In his view, these beings must have done something really awful in their past lives and are just now reaping what they have sown. I don't know how to respond to that. What if there is no such thing as reincarnation? But even if there is, how can he idly stand by and eat a steak while knowing how it arrived on his plate? What about compassion and forgiveness? How do I handle this situation?
Most people who accede to karma as part of their spiritual convictions believe that it refers to the consequences of chosen actions and does not solely or even necessarily deal with rebirth into another body or life form. How we choose to interpret karma from the standpoint of particular religious or spiritual beliefs can directly affect how we treat others. We can use karma as an excuse to bolster our own egos, justify the abuse of others, or inspire us toward more compassion, tenderness, and kindness. Karma from a practical perspective is not about an afterlife or our next incarnation; it very realistically determines the heaven or hell we create here on earth during this lifetime, which perhaps may be the only one we'll ever have.
Even if we were to believe that certain individuals or groups suffer because of their actions or inactions in past lives, our unwillingness to help relieve their suffering when an opportunity is presented only creates negative karma for ourselves in our own present and future lifetimes. The sword cuts both ways.
Using karma as a “reason" for disregarding or participating in abuse is merely a pretext for justifying behaviors we wish to ignore or don't want to change. Attempting to hide behind a veil of “karma" once the curtain has been pulled back reveals a clear misunderstanding of the term. It's a convenient and self-serving way to rationalize the suffering and killing of others -- both human and nonhuman -- for personal pleasure and wanton indulgence. Karma is as karma does.
Send in your own question for Jo here.