Written by Vladimir Moss



     In our multicultural world, it is almost inevitable that some words from other cultures and even religions will creep into people’s vocabulary. But we have to be wary of them, and be aware of their religious roots, too, lest we unwittingly begin to absorb their heterodox content. One such concept that has become fashionable even among completely secular people is the Hindu idea of karma. “It must be karma,” or “my karma”, they say when they suffer something unfortunate. The idea is that we reap what we sow; bad things that happen to us are related to, or caused by, previous sins of ours, as a kind of punishment.

     There is nothing especially sinister or heterodox about “karma” if understood in this simple way, shorn of its Hindu connotations. Indeed, St. Paul said: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6.7). And again: “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8.7). God chastises every son He receives, in order to cleanse him from past sins and train him out of the bad habits and evil passions that engendered those sins.


     Moreover, in some of the earliest texts of Hinduism, we find passages expressing essentially the same correct thought:

Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.[1]

      The problem is that in modern Hinduism, and in the numerous New Age religions and sects that are related to it, karma is linked to the completely pagan and heretical idea of reincarnation. A man of sinful life with bad karma, reaps what he sows – but in a later life, and in another incarnation. So in punishment for his sins he may return as a bird or a worm…

      It is astonishing how popular the idea of reincarnation has become – even among those who call themselves Orthodox Christians. Three World Values surveys carried out in the 1990s found that while Russians as a whole were not particularly religious, 20% of them believed in reincarnation.[2]

      Something akin to reincarnation is commonly found in cults and false religions. Thus it is difficult not to see in the Roman Catholic cult of the papacy the idea that all Popes are quasi-reincarnations of St. Peter. Again, in Fr. Seraphim Rose’s account of the tragedy of Jonestown and the power that the leader of the Jonestown cult, Jim Jones, had over his followers, he writes: ”He claimed not merely to be the ‘reincarnation’ of Jesus, Buddha, and Lenin: he openly stated that he was an oracle or medium for discarnate entities from another galaxy.”[3]

      So what does the Gospel say about reincarnation? Very simple: “It is appointed to men to die once, but then the judgement” (Hebrews 9.27). So we have only one life, and will die only once, and will then be judged for what we have done in that one life. Nor, if we are condemned at that judgement, will we be sent to serve a kind of purgatorial term in the body of another human being or animal; for we must suffer the penalty of our sins in the same body and soul through which we committed them. There is no escaping ourselves: we shall remain ourselves, having to live with ourselves and all the passions that we have made inescapable parts of ourselves - to all eternity.

      And yet there is one way to escape the “karma” attached to our evil deeds. That way is to lay hold of the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby break out of the dismal cycle of sin and payment for sin, destroying “karma” forever. For “we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Hebrews 10.10).

      What all kinds of paganism, whether ancient and crude or modern and sophisticated, fail to understand is that since God is free and we are made free in His image, the relationship between sin and retribution, crime and punishment is not determined. Yes, he who commits sin is the slave of sin, and if we do not repent of our sins we will die in them and suffer all their terrible consequences, not only in this life but also – much more fearfully – in the next. But Christ has freely taken all our sins upon Himself, and all He requires from us, besides sincere repentance, is a free and grateful recognition of this fact. Grace destroys sin, and grace is free, gratis. Through grace we have been delivered from our evil deeds and the “karma” of corruption and death has been destroyed; for Christ has risen from the dead, trampling on our death by His Death.

October 30 / November 12, 2016.


[1] Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.5-6 (7th Century BC).

[2] Kimmo Kaariainen, Religion in Russia after the Collapse of Communism, Lewiston-Queenston-Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998, p. 84.

[3] Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1975, p. 198.

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