About 80 percent of Myanmar's estimated 52 million people are Buddhist, and many there rely on the principle of karma to explain the storm, scholars say.
Specifically, many Myanmar people believe Cyclone Nargis is a karmic consequence of military rulers' brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks last fall, said Ingrid Jordt, an anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was once a Buddhist nun in Myanmar and maintains ties there.
"The immediate explanation was: This is retribution for killing monks," Jordt said. "In any cataclysm, human beings seek to make sense of something that completely destroys the continuity of life. It's an attempt to bring the world back into harmony."
Dear Karma: There must be another way to punish these rulers without drowning, say... a 100,000 people.
Hmm...yes. Obvious on both points. Or may be just stick with natural explanations for natural phenomena - without any wrath or karma. Didn't Voltaire lay to rest some of these issues in the 18th century? Not the full Candide, but here is Voltaire's poem, The Lisbon Earthquake, written after seeing the destruction of Lisbon caused by an earthquake in 1755:
American Zen Buddhist and author Brad Warner said blaming Myanmar's cyclone on bad karma hues uncomfortably close to those ideas.
"To me it sounds like we're just substituting karma for God," he said.
And with so many innocent victims, karma seems a harsh and indiscriminate explanation, Warner said.
OH WRETCHED man, earth-fated to be cursed;
Abyss of plagues, and miseries the worst!
Horrors on horrors, griefs on griefs must show,
That man's the victim of unceasing woe,
And lamentations which inspire my strain,
Prove that philosophy is false and vain.
Approach in crowds, and meditate awhile
Yon shattered walls, and view each ruined pile,
Women and children heaped up mountain high,
Limbs crushed which under ponderous marble lie;
Wretches unnumbered in the pangs of death,
Who mangled, torn, and panting for their breath,
Buried beneath their sinking roofs expire,
And end their wretched lives in torments dire.
Say, when you hear their piteous, half-formed cries,
Or from their ashes see the smoke arise,
Say, will you then eternal laws maintain,
Which God to cruelties like these constrain?
Whilst you these facts replete with horror view,
Will you maintain death to their crimes was due?