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Animal Suffering: Is There a Karma Connection?
My best friend and I decided to go to a vegetarian convention about a month
ago to see what the fuss was about. After seeing all the reasons for
becoming a vegan, I decided to adopt the lifestyle. However, my friend is
still adamant in his meat-eating ways. He strongly believes in karma and
thinks that all the suffering brought upon the animals is just a part of the
cycle. In his view, these beings must have done something really awful in
their past lives and are just now reaping what they have sewn. I don't know
how to respond to that. Suppose there is really no such thing as
reincarnation? Even if there is, how can he just stand by and eat that steak
while knowing how it arrived on his plate? What about compassion and
forgiveness? How do I handle the situation?
Those who believe in karma as part of their spiritual beliefs know that it
refers to the consequences of our actions and does not solely or necessarily
deal with reincarnation. How we choose to interpret karma from the
standpoint of our religious or spiritual beliefs can directly affect how we
treat others. We can use karma as a way to bolster our own egos, justify the
abuse of others, or inspire us to more compassion and kindness. Karma from a
practical perspective is not about an afterlife or our next incarnation; it
very realistically determines the heaven or hell we create here on earth
during this lifetime.
Even if we were to believe that certain individuals or groups suffer because
of their actions or inactions in past lives, our unwillingness to help
relieve their suffering when an opportunity is presented only creates
negative karma for ourselves in our own present and future lifetimes. The
sword cuts both ways. Using karma as a "reason" for disregarding or
participating in abuse is merely a pretext for justifying behaviors we wish
to ignore or don't want to change. Attempting to hide behind a veil of
"karma," once the curtain has been pulled back, reveals a clear
misunderstanding of the term and is a convenient and self-serving way to
rationalize the suffering and killing of others--both human and nonhuman.
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