The Karma of Adam and Eve

One of the most misunderstood concepts in Buddhism is karma. How often have you heard, “She has good karma,” “He has bad karma,” “It couldn’t be helped, it was karma”?
Karma is neither good nor bad. Karma is not fate. Karma is simply cause and effect. The law of karma states that all current situations are the result of past actions and circumstances. Karma is not strictly a Buddhist concept, examples of karma are found in all religions. The story of Adam and Eve is one such example.

When God created Adam and Eve they lived in the Garden of Eden. All human needs were met and they were free from all suffering. God forbade them to eat the fruit of a certain tree. The devil offered a temptation too great for them to resist and they ate the fruit of this tree. For this transgression, God cast them out of the Garden of Eden and the cycle of human suffering began. Humans would now and forever face the travails of sickness, old age and death. From a Christian perspective, we are all born with “Original Sin” that is only overcome by baptism into the belief of Christ as the savior. How is this an example of karma?

A Buddhist reading of this story is not as different as you might think. Although Buddhism does not have a “Supreme Being," and therefore does not deal with creation, it does speak of an infinite wisdom and compassion in the universe. All human beings have the ability to return to this state of enlightenment. Adam and Eve’s temptation are our lust, greed and ignorance. These human failings are the cause of all our suffering. The karma of Adam and Eve is this world of suffering in which we live. However, we are capable of overcoming this suffering. From a Christian viewpoint one need only to accept Christ as their savior. Through following His teachings one is able to leave behind this world of temptation and illusion and experience the eternal reward of Heaven. A Buddhist perspective is that through truly hearing the Dharma, and living accordingly, one can achieve final nirvana and return to a state of total enlightenment.

Karma is not the cause of our current situation but rather the explanation. Whether we are male or female, rich or poor, healthy or sickly, are all examples of karma. We cannot control who our parents were, what our race is, how smart we are or the situation into which were born. What we can control are our actions once we recognize this karma. Only by accepting that all people experience karma, and that we are not alone in our quest for happiness, will we be able to truly follow the path we have chosen.

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