An Eye For An Eye: Punishment Or Karma?

The various spiritual scriptures address numerous aspects of life. All too often, they are applied in a manner for which they were not intended. In other words, they are misinterpreted. The purpose of this article is to use an "eye for an eye" to illustrate this, showing what it really means and how it can be properly applied.

To sort out the true meaning of the various spiritual texts, we apply one principle: It has to make sense! It must not contradict science or our deepest, most reflective, and unbiased notions of morality. To accomplish this, we must strive to look beyond any indoctrinated thinking. Admittedly, this is not so easy to do.

'An eye for an eye' is often used to justify punitive actions. If someone does something we consider inappropriate, it is used to justify the punishment we prescribe without impunity.

Our legal system is burdened with the formidable task of doing its best to make just and moral assessments. However, the ability to determine the appropriate reaction to another person's action lies beyond our grasp. Perhaps this is the deeper meaning of the phrase "Justice is blind." Though we must have our laws, 'an eye for an eye' is a law of nature, not a right administered by men.

As Sir Isaac Newton said, "For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction." 'An eye for an eye' expresses this principle. It is called "the law of karma." This principle includes the field of human behavior. If you do something that has a positive influence, you will receive the positive fruits of your action. If you do something with a negative influence, you will receive the negative fruits of your action. For example, if you brush your teeth regularly, you're blessed with healthy gums. If you don't brush your teeth regularly, you end up with rotten teeth and unhealthy gums. These are examples of the karmic principle.

This karmic principle is not usually so obvious because there are multiple factors at work. For example, brushing your teeth regularly will not result in healthy gums if you smoke and constantly eat sweets. Being simplistic in the application of the principle is commonly done, leading to highly inappropriate conclusions. For example, if someone's home is leveled by a tornado, someone may be so presumptuous as to say it happened because they didn't attend church every Sunday.

It's also difficult to understand how an 'an eye for an eye' works because there is a time lag involved. A bad person may be living a comfortable and even luxurious life. A good person may be living a miserable life. At first glance, we may wonder, "Where is the karmic 'eye for an eye' justice in that?" It may be a long time before we see the results of our actions. If it wasn't for the time lag, we would become a lot wiser a lot faster!

The cause and effect of nature is easily understood as it applies to inanimate objects. It's easy enough to understand that if you roll a number of billiard balls on a pool table, cause and effect determines where each ball ends up. If a ball is directed into a pocket, it's not difficult to grasp where it will end up.

However, the principle also applies to people. The coming together of group dynamics creates the phenomena called "group karma." Someone once asked a spiritual Master, "If an earthquake happens and all the people in the area die, was it every individual's karma to die at that same time?" The Master responded, "Yes, of course." That is simply the cause and effect principle at work.

From the karmic perspective, our whole world can be viewed as a swirling display of international karmic currents. If it were mapped out, it might have an appearance similar to global weather maps where you see clouds, rain patterns, and ocean currents swirling around the globe.  However, remember that karmic principles are laws of nature, not of men. Overly simplistic interpretations or self-righteous judgments may be acclaimed as karmic insights, when in fact they only justify biased views.

Our modern scientific age has hardly begun to even scratch the surface of karmic principles. Yet our inner intuitive sense sees beyond these limitations. Deep inside, we have feelings about karma and karmic patterns. Though these feelings are often encumbered by various indoctrinations, biases, and beliefs, they do exist. As we are willing to take a deeper look at the true meaning underlying scripture, such as 'an eye for an eye,' our vision becomes clearer. Our actions and feelings then align more fully with the true meaning provided by the wisdom of the ages.