The real-life impact of believing the law of cause and effect.

This is the second article in the Engaging Buddhism series which explores different facets of Buddhism and how Christians can engage with and minister to Buddhists.

What is karma?

Ask Taylor Swift and she’ll tell you, “Karma is my boyfriend / Karma is a god / Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend / Karma’s a relaxing thought.” It’s all the good things she gets for keeping “my side of the street clean.”

Justin Timberlake would respond that for his heartless ex, “What goes around, goes around, goes around / Comes all the way back around.”

Even Maria, the nun turned nanny from The Sound of Music, would argue that “somewhere in my youth or childhood / I must have done something good” to deserve the love of Captain Georg von Trapp.

Clearly, the idea of karma is part of the American consciousness. The idea of reaping what you sow is found in everyday life as well as passages in Scripture, such as Proverbs 22:8, “Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.”

Yet the worldview implications of the Buddhist belief in karma result in something far from a “relaxing thought.” For Theravada Buddhists, for instance, “karma means you get what you deserve, and we all know that we don’t want to get what we deserve,” said Kelly Hilderbrand, a missionary and Buddhism expert at Bangkok Bible Seminary.

In this installment of Engaging Buddhism, we will look at how the same concept of karma shapes two Buddhist worldviews—those of Thai Theravada Buddhists and Taiwanese Humanistic Buddhists—in very different ways. We will also see how Christians can speak into this Buddhist belief by providing …

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