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In India, dualistic thinking certainly has been used to justify many inequalities and abuses. Such a worldview, however, runs against the force of the entire Indian philosophical tradition, which stresses non-duality. The laws of karma, for example, are found within a non-dual framework. Although often pointed to as a justification for the caste system (among other oppressive systems), karma supports a harmonious relationship between cause and effect where actions provide the impetus for reactions. Hindu interpretations of karma are derived from the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (ca. 600BCE), in which it is said that one’s karma or destiny within the cycle of life, death and rebirth eventually leading to mokṣa (enlightenment), is determined by conduct.

Karma can be understood as a position in which individual responsibility is taken for action and reaction through the cycle of life, death and rebirth. As Swami Abhedananda of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math in Calcutta has said, karma is:

“…the universal law of cause and effect, of action and reaction (meaning) that every cause must be followed by an effect of a similar nature, that every action must produce similar reaction, and conversely every reaction or effect is the result of an action or cause of a similar character. Thus there is always a balance and harmony between cause and effect, between action and reaction.”

A disavowal of responsibility in human and world relationships means an unharmonious balance between cause and effect. Thus, for example, while humanity may not have an identifiable reason for patriarchal systems, taking responsibility for the effects of those systems, as well as for their transformation, is definitely a matter of individual karma.

How do you understand your relationship and/or your individual karma relative to systems and things you wish to change in the world? In your own life…for your own happiness?

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