Plausible Mechanisms for Karma

Plausible Mechanisms for Karma

I’ve been studying Buddhism lately. I really like a lot of the ideas, and I find it interesting.

I bought the book, Good Karma, by Thubten Chodron, and have been thinking about possible mechanisms for karma.

Ven. Chodron teaches that karma almost has a supernatural quality to it – she tells of a story of how she got hepatitis A as an adult, and thought maybe it was linked to her behavior as a child, killing snails in the garden.

On the surface, this seems impossible… but I can’t help but feel that tracing cause and effect creates such a complex web, that the two things could very well be causally linked in some way, like a Rube Goldberg butterfly effect.

She believes the hepatitis A came from unwashed vegetables – and notices that no one else who ate the vegetables got hepatitis A.

Can we come up with some plausible mechanism for this?

Let’s assume that everyone consumed the virus. Everyone else’s immune system was able to kill the virus, but Ven. Chodron’s immune system failed.

The human body contains around 37 trillion cells. This is roughly equivalent to 100,000 times the population of the USA.

So, if you ever wanted to be President, good news! You are the commander of a vast civilization of cells. They rely on you to make good decisions in order to survive and navigate the world.

At the same time, our human body is also a “cell” of the collective human population.

Here we are, in the middle – on one end, we are the leader of a vast civilization of cells, and on the other end, we are a single organism in the vast population of humans on Earth.

As above, so below 😄.

Perhaps our behavior in the world’s civilization is a model for our cell’s behavior in our body’s civilization.

Every kind of relationship we run into in our day to day lives could be experienced by our cells inside our body, as they run about their lives. Maybe not directly – my cells don’t get annoyed at long lines in the grocery store – but they do experience waiting for other cells to finish their tasks before getting resources.

So what sort of message would I send, if I seethed with anger, waiting in line at the grocery store?

The cells receive the message: you deserve to get what you want right now! You don’t have to wait for others, that’s bullshit!

What kind of disorders would manifest if our cells behaved that way? I don’t know, but waiting patiently seems like an important skill, both for humans, and our cells.

So perhaps, in some way, taking pleasure in killing snails, sends a message to our cells. And somehow that message creates subtle changes in cell behavior. And then, decades later, when a virus invades the body, the conditions are just right, so that it is able to take root and spread, instead of being killed by the immune system.

I think this is very plausible. I don’t know the exact causal chain, but I think we should inspect how we behave in our society at large, and consider what sorts of messages we are sending to the massive civilization we are responsible for right under our skins.

Tags: Hypotheticals

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