Continuing in this series on of posts karma (part 1), we are looking at problems and contradictions with the doctrine of karma.
Karma is an often used phrased in western culture that has its origin in eastern or Asian religions. Unfortunately, karma is not biblical, and is quite contradictory and incompatible with the existence of God.
In part 2, I am presenting two more problems with the doctrine of karma to show why it cannot exist without using any reference to God or the Bible.
Problem #3) The Infinite Regress Problem: Where does it all begin?
In order to explain the problems in one’s current life, karma refers to events in ones prior life. In order to explain the circumstances in the prior life, we must refer back to the events in the life before that – and so on. So the question is raised, how did the karmic process begin?
To say that karma is beginningless is logically problematic and is no answer to the problem. To say that karma solves the problem of the origin of evil by saying there is no origin is not solving the problem, but ignoring it.
Karma works by “paying us back” the deeds we have done in the past, it only works by causing us to suffer for bad deeds we have done and not the other way around (not things we may do in the future). In other words, the doctrine of karma teaches us that we are repaid in suffering for evil that we have done, but we cannot suffer first for no reason and then receive blessing from that. That would not be karma.
So how did suffering begin if suffering is caused by bad karma? This would mean that something had to cause the first person (or people) to suffer that wasn’t a result of evil they had caused (since it was their first time “existing”). For person A cannot do anything evil that causes Person B to suffer, since evil is typically described as something that causes suffering. Thus, the process of karma cannot even start.
Problem #4) The Problem of Explaining Death: Why do people die?
In the typical rebirth theory, death is not presented as a punishment for wrong, but rather is presupposed as the mechanism for which karma operates. So it is through rebirth that one is rewarded and punished for ones wrongs (high or low social statues, healthy or sick, etc.) But before one is reborn, one must go through death.
So even if someone is moving up on the karmic scale to a higher birth due to ones goodness and virtues, that person still must undergo death. It can be argued that the worst “evil” is death itself. So it could be asked, why is everyone mortal? Why are there not some that have been virtuous enough to live indefinitely? Did we all do such terrible things in our beginning life that we are always subject to death?
Typically though, death and rebirth are not morally justified, but simply taken as a neutral mechanism of karma. But there is no reason why death and rebirth should not have to be justified, that is simply avoiding the dilemma of death.
You could argue that death itself is not evil, since it is by that means that one reaches greater rewards in the next life. This though is not satisfying. Why must one have to die in order to attain one’s rewards, rather than simply be rewarded with health, wealth, and a longer life? Death is also often physically painful and separates one from loved ones and all the one holds dear, and that is certainly not a “reward.”
*This post is derived from Whitley R. P. Kaufman’s essay Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil.