Monday, November 4, 2013

The Incompatibility of Karma and the Afterlife

From guest blogger, Josh A.

So I was trying to flesh this out in class when we talked about Das's reading, and i think I did a pretty piss poor job so I am going to try and improve on my idea.

I brought up the idea that Karma, and this sort of Ascension, Ascension meaning where you leave all your desires and beliefs behind and go to join the other souls as one thing, but still retain the personal identity of you. The incompatibility I find is when you try to reconcile the judgement of Karma with Ascension.

Karma is the belief that when you die your soul will transfer into another life. When it does your Karma, or how you acted in life, whether good or bad determines where you are in life. If you acted good, you will start out well in life, if you acted bad, you will start out worse in life. Now when your Karma gets to be good enough, you will Ascend and leave behind all your desires and such and become one with the other souls, while still retaining your personal identity. My problem here comes with how a soul can be judged for Karma, when everything it is judged on is stripped from the soul, while still retaining personal identity.

For example, take a soul that has traveled for 1000's of years and passed from body to body. Eventually it has reached Ascension and ascends. When its first body died, it was judged on the actions the person took. These actions were influenced by the persons desires and beliefs. However these desires and beliefs are not the souls, they are unique to that body, since they are not part of ones personal identity. Therefore a soul's Karma gets judged on something that isn't even a part of its personal identity. The soul becomes judged based on each individual body and what it does. My question comes then, how can Karma ever judge a soul to be good or bad, when the things it judges on has nothing to do with the soul.

A way to fix this problem is to maybe better define how a soul affects the body and how it maybe influences beliefs, thoughts, and actions.


Stoehr said...

I'm not totally sure what you mean by retaining personal identity, but leaving behind your beliefs and desires. Are you differentiating between the two? Maybe work on more clearly explaining the idea of ascension and what it implies for the soul after the body's death. Also, if our beliefs and desires arent a part of our personal identity, what are they a part of? Our physical being? I find that difficult to believe. Maybe once youve more clearly thought through your argument, these things will become more understandable and easier to reply to. Best of luck!

Rashad said...

Be careful in your interpretation of Hinduism and make sure you use, define, and understand terms precisely. There are just a couple things I’d like to express my difference in opinion on regarding Hinduism.
In one instance, you defined Karma as, “the belief that when you die your soul will transfer into another life.” What you defined there is rebirth also known as sanskara which is apart of the overall cycle of life, death and rebirth known as samsara. Karma is the belief in the principle of action reaction; that for every deed whether good or bad there will be some effect on one’s rebirth.
You also stated, “when your karma gets to be good enough, you will Ascend…” I wanted to first note that there is more than one way to ascension (or liberation) through different yogas or paths. There is bhakti (worship), jnana (knowledge), and many more. Attaining liberation is not about making the karma good enough, but it is about stopping the generation of karma; when karma ceases, so does rebirth. Thus one can be liberated. When you say the karma must be good enough, you may want to mention the path of Karma Yoga where the goal is to act, but to not be attached to the fruits of those actions. For instance, saving someone from drowning, one would feel satisfied, great, and take credit or glory. Karma Yoga says do not do this. That when one can act and just act in principle, then one can be liberated.
You stated, “My problem here comes with how a soul can be judged for Karma, when everything it is judged on is stripped from the soul, while still retaining personal identity.” I just wanted to counter that it is possible for the soul to be judged based on karma because one has a conscience and can choose a path to follow; one chooses right or wrong. These choices then generate that karma. It is this higher consciousness that ultimately makes soul judging possible. Nothing is stripped from the soul except the body. The soul and conscience is linked.

Natalie N said...

In Hinduism, ascension is often said to be a final step in the process of turning from the senses and looking inwards. A person is viewed as more or less evolved based on their value of the external world. It may help to think of the soul in a similar way that we look at someone's character. Someone's character is not defined by the actions they are actually taking and it is not exactly the same as their beliefs. Character overlaps with other parts of a person, but we can isolate it when thinking about it and describe it without using terms of beliefs or actions. It might be contested that beliefs and character can be differentiated, but I would give the example of two people who know that stealing is wrong. Though they both know it is wrong, one person would do it in a situation where they were peer pressured to do so, while the other would not. This is a show of their real character. It is also not a reflection of actions that they have actually taken, it can be viewed as a "what-if" situation. A person's character is difficult to describe without using their actions or beliefs, and a person's soul is likewise difficult to describe without using action or beliefs. Actions and beliefs are a reflection and embodiment of the nature of the soul, but it is somehow differentiated. In Hinduism, It is only when a person accepts that they need to look within that they can they can even begin to move closer to achieving ascension.

Caitlin C said...

One of my problems with souls is that I don’t understand how an immaterial thing could ascend. If a soul is unlocatable then how could it move? Entering and exiting are properties of matter. Another problem I have with souls is that if you have a bad soul because “you” were bad in a past life how can you be expected to change into a better person if your soul is inherently bad? Are we destined to pay a price for things that we have done in past lives that we aren’t cognitively aware of?

David Harms said...

I have a few concerns with this topic. It is unclear to me in how one is able to ascend with an immaterial element, as Caitlin had commented prior. Also, like Stoehr had shown above, it almost seems that there a split in personhood or 'identity.' The concept of ascension here is really holding back your thesis and I feel that by clarifying that concept, you will be able to better explain your claims.

I am also wondering at the way in which your judgment of karma is decided. It seems complicated to objectively determine what is considered to be right/wrong in what you have done in your life. If you are ascending ultimately into a new 'body,' then how can the 'soul' be judged? What exactly is under the scope of karma? If an immaterial property is being questioned in the presence of karma, then how can this process of ascension work?