Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm a Would-Be Buddhist Who is Sick of Karma

The Buddhist Who Is Sick of Karma

As I search for Fair Trade organizations employing people with disabilities I keep
running into similar attitudes, despite the religions in which they exist.
Such people are shunned, despised, beggars, hungry, stigmatized, etc.  In Christian
countries they are thought to have sinned or be marked by the sins of their parents.
In Muslim countries they are either thought to have God's disapproval or in a few
cases, Muslims think God allowed them to be born for a reason and it is the duty
of a compassionate Muslim to help.  Some Christians, (mostly from Western countries,
have this same attitude.
In Buddhist countries people with disabilities are said to be living out the karma
they deserve and are also shunned, etc.
Once I talked to a Buddhist Priest about this and he said, "Oh no, that is the Hindu
idea of karma."
But when I talked to a Westernized Tibetan I spoke of Helen Keller.  I said that
she had learned to read ten differing forms of Braille in houses so cold at times
that her fingers actually bled.  She pushed Congress to standardize Braille so that
blind and deaf-blind people would only have to learn one form of it.  This was done
and today that system of Braille covers seven different countries around the world.
Helen Keller also pushed for the establishment of the National Library Service for
the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  This system allows those who can't read normal
sized print or who can't hold a book, turn pages, etc. to receive free loaned books
in large print, audio, or Braille format.  It's the reason I had books to read during
the summers, coming to me postage free, through the mail.
Helen Keller was a socialist who wrote in favor of treating what are now called "the
working poor" with decency and dignity.
When I said I thought Helen Keller was a Bodhisattva this prominent Tibetan stated
clearly that I am wrong.  He said that maybe she became a Bodhisattva in Spite of
her disabilities, but that her disabilities Were the Result of Negative Karma.  How
does he know?
The more I investigate worldwide attitudes toward people with disabilities the more
they seem similar.  Whether you call it sin, witchcraft, or Karma, you have a ready
made excuse to ignore, fear, and avoid with arrogance, people with disabilities.
You have a ready made reason in the name of religion to blame them and feel superior.
I think that's nonsense.  What happens to the Karma of those who think they know?
Those who feel superior, judge, avoid, shun, refuse to help, people with disabilities?
I have found many disabled people who create beauty and hope for themselves and others.
Are we all sure this is "in spite of their disabilities?"  That is convenient, but
is it true?
The reason many people with disabilities in the developing world are beginning to
shine is that Someone offered them a Chance to work, to Prove what they could do.
Most often that Someone was an Christian, atheist, or agnostic, Not a Buddhist.
I believe that deliberate cruelty toward anyone will come back to bite any of us
who commit it.  But to me that is different than a categorical judgment against an
entire class of people.
Personally, I just don't buy the ""bad karma" explanation anymore than I buy the
"sin" or "witchcraft" ones.  I think I do not know or Care why someone has a disability.
My job is to offer what assistance I can and the rest isn't my business.
So if that is heresy or unBuddhist, so be it.  The Buddha is said to advise that
we use what works and not what doesn't.  I'm Sick of karma as a reason for all misfortune
and pain.    What matters to me in Buddhism is to try Not to hurt others, to try
to understand and be compassionate and peaceful.  If I focus on what I care about
I don't have time to judge others.  Of course, I have a long way to go, but this
is what I think.
Do you and Buddhist friends completely disagree?

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