This week, there’s been a storm brewing about Sharon Stone, China, and Karma. According to the BBC and MSNBC, the actress recently stated that the deadly earthquake in China was karmic payback for the way China had treated Tibet.
Needless to say, the Chinese aren’t too happy about it. In fact, they’ve yanked her current and future films from their cinemas. And Christian Dior has dropped her from their Chinese ads.
I’m amazed someone’s still paying her to make movies. But, that’s another discussion.
She comes by it honestly, though. She’s a convert to Buddhism and I can’t blame her for that. The longer I work in the mental health industry, the more of a Buddhist I become. Though there’s not a local temple for me to attend, I see so many people who are caught up in samsara, the wheel of desire, the endless cycle of death and rebirth. And to maintain my own sanity, I have to monitor my attachment and detachment.
To take it to the next step, I predict Buddhism will be the religion of the future. As we colonize space, some of the time/space constraints of some of our current faith systems could become problematic. If you are on a space station orbiting Neptune, do you realize what a pain in the neck it’s going to be to try to figure out which direction to turn to face Mecca? And if you’re sitting on one of the exo-planets we’ve discovered a few light-years beyond the Oort Cloud, are you really going to care about Jesus coming back to Earth?
But, Buddhism has Four Noble Truths. It has an Eight-Fold Path. It has a list of five things that will always serve you well, and five things that will always work against you. And that’s about it.
It is beyond time and space.
It’s the faith of the future.
But one of its key concepts is karma -- the idea that “what goes around, comes around.” And part of me wants to buy into it and part of me doesn’t.
Yes, I will be the first to agree that a lot of people bring bad onto themselves. In the current mortgage crisis, a lot of people bought more house than they could afford. If you go spreading baby-batter indiscriminately throughout the neighborhood, somebody somewhere is probably going to start biting into your take-home pay. And, if you load enough methamphetamines into your body, you’ll age faster than Keith Richards.
But, it’s not a cosmic quid pro quo. There are babies born who are hooked on drugs because their mommas couldn’t stop chasing that white dragon. The illiterate football player gets a free ride to college, while the smart kid with no connections racks up student loans to get through school. And earthquake victims who had no hand in implementing China’s Tibetan policy died anyway.
Thus, we come back to the age old question that all the great spiritual leaders have wrestled with -- why do people suffer? Why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people?
The quick answer is -- because it can.
But that may not go deep enough.
I ran across a couple of ideas a long time ago that continue to hang in the back of my mind.