didn’t pay your debts in this lifetime, you will be born as a cow in the next.
* If you donate medicine for sick people in this lifetime, you will be healthy in the next
* If you are cruel and cold-hearted in this lifetime, you will be all alone in the next.
* If you like to look at nude pictures in this lifetime, you will be blind in the next.
* If you gossip about people in this lifetime, you will have a harelip in the next.
* If you like cheating people in this lifetime, you will be born as an animal in the next.
* If you don’t help people in danger in this lifetime, you will be in prison in the next.
* If you sneer at beggars in this lifetime, you will starve to death in the next.
* If you look down on servants in this lifetime, you will be ugly in the next.
* If you don’t believe in the Buddhist teaching in this lifetime, then you will be deaf in the next.
* If you hurt animals in this lifetime, you will have leprosy in the next.
* If you are envious of other people in this lifetime, you will have body odour in the next
* If you make a false charge against a monk in this lifetime, you will be struck by lightning in the next.

There is a lot more of course but that will do for now. Hopefully, you will now understand more fully why you are in your present predicament. Although there is nothing you can do about it for this lifetime, you can take steps to give yourself a better time in the next life or the one after that. It all depends on how bad you have been. What do you reckon? Anything truth in this?

13 thoughts on “Do you believe that Karma shapes your life?

  1. I would like to see more evidence that Thais actually believed this. I just watched a wannabe hi-so family order a ton of food in a fairly lo-so restaurant, eat just over half of it, then leave a few coins for the staff!

  2. I’m with Andrew on this. There is a lot of superstition (and propaganda) around this issue of encouraging donations to monks and temples (though technically money is not given personally to monks as indicated. It ii given as merit in accordance with Buddhist teachings) The family Andrew quotes as giving a poor tip is hardly following those principles which suggests they don’t really believe in Karma anyway. I’ve spoken with several monks about the links between Buddhism and Animism, and about how drinking and partying at festivals can be reconciled with the more solemn rites which reinforce karma, The subject is deeper than this short article allows us to go.

  3. Richard as usual very interesting , but living up North I find the poor & poorly educated Thais are the ones that follow Buddhism to the extreme .

  4. A very interesting article. Perhaps it helps to explain why Thais seem not to worry so much about the direct cause and consequences of their actions – e.g. because any consequence is going to happen ‘in the next life’. Could this be a contributing factor to why so little attention is paid to health and safety issues, public safety, drink driving, carelessness?

  5. Thais are highly superstitious and a lot of animism also creeps into their Buddhism. Karma is only one part of Buddhist teaching and certainly not the most important part. The Dalai Lama stressed that how you live your life and how you follow the Buddha’s teaching are more essential than a belief in karma or reincarnation. Of course there are superstitions in all religions and karma seems to be a useful one to keep people subservient. Following a village Songkran festival I spoke with an abbot and had an interesting conversation about how the merry-making drinking and water hosing could reconcile with the same people in the village hierarchy attending the rites in the wat.

  6. All religions are to make the masses subservient to a higher power. They are all based on ancient beliefs that are irreverent in today’s educated society. Granted some of their teachings have provided a moral compass to which society should behave, but that should not be a syllabus to follow to the extreme. There is not one religion that has not been the subject of controversy. Everything wrong with this world is based on religious beliefs. Why can’t people choose what is best for themselves without fear of offending an ancient deity?

    1. That’s a good point, Purdo and there’s an army of facts to support that view. Equally there are those with great faith who would point to miracles and events in their lives to support an opposite view. In Thailand, of course, it’s not just the Sangha that influences people’s views and thoughts. Thai social culture – strong family and hierarchical values; “difficulties” in criticising a teacher, boss or an elder; a concept of avoiding conflict; a strong view of inequality. Thais do believe that men are not equal: we have all observed the subservience of the Thai, which you have accurately mentioned.

  7. As an atheist, NO. But many of these beliefs are grounded in the ‘Golden Rule’… “Do unto others…”
    Which is the fundamental principle of civilised human society with or without religion. Its said that Buddhism is a philosophy of life rather than a religion per se. and that’s how I think of it.

    Supernatural beliefs are endemic to humans, seemingly genetically implanted; even non-religious societies suffer from it so I conclude religion is the most common example of it.
    Thais may be ‘subservient’ from a western perspective but is not the wish to avoid conflict a good thing?
    CERTAINLY far more civilised than Islam’s need to impose itself at all cost…

  8. My own experiences is that karma (or as I perefer, kamma) is a real and natural consequence that pertains to most people (i.e. those with a conscious). If you do something wrong (and you know it) you will suffer in some form or fashion (even if it is just in your subconscious).

    As to the formal kamma (i.e. dogma) of the Buddhist religion, I try to be a good Buddhist and base my actions upon a belief that the intention of my actions will have an impact on my rebirth, but I don’t necessarily believe that one specific “good” action automatically translates into a “reward’ action (as indicated by the list in the OP).

    Based upon my layperson’s understanding of Buddhism, the intent is more important than the action itself. If the intent of donating a set of robes to a Monk is to get a better wardrobe in the next life, I would expect that intent would negate any good that comes from giving the robe.

    For me, I just know that when I do something good for someone or something, I always feel a little bit better about my self and my life. To me, that is the true gift the Lord Buddha gave to his followers concerning the concept of kamma!

  9. Well, yes, I do believe in Karma in the general sense, but not to the letter – if this, then this – as spelled out above. Anything more specific than the general way of things is dreamed up.

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