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.”
”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.”
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.”
Christianity: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
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.
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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.