First, to correct some bad information that’s disseminated widely through our culture, no educated Buddhist that I’ve ever heard of thinks of karma as some undiscovered Newtonian force that exists somewhere out there in the universe. Rather, Karma is the rules that govern mind and perception and there are many psychological studies that corroborate the detailed teachings on karma. Here are some examples:
In general, prosocial behavior (being kind to others) is a consistent cause for increased happiness (Crick, 1996; Dovidio, & Penner, 2001; Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008; Konrath, & Brown, 2013; Layous et al., 2012; Moynihan, DeLeire, & Enami, 2015). Even more, some studies suggest that prosocial behaviors have benefits above and beyond those of self-focused, self-care behaviors (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008; Layous et al., 2012; Nelson et al., 2016).
The first law of karma is Actions lead to similar results
. This law can be talked about in terms of neuroplasticity and perceptual training. Let's start with Neuroplasticity. If I think a particular thought, I am training myself to think that thought. I am not training myself to think any other thought. If I get angry, I prime my neurons to fire that pattern. If I feel compassion, I prime my neurons to fire that pattern. If Joe is doing something harmful to sally and I get angry at Joe because joe needs to learn a lesson, I am still priming my neurons to fire angry, and so I am more likely to get angry in the future. Easy. Now, using the false consensus effect (a type of perceptual training), we see that people who act in a trustworthy manner are more likely to perceive the world as a trustworthy place(citation further down). Hunters who carry guns are more likely to perceive ambiguous photos of people as photos of people carrying guns(I lost the citation but could find it again if someone really wanted it). Another type of perceptual training is playing an instrument. People who spend a significant amount of time playing an instrument hear that instrument more often when they listen to music(no citation. just personal experience).
The Four Steps of Creating Karma: In the scriptures, this is called a "Path of Action" and these four steps describe the process we all go through before, during and after we undertake any action. Our mind is affected by the process.
- Deliberation: the first step to creating karma is thinking about what we want and how we want to go about achieving our desire. Ways to make this step have a deeper impact on our mind and experience are practices like goal setting and value setting. Goal setting and value setting are both shown to increase a person’s likelihood to achieve goals. Shocking. I know.
- Premeditation: before we act on our goals, a number of practices we can use to increase the karmic consequences are planning, intention setting and visualization. Visualization is a technique often used by professional athletes. When people visualize themselves performing an activity their nervous system slightly activates the parts of their body they are visualizing. Also, visualizing one’s best possible self encourages positive affect (Sheldon, & Lyubomirsky, 2006)
- Action: giving to others in a variety of contexts contributes to well being (Konrath, & Brown, 2013). Not only does giving affect well being in general, but our actions affect our perceptions specifically. The false consensus effect gets a lot of its power here. The False Consensus Effect is a psychological model that suggests people make inferences about others based on their own thoughts and behaviors, even in the face of evidence to the contrary (Krueger, J., 1994; Ross et al., 1977). a person who acts in a trustworthy manner is more likely to trust others. (Glaeser, et al., 2000). “In a study on student attitudes, Katz and Allport (1931) noticed that the more students admitted they had cheated on an exam, the more they expected that other students cheated too.” (Krueger, Joachim, and Russell 1994). The actions we take affect the way that we perceive others.
- Reflection: after we act, the way we think about what we've done plays a significant role in the effect it has on our mind and perceptions. If we regret an action, we are less likely to do it again. If we rejoice in an action, we are more likely to do it again (classical conditioning). Journaling, gratitude journaling and finding more positive ways to process past traumas are three methods of reflection that show the efficacy of this step in improving a person's affect and perceptions.
All of this is evidence supporting karma yoga as a method for achieving life satisfaction and perceptual change. There is more evidence, but I thought to just start here.
The last global pandemic to terrify society was HIV/AIDS, a virus
that has infected
75 million people and killed 32 million. HIV was a disease that in its early stages was easy to ignore because it was most often found in stigmatized groups of people such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and injectible drug users. However, HIV has spread into much wider and today, nearly 1%
of the world's population is HIV positive. In this podcast episode I will be exploring the factors that have exacerbated the spread of HIV. In part one, I will discuss the massive racial, economic, and gender inequalities that have exacerbated the HIV epidemic in South Africa. In part two, I will describe the role social stigma and discriminatory and cruel practices have led to the unchecked growth of HIV in South Africa. Finally, in part three, I will discuss how economic growth paradoxically led to the growth of HIV in Uganda.
South Africa today is the epicenter of the global HIV pandemic
with over 12 million HIV positive people making up 20.8% of South Africa's total population. South Africa's HIV pandemic cannot be understood without first exploring the massive structural inequalities that have long defined South Africa. Apartheid's strict residency
laws that forbid black families from permanently settling in cities, and the labor demands of South Africa's booming mining economy led to one member
of 36% of households working as a migrant in the mines. Men largely lived in single sex labor barracks, where the use of sex workers unsurprisingly became common, creating an environment where STD could spread rapidly. Miners are six times more likely to have HIV than non-miners, and migration from neignoring southern African nations paying a key role in the growth of HIV throughout southern Africa. South Africa today has the highest gini coefficient
, a standard measure of inequality, in the world with levels of HIV prevalence shaped by this inequality. For example, women who live in the most unequal decile of municipalities have positive HIV rates more than 4 times the least unequal decile. Massive economic inequality creates situations where desperately poor women have transactional sex
with richer men for money. Finally, gender inequality has exacerbated the HIV crisis in South Africa. 17.41% of women in southern Africa face non-partner sexual violence, among the highest in the world placing women in situations where coercion and fear of force makes it difficult to say no to sex, or demand a condom. On top of these inequalities, was government incompetence in dealing with HIV. Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa from 1999 to 2008, believed conspiracy theories
that HIV was not the cause of AIDS, and refused to invest in life saving anti-retroviral treatments even when pharmaceutical companies gave medication free of cost even as neighboring countries scaled up their programs. The cost of inaction by Mbeki's government was the excess mortality
of 365,000 deaths.
South Africa is hardly alone in denying the reality of HIV. Since the first to suffer from HIV are often men who have sex with men, sex workers and injectable drug users, societies ignore the dangers of HIV. Russia has approximately
1.8 million injectable drug users, originally the primary vector of transmission of HIV in Russia. Instead of following harm reduction policies the government has chosen to crack down on drug use. Approximately 200,000
drug users are in Russian prisons, methadone treatment
is banned, and organizations that provide clean needles face
continuous harassment. The Russian state today is closely allied with the Orthodox church which is fiercely opposed
to any outreach to the gay community, and sex education has been severely curtailed. At the same time NGOs that provide information about HIV and access to testing and treatment have been hounded
for having international ties, and LGBT employees
. Russia has also made little effort to provide treatment to HIV positive people. Today, only 36% of Russians receive ARV treatment, one of the lowest rates in the world. Less than 20% of HIV positive drug users receive ARV treatment, and just 5% of HIV positive prisoners receive ARV treatment. In addition to saving lives, treatment for HIV reduces the viral load to the point that transmission of HIV is neglible
. The lack of prevention or treatment in Russia has resulted in Russia having one of the fastest growing HIV outbreaks in the world. Today
, approximately 1.3%
of Russia is HIV positive, and the number of new infections in Russia is increasing by 10-15%
a year. Moreover, the percent of HIV transmitted
through heterosexual sex is steadily rising, putting more and more Russians, even Russians not seen as "deviant" at risk. Ironically, the Russian government has the capacity to be effective when it wants to be. For example, the Russian government has almost eliminated Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. It is possible HIV will grow to an uncontrollable point because the government was unwilling to act.
The growth of HIV can just as much be the result of policy success as policy failure. Yoweri Museveni, as I described in a previous podcast episode
, restored economic growth to Uganda
after decades of misrule by Idi Amin, and brutal civil war
. Economic growth in Uganda was consistently
above 6% a year in the 1980s and 1990s, international trade
grew seven-fold between 1986 and 2000, and the population of Kampala
increased five-fold during this same period. The result of this economic growth was large number of truck drivers carrying goods, and male migrants streaming into urban slums, both populations susceptible to contracting HIV. Research has found every doubling of exports
results in a four-fold increase in HIV, with 30-60% of Uganda's growth in HIV explained by increased economic activity. Moreover, HIV rates are consistently between 25-32%
for truckers, and HIV rates are higher along major transportation corridors
. HIV rates are also higher
in urban areas, and the more affluent southern provinces. HIV rapidly soared in Uganda, and by 1991 10.4%
of Ugandan adults were HIV positive. However, economic growth and the growth in institutional capacity responsible for the economic growth allowed Uganda to successfully combat HIV. Government and civil society worked together to educate
the public about the risks of HIV, and expand access to testing. Access to antiretroviral treatment was expanded and made fre
e. These programs have successfully allowed to dramatically
reduce the prevalence of HIV from 10.4% of the population to 5.7% of the population.
The explosion of HIV in South Africa, Russia and Uganda leave important warnings for out current fight against COVID-19. For example, systematic racial inequality has drastically increased mortality
among black people in the United States. Assumptions
about who could act as vectors for COVID-19 led to decisions made upon false assumption. Finally, COVID-19 has disproportionately
hit the most vital nodes of the global economy. While there are important lessons to be learned from looking at the successes other nations have had at containing and reducing levels of HIV, which I will explore in the second part of this miniseries.
Selected Sources:Migration and health in Southern Africa: 100 years and still circulating
, Mark N. Lurie a , and Brian G. WilliamsMigration and HIV/AIDS in South Africa
, Jonathan Crush , Brian Williams, Eleanor Gouws & Mark LurieMines, Migration and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa
, Lucia Corno and Damien De WalqueEconomic inequality and HIV in South Africa
, Niclas NordforsTransactional sex and incident HIV infection in a cohort of young women from rural South Africa
, Kilburn, Kelly www.wealthofnationspodcast.com https://media.blubrry.com/wealthofnationspodcast/s/content.blubrry.com/wealthofnationspodcast/Dubai-Economy.mp3