Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kamma is not fatalism, by Khy Sovanratana

Kamma is not fatalism

Dear Editor,
Having perused the letters of Bora Touch, Chan Sophal and
Amara Chey regarding Buddhism and AIDs and the Buddhist theory of Kamma and
Cambodian society, I can't help writing to explain the position of Buddhism as I
understand it.
Of course, as a religion based on morality, Buddhism
teaches the theory of Kamma or Karma, which literally means action or deed. But
the Buddhist teaching of Kamma is distinctively different from that of other
religious beliefs.
The Buddhist definition of Kamma as found in the
canonical texts is that any deed which is carried out with volition is Kamma,
Cetana, ham Bhikkhave kamma vadami .., as rightly pointed out by Bora
It must be borne in mind that everything happening in one's life,
according to Buddhism, is not entirely due to one's previous Kamma. There are
many other governing factors which influence one's life such as the condition of
one's birth (gati), one's physical condition (upadhi), the time in which one
lives (kala), and one's endeavor in life (payoga).
There are still other
five universal laws (niyama), which may have an impact on one's life as well.
The five are: physical law, biological law, psychological law, law of spiritual
phenomena and karmic law.
Therefore, it is clear that Kamma is not the
one and only cause that affects one's life; that is to say, it is not
If it were so the Buddha would not have prescribed us the four
qualities or accomplishments (sampada), possessing which one will lead a
successful life. They are perseverance, skillful management, balanced life and
good companion. Unfortunately, a considerable number of Buddhists, especially
our Cambodians, have misinterpreted it.
In my opinion, the theory of
Kamma which many of our people uphold now is the remnant of Brahmanism, which
was prevalent in the country prior to the advent of Buddhism.
embracing Buddhism for this long, still a majority of Cambodians are not able to
differentiate between the two.
In the last some 30 years, the Cambodian
leaders have made the maximum advantage of the teaching of the kamma as a
pretext for their incompetence and shortcomings in procuring the people and the
country peace and economic prosperity. This is unfortunate.
Those who
have broken morality and have been affected with HIV or AIDS as a result, have
undoubtedly committed wrong.
But there are those who have contracted the
deadly disease not of their own fault whatsoever. They are women and children
who have got the disease from their husbands and parents, and the victims of
blood transfusion and so on. These innocent people deserve sympathetic care,
don't they?
Although some of the AIDS victims may have seriously
offended, we Buddhists, who are best known to possess the qualities of gentle
hearts, giving and sharing, should not remain indifferent to them. After all,
the good gesture we perform to them will be the good of ours (we will earn
merit, according to the Buddha's teachings).
Cambodia has been ravaged by
disastrous war for nearly three decades, so our people are in a confused state,
losing some of the friendly, charming and helpful characters for which they were
well reputed.
But we Cambodians should not, at this juncture, continue to
stand pointing the finger at one another. This attitude will not help our
country. Instead, we each should give a helping hand in any way possible to the
country to build a solid and sound nation in every sphere in the 21st
The past three decades have been bitterly sorrowful for us,
because of political mistakes committed. So we should be able to learn from the
past experiences, in order to shape our better future.
Let us put aside
the differences and be united with the sole objective to build a just and
prosperous Cambodia where everyone is given the opportunity. May the New
Millenium bring the country a dawn of hope and goodwill.
- Bhikkhu
Aggadhiro Khy Sovanratana, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.

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