Calling Karma

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Benjamin Radford’s "Karmas and Dogmas" [Re: The Radford Files, March 13-19] offers no useful information regarding the teaching of karma, but does reveal a great deal about Radford himself. He begins by criticizing a woman who "… embraced the superficial, pop culture version of karma, without understanding what it is." Later on he adds, "If you claim a belief in (and support of) an idea, it implies you actually understand what you say you believe." Radford might be reminded that before we reject an idea, we first ought to correctly understand the idea we’re rejecting.

Radford states, "Karma in Buddhism holds that the fate of the soul is determined by its karma, its actions." If he’d taken the trouble to read even a single dependable Buddhist text, he would know that Buddhism categorically rejects the idea of a soul. An entire chapter is devoted to this in
What the Buddha Taught , by Venerable Walpola Sri Rahula, an esteemed monk and scholar from Sri Lanka, beginning on page 51: "Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman." Every Buddhist text I’ve ever read, including those by the Dalai Lama, concurs on this point.

Radford also claims karma is a system of rewards and punishments. Rahula likewise debunks this. On page 32 he explains, "The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and react; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with justice or reward and punishment."

The law of karma does not state that each of us in some way "deserves" whatever happens to us. There is no moral judgment whatsoever. The law of karma simply explains that every volitional action leaves an imprint and will have consequences. That’s all. Every Buddhist teaching I’ve read concurs on this also.

Radford fails to cite a single Buddhist text, and there’s no evidence that he’s even bothered to read any. He quotes only his fellow "skeptic" Robert Carroll. Thus he makes statements that totally misrepresent basic Buddhist teachings on karma. If this is how he operates, why should we pay any attention to anything he says on any subject?

Change In Demand

In response to Christie Chisholm’s article last week [Re: Feature, "Diary of a Locavore," March 6-12]: Good for you! I am the manager of the Nob Hill Growers’ Market, and my goal is to eat entirely locally. There are a limited number of farmers in the Albuquerque area. Why? There are a limited number of customers. How small the local markets are in relation to the urban population! For all of the great reasons Chisholm mentioned in her article, we hope more folks will see the wisdom and delight of eating locally and visit the growers’ markets this season. More customers means more farmers and less land lost to development. The bottom line is that if people can make money doing something, someone will do it. If more demand for local food arises, even in Albuquerque, more farmers will grow more food and becoming a locavore won’t be a novelty or a challenge!

Omnivore: Carnivore

[Re: Feature, "Diary of a Locavore," March 6-12] Thank you for an interesting read. I’ll never understate the challenge, or the importance, of eating as much tasty and varied locally grown food as possible. But Chisholm proceeds from a particularly difficult perspective, and it colors her piece.

Like it or not, evolution has engineered humans to be omnivores. Were Chisholm, or indeed the overwhelming majority of humans alive today, to look back five, 10, 100 generations and more, she’d find meat-eaters whose enthusiastic and carnivorous survival contributed to her presence today. Eating locally includes eating locally produced (and, ideally, locally slaughtered) meats, and hopefully in healthy variety.

And when Chisholm asserts, "Now creating a single meal out of nothing but local ingredients, unless it’s summer, is challenging, or sensually disappointing," she’s overstating the case–first, by excluding meats, but second, in failing to note that maybe there’s a reason therein for the historically low population of places like the desert Southwest. Sure, it’s hard … here. That’s why, having evolved in a climate kind of like this one, human animals then devoted so much energy to getting the heck out of there in search of (literally) greener pastures.

My daughters and I started discussing Michael Pollan’s
Omnivore’s Dilemma in the kitchen and at the table when they were 7 and 11 years old. I want to give them the tools and information they need to make intelligent choices for themselves and their communities. Even the youngest (now 8), though, believes vegetarians need to try something different every so often. She dislikes ordering from the same menu, as it were, all the time.

Again, thanks for a good article and the useful resources appended. I hope its bias doesn’t discourage too many from making the extra effort to eat locally and responsibly.

Sloppy, Jerry And Others Hit The Nail On The Head

[Re: Blog, “El-P isn’t Going to Vote,” March 14] Not voting is voting … for whomever wins. If you like that person, then your "non" vote counts. Good for you.

You non-voters are also ignoring the impact your single vote has on local and regional elections … while I could care less if you decide to protest the national election with your "less than a drop in the bucket" excuse, there are local people and local issues where your vote can and certainly will count for something. Think globally, act locally, or something like that.

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