My early upbringing as a Hindu made me think hard about the ‘truth’ in the karma theory. My mother was a very religious woman and was indoctrinated with a ritualistic and dogmatic view of Hinduism, which she sought to indoctrinate me with. Until about 15, I tried to see things her way but the practice of Hinduism, particularly the ritualistic elements, drove me to seek an answer elsewhere. I mean no disrespect to the Hindu people but I just cannot accept this view of God.
THE MYSTERIOUS GOD
I wish to classify all religions that explain God by virtue of partial explanations – religions of the mysterious God. I shall use for the purposes of exposition a hypothetical religion, I shall call – Mysteryism. In mysteryism God is hidden from normal epistemology. The universe is divided into two spheres of good and evil and God is the protector of the “good”. Doing “good” is an essential part of finding a way to God and what is “good” is dictated by God. God chooses a few messengers and over time communicates this “good” to the entire human race through these messengers – the chosen ones. There is a complete mystery about how and why these individuals have been chosen and no coherent connection between the various individuals. These messengers spread a message that portrays God in a contradictory way. First an image of God as a kind, benevolent, loving and forgiving God. A God that teaches us to love our enemies and forgive those you trespass and sin against us. This is juxtaposed to the image of a God who merciless tormentor of sinners – the punishment for not following his commands is eternal damnation. The doctrine would assert something like, “Unbelievers, the fearful, liars, sexually immoral people and many others will be cast into the Lake of Fire…. the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Not a very pretty picture.
BUT there is a saving grace normally, even right at the very end, if you repent you shall be forgiven and all is well.
The problem with this is that normally the requirement is that you should embrace the religion of Mysterysim and accept all its central tenets as a pre-condition to being forgiven. Mysteryism would assert that all people who have been in one or more of the above mentioned categories of “bad” at sometime in their lifetime, can repent of all these things, and be washed clean by God. “God will wash us clean if we turn from it, and believe. He will wash us many times while we are learning to overcome sin”.
So I have this mental image of a good man living in a place, where the people have never heard of Mysteryism. The man is humble and spends all his life in the service of his family and the villagers. He has never embraced Mysteryism because he has never heard of it, or even if he has heard of it, he is not convinced enough to abandon his own belief system, which has a multigenerational foundation and which he has inherited.
Now he dies and because he does not embrace Mysteryism as his faith, he is unbelieving and therefore shares the same berth as murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, and therefore is condemned to burn in fire and brimstone for eternity.
By contrast, you now have a cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderer who is sexually immoral and rapes and kills children. This man right at the end repents and embraces with full faith Mysteryism – he is spared this condemnation and is welcomed by God, who forgives him.
There is something seriously wrong with this – don’t you think! God is a schizophrenic. Furthermore, shouldn’t a loving God just give the sinners a good, stern, talking to and say something to the effect of “I love you in spite of your sins” and then send them to his Kingdom? What is the need for eternal inferno if God is supposed to be loving? No truly loving God would create a place of eternal torment such as Hell. There are all sorts of rationalizations such as “God allows us to choose because He loves us” and “a loving Parent sometimes has to punish,” but these don’t hold up to rational examination. But therein lies the mystery – only God knows the answer.
“Where is God in all this suffering?” – Nicodemus
The principle of equality, as I said before is enshrined in our Constitution. But what does the principle involve? The philosophical concept of equality is controversial and contested. Equality is not necessarily fairness. We live in a world of great inequality and clearly one of the primary functions of law in a society is to redress this inequality.
Harry Blackmun put it succinctly, “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently”. In this context, the New Economic Policy and other plans of affirmative action is certainly desirable to reconstruct the structure of society. The unique feature of the NEP is that it is racially driven. The failure of this model is that while, the beneficiaries of such affirmative action will have an opportunity to participate in the mainstream of society, signaling the end of the ‘Malay Dilemma’, other neglected classes will be disenfranchised and become a ‘New Dilemma’ for society. The HINDRAF rallies proved this amply. Today, many Malaysians of Indian origin are so disenfranchised, that they have became removed from the mainstream of Malaysian society. This represents a very serious problem in the realization of a just and equitable civil society. But that’s only part of the problem, the ‘Malay Dilemma’ has not been completely resolved. The NEP has seen Malays have a greater stake in the economy, but that is only qualitatively, NOT quantitatively. It represents a lot of wealth in the hands of a few – a new kind of Malay aristocracy has been created. The rise of a formidable opposition and the continued support for Anwar Ibrahim and PAS is clear evidence of this. If the Malays are not united as many politicians claim, it is because many of them perceive and recognize the failure of the NEP in creating a more egalitarian Malay community.
The Bogus Clarion Call
“The Malays must be united or they will be threatened by other races and lose their special rights” – this is the kind of rhetoric used by Malay politicians to garner support for themselves. The problem with this is that it is factually wrong and intellectually stunted. The Countess of Blessington once remarked, “Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart”.
This is so true in the present scenario. I do not for one moment think that any particular race group is a threat to another in our country. Malaysians are by and large not racists. We have been living together for hundreds of years NOT only since independence. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality”. Malaysians have enjoyed such a brotherhood for many years. It is not a perfect brotherhood but one in which, like members within a family, there has been considerable give and take. We share a common destiny, many non Malays are also non Chinese and non Indians. They have been so far removed from their historical roots that they are no longer really Chinese or Indian. All of the present generation of non Malays are born and bred Malaysians. This divide between Malays and non Malays is really arbitrary, the reality is that we live very similar lives and are confronted by very similar problems.
Our constitutional reality is best expressed in the words of Sara Harrington, who said, “While the legal, material, and even superficial requirements to eradicate racism are well known, its psychological and more deeply spiritual requirements have been persistently neglected-namely, the oneness of the human family. It is this principle of oneness that needs to be the driving force behind the struggle of uniting the races.”
We have to make real this common destiny and understand that, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” – Jane Addams.
This past week has seen several incidents that seem to indicate to me that after more than 50 years of independence, our nation is still perched on the dangerous cliff called ‘racism’. Our moral integrity as human beings hanging on for dear life, as the political forces of myopia diligently plot our fall.
Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s suggestion for UiTM to open up 10% of its intake to other races was met with a generally hostile response since the move was seen as challenging the special rights of the Malays. The general argument is that if UITM opened its doors this would lead to a situation where many Malay institutions will disintegrate. This would lead to the special rights of Malays being eroded.
Racism has been a part of our culture since the country’s inception. It’s very much an open secret. The secret part of it is largely due to the provisions of the Sedition Act which make it an offence to incite or inflame racial sentiments. Yet over the past one week, I have heard prominent Malay politicians say things like, “Don’t push the envelope with the Malays or be prepared to face the consequences – you don’t know what’s coming”. “Don’t challenge the Malays.”
I think I have been living in a fantasy world (but I am convinced I am not alone). I don’t and never have thought of my friends by reference to their racial denomination. A Malay, a Chinese, an Indian, etc. They are my friends, Ahmad, Peter and Samy. I have never attached any special significance to their race because it really does not matter. People are good or bad, or sometimes a bit of both. Race does not prequalify a person to any special claim or right in relation to character, integrity or virtue. In my mind the average Malaysian does not think about race either. Most people are thinking about how to improve their conditions of living and surviving mostly, in what is a grossly inequitable world.
Embracing cultural diversity, with tolerance, respect and understanding should be the fundamental principle of any nation that aspires towards greatness. These laudable principles would probably be applauded by many but the question is how do we deal with this complex, emotive and at times, divisive ethos without causing further conflict or merely treating it in a superficial manner? My main concern is that we must deal with our multiculturalism in a manner which avoids tokenism.
This is the course that the Malaysian leadership has embraced over the past 40 years. At least in my living memory. A path of tokenism.
For Malaysia to be truly Asia (as the song goes) our society must embrace multiculturalism wholeheartedly as something that strengthens us not the contrary. It requires a tolerance of difference and a pluralistic view of culture. For these attributes to be part of a society’s psyche there must first exist empathy and a willingness to examine one’s own perspectives in the light of alternate perspectives. Our education system lies at the heart of this process.
Educators are in a unique position to foster and facilitate those personal characteristics necessary to accept change open-mindedly and with a willingness to incorporate the aspirations of all for the wellbeing of all. This sort of attitude to life is one which must evolve. It requires a particular approach to life and learning – a sincere and courageous quest for truth and meaning in all facets of one’s learning. A pluralistic view of life can only be gained through a desire to understand and respect the experiences of others, and this can only be achieved effectively when it is incorporated automatically into one’s reflections about life.
It is shameful when the very education system and educators who should be promoting critical thinking and open mindedness, skew the system to achieve very short term and myopic political aims.
Racism as a social toxin, the origin of which can only be found by delving deeply into the social unconscious. Differences of opinion on the complex issues of religion, law, morality and customs will always exist between varying cultures. We have to be respectful of each other and develop a sense of conviction that we have a common history and a common destiny. We must believe in the power inherent within us to remove some of the barriers and render those that remain more transparent, thus providing a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of those who live on the other side. There is no antidote to the toxin but we could help pave the way for an increase in tolerance and an enrichment of our lives, gained through an everwidening range of possibilities from which to choose when determining our beliefs, codes of behaviour, and our direction as a society.
“Affirmative action” means positive steps taken to increase the representation of Malays in areas of employment, education, and business because they have been historically disadvantaged. In my view this is both necessary and desirable to create social equilibrium. Nothing will endanger our society more greatly than our unwillingness or inability to provide opportunities for people who are socially disadvantaged.
This is different from saying that because I come from a particular race group, I am entitled to certain rights even though I don’t need such preferential treatment. Such an assertion will make a sham of the fundamental principle of equality enshrined in Art. 8 (1) of our federal constitution. The principle of equality is the most fundamental of human rights and has been described as the “starting point of all liberties”. International human rights law reflects this belief. Art.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR) declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The UDHR is not a treaty but it embodies a moral authority and sets out a common standard of achievement of all peoples and nations. The UDHR is the root document from which the international human rights treaties have grown.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
THERE is never a wrong time to stand up for the right thing. I wish to express my admiration for the learned judges who preferred to err on the side of caution and to free Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
I have taught legal philosophy to many students over the last 20 years. In recent years it has become a purely academic exercise for me. It is when practice meets principle that the legal system begins to come alive and be real to the man in the street. Since Anwar’s conviction, it became impossible to defend some of these principles – the most cardinal of which is the “presumption of innocence.” Many reconciled the position and earlier decisions on the basis of political reality and expediency – I could not.
I have always been of the belief that the law provides an independent test of guilt or innocence – it is not based on truth (since often, the truth is pliable), it is based on evidence. This is the principle upheld by the Federal Court in Anwar’s case. When I read of Anwar’s acquittal yesterday, I found myself believing in the legal system once again.
The rule of law requires the subjection of every individual within the legal system to the same rules of evidence, the same burden of proof – the drug pusher, the murderer, the snatch thief, the sodomist and anyone else accused of a crime. I do not know whether Anwar committed the crime of which he stood accused, but in my mind the allegations were not proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is the standard we set in a court of law, or else, anyone can be imprisoned purely on belief, speculation and conjecture.
The legal system is not judged on the hundreds and thousands of cases justly and fairly tried but on those occasions when it falters. It is okay to falter, provided we have the courage to pick ourselves up and put it right.
The great American judge Learned Hand said half a century ago in Central Park, New York: “Liberty … lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.”
Another great English judge, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, said: “It is so easy to destroy the ancient trees of liberty; so difficult to replace them once they have been cut down.”
Today, we have shown the world that liberty is alive and well in Malaysia. God bless Malaysia.
I AM AFRAID THESE SENTIMENTS ARE IN SERIOUS DANGER OF BECOMING OBSOLETE GIVEN THE CURRENT REVISITATION OF THE SAME INJUSTICE AGAINST ANWAR.
Just when I thought our country would undergo transformational change politically, it looks like its time to ‘wag the dog’ again! This morning Anwar Ibrahim is being charged with sodomy again. This is inspite of the fact that similar unsubstantiated charges filed 10 years ago against him were overturned by the Supreme Court of Malaysia.
The initial conviction itself was in my opinion unsafe by any juristic standard. Suffice to say no prosecution should be allowed to ammend a charge several times, especially when it relates to the time and place where offence is alleged to have taken place. To compound matters, the victim denied ever being sodomized.
Today many world leaders have expressed concern over the path our country has taken. For me, this is not as important as the fact that a majority of Malaysians feel Anwar has been framed.
THE RULE OF LAW
The prosecution will argue that regardless of the sentiments expressed by the public, the legal process is not about public opinion or popularity. The rule of law demands that everyone be subject to the law regardless of position or rank. As Thomas Fuller said more than 300 years ago, “Be you never so high, the law is above you.”
The idea of the rule of law is seriously contradicted by the idea that the Attorney General has an unfettered descretion on which cases to prosecute and which cases not to. It is important to understand that although the power may seem arbitrary, it is conditioned by public opinion, juristic and ethical considerations. Any AG who disregards these considerations is perpetrating tyranny and injustice.
All criminal prosecutions are brought in the public interest. Laws are made and enforced to uphold the public good and the criminal legal system is an integral part of that process. When the criminal justice system is hijacked to promote a political agenda – the system begins to decay. It loses its moral authority and people lose faith in the legal system.
This Government has shown a willingness to address decades of erosion of public confidence in the legal system by addressing the critical questions of (1) Judicial integrity and (2) corruption within the legal system. Now, after taking one step forward, we are about to take many steps backwards, regressing to the ‘Mahathirian Era’.
I fully concur with the views expressed by John Berthelsen from Asia Sentinel, who wrote,
“Mahathir Mohammad, the long-serving prime minister who quit in 2002, had a single ambition – to reach developed-nation status by 2020. But you cannot be a first-world country with a legal system whose main characteristics are shared by the likes of Zimbabwe , Burma and North Korea . Mahathir, of course, bears a major part of the blame for the legal system, starting from his destruction of the judiciary in the 1980s. But what is going on now, six years after he was succeeded by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is nothing more than the United Malays National Organisation’s manipulation of the system a la Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe . This has nothing to do with ideology but with the dubious necessity of maintaining a political party in power.”
THE CASE AGAINST ANWAR – THUS FAR
The last time around, it was wafer thin. Let us examine whether things have improved this time around:
1. Alibi – derived from the latin language, it means to be somewhere else. A person who can prove he has an alibi proves that he was in another place when the alleged crime was committed. A valid alibi is an absolute defence, until someone invents a machine that allows a person to be at two places at the same time. Since Anwar has provided the police with an alibi, the first issue is to examine why they have rejected his alibi.
2. There are statements that Anwars semen was found on the victim’s underwear. This is very strong evidence, if true. But evidence of what? Evidence that there was some kind of sexual interaction ranging from masturbation to sexual intercourse. But sodomy would require proof of penetration – unnatural sex. Merely finding semen stains on underwear is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt of sexual intercourse. The fact that Anwar was imprisoned so many years and that the police already have his DNA samples, makes this type of forensic evidence quite unreliable and open to allegations of a ‘frame up’.
THE DECISION TO PROSECUTE
The decision whether or not to prosecute is very important. Great care must be taken in the interests of the victim, the suspected offender and the community at large to ensure that the right decision is made. A wrong decision will seriously undermine the confidence of the community in the criminal justice system.
An initial consideration is whether the evidence is sufficient to justify the institution or continuation of a prosecution. A prosecution should not be instituted unless there is admissible, substantial and reliable evidence that the oofence has been committed. When deciding whether the evidence is sufficient to justify the institution of a prosecution the existence of a bare prima facie case is not enough.
Once it is established that there is a prima facie case it is then necessary to give consideration to the prospects of conviction. A prosecution should not proceed if there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction being secured.
THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
Public opinion is very important factor in any healthy democracy. The Court of public opinion helps society make a better judgements about their government and the shape of their civil society. Negative public opinion in any matter is usually a good barometer of what the Government needs to fix. The strength of public opinion in Anwar’s matter makes it clear that people are fed-up with this brand of below the belt politics and are eager for a more enlightened form of politics. Where we shoot the message and not the messenger. It is important for those in positions of power to respect and abide by public opinion. Public opinion exposes our ugly deeds and bring us to account, examine and see where we stand. Respect for public opinion is the very basis of civil society.
Public opinion could also incite some into acting disorderly in society. Disorderly in such a way that could be against the norms of society, simply because they seek the revelation of the truth. I could name some of these dissidents, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Tunku Abdul Rahman. All of them stood against standing governments with a view to altering the status quo. In all, God has given every man his sound mind and conscience, to think and judge wisely. So, not all judgement is right. But extract the truth out of Public opinion and at least you will be on the path of democracy.
THE BROADER PICTURE – THE PENAL CODE
The offences related to this prosecution can be found in Section 377 of the Penal Code, as follows:
377A Carnal intercourse against the order of nature.
Any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of the penis into the anus or mouth of the other person is said to commit carnal intercourse against the order of nature.
377B Committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature
Whoever voluntarily commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.
377C Committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature without consent, etc
Whoever voluntarily commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature on another person without the consent, or against the will, of the other person, or by putting the other person in fear of death or hurt to the person or any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.
377CA Sexual connection by object
Any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of any object into the vagina or anus of the other person without the other person’s consent shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years and shall also be liable to whipping. [Exception: This section does not extend to where the introduction of any object into the vagina or anus of any person is carried out for medical or law enforcement purposes.]
377D Gross Indecency
Any person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years
A very good friend of mine, send me an email which proferred the following analysis which I fully concur with.
It would appear to me that by virtue of section 377B and 377D, the following would be TRUE:
(1) a husband can be jailed up to 20 years & liable to whipping if his wife performs oral sex on him. It is, however, not a crime if he performs oral sex on her.
(2) a husband can be jailed up to 20 years & liable to whipping if he has anal sex with his wife, even with her consent or blessing.
(3) a pair of consenting male homosexuals who willingly perform oral sex on, or have anal sex with, each other can both be jailed for up to 20 years and liable to whipping. It is, however, not a crime for a pair of consenting female homosexual to perform any sort of oral sex or anal sex.
By virtue of section 377D,
(1) a couple who willingly spice up their sex life in any aspect other than the ordinary missionary pose in their own bedroom could be deemed as commission of act of gross indecency and can be jailed for up to 2 years.
(2) anyone who owns/buys any sex toy could be charged for “attempts to procure the commission of act of gross indecency” with another person and can be jailed for up to 2 years.
There is no clear definition of gross indecency, even kissing in the public can be summoned to Court – there was a case few years back where a chinese couple was charged with gross indecency as they kissed in the KLCC garden.
It is time for serious law reform in the Penal Code, law’s like this ignore the social realities that are prevalent in our society. It ignores the right of individuals to regulate their own affairs without intervention in areas, where their behaviour is not harmful to others and is consensual. I fully accept that the boundary lines are difficult to draw but we must make a start somewhere if we are truly to become a developed society that is torelant and respectful of everyone. Let me share the sentiments of the Wolfenden Committee in England that recommended the decriminalization of certain types of private conduct,
“Unless a deliberate attempt is to be made by society, acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business. To say this is not to condone or encourage private immorality”.
The conduct which Anwar stands accused is practised by many people in our country UNLESS we are hypocritical enough to say there are no homosexuals or transvestites in Malaysia. Should they all be going to jail for six years.
The fundamental question is this, how does that affect an individuals ability to govern the country. I am not for one moment suggesting that Anwar is guilty of the offence for which he stands accused – all I am saying is that it is irrelevant.
If indeed Saiful was sodomized, what was the neccessity to meet with the DPM and all manner of people before acting on it. He should have just gone to a police station on the very day he was sodomized and made a report.
This much is clear – the report and the accusations were orchestrated to achieve the best political mileage posibble and to stop Anwar in his tracks.
Our mind is the undiscovered country because therein lies many answers. I believe that if we examined our own life closely, self reflection will yield many of the answers we are looking for.
One of the questions I ask often is, is there any significance for life in a Universe of billions of stars that ignore us? Is there any significance for life in a Universe whose dimensions and nature overcome our understanding?
Let me share with you the words of Pascal, in the 17th century:
“When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity that lies before and after it, when I consider the little space I fill and I see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I rest frightened, and astonished, for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there. Why now rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time have been ascribed to me?”
Many people have reasoned and found their answer to be God. That God intended us to be this or that. A central player in this enquiry therefore is GOD.
The French philosopher, André Comte-Sponville, wrote,
“Why is there something rather than nothing? We do not know. We will never know. Why? To what purpose? We do not know whether there is a purpose. But if it is true that nothing is born of nothing, the very existence of something – the world, the universe – would seem to imply that there has always been something: that being is eternal, uncreated, perhaps creator, and this is what some people call God.”
God seems to the answer to all the questions for which we have no answers. It is the solution to all our problems and the source of comfort in dealing with all of life’s inequities and frustrations. It provides an ideological premise that gives meaning and gives justification to all of life’s bullshit or as Shakespeare put it “The Heartache, and the thousand Natural shocks that flesh is heir too.” This is why we quietly accept the many hardships of life and the oppression of others passively. We tolerate the many injustices in our daily lives and “grunt and sweat under a weary life”. It is because we fear that journey to “The undiscovered country, from whose borne no Traveler returns” God is our answer to ignorance. We are puzzled and bewildered by what is to come and therefore we have decided to “bear those ills we have, then fly to others that we know not of”. God is our balm that soothes this iniquitous life.
Perhaps the earliest explanation of God comes from Hinduism. Central to the idea of God is the idea of Karma.
The philosophical explanation of karma is used in Hinduism to explain the law of moral causation. Karma is used to explain the cause of the inequality that exists among mankind? Why should one person be brought up in the lap of luxury, endowed with fine mental, moral and physical qualities, and another in absolute poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one person be a mental prodigy, and another an idiot? Why should one person be born with saintly characteristics and another with criminal tendencies? Why should some be linguistic, artistic, mathematically inclined, or musical from the very cradle? Why should others be congenitally blind, deaf, or deformed? Why should some be blessed, and others cursed from their births?
Through the law of karma, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others. The results or ‘fruits’ of actions are called ‘karma-phala’. So there is good karma and bad karma. This karma accumulates and creates a continuum over many lifetimes. So, if you are born blind or poor, the theory of Karma will hold that this because of bad deeds performed in your past life. The idea therefore, is to purify oneself towards the attainment of God – in Buddhism this called Nirvana.
The Problem with Karma
The basic problem with Karma is that the sufferer does not know why he is suffering because the suffering is related to something he/she did in their past life. It seems a totally unfair situation when someone has to suffer without knowing why he is suffering. I have always found the flaw in Karma reasoning to be that it offends my basic conception of justice. A person should know why he/she is being punished. Punishing someone without telling them why is a form of torture. According to Karma reasoning a person has to accept his downtrodden condition because of his misdeeds in his past life.
It is common place for us to read in the news that an Earthquake has claimed 100,000 lives in China or for thousands to perish in Myanmar’s Flood. Tragedy is constantly in the news, including large-scale, ‘senseless’ disasters that snuff out the lives of thousands, such as the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. Nor is tragedy confined to today—it wasn’t too long ago that an evil regime wiped out 6 million Jews and many others. In addition to the headline events, each of us suffers pain at one time or another—illness, headaches, accidents and death. Is the reason for all of this the misdeeds of a past life and if so, should we not at least know what those misdeeds are. The Karma theory forces us to accept all the calamities of life in an unquestioning manner, without any explanation being given, except that “You brought this onto yourself and you deserve it.” Imagine being caned in public by the headmaster without any explanation being given or being put in prison without any explanation being given. Its a bit like what happens to the prisoners at Guantanamo.
My view is simple. The Karma theory was invented by the rich and the powerful to safeguard their positions of power. They did this in collaboration with the religious institutions who were very powerful themselves, so that, the minions would accept the status quo without asking too many questions. This is why the caste system sustained in India for so many thousands of years. The caste system was developed by the Brahmins (Aryan priests) in order to maintain their superiority. Eventually, the caste system became formalized into four distinct classes in India. Beneath the four main castes is a fifth group, the “Untouchable” Caste. They literally have no caste and are called “untouchables”, or the “Dalits”, which means oppressed, downtrodden and an exploited social group. A Dalit is not considered to be part of the human society. Dalits are seen as polluting for higher caste people. If a higher caste Hindus is touched by an untouchable or even had a Dalit’s shadow across them, they consider themselves to be polluted and have to go through a rigorous series of rituals to be cleansed. Coming from a good caste means that you are more privileged. This can imply having a good education and, accordingly, a more powerful position in the society. Being born a Dalit you will be less well off because you are socially ostracized. Dalits are poor, deprived and socially backward.
Make no mistake about it, the caste system thrived because of the karma theory. The Karma theory provided the very justification that made the caste system acceptable. All this brings me back to the point about the disparities and injustices in our society and the how the Karma theory justifies and validates these disparities. The Karma theory paints a picture of God as sadistic and unjust. Why does the same creator of all creation vertically and horizontally divide and sub-divide his people in the name of caste, sub-caste and untouchables? Does God not love everyone?
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” ~St. Augustine
(to be continued)