Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reveling in Another's Bad Karma? That's Bad Karma On You.

This video, of course, is making the social media rounds. In it we see an incident of road range in which the rager is delivered “instant karma” for his actions when he speeds past the object of his rage, swerves, then wrecks his truck.

Never mind that the woman recording the video is driving slow in the passing lane, recording a video while driving and reveling in the fact that the “rager” got his while she got off scot-free. Karma for him was bad, karma for her was good.

Except, as I read it, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what karma is, let alone what decent behavior should look like in the face of an aggressor whether you want a religious message mixed up in the behavior or not.

“The law of karma,” says the Spiritual Encyclopedia, “teaches us that all of our thoughts, words, and actions begin a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause. We may not experience the effect (the returning karma) right away, and it may not even be in this lifetime, but you can count on it just the same. Karma is a cosmic law, which means that it applies to everyone, everywhere, all the time.”

Read that again. Especially the part that ways “we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause.”

Video recording lady, you’re creating bad karma too.

What should have been done in that situation?

Well, backing off would have been good for both individuals involved. When I saw this video, I didn’t think of karma, I thought of this verse from Proverbs: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Rather than recording the video and acting aggressively herself as the man tried to pass, this woman could have simply moved over and let the idiot through. Yes, I suppose that means he “wins” the argument. But who knows how close the woman was to causing an accident herself – instantly reaping bad karma of her own. She claims she kept her eyes on the road while driving, but I have my doubts about that claim’s veracity. Even if she were keeping her eyes on the road, the more positive karmic solution would have been to move over and let the idiot through, rather than encouraging his rage and adding fuel to an already bad situation.

Both drivers were acting aggressively; it was only a matter of chance, not karma, that both were not involved in an accident. Neither individual’s behavior is worth applauding.

Claiming karma as vindication for her actions leads her down a path towards continued bad behavior. Recording the situation and aggravating it worked the last time for me, she’ll think. So when she’s in another situation where the choice is to act aggressively or back off, she’ll choose the former. And the consequences might be different that next time.

Because there is negative and positive karma, if you want to continue using karma as justification for behavior.

“The shortest explanation of karma that I know is ‘you get what you give,’” writes Views on Buddhism. “In other words; whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar things will happen to yourself in the future. Causing suffering to others will cause suffering to ourselves, causing happiness to others will result in happiness for oneself.”

Garbled grammar aside, it’s clear that karma is a concept that applies to oneself and one’s own behavior, tempting as it may be to cast aspersions at the karma of others. This should be a call for self-reflection and a reminder of the biblical and Confucian “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” not a revel in the punishments others receive for perceived bad behavior.

This message is explained well in the Gospel of St. Luke, wherein Jesus teaches “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also” (Luke 6:27-29).

Yeah, that’s a tougher thing to chew on that gleefully watching an enemy get his or her comeuppance in a situation both of you contributed to, but no one said being good (or building up good karma) was going to be easy.

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