A working theory of Karma

Karma is one of two aspects of Buddhism that I have not been able to reconcile with my thinking, the other being a related phenomenon – reincarnation/rebirth. My understanding was only based on the limited reading I had done on the subject, this was something I hoped to correct in the medium term. But recently, a post on awareness by Umair Haque put Karma in a nuanced new light.

More searching (google, not within ūüėČ ) took me to Two Meanings of Karma. The author distinguishes between universal and psychological karma. The former is the cosmos driven moral justice model, probably influenced by the Hinduism version of karma, which I was finding difficult to reconcile. The latter is in line with the one Umair Haque has written about. Our innate sense of morality.¬† More

I, the responsible

…and the poor poor girl died earlier in the day I wrote this. Given the delay between my writing posts, and them getting published here, we should have collectively moved on from the issue by now, at least in terms of mind space and media space- mainstream as well as trending topics.

Much, much has been written about the issue – the male/female/Indian/ NRI/feminist/opportunist/armchair activist/ weekend activist/ ‘I was there to protest’ perspective, and these were only some examples – slice and dice any way you like and you’d find a voice that spoke on behalf of the piece you carved. Like this.

Much as I abhor what happened, I see it (rape) only as one symptom of the disease we all have – our own malformed sense of justice. Probably one of the worst symptoms, but not the only one. Injustice is injustice, and it varies by degrees only on the basis of our own perspectives of right and wrong. It happens everyday – talking on the mobile phone while driving/riding, fudging tax forms, making the maid plead for a salary raise, bribing a cop, drinking and driving because you have assured yourself that you are still in control… ask your conscience, you’ll come up with many more. No, I’m not really confusing it with breaking the law – here’s an example. Five hundred times you speak on the phone while driving and nothing happens, but nothing stops the five hundred and first time being the instance that maims someone for life, and leaving him/her bereft of limbs, and perhaps dignity. Ask that person which is a larger crime – what happened to him or a gang rape – the answer should not be surprising.¬†Every action/inaction that affects the dignity of another person, that shows another person that one can get away with breaking the law, that walks the grey area between absolute right and wrong in however minute a way, is injustice in some form.¬†¬†And in this daily, casual, personal #theekhai attitude to justice lie the seeds of every horrible act of injustice.¬†Any kid watching this today and seeing the perpetrator walk away scot free will imagine he can get away with a bigger crime. And so it grows, and morphs into multi-thousand crore scams and gang rapes further down the chain. A bit like the broken windows theory.

Granted that an elected government has among its duties the responsibility of ensuring the protection of its citizens. Should we protest if they do not? Of course, but that does not absolve me of my obligation, nor does it free me of the nagging thought that as a race, our notion of justice is based on convenience. Sometimes I wonder if the birth of laws in society was a response to the slow death of justice within human beings.

So yes, I am the¬†privileged¬†who can update my Facebook status, and move on with my life. I am responsible and there’s nothing I can do about it. Before I casually judge others, I have to wonder if I have the moral authority to do so. After all, I only vary by degrees.

(image via gaping void)

until next time, </justice>


It is difficult to make the last part of a trilogy when the first two have set sky-high expectations and one managed to create a larger than life character that would probably have to be one of the best in films, ever, if not THE best. But it had to me made, and 99% would like it. And there would be a 1% hating it – either because they hate crowds, or because their stance would stand out amidst the idol worship. This also includes the .01% for whom this film – objectively and for genuine reasons known to them – didn’t work. I haven’t seen any reviews in this category yet.

So this is just a thank you note to Nolan and his team, for scripting a trilogy that took Batman out of the¬†“Holy¬†atomic pile, Batman!”¬†and the more recent caricature versions to a status deserving of years of comics. For making an intelligent movie with neat hat tips to earlier villains. For wonderful visuals that let me ignore the small doses of incredulousness in the plot. For providing an awesome closure even while throwing a line of hope.

But most importantly, for putting together a perspective on morality and the idea of justice, pursuing these themes consistently across the three movies, using characters with different worldviews, backgrounds and thinking as well as modern issues such as economic crisis and terrorism to add layers to it – the affluent Wayne/Batman can afford a moral compass and changes his path from revenge to justice, Selena/Catwoman doesn’t have that luxury but also seeks a more just balance, Bane is radical and seeks an entire wipe out, the Joker was unpredictable with seemingly no plans except chaos and showing the moral decline of society – even the white knight Harvey Dent, Ra’s-Al-Ghul abhors any sort of weakness in the delivery of justice. All have their own notions of justice, fairness and the institutions of society, institutions we have chosen but whose tools have been subverted, whose rules we try to live by have slowly become unfair and shackles those who desire justice. And thus, for the idea of the Batman as a symbol for those good people who restore our faith in humanity with their actions – “Anyone can be a hero. Even a man who put a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended‚ÄĚ,¬†and as an ideal.

until next time, thus spake a fanboy :)

Bonus read: Nolan’s goodbye letter to Batman

Just about fair

A few days back, on Twitter, Vijay Sankaran shared an article, that led to a brief but heated debate. By the time I joined in, fun time was over and people had moved on, but i still manage to butt heads with Surekha for a while. Since the 140 character format was a constraint, we left the argument in a safe place and I said that I’d share a post soon with my consolidated view on the matter.

The matter was of course “SRK: Now playing at an airport near you”. No, don’t yawn yet. After evading ‘gyarah mulkon ki police’, this is exciting stuff – the discovery of a continent where the words “Rahul/Raj, naam to suna hoga” don’t mean a damn, and an ordeal which lasted (depending on who you speak to) 2 hours/ just over an hour. That makes me wonder whether SRK started off with ” Sattar minute hain tumhare paas, shayad tumhare zindagi ke khaas sattar minute”. In any case, by the time it ended he must’ve been saying “Babuji ne kaha gaon chhod do, sab ne kaha paro ko chhod do, paro ne kaha sharaab chhod do, please aap mujhe chhod do”. Ok, ok, sorry. I am not really an SRK fan, but I have to admit, I admire the journey from Fauji back in 1988 – a hard fought climb to the very top. An amazing trip. And when the ego was forced to land at Newark, even if it was for a brief period, it must’ve been painful.

Fingers have been pointed (including mine, initially) about how it was a good promotion for the upcoming movie ‘My Name is Khan‘. But from online sources, the release date for MNIK is 2010. This would be way too premature, and despite his faults, I can’t remember SRK doing publicity stunts like this. (correct me if i have forgotten something) He himself brushed off the incident later and said that they were doing their job, and when compared to an ex-president, (Kalam getting frisked) he was a nobody. I’m inclined to say that maybe he wasn’t guilty of making it a great deal, but the media and us consumers of media were. (Yes, even this post is a case in point, eh? :) )

But all this was just an introduction. The article i mentioned earlier (and which you didn’t bother to click) is by Govindraj Ethiraj and is titled ‘The Idea of Injustice”. It centers upon whether the detention of SRK was unfair, unjust, both or neither. The writer gives various examples of injustice that we experience/see around us in our daily lives – from the politician’s convoy that disrupts our commute to the people sleeping on the roadside outside Hard Rock Cafe. He goes on to say that “Young India actually lives on with the most amazing amalgam of principals and values. Where justice and injustice have little or no co-relation to our real lives or that of others. Where denial of a right to education, livelihood or food has no bearing on our notion of justice.” The title of the article relates to Prof. Amartya’s Sen’s “The Idea of Justice”, and the article also cites some of his views.

Surekha felt that the comparison was harsh and unfair and fans are entitled to their expression, and countering every protest with questions on outrage against poverty, corruption etc won’t get us anywhere. While I agreed that fans could express themselves anyway they wanted, I felt the comparison was valid and the sense of injustice that some felt when SRK was detained was connected to the injustice that the child living in poverty faced. (What he makes out of it later/destiny etc is a different debate) To me, it is not a comparison, but a connection nevertheless. Saying that it is not connected reflects our contextual sense of justice that I kept mentioning. We are affected when the things we hold dear (from family to property to film stars) are affected, the rest is someone else’s problem. We relate to our immediate context, and would like justice in that bubble. We are totally unaffected by the rest of the world’s misery. Yes, we do like the candle marches, and protest groups on Facebook, they are easy ways to placate our conscience. But ‘our’ experience of injustice is more pertinent than anyone else’s, and we turn a blind eye to things that will not affect our bubble.

Forget the rest of the world, when we have an argument with someone close, how many times do we try to be genuinely conscious of the other person’s point of view/perspective? Aren’t we always right in the stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves? Aren’t our actions always warranted, just, fair? Can’t we always justify? Heh, to ask the same us to reflect a bit on the world’s inequities when we aren’t even conscious of our own motivations and sense of right and wrong would be asking for too much, huh? Right, wrong, justice, injustice, fairness, unfairness are all subjective, basis our perspectives. Think about it, shouldn’t unfairness and injustice be absolutes, and not relative to any individual’s perceptions and perspectives? But we’ve built an entire society and its accompanying systems and laws based precisely on this. From communities to joint families to nuclear families to the individual, our concern ‘circle’ has been becoming smaller all the while. And everything from world wars to strife in personal relationships is because of our narrowing concern. But this is not a commentary on society, for after all, if change has to happen, it has to be at the individual level.

Bura Jo Dekhan Main Chala, Bura Naa Milya Koye
Jo Munn Khoja Apnaa, To Mujhse Bura Naa Koye

~ Kabir

Objectivity. To see things unhindered and uninfluenced by the baggage we carry around. To go beyond our conditioning – self imposed and otherwise and look at ourselves first, and then the world around us as absolutes. Why? Selfishly- because it can un-complicate us, selflessly- because it makes us more humane. When we can do that, perhaps we’ll understand¬† the connection and what justice and fairness is all about.

until next time, ego messages

PS. The thought continues….