Friday, January 28, 2011

Karma and dharna beg justice

For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. — Galatians vi.8.

Is karma destiny? There is not only one view in the theologies and philosophies from India. Karma is the word for 'action', 'deed' or 'act'. It is the logic of simple physics. There is cause and effect. Actions have karmic effects. We have similar colloquial advice and commentary: "what goes around comes around", "payback is a bitch". The concept is not only tied to the transmigration of the soul, or the conditions of the afterlife.

A realist, not blinded by optimism, sees some consequences tied to some actions; but he does not see a quid pro quo, or an ultimate balance, justice. A moral man, one who might be described as having a fear of God, feels compelled to do right action. Another man, will do what he will without regard to cosmic justice or good karma. Whether he skates, or has things blow up in his face remains to be seen.

Another indian concept is dharna. Dharna is an attempt to gain justice or payment. The form it took was the plaintiff would sit at the entrance of the offender's home, or business, and wait, wait continuously till he got his justice, or died waiting for it. This is a genesis of the peaceful protest that had Gandhi and millions sit on the doorstep of the british empire. "We shall not be moved" is a stand for justice. Occupations of property are attempts to obtain justice. It is an attempt to shame people to do right. Centuries ago, the transgressor or the debtor had a fear, that this implacable soul would haunt his conscience, or being, for all time. The fasting until death at a doorstep was put in play creating a spirit that could not be appealed to--an unforgiving perpetual ghost.

Not everyone is capable of being shamed. In India in 1919, General Dyer had thousands killed in a peaceful demonstration at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.

Peaceful protest while being stoically gallant, and noble, does not always succeed. Some have no ruth, no mercy, no humanity to appeal to. In other protests people have said, "God is watching". Some still don't care. In the movie, The Fugitive, Harrison Ford yells at Tommy Lee Jones "I'm innocent!". His reply is, "I don't care!".

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