Is Karma Real?

The doctrine of karma is not the same as the doctrine of pre-destination of the Christian theology. Karma is, in a sense, fate, self-caused inevitability, not pre-destination, for within the limits given, and these limits constitute the karma inherited from the previous births, a man is free.

This karma is not ‘fate’ because all the time we are making our own karma and determining the character of our further status and births. The doctrine of karma as understood in higher Hinduism and as expounded in Sikhism, merely, teaches that our present limitations are traceable to our acts of autonomous choice in our past lives and, as such, our karma is a source of rewards and punishments which we must enjoy and endure, but this idea differs from the idea of ‘fate’, as commonly understood in European thought, in as much as it is not inexorable, for all the time we are making our own karma within a context, the core of which is always free and autonomous.

The existence of evil it might be said, is the main reason for the keen interest of religion and, therefore, the explanation of evil is the chief problem of theologies and religious philosophies. Whether it was God who created evil and whether evil is due to misuse of the gifts of free will, are problems which constantly occur and recur in almost all religions of the world. But the presence of evil, as a de-tran-quiliser and disturber of the composure of human mind, cannot be ignored or argued away, so much so that perceptive minds regard it as the preponderant characteristic of existential human situation. The main trend of Hindu thought on this problem is that since the world itself is unreal, the existence of evil in it, is not of greater concern to the individual than the world itself. He asserts that the proper course for the human soul is to seek muktī, liberation or unison with God, by renouncing and discarding this vain show of appearances called “the world”. The Hindu, thus is not very much concerned to prove that evil does not really exist in the world, or to explain why God allows it to exist. Since the world itself is no more than a phantom and an insubstantial dream, the evil itself cannot be of a more enduring substance, and, at any rate, it is of no direct concern to the man of religion.

Sikhism cannot and does not adopt this view, because Sikhism does not accept the ultimate dichotomy of matter and spirit, and does not accept, as an independent entity, the principle of illusion, the maya. Since Sikhism postulates that religious activity must be practised in the sociopolitical context of the world, the problem of evil is a very much real problem to Sikhism as it is to the European thinker. Sikhism, therefore, returns almost the same answer to the problem of evil which the European pantheist gives, namely, that since God is all things and in all things, the evil is only something which is a partial view of the whole, something which appears as such when not seen from the due perspective. Sikhism asserts that there is no such thing as the independent principle of evil, as some theologies postulate, although there are things in this world which are evil. This antithesis of evil and good, according to Sikhism, is a necessary characteristic of the syndrome.

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