People in Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, are blaming the cyclone that killed untold numbers, on bad karma: specifically, their brutal government (which is still blocking aid from reaching its desperate survivors) for killing protesting monks.
In thisthis Western story on the subject, notice how the reporter and those he interviews, including a Westernized Buddhist, keep confounding that wholly impersonal religion of law alone with the Christian God. They do not realize that theodicy–why would a good deity allow such things–hardly comes up in other religions, whose gods are often not personal at all, or if they are, they are not even assumed to be righteous:
After a natural disaster strikes in the United States, the question almost immediately arises: Where was God? Or, did God allow this to happen?
Half a world away, as Burma digs out from a devastating cyclone that experts say could claim 100,000 lives or more, the question — and answer — are quite different.
About 80 percent of Burma’s estimated 52 million people are Buddhist, and many there rely on the principle of karma to explain the storm, scholars say.
Specifically, many of Burma’s people believe Cyclone Nargis is a karmic consequence of military rulers’ brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks last fall, said Ingrid Jordt, an anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was once a Buddhist nun in Burma and maintains ties there.“The immediate explanation was: This is retribution for killing monks,” Jordt said. “In any cataclysm, human beings seek to make sense of something that completely destroys the continuity of life. It’s an attempt to bring the world back into harmony.”
The word “karma” is often misunderstood by Westerners as one’s inescapable destiny, scholars say. In Sanskrit, the word means “action” and refers to the act that creates one’s fate, not fate itself. For Buddhists, particularly those in Southeast Asia, karma regulates morality as firmly as Newton’s law rules motion: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. . . .
A distant echo of such ideas can perhaps be heard in Christian leaders who tied the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina to sexual immorality in New York City and New Orleans.
American Zen Buddhist and author Brad Warner said blaming Burma’s cyclone on bad karma hews uncomfortably close to those ideas.
“To me it sounds like we’re just substituting karma for God,” he said.
And with so many innocent victims, karma seems a harsh and indiscriminate explanation, Warner said.