Submit to destiny and feel a little karma
By Nury Vittachi
The Asian concept of karma is storming the West. An American TV series based on the idea that fate ultimately rewards the good and punishes the bad has become one of the most popular sitcoms for years. The show, My Name is Earl, tells the story of how an unlovable man—a redneck petty thief called Earl Hickey—is transformed by karma.
Yes, it’s clever and funny, but to be honest, the situation envisaged—karma gives big cash lottery prizes to people who do good deeds—does not ring true with the real Asian spirit of karma (or with real life, come to that).
Let me demonstrate with a true story. A burglar in India gave himself up after he decided that karma was teaching him an important lesson.
Sharanappa Heralgi broke into a house in Karnataka one night and stole a painting of the householder in the hopes that it might be valuable.
But when he got home and looked at it in the light, he was stunned to see that it was a portrait of his long-lost sister Parvati, who he had not seen since she had been kidnapped 13 years earlier.
Clearly, karma was sending a message to him. But what was it?
He decided to break into the house again – but this time to gaze upon the sleeping woman who lived there.
At dead of night, he snuck into her bedroom, and his heart broke when he saw her face. “My beloved sister,” he breathed to himself.
“I didn’t want to wake her up as I wasn’t entirely sure how she would react knowing that her brother was a thief,” he later told the Patrike newspaper. “I felt like an absolute monster.”
He decided that karma wanted him to give up his evil ways. He went to the police station and confessed all.
The dramatic import of the encounter was somewhat diminished when investigations revealed that the whole thing was a mistake. The woman was not related to him in any way.
But this being India, both burglar and victim decided to gloss over this inconvenient fact. The woman told police she would not press charges, explaining: “It’s possible he could have been my brother in a previous life.”
Her sibling-from-a-past-life agreed with this interpretation of events. Police let him go without charge. “He appears genuinely sorry for his actions,” said an officer. “Hopefully he will be a changed man.”
I can see other villains adopting this interesting defence. “I only stole everything you own because I thought you were a close family member.”
Anyway, the new Western interest in karma has generated new bits of culture such as the following list, known as The Sayings of the Jewish Buddhists.
1. If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
2. Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
3. Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the second sip, satisfaction. With the third sip, peace. With the fourth, a Danish.
4. Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems. What would you talk about?
5. Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.
If anyone is offended by this column, please be tolerant. After all, I may have been your brother in a previous life. Scary, huh?