The theory of Karma does not accept a beginning

Stabroek News
August 18, 2001

Dear Editor,

In Hinduism bioethics is considered primarily duty based, so that the word 'right' is non-existent in traditional Hindi vocabulary. Teachings entail duties of families and individuals that are characteristic in maintaining a specific lifestyle, seen as acceptable to good health, which is a whole set of values in determining the mental and physical well-being of body. Hence, the hallmark in approach in life in this philosophy is seeking purity, `Suddha' of the body, mind and spirit.

The soul is ever pure. Mother Ganga symbolizes Suddha. The mechanics of these principles involve: Karma, Reincarnation, and Muksh (spiritual liberation). The great controversy today in Hinduism seems to be with the ethical insecurity approach to the issue surrounding birth and death. In this religion life is but a continuance of birth and death among all living creatures, including mankind. All planetary systems are racing towards the extremes of creation and destruction, nothing remains static. The ultimate essence of life is having a soul liberated and finally joining the divine cosmic consciousness, Brahma. Whatever is done in man's activities will leave a permanent tract, or taping in the unconscious, which will go forward into the next life as the blue print to another life. Based on these circumstances, a future life will be directly influenced by 'the tapings of karma'.

The theory of karma does not accept a beginning, thus life has always been going on. Consequently, each person is a huge store of memory traces from previous lives, that travel across at birth. Through free choice, additions and deletions shall determine the proximate life. Based on this concept rebirth is a reflection of a fully developed person who has lived many previous lives. A child in its mother's womb is therefore not seen as a small undeveloped thing', but as a complete human being well molded with a purpose or mission in the current life. The child is a complete being at conception. To deny this purpose or duty by anyone is tantamount to murder. An abortion of a fetus will send the soul back to the karma cycle of rebirth. What stand does the Hindu leaders of this country take to address this issue on abortion? The answer is none. What is behind this silence? I hope it's not ignorance.

Decision making in Hinduism is considered in a holistic nature forming a confluence of Dharma (laws of God), and a binding commitment with sociopolitical structure of leadership role. In Vedic philosophy the image depicted of a king and God is very much superimposed. It is difficult to distinguish between the two. The former always strive to uphold the whole principle of cause and effect. This will enable all souls the opportunity to seek the ultimate goal in life, spiritual liberation (muksh). This superstructure of duties are also concatenated amongst the duty of teachers, priests, and parents, in helping to create a continuity in discipline and values that are deemed compatible within a given lifestyle. This explains the primary reason why in the past a kid, for instance, scolded for wrong doing by the neighbour, will have little satisfaction from parents. The human being is never autonomous but is totally integrated within the family unit and the environment. Ethical matters are thus addressed within the parental and societal context as well as the spiritual or religious dimensions of one's undertakings.

Most institutions created for management and governance in this country are not compatible with the dimensions mentioned above to sustain Hinduism within a given context. Initially, they were formulated by the colonial style, mostly Christian oriented, and this has been perceived as the standard yardstick to evaluate human nature, health and illness, life and death. Later we were dosed with Marxism and Leninism as a panacea to our problems.

If Hindu is the official language of communication in Hinduism and it's the second largest practicing religion in Guyana, why isn't it being taught in our schools? How can a Christian or an -atheist identify and resolve the concerns of Hindus in a heterogeneous cultural society as we have in Guyana? Conversion might seem to be an easy solution, but how would we deal with dimensions of values relating to the biological nature of the converted, who with a given genetic identity, lived in a given environment for thousands of years? Modern science does not provide a favourable answer to this approach, especially having to deal with the appearance of unfamiliar diseases that were unknown to that particular cultural group. Some fine examples are documented among American Japanese and East Indians living in the Americas.

To promote individual cultures is to nurture human development. Politicians are still guilty of a reluctance to engage the role of Hindu scholars and leaders in the shaping of the society, especially whenever having to resolve critical issues such as: abortion, suicide, use of intoxicants, domestic violence etc. It's time we get honest with each other and have respect and understanding for one's religious beliefs.

Peace to God and Mankind.

Yours faithfully,

Rajendra Sharma