Reincarnation and Karma in CaoDai

Hum D Bui concludes the series on CaoDai with a look at what it says about how past deeds set the co

Most religions conceive human beings as consisting of three parts: the physical body, the soul, and the spirit.

Hinduism calls the spirit, "Brahman," "Atman" or the absolute (metaphysical) self and the soul "jiva," or the miniature self. Buddhism calls the spirit the true heart, or Buddha-heart, and the soul the earthly heart, or the illusory heart. Taoism calls the spirit god's heart (which is absolute), and the soul the regular heart (which is relative and variable). Islam calls the spirit "Naf-matmainnah," which means "supernatural," and the soul "lawwama," which means "regular." In Christianity, Saint Paul recommends: "May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our lord Jesus Christ." The Vietnamese people call the spirit "linh hon" (sacred spirit) and the soul "tam hon" (emotional soul).

CaoDai believes in the law of justice, or karma, which means that any current situation is the result of past good or bad deeds; and therefore believes that the human soul evolves continuously according to this karmic law through many physical lives to become progressively purer, ultimately to unify with the Supreme Being (in Heaven).

Karmic law is also observed in other faiths:
Hinduism: “This body is called the Field, because a man sows seeds of action in it, and reaps their fruits.”  (Bhagavad Gita)
Buddhism: “Even an evildoer sees happiness so long as his evil deed does not ripen; but when his evil deed ripens, then does the evildoer see evil.”
(Dhammapada)
”Even a good man sees evil days so long as his good deed does not ripen; but when his good deed ripens, then does the good man sees good things.”
(Dhammapada)
Taoism: “Those who do evil in the open light of day---men will punish them. Those who do evil in secret---God will punish them.”
Judaism: “Sow in righteousness, reap in mercy.”  (Hos. 10:12)
"The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh... to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”
(Prov.11:17-18)
Christianity: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
(Gal.6:7)
Islam: “Whatever good you do for others, you send it before your own souls and find it with Allah who sees all you do.”  (Koran 2:104)

Karmic law, or justice, is the divine law, the absolute law that is applied to all souls and that chains men to rebirth; or in other words, it requires that a man make payment for his transgressions: if not in the present life, then in another. Anyone who does anything--whether it be good or evil--receives its result, either in this life or in the next. No one escapes this law. Otherwise, there would be no justice. This law explains reincarnation as the spiritual evolution of all souls.

In accepting the Karma law and reincarnation, then life on this earth is just a place for the souls to experience (to reap) the deed that they have caused (sowed), in order to progress spiritually and to get closer to God in the spiritual journey to their divine origin. The Karma law reflects the absolute law of justice. In realizing this law, no one would not desire to cause to others what one does not desire others to do unto her/him.

CaoDai believes that with compassion, humanitarian service and meditation, one may pay back whatever kind of karmic debt that one had borrowed from previous life and become progressively detached from all secular distractions, therefore free from the effects of karmic law and avoid reincarnation, ultimately becoming one with the Supreme Being.

Hum D. Bui, M.D. was born in Vietnam in 1943. He is a CaoDai scholar working with CaoDai Overseas that is in charge of spreading the faith.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons and Getty
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“Rise like lions after slumber”: why do Jeremy Corbyn and co keep reciting a 19th century poem?

How a passage from Percy Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy became Labour’s battle cry.

“If I may, I’d like to quote one of my favourite poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley,” Jeremy Corbyn politely suggested to a huge Glastonbury audience. The crowd of nearly 120,000 – more accustomed to the boom of headline acts than elderly men reading out romantic poetry – roared its approval.

“Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number!” he rumbled. “Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you: ye are many – they are few!”

The Labour leader told the crowd that this was his favourite line. It’s the final stanza of Shelley’s 1819 poem, The Masque of Anarchy, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre earlier that year, when a cavalry charged into a non-violent protest for the vote.

Though it was not published in Shelley’s lifetime – it was first released in 1832 – the poem has become a rallying cry for peaceful resistance. It has been recited at uprisings throughout history, from Tiananmen Square to Tahrir Square.

Corbyn’s turn on the Pyramid Stage was not the first time he’s used it. He recited the stanza during his closing speech on election night in Islington, and the audience began quoting along with him:


It was also used by comedian and celebrity Labour supporter Steve Coogan at a rally in Birmingham:


During Corbyn’s second leadership campaign, his ally Chris Williamson MP told a public meeting that this part of the poem should be “our battle cry” . He delivered on this the following year by reciting the poem to me in his Renault Clio while out on the campaign trail in England’s most marginal constituency (which he ended up winning).

You can hear it echoed in Labour’s campaign slogan: “For the many, not the few”.

Corbyn’s election guru, James Schneider, told the Standard at the time that “it would be a stretch” to say the slogan was taken directly from the poem, but that “Jeremy does know Shelley”. Yet even he took the time to recite the whole stanza down the phone to the journalist who was asking.

Corbyn is famously a fan of the novelist and author Ben Okri. The pair did a literary night at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank in July last year, in which the Shelley lines came up at the end of the event, as reported by Katy Balls over at the Spectator. Okri announced that he wanted to recite them, telling Corbyn and the audience:

“I want to read five lines of Shelley . . . I think there are some poems that ought to be, like you know those rock concerts, and the musician starts to sing and the whole audience knows the lines? And sings along with them? Well this ought to be one of those, and I’d like to propose that we somehow make it so that anytime someone starts with the word ‘Rise’, you know exactly what the lines are going to be.”

Which, of course, is exactly what Corbyn did at Glastonbury.

“We have this huge, abundant literature on the left and it’s hardly known”

The former left-wing Labour leader Michael Foot loved the poem and recited the lines at demos, and Stop the War – the campaign group Corbyn supports and chaired – took a line from it as the title of its 2014 film about anti-Iraq War action, We Are Many.

So why does the Labour left rally around some lines of poetry written nearly 200 years ago?

“It’s a really appropriate poem,” says Jacqueline Mulhallen, author of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary (Pluto, 2015). “Shelley wrote a poem about the fact that these people were protesting about a minority taking the wealth from the majority, and the majority shouldn’t allow it to happen.

“He was writing at the beginning of industrial capitalism, and protested then, and 200 years later, we’ve still got the same situation: food banks, homeless people, Grenfell Tower, more debts – that’s why it has great resonance when Corbyn quotes it.”

“Shelley said there’s loads of us, it’s just a little corrupt crew – well, of course that applies now”

Michael Rosen, the poet and former Children’s Laureate, also describes the poignancy of Shelley’s words in Corbyn’s campaign. “You’ve got a sense of continuity,” he tells me. “Shelley was campaigning for freedom, for free thought, for free love. He was campaigning for a fairer society; it was a time of incredible oppression. He said there’s loads of us, it’s just a little corrupt crew – well, of course that applies now.”

Rosen celebrates the poem’s place in the Labour movement. “When any of us from the left quote people from the past, we’re saying that we have traditions... We’re making a claim on our authenticity,” he says. “Just in the same way as the right and the establishment draw on the pageantry of the Queen, or talk about Parliament or quote Winston Churchill. These are our traditions, which are different. You hardly ever come across it, either in newspapers or history lessons or anything.”

Rosen, a friend of Corbyn’s, believes his speech brings a left-wing tradition alive that is often forgotten. “We have this huge, abundant literature on the left and it’s hardly known. What’s great about Jeremy calling on it is to remind us . . . This stuff sits in old museums and libraries, gathering dust until it’s made active and live again. It’s made active and live particularly when being used in an environment like that [Glastonbury]. He was making the words come alive.”

Read more: 7 things we learned from Jeremy Corbyn on The One Show

The Masque of Anarchy’s final stanza has been recited at high-profile protests throughout history – including at the 20,000 garment workers’ strike in 1909 in New York, the student-led demo in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, anti-Poll Tax protests, and at Tahrir Square in Egypt during the Arab Spring, according to Mulhallen. The way civilians were treated by the authorities in many of these protests echoes what happened at Peterloo.

So does Corbyn’s penchant for the verse mark a similar radical turning-point in our history? “It’s indicating a change in attitude that people should start thinking about redistributing the wealth again,” says Mulhallen. “People are becoming much more aware.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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