I’ve been asked this a couple of times so I figure this is a good place to answer this particular question.
In Buddhism you are responsible for your actions. <– Note the period
You cannot ride into a city with a host of your fellow faithful and rape and pillage and murder and escape the consequences because you believe that you have been absolved of all sins while on crusade.
Equally, you cannot fly an airplane into a building, or blow people up in the name of your god and escape the kharmic consequences.
You cannot hate without drawing negative kharma.
One of the things that confused me about Christianity as I was growing up was how many sects claimed that the only way to eternal salvation was through accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour (or some variance thereof). How does that work? Did someone take a poll in the afterlife? Is your soul’s fate determined by where you are on Sunday morning? (or Saturday, or Friday)
When I was in the military, while in training we had a classmate who claimed to be devoutly religious. I forget the name of his sect but in addition to the usual fun stuff some religions prohibit music, dancing and what not were also on the naughty list. He gave us the line that he was the only one of us who would see heaven because he was the only one of us who belonged to his sect. This offended other classmates who were also practicing Christians.
I asked him for clarification by asking him if he went out and started murdering people, and I did nothing but good for the rest of my life (which drew some chuckles), that he would get into heaven, but I wouldn’t. He agreed that would be the case…because while yes, he did evil, he had God in his heart, and while I did good, I was evil because I didn’t have God in my heart. That, sadly, is a true story. I will add that he was a hypocrite of the highest order. His bullshit may have washed at his home base, but we lived with him 24/7 for 3 months.
I have stated previously in this blog that I have great respect for Christians. I have great respect for most religions that teach peace, and tolerance (violent and intolerant subsets notwithstanding)
Kharma is incredibly complex and I will admit that I do not fully understand it. If I did I would be a Buddha, an enlightened being, and I am many lifetimes from that.
But I do know one simple fact. Kharma can be increased through selfless acts of compassion. Of course, selfish acts will decrease it.
In our classes we are encouraged to meditate on compassion, and to go out and act with compassion, and attempt to influence others in a positive way through our compassionate acts.
Yes, that’s pretty simple. But at the same time is very complex. Let me illustrate by asking you a question.
If you do something compassionate, simply because you feel the need to increase your kharma, are you being selfish, or selfless?
True compassion is shown without thought of reward. I was about to say that its all right to feel good that you did something compassionate, but I realize that its another complicating factor.
Buddhists believe that your kharma affects your soul’s progression through your lifetime.
When you think about, what people believe at a spiritual level about happens after you die is really irrelevant in the here and the now.
What is relevant is how you conduct yourselves and treat other living things that you encounter in your day to day life.