Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman talks about how suffering can offer a Karmic advantage. Robert Thurman holds the first endowed chair in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the United States, at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of the international best-seller “Inner Revolution,” and the co-founder and president of Tibet House US, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. Interview by Lisa Schneider Why do bad things happen to good people? Does karma play a role?

Abstractly speaking, Karma is not really a theory of fate; it’s a causal theory. And it says that anything bad that happens to you is a resonance of something bad that you perpetrated in a previous life.

The main thing about Karma, what we might want to call collective Karma, when there’s a disaster where people haven’t done anything and a terrible thing happens from nature, is that the bodhisattva, or the outside person looking at the situation, never invokes the Karma theory and says, “Well, I don’t have to worry about them because that was their bad Karma and they got wasted and too bad — as if it were some sort of fate or a way of writing off the disaster. It should never be used that way.

The bodhisattva never accepts the absoluteness of that explanation, although she would be aware of it. She would think of it as a terrible tragedy, unprovoked and unmerited, and would try to do everything possible to save the people from the disaster and help the survivors.

On the other hand, the Karma theory that every-thing bad that happens to me is from my own negative action in the past is always useful for the person who suffers. — http://beliefnet.com