One man’s virtue is another man’s vice and vice versa. Virtue is defined in various dictionaries in multiple ways that imply values like morality, goodness and integrity. In Eastern religions merit equates to “punya” which is action that earns good karma.
Antonyms of virtue include words like vice and evil. Evil is also an antonym of merit as are words like demerit and deficiency. The opposite of “punya” is “pap” which means sin. Sin earns bad karma.
Although virtue and vice must be considered in context, the fact that people and schools of thought differ in their views of these values can create problems. Such divergent views are particularly harmful when some seek to impose their personal notions upon others.
We cannot go wrong if we apply our beliefs regarding good and evil to ourselves rather than to judgements about others. This is not to say that we cannot praise those who perform acts that uplift us all or to criticize those whose acts shock our conscience. It is also not to prevent societies from imposing norms upon its citizens. But in terms of personal values and conduct, we should use our conscience to govern ourselves and seek to persuade only those who care about what we think.
Different Hindus perceive the relationship between God and karma in different ways. Some go so far as to say that karma determines the future and God does not exist or matter at all. Some equate the divine force with karma or believe that God creates karma.
Yet other individuals and Hindu schools of thought, more conventionally, see God as the dispenser of karma, which He tempers with divine mercy. Whatever their particular viewpoint, Hindu philosophers and laymen generally agree with the notion that good behavior earns merit and improves their karma and that misfortune is the product of prior bad behavior. Even those who do not fully believe in karmic power, tend to consider the idea of karma a plausible guideline for ethical living.
From On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar, Chapter One, Hindus and Hinduism; also available for purchase on Amazon.
Hinduism takes karma for granted. It does not seek to make a justification for its validity, but rather bases its principles, beliefs and guidance on the ways in which karma operates. Thus the underpinning of karma is the view or reality that actions have consequences.
While discussions of karma focus mostly on individuals, we should consider that peoples and nations also have destinies determined by consequences of prior actions. Over millennia we have seen nations rise and fall and we now see nations and national values in turmoil. Thus we should consider our behaviors not only in terms of ourselves but also in terms of our politics. Our national and international karma decides questions as momentous as war and peace.
See “Karma and Reincarnation,” Chapter Six, of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.
Discombobulated means confusing. This word suggests that an idea has many pieces which do not seem to fit together very well. For example, Hindus love the elephant headed Lord Ganpati, believe that God is beyond depiction and at the same time worship numerous images of God. These beliefs joined in one world view may perplex some.
Similarly the interaction between the all powerful Divinity and Karma may raise questions in others’ minds.
How do you think the notions of an unfathomable God, of invoking blessings from a human figure with an elephant’s head, of worshipping multiple representations of God and believing in karma work together?
See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar for my views on this and other questions.
We human beings have always wondered about whether the chicken preceded the egg or vice versa. More seriously we wonder about what came before the big bang. But some scientists think the universe did not come from anything but merely appeared where it had not been apparent before.
If this is the case, than the whole universe is an illusion [Maya] rather than a reality as stated in Chapter 7, (verses 12 and 13) of the Bhagavad Gita. This fits with God’s description of Himself as the only reality.
But we cannot confuse the universe or even God, who would be the Truth that exists transcending the appearance and disappearance of the universe with occurrences within the universe of dimensions. Those occurrences are manifestations of karma.
Coincidences are occurrences without prequels. I do not believe such occurrences exist. Rather, I think we simply have forgotten or we are unaware of the prequels to which apparent coincidences are sequels.
Life events are like numbered movies numbered from I to IV or like television serials. They do not arise from nothing. They are populated by unique characters each belonging to a living person whose chance of existence is statistically zero. They are affected by natural forces and by supernatural notions, or by notions that we think are supernatural because we do not understand them.
Coincidences are apparent, not real. Actually according to Hinduism the world itself is an illusion and only God is real. Still, within the illusion or Maya of reality, I cannot believe our lives march forward by mere chance. Things happen as a result of our karma.
Karma works like an arrow which may be stored in a quiver, aimed from a bow, or soar in flight. The arrow’s place in time and space determines where it will strike but it cannot fall unless it has been launched. What happens as a consequence of its landing is not random or coincidental but is an effect caused by the actions of many actors.
Like individuals, nations and societies own their karma. The impact of their collective actions and interactions produce consequences such as widespread prosperity, poverty or war.
On some occasions, we are put in positions that mandate war. At other times we seek war. Sometimes nations and our leaders are united in purpose. At other times they are divided. But whatever the circumstances, cause and effect are at work.
It is difficult to understand or even clearly imagine the interplay of karma involving millions, perhaps billions, of people, but I find it more difficult if not impossible to consider that collective destinies are random. History is evidence and much of what happens in the world is understood in terms of our past behavior.
See Chapter 6, Karma and Reincarnation, of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar to understand how karma works.
The earliest Hindu references to reincarnation describe journeys to other worlds or realms known as lokas. These worlds represent astral planes to which souls can travel outside of the body after death or when the body attains different levels of consciousness. At the same time, these worlds are viewed as regions in the universe. Thus, Vedic cosmology sees a singularity or oneness in the universe that is reflected in our consciousness. The universe exists beyond us and within us at the same time. It is a multidimensional and a multitemporal cosmos. Souls migrate from one world to another and fro one body to another until, after many lifetimes they yearn to become free.
–From Chapter 6, Karma and Reincarnation, of Irina Gajjar’s book, On Hinduism
Karma and Reincarnation are not really theories in Eastern religions. Rather they are premises that have evolved over time and continue evolving. These notions do not depend upon one another, but rather complement one another to provide answers to questions pertaining to the human condition. To understand this better, see Chapter Six of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.