Nepal’s Earthquake: Nature, not Karma

April 26th, 2015. A terrible thing happened. An earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck just near Kathmandu. Thousands were buried under clouds of dust and rubble as their homes collapsed around them. It was followed by aftershocks, one of which hit at 07 AM, measured 6.7 on the scale and shook buildings in New Delhi. As of the time of writing, over 2,500 people have died. The bodies are still being dug up.

That’s a nice set of numbers, isn’t it? If you can imagine Nepal as it is now, then I envy your imagination.  What I’ve done is reduce 2,500 lives to  nothing more than a few lines on a screen.

Because I, like most of the world, have not witnessed the carnage first-hand. I’ve seen them in photos hastily uploaded from phones, from people sharing photos of their loved ones begging for information, from a Facebook notifications marking my friends as “safe”. Thousands of people woke up this morning, logged a status along the lines of  “Thoughts and prayers to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal” and got on with their lives. Movin’ on, guvnor. Stayin’ alive.


But the online space frequently brings out the worst in people, not the best. Social good check-ins are harmless. Some people, though, apparently decided that Nepal’s earthquake was karmic justice for the sacrifice of 5,000 buffaloes for a religious festival held last year. Comments were made on everything from the nature of the Hindu gods to the the spectacularly bitchy nature of karma.


What do you say to people like this?

Firstly, let’s get one thing clear: karma is a religious theory. Unlike, say , Newton’s Third Law, karma has not been proved to exist. Karma is like dark matter: a lot of very smart people have thought about it, discussed it, attempted to describe it, but we still can’t prove it exists. If it does exist, it must be the most haphazard cosmic judge in existence, because it never seems to get things right, and anyone who can so accurately confirm that it was karma must either be a digital prophet or a complete idiot. What about the people who didn’t slaughter animals? What about the children? What about the vegetarians? What about the atheists?

How exactly do you intend to justify that?

It’s okay not to feel sorry for those who died in Nepal. Because, contrary to popular belief, it really is hard to feel for people you’ve never known in a country you’ve never seen. But attempting to justify it by calling karma is just stupid. Karma is a theory that became a catchphrase; a neat way of explaining unfavourable events when no cause is clearly visible. Good things are, of course, attributed to luck, hard work, good investments, intelligence, rich parents, and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, Nature doesn’t really care for human philosophy; I doubt it’s noticed that a bunch of slightly evolved monkeys came up with a neat way to explain anything bad that happens to them. Earthquakes are not karma, unless you can empirically prove, beyond all doubt and measure, that karma exists; and not as an idea handed thrown through the years, but as a force so basic, like gravity, that it commands the earth itself.

Since nobody’s done that, let’s go with rationale: earthquakes are the result tectonic plates shifting against each other. In this case, it’s a result of the India tectonic plate (which moves at about 45 mm a year) pushing under the Eurasian plate- the same process that gave rise to the Himalayas. It is a natural process; it’s expected that this will happen again – and again – and again. If you still think tectonic plates actually care about the deaths of buffaloes, please go back in time, find your science teacher and shoot them in the head. They’ve done a terrible, terrible job.

36 thoughts on “Nepal’s Earthquake: Nature, not Karma

    1. What? Wait, so what happens when they stop killing the animals and realize that that does nothing about the earthquakes? How does the earthquake teach lessons about cow slaughter?

  1. According to Buddhism karma is just one of 5 factor that affects the life. Natural causes is another factor. So it is foolish to say everyone died of karma. When earthquake happens naturally, some may die spending their bad karma and some may just die without having previous bad karma.
    I have to remind you that even gravity cannot be proven. It is just a model of explaining how things happen. You accept it because they teach it in the schools.

      1. That’s not very scientific proof, right? Newton’s laws are not even going with Einstein’s theories. You cannot prove that the apple falls due to gravity. But “gravity” can explain the phenomenon in an agreeable way to what we have seen.. That doesn’t mean it is right for all possible cases.

        1. Here’s the catch.
          Take gravity. We do not understand what exerts the force, but we have a quantifiable set of equations that allow us to predict with a very high degree of accuracy the effects of gravity on minute bodies all the way to galaxies and to substances with no mass, like light; we can predict how bends in space-time affect the geodesics along which light travels, and we can confirm this by evidence from millions of samples; our rules work. And all this has been developed since Newton published his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
          Karma is a problem the human race has been dealing with for over 2500 years. Yet where are the equations? Karma is still like God; a concept, thoroughly explained perhaps, but with no quantifiable equations or data that allows someone to come up and say “this earthquake happened because the Nepalese killed buffaloes.”
          Get my drift? That kind of prediction is bull. Karma is only a concept at the moment. We haven’t proved it.

          1. The thing is not everything in the universe can be modeled by few variables and also not everything is sensible for our 5 senses. You can never prove something complex like karma using the knowledge we have, at least not with the current state of science. We can’t even model how life works or when the next earthquake happens with equations. So how can we model karma without data that spans over thousands of years and many lives?
            Everything in science is also concepts. They explain something, then somebody finds it is not applicable to some phenomenon and develop a new theory. Then the same thing happens to it.

    1. hey! I totally agree. woah! I was really trying to explain it. but I couldn’t say much even though I wrote a lot.

    2. yeah! you are so right. woah! I was trying to explain. but I didn’t know how I should explain Buddhism to someone who don’t know anything bout it. you did well

  2. it will fly into orbit if you throw it fast enough to attain escape velocity.

    whether gravity happens as per newtons laws, or due to space-time continuum curving, or gravitons, or something else, is still not decided; but that doesn’t really matter cos we understand it well enough to make verifiable predictions like how much fuel does this rocket need and how can a satellite achieve a geostationary orbit.

    1. Right. And you cannot say the same for karma; we’ve had thousands of years to work on that problem but have yet to come up with an accurate predictive theory that can make anyone go “Oooh, look, Nepal’s earthquake happened because of buffaloes”.

      1. People who are so called “buddhists” says it’s karma.
        Buddhism teaches causation,There are two types of causation: natural causation and moral causation. Natural causation has nothing to do with people being good or bad, it is simply a matter of the various forces in the universe acting on each other. The Buddha’s teaching of karma is only concerned with moral causation. Therefore karma has nothing to do with these events.We live in a dynamic universe and sometimes events are to our benefit and at other times to our detriment. That’s the way the world is. Buddhism is not concerned with explaining why this is so, it simply makes the common sense assertion that the universe is dukkha; sometimes at odds with our dreams, our wishes and our desires. What Buddhism is concerned with is teaching us to modify our desires so we are less likely to be in conflict with the way things and how to remain calm and content when they do conflict with the way things are.

    2. To blame KARMA for deaths and any form of unfortunate events is irresponsible, irrational, and insensible. Think about people who have their family ruined in the quake, murdered/raped/violated by criminals; you are actually pointing finger at them, telling them they deserve it cause it is KARMA….. Man, the one who don’t feel the pain speak the loudest…. If i were one of the victim I wouldn’t hesitate to beat up any one who telling me such crap…

  3. Well it is Karma, for most. Some would have had a natural death.

    We need to use situations like this to understand the vulnerability of human life and that we all have experienced situations like this before previously.

    Thinking that it was good Karma (Pin) that saved us is not what’s encouraged by Dhamma.

    1. Condolences for people of Nepal..but you must agree that just because you dont know about something you can brag or say it doesnt exist or whatever..karmic theory is definitely there otherwise how can you explain the differences between different people…why two people are not alike of same height ,same talent etc…do you know the scientific reason behind this mr. genius?

  4. To the author: Obviously, you know very little about spirituality and the universal law of attraction. It does indeed exist. Google it! There’s also such a thing as karmic debt.

    Innocent animals were slaughtered to bring luck. This despicable act brought luck alright, but not the type that festival goers were wishing for.

    Your article isn’t factual. It’s simply your uneducated opinion.

    1. Prove karmic debt. Show me the math. Then come back and talk to me about your universal law of attraction. By the way, just because you can Google something doesn’t mean it exists in real life.

      1. You’re a nonbeliever. You’ll never understand the magical nature of life and our connection to everything as a whole until you open your mind and heart.

        Wishing you a great awakening. Peace.

      2. there r lot of things dat can’t prove by MATHS. “MENTAL ILLNESSES” can u prove dis by maths:; no i don’t think so. though mental illnesses are concepts!!!!!!!!!! ‘?’

      3. ok! let’s say that we don’t know whether those things exist in this world. but how can you say that everything can be explained using a scientifical basis. you are human and I’m human. it is hard to explain a deep deep theory like Buddhism to someone like you. I mean someone who never learned Buddhism. Let’s take reincarnation. I’m positive that you don’t believe in reincarnation. but everyone know that there are plenty of proofs for reincarnation. there are people who had experienced it. Even Americans and Europeans know that. Those scientist had done researches and found evidences. But they won’t really present them. bcz that will be against their pre prepared theories and religions.

  5. It is very hard to say that some bad thing happened because of Karma ,certain dictators like Pol pot who killed hundreds of thousands died peacefully at old age,also Arab/Persian invaders who killed innocent people in India on their conquest had not done anything bad for them ( though their empires eventually collapsed they have planted their culture for thousands years to come),there are so many instances like that,yet people day and night argue about Karmic influence which has more to do with next life which you can not give concrete evidence,Logic should be if you live a good life next life should also be good whether it exists or not

  6. Dear All

    Condolences for people of Nepal..

    Once the killing stops all bad will stop Newton & Albert not needed easy as that


  7. someone explained bout everything very well. buddha. i don’t know whether u’ll trust buddha or not.but i know the reason why only a very few people are real buddhist. it is because the world is so bad. how can human kill animals like that. why r they even known as human. i don’t know whether the earthquake happened bcz of the animal slaghter. but i know those ppl will pay for that anyway. natute is connected with everything . and there r things that can’t be explained by science. and about the ppl who died,they probably had done something so bad in one of their previous lives. i don’t care whether anyone will believe this or not. bcz buddha never wanted us or anybody to believe in what he said. he asked us to believe after questioning. and he said everything doesn’t happen bcz of karma. but karma is there and it is related to both good and bad. oppose this if u have ever learned buddhism well.i’m just 16 but i think about those things a lot before i talk.

  8. there are things which can’t be explained through science. and I saw they say that karma is something used as a excuse to explain every bad thing happen in their lives. but no. karma is connected to bad things as well as good things. maybe the earthquake wasn’t really a result of the animal slaughter. but the people might had done something so bad in their previous lives. And Buddha never told that everything happens bcz of karma. and those ppl who killed animals will surely pay. not in this life time.nature will make them pay. nature is sometimes connected with those things. I don’t care whether ppl believe this or not. cz Buddha never wanted us or anybody to believe in those things without questioning.

  9. I don’t know whether the earthquake is because of killing animals, but think of collectively 100 people doing prayer.. I feel it will create more collective consciousness than each individual praying. That is whole concept why we have religion for grouping people for a cause.

    Now think about, collective cursing.. Don’t you think those 300k animals cried when they bleed to death. Even though we can not attribute this killing to result a earthquake, but it would show up some time some where..

  10. After reading this true article which is completely true,
    I think the people who kills these animals deserve to die,
    After 10 days of killing the animals
    The earthquake happened,
    That’s mean pray to the only god in the 7th sky (Allah).
    Not to stones I still don’t know how the people pray to stone I have no idea,how their own brains process this thing not just in Nepal to the whole world u should think twice before you believe something
    Or think 9th u should know the real truth
    Like The jesus is god and this crap
    Jesus is passenger of god like the others
    You people still think wrongly I’m afraid it gonna be continued
    Let’s change let’s know what the truth, ptay to the lonly god
    See you in heaven good people
    And make sure feed the poors help the homeless make good things and in the near future it gonna back make smile on people faces
    Allah don’t forget what you make
    Get knowledge people..

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