God’s Grace vs the Principle of Karma

“I tell you the truth, it is much better to live under the grace of God than under karmic law.” Donald Rubbo

When I posted the above statement recently on social media, I got a private message asking about it. This person said, “I wasn’t aware one could choose. Do you [mean] karma in general or as it pertains to those Rinpoches and such?”

Thank you! I truly appreciate sincere inquiries, and heart-felt searching for answers. “Karma,” a Sanskrit word, merely translates as work, or action. ‘Karma’ is also known as a principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) are said to influence the future of that individual (effect), and the effect, or consequences, of one’s actions or words may not be instant, but instead, as believed by Hindus, Buddhists, etc., ‘ripened’ through several lifetimes.

  • Let’s be clear, the definition of principle is: a fundamental proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.

Karma is not a scientific term, the law of karma cannot be proven in any scientific or medical experiments, it is an ancient belief from the Hindu religion of India, which was adopted by Siddhartha Gautama (‘Buddha’) and came to be known as the principle of cause and effect in Buddhism.

The foreign word ‘karma’ has permeated so much of Western society, and people use it frequently, sometimes when seeing another person receiving their ‘comeuppance,’ and it is often said with a self-righteous smirk. ‘Instant karma,’ they say. John Lennon even popularized it with his song, ‘Instant Karma.’

  • According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of karma is ‘the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.’
  • According to Dictionary.com, the noun karma means, in Hinduism, Buddhism: action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation: in Hinduism one of the means of reaching Brahman.

But that definition rests on the doctrine of reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the soul, upon death of the body, comes back to earth (transmigrates) into another body or form. Reincarnation, though, is not a scientific term, and transmigration cannot be proven through scientific or medical experiments.

In Vajrayana Lamaism, the concept of karma is used to control and manipulate, through fear, guilt, shame and intimidation.

For instance, at our former teacher’s retreat land in northern California, I heard a Tibetan lama admonish someone, after lunch, who had just washed pots and pans and other people’s dishes in the community kitchen, and then poured the hot washing water outside the kitchen door onto the dirt, that he had just boiled and drowned countless beings (bugs and insects). I will always remember the stricken look on this person’s face.

In several public teachings by different Tibetan lamas over the years, we were told that the ultimate sacrifice, in Vajrayana Lamaism, is to die rather than harm or kill another person attacking you, even if they are intending to kill you. If you harm anyone, even to save your own life, the ‘bad karma,’ will hinder your trajectory to ‘enlightenment.’ But the ‘merit’ earned by sacrificing your life in order to avoid harming another, no matter what, will purify your ‘karma’ and get you closer to ‘enlightenment.’

(But if someone is perceived as an ‘enemy’ to their version of ‘dharma,’ or to themselves, by Lamaists, they apparently feel free from any consequences of bad karma to harm you, or each other, as we witnessed many times, generating fear, suspicion and intimidation.)

We were told, in all seriousness, of a Vajrayana ritual, that can be done as one nears the end of one’s life, that will completely ‘purify’ one’s bad karma for all the terrible things one knowingly commits, to erase the consequences for all the harm consciously projected onto others. A puja, or multiple pujas, are done while chanting a ‘one hundred syllable’ mantra for the deity ‘Vajrasattva,’ thousands of times, so that the thought, mantras and actions (mind, speech, body) they have done, (or even continue to do!) that they know generates bad karma will not prevent them from reincarnating as Tibetan lamas again, or accompany them into their new lives. Those lamas or ‘rinpoches’ who purposely create ‘bad karma’ must believe that they won’t die suddenly before they can do this ‘Vajrasattva’ ritual.

For all the rest of the practitioners of Tibetan Lamaism who never learn this practice, they must strive to accumulate ‘merit,’ to counter their ‘bad karma,’ through continuously performing good deeds, acts and thoughts, giving loads of money to lamas and lamaseries, and sponsoring and participating in pujas and ceremonies. The ‘merit’ you earn is supposed to be given away, all the good you do is to be continuously dedicated to the benefit of all sentient beings. This ‘dedication,’ giving away of your ‘merit,’ is supposed to increase your merit, but you are not to be attached to accumulating ‘merit’ in this way. And you are also supposed to rejoice in others’ merit (we didn’t see much of that!)

However, if you have accumulated supposed ‘bad karma’ through your thoughts, actions and deeds in this life, or in previous lifetimes of unrepentant negative actions, the ‘merit’ you are accumulating in this lifetime may not do much to advance the purifying of your ‘bad karma’ for this or future lifetimes.

If, after many years of practicing Tibetan Lamaism, purposely changing your habits and thought-patterns to not create bad ‘karma,’ and dedicating the ‘merit,’ you still experience in this life misfortune, poverty, failure, and/or diminishment, you are to believe that is because your ‘karma’ was so bad from your earlier life – pre-Lamaism, for Westerners – and your previous lives, so the suffering you are experiencing you have created for yourself, and you are now to be joyful that you are suffering, and to dedicate your suffering as ‘merit,’ and hope (!) for a better life next time. Or hopefully, a better life after several lifetimes of ‘purifying bad karma’.

Enlightenment, though, can potentially take billions of lifetimes, especially for those unfortunate enough to not be reborn male Tibetan lamas. You are to pray that you will be re-born each time as a male practitioner of Tibetan Lamaism so that in each succeeding lifetime you have the good ‘karma’ to work towards purifying your karma to ascend through the levels of ‘higher realized’ beings.

Any physical or mental disabilities in people, such as blindness, muteness, cerebral palsy, etc., disabling accidents and life-altering experiences, are attributed to past life transgressions. But, because a human needs all five senses and healthy brains and minds that can be trained to perform the complex Vajrayana rituals, which include: mudras (hand and finger postures); playing instruments; making dutsi and tormas; creating sand mandalas; visualizing and sustaining complicated, multi-layered and multi-dimensional worlds; and sleep deprivation (to name just a few requirements), to become ‘bodhisattvas,’ and attain enlightenment, those born with disabilities or who have accidents that disable them, will never be able, according to Vajrayana Lamaism, to work toward a higher next life, or enlightenment.

Karma is also sometimes applied to negate any personal responsibility for one’s actions in this life. If you experience a favorable situation or event, at the expense of someone else, it is considered your ‘good karma,’ you were owed by that person from a former life, and therefore, you do not owe this person in this life for this event. Cheating, sometimes, is even justified by people convincing themselves that the victim stole from them in a former life.

  • While on a visit to New York, we went to a Tibetan store and bought a dzi (an agate with special markings) prized by Tibetans. On our return to San Francisco, we showed it to our former teacher, and he said it was very special. He sent us to a local Tibetan dzi dealer for an appraisal. She told us that it wasn’t real (meaning the unique markings were not a natural feature, but made by a human), but because we owed this person in a previous life, we bought this fake dzi in order to pay him back in this life. We told this to our former teacher, and gave him the allegedly handmade stone. He wore it for years, on a red string on his neck.

Taking this concept of karma further, which the Lamaists have done for centuries, your bad fortune in this life is your opportunity to ‘purify your bad karma,’ which is solely your responsibility, and, contrary to popular belief, the Lamaists will not interfere in your present life. But through giving the Lamaists lots of money, and sponsoring ‘karma purifying’ rituals and pujas at their lamaseries, you can hopefully (not guaranteed, though) give your future lives a boost.

____________

God’s Grace

God’s grace is the opposite of karma (karma is said to be getting what you deserve for the thoughts and actions you’ve done, in ‘this life’ and ‘previous lives, both good and bad). Grace is getting what you may not necessarily deserve, God’s love and mercy, because of your past (this life) thoughts and actions  – known as sins  – and not getting what you do deserve (punishment for the bad thoughts and behavior). Grace is “mercy, not merit.” You cannot earn grace or salvation through your words, thoughts and actions. Grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, thus securing man’s eternal salvation from sin.

You should always strive, though, to live a righteous life, and treat others as you yourself want to be treated. Although ethics and morality mean different things to different cultures and religions, I think we can all agree that the following list is a good start for living a life of righteousness:

Do not kill, or shed innocent blood

Do not rape

Do not lie

Do not covet what others have

Do not take what is not yours

Do not hate one another, hate evil

Do not forget who you are

Do not lose purpose and direction

 

Do take what belongs to you

Do receive what is given to you with graciousness and thankfulness

Do uplift others continuously

Do feed those who have nothing to eat

Do educate and house the less fortunate

Do spontaneous acts for those who cannot repay you

Do care for your parents in their declining years

Do raise your children with love, respect and knowledge of who they are in God

  • “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40
  • A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. John 13:34.

So, yes, you can indeed choose between God’s grace and karma, because karma is just a theory, a belief, with really no proof that it is true. God is a living God, and He reveals himself to those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the open heart. His presence is very real to those who seek to know Him. For centuries scientists have attempted to disprove the existence of God, through scientific experiments and mathematical equations.

But recently, two computer scientists, Christoph Benzmüller of Berlin’s Free University, and Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo of the Technical University in Vienna, ran mathematician Kurt Gödel’s mathematical theory through their computer, and they say they have proved that there is a holy supreme force, after confirming the equations.

In 1978, mathematician Kurt Gödel died and left behind a long and complex theory based on modal logic. Dr Gödel’s model uses mathematical equations that are extremely complicated, but the essence is that no greater power than God can be conceived, and if he or she is believed as a concept then he or she can exist in reality.

  • Or as Dr Gödel put it through his equations: “Ax. 1. {P(φ)∧◻∀x[φ(x)→ψ(x)]} →P(ψ)Ax. 2.P(¬φ)↔¬P(φ)Th. 1.P(φ)→◊∃x[φ(x)]Df. 1.G(x)⟺∀φ[P(φ)→φ(x)]Ax. 3.P(G)Th. 2.◊∃xG(x)Df. 2.φ ess x⟺φ(x)∧∀ψ{ψ(x)→◻∀y[φ(y)→ψ(y)]}Ax. 4.P(φ)→◻P(φ)Th. 3.G(x)→G ess xDf. 3.E(x)⟺∀φ[φ ess x→◻∃yφ(y)]Ax. 5.P(E)Th. 4.◻∃xG(x)”.

The inability to hear the voice of God in one’s heart is not a valid argument for denying His existence. We listen to the voice of God who speaks quietly in our hearts, and the experiences we’ve had by listening to this are difficult to explain to those who have had bad experiences in man-controlled religions.

Donald and I are not trapped in the dogma of Christianity. Our church is the sanctuary of our home, we follow no man or woman, and we see, with the eyes that God has opened, that the message that Jesus brought to the world, love, has been twisted and forgotten, through the centuries, and additionally, that those in power in ALL religions have used religion to control and harm others – Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, etc.

Our lives, since childhood, have been based on love, on selfless giving, on continuously uplifting others, on miracles of healing (through the authority and love, we now know, of Jesus Christ), on creating environments and communities of loving acceptance and charity, encouraging love, generosity, wellbeing,

We say, choose love. Choose wisdom. Choose to listen to the voice of God in your heart, and walk continuously in the grace of God.

One thought on “God’s Grace vs the Principle of Karma

  1. It’s a joy to read such a thorough and thoughtful piece of writing on this subject.

    I suppose in Christian terms, karma would be called “works righteousness.” This is definitely what Paul argues against. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the key passage: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    Certainly the doctrine of karma promotes an attitude of fear and ego-doing, whereas the doctrine of grace evokes love and gratitude toward a power that is freely offered by God.

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