Tsunamis, Karma, and Divine Retribution

March 31, 2011

Some people have said that the Japanese tsunami catastrophe was divine retribution. In a search for a meaningful explanation of why this terrible thing happened to these people, the idea was put forward that somehow they had brought it upon themselves by displeasing God, who then punished them by sending the disaster.

Apart from making God look not so nice, this makes the search for meaningful explanations look not so nice either.

It also amounts to an extreme application of a widely accepted principle: do good things and good things will be done to you, do bad things and bad things will be done to you.

This karmic explanation creates a sticky problem. Sometimes bad things are done to those who do good things, and vice versa.

This requires that the explanation be elaborated upon, applying the principle over an elongated time duration: you can reap the consequences today of actions that you performed in the distant past. Maybe even a past life. The reaping is just delayed. It’s all cause and effect.

The way to be done with karma is to know yourself as fully being self-sufficient. The enlightened experience is of fullness, of inner fullness and outer fullness, and of fullness matching fullness. Nothing needs anything other than itself to be known or to be defined. Or explained.

The by-product of that is to know all moments as fully being self-sufficient. One thing at a time, and each thing unto itself.

Then it isn’t about cause and effect. There is just being. And tragedy or its opposite are just happenings.

As it says in Answers From Silence, “The wise have no ‘why’s.”

This doesn’t mean that you don’t grieve, or that you do nothing to respond to events.

One must always do what needs to be done. If there is a tsunami-sized mess to clean up, then clean it up. There are no questions to ask about that.

But when you ask, “Why did this happen?”, you are often really asking, “Why did this happen to me?”

When you ask this, you are confusing one thing with another. This happening is not about you. Only you are about you. This happening is about this happening.

It can be said that the Japanese didn’t cause a tsunami to wash onto their shores. Impersonal tectonic forces, driven inevitably by the laws of physics, did that.

As it says in Answers From Silence, “Don’t take anything personally. Except what you do to yourself.”