The Karma of Nations 

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.

Divided 

People of the world have been united and divided for as long as we can remember. City states warred for territory. Religious loyalists sought to impose their beliefs through both kindness and viciousness. Social groups fought to promote their values and to protect their status. Immigrants and emigrants crossed mountains, oceans ,and deserts going to seek fortunes or to escape from natural and man made disasters.

Thus, we organized ourselves into groups that collided with other groups. We identified with those who resemble or reflect ourselves and rejected those who differed in appearance, or belief, or custom. We forged alliances and fought enemies with different peoples at different times. Such behavior seems inherent to our humanity.

Many of us continue to force our beliefs, methodologies, and customs on others, believing them to be more truthful or superior. Of course we cannot impose our appearance on others except by blending our races over time. Our attitudes about racial mixing, though, are fraught with prejudice, attraction and other factors that are not totally clear even to ourselves.

Still, some of us resist and “otherizing” people who differ from ourselves. We try to appreciate at least some differences.

Today we are most focused on a political divide which encompasses all the other divides: racial, economic, social and cultural. We are most divided in our notion of unity. How should we govern ourselves and be governed? How should we behave publicly? Should we be polite or honest? What does civility mandate?

What is our responsibility to our fellow man, to our world and to future generations? Can we do or be me better? Can we achieve a more peaceful world? How much of our behavior is determined by our history and our destiny?

What do your think?

For some historical and philosophical insight consider the story of the great Mahabharata War which pitted families and friends against one another. See an analysis on pages 80-86 in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

The Gita on Winning

 

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Lord Krishna tells Arjun and all of us in The Gita that fighting is not about winning but about doing your duty. In His words:

 

You are lucky to have a chance to fight in
this war.

For your duty will take you to God.

And if you do not fight,

you will be giving up your duty.

Giving up duty is a sin.

The Gita, Chapter 2, Verses 32, 33 

 

Of course as in many texts, the war and fight is both real and symbolic. It is the struggle between good and evil. Our enlightenment will determine whether or not we are on the side of goodness.

Although we clearly seek to win, the fight matters more than the outcome. God explains:

 

     But if you fight,

     You will either go to heaven or win victory.

     So, Arjun arise.

     Make up your mind to fight.

     Fight and do not worry about how the war turns out.

      Do not care if you win or lose.

The Gita, Chapter 2, Verses 37, 38

 

It is only by focusing on our actions rather than on their results that we fulfill our obligations to ourselves, to mankind and to worlds.

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karma and War

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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.