Excuse me, is this your karma or mine…?

Just this week I was reading one of those ‘food for thought’ emails you can subscribe to and receive daily in your mailbox. This particular one discussed how we often place excessive faith in our leaders. We tend to put them on such a high pedestal that we forget they are still human, with faults, virtues and their own karmic paths to follow. Somehow, they ended up governing a nation or a group of people, and while this requires heightened responsibility, it does not negate them from experiencing shortcomings and outright failures, for which we quickly condemn them (as a good friend of mine would say, “Remember when you’re pointing your finger at someone, you’ve got three pointing back at yourself.”).

A few days prior to that, I had spent the weekend at a yoga workshop in Comares, during which the subject of ‘group karma’ surfaced in one of our discussions. We were struggling to come to terms with how members of certain parts of the world could exist in such obvious mass suffering – the likes of countries in the African continent, for example – and how these groups seem to reappear again and again throughout history.

First of all, our concept of suffering has become highly visual – unless we see a starved child’s ribs poking out of sun-beaten leather skin, or a mother crying over her baby’s lifeless, fly-ridden body, or blood pouring down somebody’s face after an explosion, we don’t seem to sense their pain or qualify it as suffering. However, in the so-called developed countries we have different types of suffering – drug or alcohol dependencies, suicidal tendencies, mental illnesses derived from a fast-paced style of life, financial stress, threats of terrorism…

So, regardless of our personal sufferings if we have them, there are communities of souls tied together in this ‘group karma’. From here we could list the starving in Sudan, victims of The Black Plague, or those of the Irish potato famine.

It is, no doubt, a difficult concept to stomach, let alone accept. Not only is our personal karma as individuals there to be interpreted and dealt with, but also that which may bind us to a given and recurring group suffering. One hopes, as we should, that this will be overcome through one’s actions and heightened consciousness, so that eventually the group suffering will be dissolved, or that others further along their karmic trail are able to provide for and alleviate them (as we can see from improved efforts worldwide to generate more awareness and aid to communities in need – sometimes, the power of the media does come in handy after all).

But herein lies a question – if, for example, the leader of a given nation sends his troops in to confront another given nation (for whatever reason, justified or not), how much of that karma is his own and how much is he pushing onto that of his soldiers, or are they all tied in to the same karmic knot?

Where does your individual karma merge with somebody else’s? After all, are we not the masters of our own fate?

When we try to define ‘what is meant to be,’ and somebody philosophically brushes another person’s death off as, “Well, that was their fate,” are they able to think of this on the grand scale?

Could they comfortably say the same of the 30-60 million who died in the Mongol Conquests of the 13th Century, 11 million documented who died in the WWII Holocaust, 12 million children in Africa who die of starvation every day, the 3 million who died of AIDS worldwide in 2006, the 200,000 who died in the atomic bomb explosions of Hiroshima & Nagasaki (not to mention the thousands affected in the aftermath), the nearly 3,000 who died on 9-11 attacks in the US, the 191 on 11-M in Madrid’s train bombings, and countless other examples

Did these people die not because of their race, sexual orientation, political or religious beliefs, age, social & economic status, health or location… but purely, and ‘simply’, because it was their fate as individuals?