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Aids and Buddhism

Aids and Buddhism

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article in the Post of June 9 2000 entitled "Top monks disagree

on role in fighting AIDS".

Vong made the following statement: "If we help sick people then we will only

encourage them not to be afraid of catching the virus. They will think that 'If I

get the virus then I will get support'." And if these people with AIDs are supported,

he said, "then we openly broadcast to the world we support AIDs ... It is the

mistake of the people who get AIDs...[they got AIDs because] they do not have good

morals. Everyone should unite and punish people who have lost their good morals":

This statement seems to stem from Buddhist concepts. Vong's statements that "it

is the mistake of the people who get AIDs", that they got AIDs because "they

do not have good morals", that "everyone should unite and punish people

who have lost their good morals" derive from the Buddhist concept of karma.

Karma, according to canonical Buddhism, refers to volitional action of which there

are two kinds: good and bad.

Good karma produces punna, merit, and bad karma produces apunna, demerits or sins.

According to this doctrine of karma, a person's life fate is determined by that person's

own prior action, karma.

The doctrine places on each individual the exclusive responsibility for his or her

own salvation. Buddhism is a moral law, thus, the concept of karma is its moral punishment

mechanism.

Under this doctrine, social inequality, injustice and sufferings or victimization

are, as Melford Spiro stated in his Buddhism and Society (1970), sanctified by this

Buddhist concept; thus, the failures or crimes of the secular rulers or government

are safely overlooked.

In Cambodian society, this doctrine has been playing a significant part in suppressing

people - their spirits are suppressed by the doctrine of karma whereas their physical

bodies are suppressed by fears, the characteristics of rule of Khmer leaders.

Earlier this year, the opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, in his New Year's address to

people, asked them to stop believing in karma; and the reaction from the ruling parties,

especially the CPP, was fierce. Rainsy may have disturbed their exploitation of Buddhism.

He was accused of treason.

Part of Vong's statement regarding AIDs victims' bad morals is problematic: the AIDs

victims deserved their karma, the sins they had committed in their prior actions

or previous life.

Would Vong say that anyone who advocates ministering to victims of AIDS violates

the principles of Buddhism because of his inclination to step into the real world

instead of letting karma take its course?

- Bora Touch, Sydney

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