18 January, 2021

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Nepal’s Earthquake: Nature, Not Karma

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

April 26th, 2015. A terrible thing happened. An earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck just near Kathmandu. Thousands were buried under clouds of dust and rubble as their homes collapsed around them. It was followed by aftershocks, one of which hit at 07 AM, measured 6.7 on the scale and shook buildings in New Delhi. As of the time of writing, over 2,500 people have died. The bodies are still being dug up.

That’s a nice set of numbers, isn’t it? If you can imagine Nepal as it is now, then I envy your imagination. What I’ve done is reduce 2,500 lives to nothing more than a few lines on a screen.

Because I, like most of the world, have not witnessed the carnage first-hand. I’ve seen them in photos hastily uploaded from phones, from people sharing photos of their loved ones begging for information, from a Facebook notifications marking my friends as “safe”. Thousands of people woke up this morning, logged a status along the lines of “Thoughts and prayers to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal” and got on with their lives. Movin’ on, guvnor. Stayin’ alive.

Nepal

But the online space frequently brings out the worst in people, not the best. Social good check-ins are harmless. Some people, though, apparently decided that Nepal’s earthquake was karmic justice for the sacrifice of 5,000 buffaloes for a religious festival held last year. Comments were made on everything from the nature of the Hindu gods to the the spectacularly bitchy nature of karma.

Nepal

What do you say to people like this?

Firstly, let’s get one thing clear: karma is a religious theory. Unlike, say , Newton’s Third Law, karma has not been proved to exist. Karma is like dark matter: a lot of very smart people have thought about it, discussed it, attempted to describe it, but we still can’t prove it exists. If it does exist, it must be the most haphazard cosmic judge in existence, because it never seems to get things right, and anyone who can so accurately confirm that it was karma must either be a digital prophet or a complete idiot. What about the people who didn’t slaughter animals? What about the children? What about the vegetarians? What about the atheists?

How exactly do you intend to justify that?

It’s okay not to feel sorry for those who died in Nepal. Because, contrary to popular belief, it really is hard to feel for people you’ve never known in a country you’ve never seen. But attempting to justify it by calling karma is just stupid. Karma is a theory that became a catchphrase; a neat way of explaining unfavourable events when no cause is clearly visible. Good things are, of course, attributed to luck, hard work, good investments, intelligence, rich parents, and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, Nature doesn’t really care for human philosophy; I doubt it’s noticed that a bunch of slightly evolved monkeys came up with a neat way to explain anything bad that happens to them. Earthquakes are not karma, unless you can empirically prove, beyond all doubt and measure, that karma exists; and not as an idea handed thrown through the years, but as a force so basic, like gravity, that it command the earth itself.

Since nobody’s done that, let’s go with rationale: earthquakes are the result tectonic plates shifting against each other. In this case, it’s a result of the India tectonic plate (which moves at about 45 mm a year) pushing under the Eurasian plate- the same process that gave rise to the Himalayas. It is a natural process; it’s expected that this will happen again – and again – and again. If you still think tectonic plates actually care about the deaths of buffaloes, please go back in time, find your science teacher and shoot them in the head. They’ve done a terrible, terrible job.

*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com

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Latest comments

  • 10
    2

    Thank you, Yudhanjaya. Nailed it.

    It is sickening to see Sri Lankans get on a high horse and talk about karma in relation to another country. What if a giant tsunami hit our coasts again? Is that also Karma?

    • 2
      1

      Is Yudhanjaya a person who understand karma and explored the nature of the world? If he is he should be more than a great scientist. He should be a at least a god to make such a commment.

      You asked about Tsunami and the effects. Do you know SOME who were celebrating SOME thing floated some candels of Buddha on the DAY before the Tsunami day in Mathara?. That’s the answer to you.

      Stop talking about things that you don’t know about!

  • 4
    0

    Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

    “Some people, though, apparently decided that Nepal’s earthquake was karmic justice for the sacrifice of 5,000 buffaloes for a religious festival held last year. Comments were made on everything from the nature of the Hindu gods to the the spectacularly bitchy nature of karma.”

    2004 Tsunami? Karma?

    Is the Sun Going around the Earth? It is believed by 25% of americans, 34% of Europeans, and Perhaps close to 48% Sri Lankans ( Those who voted for mahinda Rajapaksa). The rest knows the truth.

    So is this Karma? What about those that happened 1 million years ago? Not karma?

    The Truth is…Himalayas

    The 6,000 kilometers plus journey of the India landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago[3]
    Main article: Geology of the Himalaya

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himalayas

    The Himalayas are bordered on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain, on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, and on the east by the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The western anchor of the Himalayas — Nanga Parbat — lies just south of the northernmost bend of the Indus River, while the eastern anchor — Namcha Barwa — is situated just west of the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The Himalayas span five countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan, China (Tibet), and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range.[2]

    Lifted by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian Plate,[3] the Himalayan range runs northwest to southeast in a 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) long arc. The range varies in width from 400 kilometres (250 mi) in the west to 150 kilometres (93 mi) in the east. Besides the Greater Himalayas, there are several parallel lower ranges. The southernmost of these, located along the northern edge of the Indian plains and reaching about a thousand meters in altitude, are called the Sivalik Hills. Further north is a higher range, reaching two to three thousand meters, known as the Lower Himalayan Range.

    Three of the world’s major rivers — the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra — arise in the Himalayas. While the Indus and the Brahmaputra rise near Mount Kailash in Tibet, the Ganges rises in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people.

    Geology

    The 6,000 kilometers plus journey of the India landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago[3]
    Main article: Geology of the Himalaya
    The Himalaya are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.

    During the Upper Cretaceous, about 70 million years ago, the north-moving Indo-Australian plate (which has subsequently broken into the Indian Plate and the Australian plate[6]) was moving at about 15 cm per year. About 50 million years ago this fast moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor, and the volcanoes that fringed its edges. Since both plates were composed of low density continental crust, they were thrust faulted and folded into mountain ranges rather than subducting into the mantle along an oceanic trench.[3] An often-cited fact used to illustrate this process is that the summit of Mount Everest is made of marine limestone from this ancient ocean.[7]

    Today, the Indian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan Plateau, which forces the plateau to continue to move upwards. The Indian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km into Asia. About 20 mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalaya southern front. This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5 mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.

    During the last ice age, there was a connected ice stream of glaciers between Kangchenjunga in the east and Nanga Parbat in the west.[8][9] In the west, the glaciers joined with the ice stream network in the Karakoram, and in the north, joined with the former Tibetan inland ice. To the south, outflow glaciers came to an end below an elevation of 1,000–2,000 metres (3,300–6,600 ft).[8][10] While the current valley glaciers of the Himalaya reach at most 20 to 32 kilometres (12 to 20 mi) in length, several of the main valley glaciers were 60 to 112 kilometres (37 to 70 mi) long during the ice age.[8] The glacier snowline (the altitude where accumulation and ablation of a glacier are balanced) was about 1,400–1,660 metres (4,590–5,450 ft) lower than it is today. Thus, the climate was at least 7.0 to 8.3 °C (12.6 to 14.9 °F) colder than it is today.[11]

  • 9
    0

    “Nepal’s Earthquake: Nature, Not Karma”

    YW, I beg to defer:-
    This is a Karma, brought about by Human Beings, (and I don’t mean the Nepalese), who are depleting the Natural Resources of the Earth, to satisfy their Greed for more money, and more Luxuries.

    Capitalism goes on without giving any thought to the Dwindling Natural Resources, the Health of the Planet, and the Resultant Climate Change.

  • 5
    17

    Agree with the logic. Karmic Law, Reaping what you sow, Cause and effect cannot be scientifically proven (at lease not yet). Whatever it is slaughtering 5000 defenseless animals is not acceptable at all.

    Whoever who highlighted these killings at a time of sorrow has done whatever he/she can to make people realize killings/deaths are best avoided wherever and whenever possible

    • 10
      1

      Please, talk about something you know, without making everyone look bad. Go speak to a revered Buddhist monk and ask him about whether we can actually correlate karmic retribution or not. As for the little monkey who posted, you say him trying to make people “realise” something over a huge disaster is something acceptable, then next time someone you love dies, let me come tell you all the “bad” things they did in life.

  • 1
    1

    For non believers the natural disaster is mystery and wierd science; for believers it is mystic, cogent in the existence of the unseen, God! Philosophic, revealed.

  • 14
    3

    Well, you clearly don’t seem to have read much about Karma or science in Buddhism (i.e Abhidharma). Lord Buddha has preached 5 niyama dharmas (i.e causes) for anything to happen. Karma is not the only reason. In fact, one of the causes is climatic changes (Uthu niyama). Those whoever died but were also involved in killing the cows fall into the karma category and the others who died, well it is clearly because of the climatic changes. Those who escaped Tsunami by weird causes, well those had some past good deed work on them.
    Buddhism is the only philosophy ever close to science and karma is as simple as what goes around comes around. Those who should shoot the science teachers are the ones who believe all who died from the catastrophe has things to do with the slaughtering or the ones like you with no clear logic.Your article is pretty crap tbh. Please research properly when you write later.

    • 5
      3

      He probably didn’t understand what you have said. If you carefully analyze what he had written you ll understand he is writing with lack of knowledge and just a little observation. It’s better not to reply people like him.

      His intention might be distorting Buddhism that’s why he targeted Sri Lanka society and a facebook post. But his thoughts indirectly hit Hinduism(He lose lot of Tamil fans of him) and Jainism.

    • 6
      0

      Kamma is thrown about by everyone as an explanation to things they cannot comprehend. Thank you for clarifying the Niyama Dhamma theory.

    • 2
      0

      What the author clearly wants to say is that earthquakes are part of nature and nothing that we can do much about it. It doesn’t discriminate whom to hit when it does. Good deeds or bad deeds.
      There are theories that that the drilling, pounding due to construction, and other actions man made, may be aiding the movement of the tectonic plates. There isn’t a conclusive proof yet.
      What if a giant Asteroid strikes our planet. Can it be blamed saying that we brought it upon ourselves ?. There is a chance that only with the aid of Science the path of the Asteroid be deflected.
      Well there will be people who would call this possibly a Universal Karma.

  • 4
    2

    I saw yesterday from the ”former” president of Rajapakse twitter account that he feels sorry for the victims of Nepal earthquake.
    What’s he up to now???

    He’ll form ”Helping Kathmandu” fund for the those victims and the families and the rest of the story we all know!!!!!

    I even sent him a twitter message and, look, I’m still alive!!!! :))

  • 4
    0

    There is more to the world order than the karma.

    “http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/karma.html Early Buddhism gives us something called the five Niyamas, or the five aspects of cosmic order. These Niyamas can deepen our understanding and give meaning to why things happen. Niyama is a Pali term (language of early Buddhism) for cosmic order. The Niyamas show how certain conditions, laws of nature, work at different levels of cause and effect”.
    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/karma.html

  • 3
    0

    There is more to the world order than the karma.

    “I’ve never found the cause of anything in Buddhism to be just one thing. Saying the reason for a complex chain of events is the result of one action– whether it’s God, sin or karma– doesn’t seem like a viable option for a Buddhist. Early Buddhism gives us something called the five Niyamas, or the five aspects of cosmic order. These Niyamas can deepen our understanding and give meaning to why things happen. Niyama is a Pali term (language of early Buddhism) for cosmic order. The Niyamas show how certain conditions, laws of nature, work at different levels of cause and effect”.
    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/karma.html

  • 11
    3

    Who is this stupid kid on facebook talking about things he does not understand. Tell him to go speak to a monk to know that we cannot know how karma works (leave alone whether it actually exists or not). How would that stupid little monkey feel if I said to him karma is a bitch every time something bad happens to his stupid little insignificant juvenile life. If anyone can be as good enough to pass his name, I will look this little shit up and give him a nice big slap.

    Apologies to the Nepali’s.

  • 1
    1

    Our sins dont follow us. People kill people, that is worse than killing animals.

    Dont judge people on what they have done previously. In Sri Lanka also for various religious festivals the killing of animals takes place.

    You are not a very nice person sir, to write and show other peoples
    past when they are facing a crisis?

    Are you without any faults of your own to write like this? Do you want your past mistakes to follow you generation to generation.

    I think not and we dont wish it on you.

    We forgive you. Lets all do everything we can to help them without looking at their faults.
    That is what is called by every religion we belive.

    • 1
      2

      “People kill people, that is”worse than killing animals.” – Joke of the day.

      1) Humans are animals
      2) Every life is valuable. Whether you call a human or animal, it is the same.

      • 0
        0

        VJ

        If people equal to Animals, why dont they imprison people for
        killing animals (any animal because animals also must be equal according to you?)

        I think most people are confident that people are above animals.
        So killing an animal and human cannot be equal.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Yudanjaya the Nigantanatha Jr.

    Karma=Energy=Nature.
    I do not intend to go any further as you have proved how ignorant you are by writing such a stupid article. May you be well and happy.

    “Unfortunately, Nature doesn’t really care for human philosophy; I doubt it’s noticed that a bunch of slightly evolved monkeys came up with a neat way to explain anything bad that happens to them. Earthquakes are not karma, unless you can empirically prove, beyond all doubt and measure, that karma exists; and not as an idea handed thrown through the years, but as a force so basic, like gravity, that it command the earth itself.”

    Please watch this in your own time and try try to understand what ‘Buddha Dharma’ is. It’s not a religion or a philosophy but the way of life. Metta!
    where Buddhism meet science. on u-tube

  • 0
    0

    Totally agree with you. If Karma exists then there are many in this world who should have met the creator in the most cruel and painful way.

    • 2
      0

      Karma = Cause and Effect, which is also a Scientific Explanation of events.
      e.g. If you eat too much, you get fat!
      If you study consistently, you pass exams. etc. etc.

      It is as simple as that.
      Buddha’s Karma does not mean some unrelated happenings, thought up by ignoramuses, who can’t find an explanation for Effects they cannot understand!

  • 2
    1

    Would you be kind enough to write an article on god.and ask to prove the existence of god.and ask to prove how he’s helping people as claimed by so many.would be interesting to know your opinion on that.and would love to see the reaction.why didn’t god come to the aid of those who didn’t commit any bad karma….

  • 1
    0

    A simple villager asked a very fundamental question. Sir, Nepal is considered by the Buddhists as it’s birthplace. so with all the spiritual values attached to it why such a disaster. My answer to him was that it is the Buddha who analysed nature as it exists. Temples et al do not have spirituality in built to it. So, not one, but many billions of people offering flowers et al and praying has no core value in Buddhism.It is simply in the – three basis precepts in which u can understand the Buddha. They are,” Dhana, Seela and Bhavana”- If one were to practice these three precepts then one will understand that Nature is a tremendous force which neither the Buddha or the Gods could dictate to- May all beings be happy

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