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: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.