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The Coronavirus and Karma Theory

The coronavirus pandemic is one of “nature’s responses” to our ignoring the current ecological crisis, Pope Francis said in a recent interview:

We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.1

Certainly, the virus is a reminder of the age-old saying, As you sow so shall you reap, or, Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The theory of karma has come vividly to life in this pandemic.

Could it be that our environment is an extension of our actions: peaceful and tranquil if our actions are positive and loving; full of strife and suffering if our actions are negative and destructive?

In the last fifty years our conversations have become more and more disturbing: global warming and climate change, melting glaciers, cities flooded by rising oceans, rivers either drying up or flowing at half their capacity, water wars, vanishing and near-extinct animal and plant species. A global wildlife trade worth billions of dollars, combined with intensified agriculture, deforestation, and urbanization, have brought people and animals closer together, creating greater opportunity for animal viruses to leap to humans: HIV, Ebola, SARS, MERS, now Covid-19, and many more.2

But nature does not harm itself: animals don’t kill themselves, rivers don’t dry up because of their own doing, vast swaths of forests don’t denude themselves, and diseases don’t jump from animals to humans for no reason.

According to scientists, animals are not the problem: we are. Perhaps now is the time to face our own role in the terrifying drama playing out around the world. Are we pushing the balance of nature to its limits? Is this some kind of karma for which we all must take responsibility?

Most of us don’t believe we are directly responsible for causing this misery, perhaps because our conditioning is so strong that it clouds our judgment. We say we believe in God, that this world is God’s creation, that life in any form, from the smallest to the largest, is God-given. If that is true, we must face whether and how we are harming his creation. Are we causing fear, strife, pain, and disrespect to God’s creatures?

According to some estimates, more than 200 million land animals are killed for food around the world every day – that's 72 billion every year. Including wild caught and farmed fish, we get a total closer to 3 billion killed every day, which adds up to 1.1 trillion animals killed each year.3

It suits us to look the other way. After all, we are not the ones killing all those animals – other people are doing that. But if those animals end up as food on our plates, if they are being slaughtered for us, then we are responsible. The same is true for all the other environmental damage being done to satisfy our demands.

One could say that karma and corona are both viruses – one the cause, the other the effect. Actions have consequences; the law of karma is clear about that. By hunting or farming animals and fish to satisfy our palate, we have created karma that must be accounted for. Who is to say that the coronavirus is not one of those consequences, as the Pope has pointed out?

Perhaps Mother Nature is reminding us to slow down – in our everyday lives and our collective rates of production and consumption; to think how little we need to live a simple life; to bring back the love, care, and warmth that we have forgotten in our race to amass all that does not really matter.

Perhaps we are being reminded to love and respect God’s creation, for it provides us with unlimited abundance, regardless of our religion, country, language, colour, creed, position, or wealth. To contemplate his gifts is truly humbling.

Perhaps we can use this pandemic to help us appreciate nature and one another more, to be more giving, more caring, more loving.

Perhaps the karma we are all undergoing is a plea for us to be more humble – to be better human beings.

Perhaps we are being told of a tomorrow that we can make better than our yesterday.