Social Question

obvek's avatar

Is there a body of thought that links global population growth and declining biodiversity with karma and reincarnation?

Asked by obvek (1420 points ) July 9th, 2011

Recently a family member was explaining to me her particular Buddhist doctrine and mentioned (in the context of karma and reincarnation) that it was somewhat a rare experience to be born human. Somewhere that got me thinking about whether (in this context) the global population explosion and the decline in biodiversity is an indicator that we as spiritual beings are simply moving up the karmic ladder—that we’ve been around long and well enough to move up from animals to humans.

Obviously, you are welcome to agree or disagree with this idea to your heart’s content, but my main question is whether there’s any substantive writing out there pertaining to this idea.

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10 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

While I don’t believe one bit in reincarnation, I like your observation. I like it a lot.

The fact that more humans are alive than in all previous history has always seemed to be an airtight refutation of reincarnation to me.

When you add insects into the mix, that argument disappears.

Sorry I can’t point you to any writings on the subject, I just wanted to complement you on the creative thinking.

TexasDude's avatar

It’s a really interesting idea that would make for a great concept in a novel.

However, you are not going to find any hard evidence to support something like this. It’s just not quantifiable in any way. As for theoretical writing on the subject, I searched my school’s philosophy database and came up with nothing. I’ll let you know if I find anything elsewhere.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Two observations: the first is that I don’t think your family member has that much experience with Buddhism. Last I remember, Buddhist doctrine doesn’t allow for humans to be reincarnated as animals, and vice-versa. The second is that it’s entirely anthropocentric to think that humans are somehow karmically superior, and considering that industrial humans are the source of biodiversity decline, many humans are definitely not karmic superiors to other animals.

Coloma's avatar

I think your family member has rather misunderstand the concept of Karma and reincarnation. Two separate concepts that often get put in the same blender.

“Reincarnation” is the idea of recycling souls to further their life lessons, or, what some call Karmic destiny.

However, IMO, the concept of reincarnation has nothing to do with karma.
From my dabblings into these areas, “karma” is, simply cause and effect, in the here and now.
Whether this cause and effect is carried over into other spiritual lives is based on whether or not, we do have multiple carnations. This is an interesting concept to entertain, but, there is no substantial proof of this being true.

For reasons above mentioned, it seems unlikely, but, on the other hand we can never claim to know anything for certain.

My focus is more along the lines that if one keeps doing what they’ve always done they will keep getting what they’ve always gotten.

Meaning, if you conduct yourself in negative ways you will reap the results of your negativity, whether that is ruining relationships or ending up in prison, or dead of liver disease. If your doing unto others is less than, sooner or later you will be the recipient of the same.

The reincarnation concept is based more on the concept that ‘souls’ choose to return, in whatever form, to continue to learn and experience every conceivable experience from being born a crippled child to the experience of being a mass murderer.

Bottom line, nobody will know anything until they are dead.

Then again, as humans have multiplied, IF, there is such a thing as reincarnation, it makes sense that as more humans come into being, more would be recycled as well. haha

We are all made of the same stuff as the stars and rocks and trees and dirt, just arranged a little differently, what comes after our arrangement withers is impossible to say.

obvek's avatar

FWIW, she’s been a practicing Buddhist for upwards of 30–40 years. In my wording, I was trying to limit the context more to avoid “karma and reincarnation are bullshit”-type responses, but maybe I drew the strings too close.

incendiary_dan's avatar

A lot of people are “Buddhist” who don’t have much of an understanding of it. To be frank, it’s usually white Buddhists. Does that description fit this family member?

On another level, I want to express how much I think that sort of theory is a shield to protect oneself from confronting their own privilege and the part they play in a bad system. Maybe I can think of another way to describe that later.

obvek's avatar

No, she was born and raised in Okinawa and is of Okinawan descent. A significant aspect of her particular practice includes independent and group study of Buddhist sutras and the like.

thorninmud's avatar

For what it’s worth, I’ve never come across any writings that put this theory forward. But frankly, there’s little appetite among modern Buddhists for trying to theorize about karma or rebirth. Westerners have tended to place a much greater emphasis on this aspect of Buddhism than do actual Buddhist practitioners.

@obvek ‘s family member echoes something that I’ve frequently heard as a refrain from teachers ancient and modern: that life as a human is a rare opportunity not to be wasted. That actually does not mean that humans are considered to be the top of the karmic heap. That dubious distinction, according to classic Buddhist cosmology, would belong to the “devas”, or god-like beings.

What makes human birth desirable is that human life presents an ideal mix of suffering and ease—enough suffering to spur one to seek release from suffering, but enough ease that one has the resources to actually do the work necessary for release. Those beings who, like the devas, lead lives relatively free from suffering have little interest in spiritual practice. Those whose lives are immersed in suffering are too preoccupied with the immediacy of their pain to devote themselves to spiritual practice.

As a Buddhist practitioner, I’ve found very little use for the doctrines of karma and rebirth. They simply have no real bearing on my practice. Whether it’s true or not wouldn’t actually change a thing for me. I’m entirely concerned with this life, not past or future ones. And I share that sentiment with virtually every other Buddhist I know. Very little mental energy gets spent on trying to unravel karma and rebirth. That’s more a parlor game for non-Buddhists.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, I’m no Buddhist but loss of biodiversity isn’t good for us, as humans and also ..what kind of a fucked up ladder are we moving up if this kind of being is being brought forth into the world?

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