Friday, July 31, 2009

The issue of kamma

The issue of kamma (in Pali, in Sanskrit it’s karma) frequently comes up during discussions of both race and homosexuality; it’s a subject within the larger discourse that cannot be ignored. But what is kamma? And why does it have anything to do with me being gay? And if it does, why is it presumed that my kamma is negative?

I was prompted to think about this by a couple links I found at Angry Asian Buddhist. One link is to a post by GK Sandoval, a Navaho from Arizona who found Buddhism. At the blog The Drums of Dharma, Sandoval explains that his unlikely finding of Buddhism most probably had to do with the seeds of kamma planted in previous lives. Through some good deeds, gestures, acts, or even thoughts, Sandoval found the Dhamma in this life.

There was another link to a 2008 Tricycle article by David Loy titled “Rethinking Karma.” Loy writes about how kamma (remember, I tend to prefer to use Pali terms rather than the Sanskrit terms) is used by others, particularly in terms of race, to justify not doing anything to correct injustices, because the fruition of one’s kamma is already bringing on the necessary consequences.

These are, to me, very peculiar perspectives, and I don’t just mean the perspectives presented by the two authors. I also mean the larger perspective held by the large culture that asserts, in my case anyway, that being gay must be a negative consequence brought on by my personal kamma, which results from past misbehavior in previous lives.

But that would presume homosexuality is necessarily inferior from heterosexuality. It can’t be a punishment unless being gay is inferior to being straight. It can’t be a punishment unless being poor is inferior to being wealthy. It can’t be a punishment unless being black is inferior to being white.

What kind of presumption is that? I will be returning to this subject.

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