Karma may be a bitch but it is not an itch

The trouble with the concept of karma is that it is a notion based on the assumption that nature owes humanity something. When we put faith in the notion that karma will catch up with someone who has wronged us, we hinge that faith on the belief that “justice” is some kind of natural order that, if human society fails to uphold it, Mother Nature will take onto her own hands.


Step back a bit and into the world of environmental activism — the collective of movements that aim to “save” the planet — then ask this simple question:

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Does Planet Earth need saving?

The irony that seems to escape the thought leaders of our species is that the very arrogance that leads us to presume that Planet Earth needs “saving” from our lot is the very arrogance that brought us to this point to begin with. Specifically, the point we assume we are at today is one where our species have the power to “destroy” or “save” our planet and that the future of our children depends on our choice of which path to take.

This whole line of thinking begs a reality check. Planet Earth is nowhere near any danger of being “destroyed” — much less destroyed by an organism that managed to grow a brain capable of figuring out how to burn fossil fuels only in the last 500,000 years and one that scrapes a precarious existence by extracting resources off an inconsequentially thin layer of its planetary crust. Human existence would not even register as an itch on Mother Earth’s skin. And even if we did manage to elicit that itch, a quick scratch would relieve her of her annoyance and us of our misery. Permanently in the case of the latter.

Which leads us that that reality check: Mother Earth is in no danger of destruction. But our activities are on the verge of giving her an itch. What environmentalists fear (and these are the real environmentalists here) is the coming day when Mother Earth scratches.

Our planet is not going to die anytime soon, see. But what could happen is that the Earth could change its surface properties to a form that is inhospitable to human life — pehaps heralding a new planetary era that will see cockroaches emerge as the dominant form of life the way mammals did after dinosaurs went extinct and the era of reptiles came to a close a couple hundred million years ago.

Turning fuel into energy, after all, has always been a natural process going on long long before human beings appeared. Humans merely accelerated that natural process by building machines that could release energy stored in fossil fuels (essentially millions of years worth of solar energy stored in carbon-based matter) a lot faster. Just the same, we did it using our brains which, itself, is a naturally-occuring structure and its output, thinking, itself also a natural process.

In short, everything, ultimately, is natural — including human activity and its effect on the environment.

A Mercedes Benz is as much a natural outcome of human activity as an ant hill is an outcome of ant activity. So are the wars, the politics, the genocide, social media, space travel, and all the art and science that humanity has so far collectively achieved. Until recently, all that human activity, “good” or “bad”, has not caused an itch on Mother Nature’s skin.

In that light, there is nothing in nature upon which karma works. It is a human notion. And as far as Mother Nature is concerned, humans don’t matter — until they cause an itch.

20 Replies to “Karma may be a bitch but it is not an itch”

  1. From my understanding of Buddhism, Karma is not anticipating justice or revenge for any wrongdoing that was committed on us or others; this is a selfish and false understanding of Karma.

    Instead, Karma is realizing that this world is round, and everything we do–to ourselves, others or this planet–has a resulting effect on everyone and everything, including future generations.

    So make sure you think about the affect of what you think and do today, for it will have consequences down the road—it always does.

    1. to be precise, the Buddhist got its concept of karma from Hinduism, which states that karma dictates what the person will be in the next life. If he currently lives a bad life, he will be punish in the reincarnated life by living in a lower form (to be an animal, plant or evil spirit). The more good deed one accumulates, the higher level of existence he’ll attain. Though varying amongst different sect of Hindus, the most common ultimate goal to be one with the main Spirit (Brahman?).

      Buddhist simply stated that one can cut a thousand lifetime to a single lifetime to achieve the ultimate level, Nirvana for their case, though reaching enlightenment.

      Typical Filipinos twisted the concept of Karma as though tadhana (fate in Tagalog), though karma (again in Filipino sense), will settle things out, in effect mindlessly achieve justice for the inflicted and punishment for the “inflictor”.

      1. OnesimusUnbound,

        “Typical Filipinos twisted the concept of Karma as though tadhana (fate in Tagalog), though karma (again in Filipino sense), will settle things out, in effect mindlessly achieve justice for the inflicted and punishment for the ‘inflictor.'”

        I’m not surprised at all that Filipinos will twist concepts around in their head to fit their own need. Look what they did to the Tagalog and English language. They’ve twisted these two language and came up with a new dialect called “TagLish.”

        “Taglish” colloquailism worked for Filipinos, but it dumbed them down and made them too lazy to try to learn the correct of usage both language to gain worldwide respect as effective communicators.

        It’s the same with religion and superstition. Filipinos often can’t tell the difference what is considered religion and what is superstition. The sight of Mother Donisia (Manny Pacquaio’s mother) holding a rosary and mumbling an incohorent prayer in front of the camera, made her appear as if she was trying to cast a good and bad spell on her (Protestant) son and his opponent, respectively, will be permanently etched in the world’s minds on how we Filipinos think.



  2. Environmentalism has failed. It’s been in existence for 60 or so years now, and yet conditions for humans and other forms of life on this planet are worse off than when the movement was born.

    What most environmentalists don’t understand is that Earth does not need saving.

    “Saving Mother Earth” is pointless. In fact, Earth has been “destroyed” more than ten times in the past five billion years or so; it has collided with another planet, frozen at least three times, been through at least one gamma ray burst, and has been hit with countless mountain-sized rocks in its existence.

    Environmentalists need to rethink their philosophies, and part of it is understanding that it is the current ECOLOGY (the one with the humans and other forms of life) that needs to be conserved. Even then, they also need to understand that nature and human innovation must accommodate each other–a concept that many environmentalists in the Philippines still need to understand despite their antiquated principles.

    1. That’s it. Human existence is just a blip in geological timescales. Even amongst human species, Sapiens can’t claim to have ruled the earth the longest. That distinction belongs to homo erectus which persisted as a distinct species for 1.9 million years. In comparison, homo sapiens has existed as a distinct hominid species only in the last 500,000 years.

      1. Yes. Indeed the earth need not saving but the humans as conscious beings do.

        Environmentalist/Humanist should probably change their advocacy to “Save Humanity” or “Save Us” rather than “Save Mother Earth” it’ll probably more effective lol

    2. MidwayHaven,

      The only reason the condition for humanity and other forms of life on this planet has gotten worse–and everyone wants to blame the bulk of the failure to Environmentalism–is because the majority of the population are not willing to give up their wasteful lifestyle and wanton usage of the earth’s natural resources—which is what conservationism is supposed to teach the earth’s population to do. Save.

      Environmentalists are just cleaning up the trash that is polluting the planet, while Conservationists are supposed to make sure those ‘trash’ stay in their natural state as much as possible as fossil fuels, and not be dug up and used for self-gain or profit.

      You are right. The earth doesn’t need saving because it can heal itself. However, the inhabitants of this earth, especially their sources of water and food, are constantly being threatened with shortages–and extinction–due to the man-made toxicities created in the environment by fossil fuels.

      I don’t think anyone alive today really cares about the how many times the earth had been destroyed 5 billion years ago; nor, will they care how it will be destroyed, and rebuilt, 5 billion years from now. All living things care about is the here and now, and what will happen in their lifetime and the future of their offspring(s).

      Both Environmentalists and Conservationists—not just the former—need to rethink their philosophies, and try eliminate the divisions between them, by trying to work together to revitalized the earth’s natural ecosystems, by incorporating both technology and nature, that is based on altruistic cooperation and not greed, to ensure the survival of all species on the planet.

      This ‘selfless and compassion’ approach is especially true in the Philippines, where the drive for modernization and profit are altering–and destroying–the natural ecosystem in this country, and gradually making the population dependent on artificial means for their survival.


      1. According to what learned recently,we are heading towards the 6th mass extinction,however this is the first one brought about by humans…..

        1. As the saying goes, don’t bite the hands that feed you.
          In theory
          This is why the king of the elites, the true 0.1% is pushing for a new world order. Throughout the centuries they have failed time and time again to unite the world into a one world government, they have tried wars, plagues, etc. so now they are penetrating through economic destabilization probably and other ways like divide and conquer, last resort for them is to trigger a thermonuclear war where every government and country will be so devastated and reduced to rubble with the impossibility of recovery without the help and submitting to the elites and his army who stayed safe in a secret futuristic self-sustaining nuclear proof bomb shelter/city?

          Good thing about this is in theory if successfully the world united, be it in a world dictatorship,democratic,capitalistic or well-thought socially engineered world society, where there is true freedom and everything Utopian is achievable technological advancement will skyrocket as the budget for space agency, research and development, social sciences will be close to unlimited as the governing powers chooses to.

          In the 1960’s we when to the moon, in the 1970’s we should be on mars, what about the 1980? 1990? 2000? 2010?

          NASA’s budget was cut-off bigtime.

  3. Karma comes after everyone eventually. You can’t get away with screwing people over your whole life, I don’t care who you are. What goes around comes around. That’s how it works. Sooner or later the universe will serve you the revenge that you deserve.

    1. I don’t think that Idi Amin per example got what he deserved……unless going into exile to Saudi Arabia is punishment enough.

      1. When that Maguindanao massacre suspect died recently, I saw a lot of Filipino commenters joyfully saying it was karma and he got what he deserved. Which was to die in his sleep, many years older than the average life expectancy, visited by family and attended by upscale hospital staff, years after his alleged sins took place. I wonder how high the bar has to get before a comforting ‘karma’ delusion can’t be applied?

  4. I enjoy reading Get Real Philippines and always find it well-written and insightful, so I hope my comments are taken in the spirit intended, ie; to try and add a bit of clarity to one of my pet peeves.

    Specifically, the (mis)use of the word “karma” (“kamma” in Therevada Buddhism, which is my school)

    To put it most simply, in Buddhism, “kamma” simply means an action, NEVER its result.

    Keeping it simple, there are three words that are more appropriate when speaking of the results of “kamma”:

    “Phala”, which roughly translates as “fruit”;

    “vipaka”, which roughly translates as “effect” or “result” and;

    “Kammavipaka”, which rougly translates as “results of kamma”

    The law of “kamma” has nothing to do with the idea of moral justice. Although some scholars try to claim their common origin or confuse them through analogy, there is no justification for such efforts. To start, the theory of moral justice is grounded on the assumption of a supreme being or a so-called creator God, the lawgiver who sits in judgment over all actions

    The law of “kamma”, on the other hand, is a natural law. It is a law of cause and effect, of action and reaction. The law of “kamma” operates on its own, requiring no assumption of a God, and has nothing to do with the idea of reward or punishment. In fact, the concept of justice is irrelevant, a mere expedient in the cause of convenience of expression, a convention. The law of “kamma” operates with full and perfect justice, but that is quite a different matter from the concept of justice as understood in theistic religions.

    1. Jack Darby,

      I understand what you’re talking about, but let me try to break it down–and correct me if I’m wrong–for the majority of the readers from a “theistic” (traditional religions) background.

      1). Buddhism is not a religion (only “theistic” religions call Buddhism a religion so they can identify and try to dissect it to serve their own purpose); instead it’s a set of “precepts” (teachings) about the basic laws of life (Four Noble Truth and the Eightfold Path). Some may even call Buddhism a philosophy.

      2). What I call ‘results’ are actually “Cause and Effect” in Buddhism. For every action (or inaction) taken, there is always an effect.

      3) For those revenge-seeking people out there, I hate to disappoint you. There is no revenge in Buddhism. Just “effect.” The effect may not be immediate or directed at you or the person you willed it to, but it will take place to someone, something, or somewhere in this lifetime; or, in the next life through “reincarnation” (Buddhist belief), but it will take “effect” regardless. This is the kind of justice I believe Jack Darby is talking about.


      1. Aeta,

        I wouldn’t presume to correct you, but I would offer some amplification on the points you have made.

        As for Buddhism being a religion, I think it’s fair to say that some people and some groups treat it as a religion. For example, some people pray TO the Buddha asking for favor. Some groups use Buddhism for the control of others and for their own enrichment.

        Others treat Buddhism as a philosophy because, if one reads the original teachings of the Buddha, the Buddha made quite clear that he was only a man, ie; Buddhism does not have a deity.

        So, if the sole criterion for a religion is the presence of a deity, Buddhism does not qualify, ie; it’s a philosophy.

        Regarding your point that “for every action (or inaction) taken, there is always an effect.”, in Buddhism there is the dimension of “volition”, ie; the concept of “will” attached to every action. For example, if one walks in his backyard and, without thought, steps on and kills 100 microscopic bugs it is, from a kamma perspective, much different than intentionally killing a spider that is crawling on the wall.

        I agree that there is no revenge in Buddhism simply because there is no deity making moral judgements and dispensing punishment. However, regarding one’s actions, it is wise to be mindful of what the Buddha taught:

        “All sentient beings are the owners of their kamma, inheritors of their kamma, born of their kamma, related to their kamma, supported by their kamma.

        1. Jack Darby,

          We essentially agree on all those points about Buddhism–although our approach may vary a little. I have been studying Buddhism for a few years now and totally convinced that the Philippines–and its people–could benefit by doing the same, instead of relying solely on the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Islam religion, that have caused nothing but divisions and dysfunction in this country’s value system.

          I look forward to discussing the teachings of Buddhism with you on this blog in the near future.



  5. Mahatma Gandhi
    “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
    Your thoughts become your words,
    Your words become your actions,
    Your actions become your habits,
    Your habits become your values,
    Your values become your destiny.”
    Maybe if more people were forward thinking,yes you in the Philippines,you wouldn’tfind yourselves in numerous predicaments you are in today..

    ― Mahatma Gandhi

  6. Karma is based on the 3rd Law of Motion in Physics:”if there is an action, there is an equal or opposite reaction…” whether, you believe it or not, depends on you.

    Mother Earth has a heartbeat called: Schumann Resonance. It is on the level of 13 now. It is nearing its limit. We destroyed the “Cycle of Renewal”, of Mother Earth, thru :pollution on air, land , & sea. Indiscriminate logging, caused floods; irresponsible mining of its mineral, etc…The Planet Earth is our Home. Humans are the only species, that destroy , its own Home.

    It is like the “Spider Web”. If you destroy a part of the “Spider Web”…all will be destroyed.

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