Karma Zain (karmazain) wrote,
Karma Zain
karmazain

Questions you've asked on Things You've Read: karma

Q: I read that if you take a spell from someone else and use it, you are sharing in the karma from the person who wrote that spell.

A:  Seriously?!  You read that?!  Good lord, stop going to that website.  That's utter bollocks, sorry. In fact, most anything said by contemporary pagans about karma is utter bollocks, sorry to say, and this bit about a spell's karma is about the height of absurdity in a vast sea of absurd stuff written about karma by neopagans who didn't have even a third-rate education in world religion. A high school freshman trained by Jesuits knows better than this. First of all, karma doesn't work like that.  Karma has to do with ethics, action, and volition; a set of written instructions has no karma, nor can it serve as a vector for someone else's karma. Karma is not mana or juju where an object or even a speech act accrues it or absorbs it, and even if a spell (or cake recipe, or auto repair manual) had or could transmit karma, the most fundamental principles of karma would dictate that the same recipe could be followed by two different people with two different ethical results depending on an extremely complex interplay of factors. Second of all, and most importantly for our purposes here, karma has no place in traditional conjure. You are welcome to believe in it. Heck, you are even welcome to believe in the new-age bastardized Western version of it that modern neo-pagans will feed you, when they relate it to the Wiccan Rede or so-called Rule of Three or whatever.  What you can't do is import that into your conjure work and call it traditional hoodoo. It's not traditional hoodoo and it's also not a traditional Eastern view of karma.  People will say "you can't deny the rule of karma any more than you can deny the law of gravity," and that is just plain wrong, I'm sorry.  You can't even begin to conceive of how karma works until you've taken reincarnation into account. Presuming that karma="as you sow, so shall you reap," and that all the sowing and reaping happens within a short, predefined period of time in which you are an observer for the whole thing unfolding (like your single lifetime) is just preposterous. Karma does NOT mean "I was mean to the guy who asked me to prom, so when I am in college, I will get dumped/stood up/whatever and that is my karma."  It does not mean "I will reap the rewards of good action in this lifetime" or "If i cast a 'black magic' spell, it will return on me."  That is just ridiculously oversimplified. 

Karma is far too complex a concept for me to explain briefly in a blog post, esp. when that blog is dedicated to the concepts, theory, and practice of hoodoo and karma has no place in traditional hoodoo. It is difficult for me to say anything about karma without drastically oversimplifying it; it is an extremely complex concept.  But I will note that the idea of "This bad or good thing happens in this life because of my bad or good actions in this life; what I reap is a result of what I sow in the present" -- and this is essentially what people are saying when they try to apply karma to the practice of spellwork -- is explicitly refuted in Buddhist teachings.  In fact, the teachings are explicit that one is NOT required to "repay" all the past "debt" of one's karma; to proclaim otherwise is to deny the possibility of emancipation. In the Anguttara Nikaya, III.101 (Lonaphala Sutta), is written:

  • Monks, for anyone who says, 'In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,' there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress. But for anyone who says, 'When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,' there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress. - trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu
And here is another translation:
  • O priests, if anyone says that a man must reap according to his deeds, in that case, O priests, there is no religious life, nor is any opportunity afforded for the entire extinction of misery. But if anyone says, O priests, that the reward a man reaps accords with his deeds, in that case, O priests, there is a religious life, and opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of misery. -- trans. Henry Clarke Warren, in Sacred Writings: With Introductions and Notes, Charles William Eliot, ed., P.F. Collier & Son, 1910.


You might have to read this more than once for the distinction that is being made here to sink in. And you should certainly read it in its larger context, which is why I've cited my sources and linked to versions you can get to and read yourself.  And reading in the larger context would rightfully include reading the Buddhist works to which the above words were a response, such as tracts that lay out karma as a strict series of cause and effect (eg, a man who steals grain will be reborn as a rat; it is this simplistic view of karma as strict cause and effect that Buddha was objecting to).

You must also understand that this is my understanding from my study and I do not speak for all Buddhists or Hindus etc. I have, however, made a rather more than typical effort at understanding what is meant by karma, since my parents gave me this name and I began making study of it by the age of 5.  You should certainly study and read for yourself.  But you should worry about how this affects your daily life and actions only if you are seriously studying Hinduism or Buddhism (which you should if you presume to speak about it!) - if your interest in this is only as a student of hoodoo or some other type of folk magic, then you only need to know that karma has no place in it, at least not as it is typically understood in the West by modern-day neopagans.  Even the general definition you will see in dictionaries, of karma as meaning that every action will return to the doer with equal impact, is an oversimplified misunderstanding.  While it is true that a man reaps the seed he plants, it is not only his conscious action that has a bearing on what he reaps; there is also the quality of the seed; the choice of seed; the inherent intellect of the man from birth that influences his understanding of planting; the education of the man during life that influences his understanding of planting (and the karma of his parents has an effect on all of these things); the moral disposition behind the planting of the seed (if any); the desire that informs the action of the planting (if any); the type of ground in which the seed is planted; the effects of weather patterns, soil quality, rainwater, irrigation, and environmental predation; whether he afterwards pulls out the weeds and waters the crop; etc.  Karma is important, but so are birth, personality, effort and intention, time and conditions, beauty and ugliness. If one sows a seed for good but later repents of that good, there is no good that recurs to him as a result of that sowing. If one sows a seed with no desire at all, that action has no karma. In any event you should not presume that with limited human temporal understanding, you will have the slightest grasp of what causes and effects are at work in your life or the life of someone else.  In short, do not let someone give you a one-sentence or one-paragraph definition of karma.  If you want to understand it, don't accept some modern Western, pre-digested version of it. Study it for yourself in context. If you are not willing to do that, fine, then just drop it. Don't take some half-baked crap and try to apply it to a religion, worldview, culture, or practice that has never heard of it. To do is insulting to conjure, insulting to Buddhism, and insulting to the intelligence.

Tags: karma, questions you've asked
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