Phenomena are preceded by the heart
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act
with a corrupted heart,
then suffering follows you-
as the wheel of the cart,
the track of the ox
that pulls it.
-Dhammapada, 1, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
I do believe that God “punishes” sin. But not in the way that a parent would spank a child or society would execute a criminal. Not the Old Testament way.
The Creator of the Universe has set things up a certain way for us to disregard at our own peril. The punishment, if you want to call it that (I don’t), is built into the fabric of everything. If you plod the track of the ox, the wheel of suffering will surely follow.
The problem is that, in a complex world, the connection between the corrupted causes and the resulting suffering are increasingly indirect. Our interconnected world often manifests the resulting suffering of actions far from the corrupted hearts at the source. And small evils like wastefulness and overconsumption accumulate cyclically until they come home to roost as monsters of global scale like pollution, poverty, terrorism, war. We all live in one massive, hyper-complex, Iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma.
The fact that the consequences take such a circuitous route back to the responsible parties may give one the impression that there are people (or entire priviledged sociteies) who “get away” with stuff. There are many injustices to be decried from our ground’s eye view. But on the macro scale there is, or will be, Justice.
I am a firm believer in “what comes around goes around.” Like the wheel following the ox.
We must cultivate Agape, Bodhicitta, or, as in Douglas Hofstadter’s secular humanist formulation, Superrationality. Christian Soldiers, warrior-bodhisattvas, and secular activists have a common urgent agenda. So quit yer fussin and get to work.
We can help create Justice or wait and be recipients of it.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
– Albert Einstein