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Kamma is not fatalism

Dear Editor,

Having perused the letters of Bora Touch, Chan Sophal and

Amara Chey regarding Buddhism and AIDs and the Buddhist theory of Kamma and

Cambodian society, I can't help writing to explain the position of Buddhism as I

understand it.

Of course, as a religion based on morality, Buddhism

teaches the theory of Kamma or Karma, which literally means action or deed. But

the Buddhist teaching of Kamma is distinctively different from that of other

religious beliefs.

The Buddhist definition of Kamma as found in the

canonical texts is that any deed which is carried out with volition is Kamma,

Cetana, ham Bhikkhave kamma vadami .., as rightly pointed out by Bora

Touch.

It must be borne in mind that everything happening in one's life,

according to Buddhism, is not entirely due to one's previous Kamma. There are

many other governing factors which influence one's life such as the condition of

one's birth (gati), one's physical condition (upadhi), the time in which one

lives (kala), and one's endeavor in life (payoga).

There are still other

five universal laws (niyama), which may have an impact on one's life as well.

The five are: physical law, biological law, psychological law, law of spiritual

phenomena and karmic law.

Therefore, it is clear that Kamma is not the

one and only cause that affects one's life; that is to say, it is not

fatalism.

If it were so the Buddha would not have prescribed us the four

qualities or accomplishments (sampada), possessing which one will lead a

successful life. They are perseverance, skillful management, balanced life and

good companion. Unfortunately, a considerable number of Buddhists, especially

our Cambodians, have misinterpreted it.

In my opinion, the theory of

Kamma which many of our people uphold now is the remnant of Brahmanism, which

was prevalent in the country prior to the advent of Buddhism.

After

embracing Buddhism for this long, still a majority of Cambodians are not able to

differentiate between the two.

In the last some 30 years, the Cambodian

leaders have made the maximum advantage of the teaching of the kamma as a

pretext for their incompetence and shortcomings in procuring the people and the

country peace and economic prosperity. This is unfortunate.

Those who

have broken morality and have been affected with HIV or AIDS as a result, have

undoubtedly committed wrong.

But there are those who have contracted the

deadly disease not of their own fault whatsoever. They are women and children

who have got the disease from their husbands and parents, and the victims of

blood transfusion and so on. These innocent people deserve sympathetic care,

don't they?

Although some of the AIDS victims may have seriously

offended, we Buddhists, who are best known to possess the qualities of gentle

hearts, giving and sharing, should not remain indifferent to them. After all,

the good gesture we perform to them will be the good of ours (we will earn

merit, according to the Buddha's teachings).

Cambodia has been ravaged by

disastrous war for nearly three decades, so our people are in a confused state,

losing some of the friendly, charming and helpful characters for which they were

well reputed.

But we Cambodians should not, at this juncture, continue to

stand pointing the finger at one another. This attitude will not help our

country. Instead, we each should give a helping hand in any way possible to the

country to build a solid and sound nation in every sphere in the 21st

Century.

The past three decades have been bitterly sorrowful for us,

because of political mistakes committed. So we should be able to learn from the

past experiences, in order to shape our better future.

Let us put aside

the differences and be united with the sole objective to build a just and

prosperous Cambodia where everyone is given the opportunity. May the New

Millenium bring the country a dawn of hope and goodwill.

- Bhikkhu

Aggadhiro Khy Sovanratana, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.

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