Neufelt, Ronald W. (ed). Karma and rebirth: Post Classical Developments

This book is a companion to Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Instead of looking at the classical period (before the common era), it looks at more modern developments in interpreting karma. That means it starts with Buddhism 2000 years ago, catches up to Hinduism in the 1850s and covers the reception of karma in China and Tibetan Buddhism as well as the modern West. And yes, that includes people like H.P. Blavatsky, Jung, Swami Bhaktivedanta, Rajneesh and modern Buddhism in the USA.

The advantage of this approach is that the material is more relevant to our day-to-day spirituality than in the companion volume. We find reference to the modern tendency to combine karma with evolution, psychology and merit making and ritual aspects of karma as well.

However, we’re still talking about a volume written by and for scholars. This means copious footnotes, a critical response to the material entered and even an index.

Like the preceding volume on individual topics this book can seem a bit superficial. We get a summary of Lama Tsong Khapa for instance that doesn’t really add anything to what anybody these days can glean from the translation of the Lam Rim Chenmo (2000). However, when this book came out, that work had not yet been completed. On the other hand, the treatment of theosophy is unexpectedly thorough. Neufelt concludes that Blavatsky is an utopian author. This surprised me, as I had never thought of her as an optimist, let alone a utopian thinker. However, when it comes to karma, it’s true: she’s an optimist who believes (among other things) that people will mostly improve and be reborn as people. My surprise is due to the frequent pessimistic thoughts one finds elsewhere in her writings.

Again: I can recommend this volume as a good introduction to various aspects of karma.