Karma, Suffering and Compassion

Conversation about the connection between heart and soul, a socio-historical development of religion in Europe  and  different religious approaches to the problem of suffering.

The conversation starts with the topic of heart transplantation. There are many nerves in the heart, just as in the brain, therefore it is possible that one adopts some feelings etc of the previous heart owner. The soul lives in the space which is a subtle element that doesn’t interact with other elements, so it is situated on a different level and is not physically interacting with the heart. If the physical heart is taken out, the soul remains in that space.

Different cultures make different facial expressions which mould their physiognomy.

The scientific revolution in the 17th century which ended with Newton. He showed that that the universe is rational. In the 18th cent. people started questioning about the scientific reason why some people had power and money and others didn’t. Before, there was Divine Right Monarchy. Westerners like to look down on the hereditary cast system in India, but they forget that in Europe they also had such a system – the estates. Religious authority was relativized and diminished while scientific authority started booming. This culminated in the French Revolution.

Today there are many god conscious people, but we don’t have politicians like Newton, Thomas Jefferson and other people in the 18th century who were deep thinkers and God conscious. For them God was a scientific principle because of the sophisticated design. Also the first settlers in America saw that God was creating a new nation in order to guide the world. America set the foundation for  religious freedom and human rights.

Acaryadeva mentioned that he is ambivalent about the introduction of Christianity into Pagan Europe. The concept of true and false, living and dead gods is a gift from the Middle East. Before, there wasn’t such a concept of fanatic religion. Rome in their military expansion didn’t fight religious wars even though they were certainly hungry for power.

There has to be universal consideration in regards to the pain and pleasure of living entities.

Western philosophy has addressed the problem of suffering which is ultimately in our highest self-interest. Punishment is not so effective when you don’t remember what you are punished for. So how can it be in our self-interest to be punished for something we did in another life which we don’t remember?

It is obvious that life would be very dysfunctional if we had in mind many lives (different genders, parents, language etc.). In order for punishment to be effective there has to be some remembrance of the cause of my suffering. The body is just the instrument, but actually, the person, the soul is performing the action and is willing. We have our gross and subtle body, the mind which goes with us to the next gross body. So the mentality is still there. If we are looking deeply inside we find the remnant of the twisted will which caused suffering to someone. The cause of our suffering is not our previous body but our will.

There is a tension between justice and mercy, so there has to be a balance. The punishment has to fit the crime but it also has to be lightened by some sense of mercy.

The argument that if we accept karma it will blunt our conception to do good in the world is not true. If I am compassionate I will help other people, no matter whether they caused their own suffering or not.

There is a certain mentality of people who despise the idea of religious justice and karma. Acaryadeva tells a story from his own life who he met a friend of his, who was a political leader and who was completely shocked to meet Acaryadeva selling incense on the street after he joined.

If war is not the answer, hate is not the answer. There is a study that shows that the Academic Left is more close-minded than the Christian right. Love and strong action are not necessarily incompatible. (“I have strong views on environmentalism”).

Pain or disease can become an impetus for exalted states of consciousness. An intelligent person must suffer in the absence of Krsna Consciousness. If we are serious we can feel deep inside that God is everything. A completely materialistic person who is satisfied with his life is therefore not the best candidate for spirituality. So suffering can become a ticket to glory. The suffering person can become the most determined to achieve the highest enlightenment.