70,000 dead is the count at the moment in the series of earthquakes and after tremors that have occurred in China. Thousands are missing and five million homeless. Aftershocks continue, adding to the misery and making the rescue missions more difficult and hazardous.
Human beings, at least as we would recognize ourselves as such, have been around for over a hundred thousand years. Faced with such environmental disasters but no means of working out scientifically what was going on, the infancy of our species could be forgiven to conclude that great supernatural forces were at work, that maybe there was a cause and effect relationship between themselves and these seismic forces.
So it is in the environmental age somewhat disheartening to find that Sharon Stone thinks karma, particular because of Tibet, could be behind the earthquakes:
“I thought, is that karma – when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?”
The BBC News site then tries to describe what karma means – the motivation behind an action has a consequence; rather than some kind of poetic justice. If you want to actually know about earthquakes it is not mentioned on that article but can be found here.
It seems there is a longing to find some cosmic rules of the game, where there is laid down a reason why everything happens. Religion claims to give a glimpse into these things. More people think astrology is correct than evolutionary theory. People want an explanation of things that seems tangible, controllable and relatively straightforward rather than a factual basis for what is going on. Reality is shunned for supposedly deeper spiritual meaning; what cannot be fully understood is to be revered rather than scrutinized. Comfort is preferred to conclusions rooted in observations that may be closer to the truth, but not necessarily pleasant of themselves.
Perhaps we are still closer to our infancy than we would care to admit. As a Buddhist teacher comments:
“The earthquake in China or the cyclone in Burma have much to do with environmental factors,” says Dhammadassin. “To invoke karma is more to do with our desire to nail things down and find someone to blame. But that’s not ours to do.”
It is more important to understand how these things happen, what can be done to reduce the impact of such earthquakes. There may be processes that we can examine, observe and make predictions about based on measurements and relationships – using the scientific method. Such understanding leads not only to knowledge but the ability for us to take action. That human beings in social cooperation can do much to eliminate the suffering that comes from natural disasters and man made ones.
I would hope that would have been Sharon Stone’s message – which does not require buddhism to have an insight into.