Abortion is Bad Karma: Hindu Perspectives.
Hinduism Is Prolife on Abortion
Hinduism is an ancient religion practiced by hundreds of millions in India and abroad. One commentator describes it as
...more than just a creed: it is a total culture, a way of life based on the belief in the unity of all creation. Hindus, like Buddhists, see humankind not as an entity separate from animals, but rather as an integral part of the universe that includes all living creatures. Although Hinduism is well known for considering cows to be holy, in Hindu doctrine, all living creatures, including insects, plants, and trees, are thought to enjoy a kinship with one another and to be worthy of respect and life. (1)
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Nine Beliefs of Hinduism, a tract published by the Himalayan Academy of San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden : "Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa ahimsa (əhĭm`sä) [Sanskrit,=noninjury], ethical principle of noninjury to both men and animals, common to Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Ahimsa became influential in India after 600 B.C., contributing to the spread of vegetarianism. , or nonviolence." All life is sacred because all creatures are manifestations of the Supreme Being.
The Hindu practice of nonviolence is connected to a belief in reincarnation: the repeated re-embodiment of souls in different species of life. The karma generated in one's present life determines whether one enjoys a higher or suffers a lower existence in the next reincarnation. Dr. T. K. Venkateswaran, a Hindu leader in the Parliament of the World's Religions There have been several meetings referred to as a Parliament of the World’s Religions, most notably the World's Parliament of Religions of 1893, the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths. , writes that karma is "the moral and physical law of cause and effect by which each individual creates one's own future destiny." Hinduism teaches that there are 8,400,000 species of life, beginning with the microbes, rising through the fish, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, and animals to the humans and gods. According to their desires, living entities perpetually take birth in these species. These transmigrations are directed by the mind propelling the soul to newer and newer bodies. As Dr. Venkateswaran notes, "All souls are evolving and progressing towards union with God....The individual soul reincarnates, evolving through many births and deaths, until all the karmic results, good and bad, are resolved." (2)
Hinduism teaches that abortion, like any other act of violence, thwarts a soul in its progress toward God. Why does the Hindu community seem silent on the abortion issue? Dr. K. S. Krishnan of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Kerala, India, offered this explanation for the apparent silence: "Personally, I feel that a sannyassi [monk] should have no chance of discussing the private life of a lady. That can only happen when a lady approaches him to become a disciple." (3)
Nevertheless, Hindu scriptures The following is a bibliography of Hindu scriptures and texts. Hinduism is based on "the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. and tradition have from the earliest of times condemned the practice of abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger. Hinduism teaches that the fetus is a living, conscious person needing and deserving protection. Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garha-batta (womb killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul). A hymn in the Rig Veda (7.36.9, RvP, 2469) begs for protection of fetuses. The Kaushitaki Upanishad The Kauśītāki Upanishad is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads. It is a Sāmānya Upanishad, associated with the Rigveda. It figures as number 25 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. (3.1 UpR, 774) draws a parallel between abortion and the killing of one's parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) remarks that the fetus slayer, or brunaghni, is among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2). (4)
In modern times, India's greatest apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi, has written: "It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime." (5) The international periodical Hinduism Today acknowledges: "Across the board, Hindu religious leaders perceive abortion at any stage of fetal development as killing (some say murder)...and as an act that has serious karmic repercussions repercussions npl → répercussions fpl
repercussions npl → Auswirkungen pl ." For example, Swami Kamalatmananda of the Ramakrishna Monastery in Madras, India, has said: "No human being has the right to destroy the fetus. If having a baby is economically and socially problematic, one can very well take precautions to avoid such unwanted birth rather than killing the baby. Precaution is better than destruction." (6)
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is India's greatest scholar, philosopher, cultural ambassador, author, and spiritual leader. His teachings on the subject of abortion are very clear:
They are killing the baby in the womb. How cruel! In this age of unwanted population, man is losing his compassion. When you kill a living entity, even an ant, you are interfering with its spiritual evolution, its progress. That living entity must again take on that same life form to complete its designated life term in that body. And the killer must return to pay for damages. (7)
Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada has written:
You are killing innocent cows and other animals--nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They'll fight among themselves. It is going on. Why? This is nature's law. Tit for tat tit for tat
Repayment in kind, as for an injury; retaliation.
[Probably alteration of tip for tap.]
Noun 1. . You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.
They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse slaughterhouse: see abattoir; meatpacking. , and now they'll create their own slaughterhouse....This is nature's law. It's not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You'll make a slaughterhouse at home. You'll kill your own child--abortion. This is nature's law.
Who are these children being killed? They are these meat-eaters. They enjoyed themselves when so many animals were killed, and now they're being killed by their mothers.
People do not know how nature is working. If you kill, you must be killed. If you kill the cow who is your mother, then in some future lifetime your mother will kill you. Yes. The mother becomes the child, and the child becomes the mother. (8)
Commenting on the Hitopadesa, an ancient Sanskrit text, Satyanarayana dasa observes:
At present, people generally unite only for sensual pleasure, and children are often considered a regrettable accident....Abortion being accepted as standard practice, people conveniently forget that life begins at conception, by using such euphemisms as "tissue" when referring to the fetus. Although subconsciously they know that they are killing the baby in the womb, they prefer to say they are "terminating the pregnancy," or "removing the tissue" so they may feel free of the guilt for murder, thus deluding themselves psychologically...they cannot escape the punishment for murder given by the laws of karma, and ...in their next lives they will have to suffer the misery of repeatedly being aborted. (9)
Srila Prabhupada's teachings indicate a spiritual link between humans and other sentient sentient /sen·ti·ent/ (sen´she-ent) able to feel; sensitive.
1. Having sense perception; conscious.
2. Experiencing sensation or feeling. creatures: violence towards animals leads only toward violence against other human beings. Satya Narayana dasa similarly notes that people who commit violence against their unborn children will be subjected to the same violence in future reincarnations. The cycle of killing stops only through the practice of ahimsa toward all.
It is important to note here that the karmic repercussions of abortion, grave though they may be, are not "punishments" in the sense of being the personal vengeance of a wrathful wrath·ful
1. Full of wrath; fiercely angry.
2. Proceeding from or expressing wrath: wrathful vengeance. See Synonyms at angry. , judgmental judg·men·tal
1. Of, relating to, or dependent on judgment: a judgmental error.
2. Inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones: God. They are simply the consequences of violating a natural law--whether that law is violated out of ignorance, fear, or whatever other possible motive. These spiritual leaders are not intending to act as agents of such a God, but to help people become more mindful and compassionate in their behavior, and to promote the evolution of all the souls that may be harmed through an abortion--the child's, the mother's, the father's, the abortion provider's.
Prolife Means Pro Every Life
One need not be a Hindu or even share the Hindu belief in reincarnation to conclude that the practice of ahimsa towards all is the only way to stop the cycle of killing that surrounds abortion. As Dr. Venkateswaran comments: "No particular religion, including Hinduism, teaches the only, exclusive way to God and salvation. All authentic, genuine paths and traditions lead to the One God and are facets of love and light." (10) The non-Hindu Marjorie Spiegel, author of The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, writes: "All oppression and violence is intimately and ultimately linked, and to think that we can end prejudice and violence to one group without ending prejudice and violence to another is utter folly." (11)
The anti-abortion and animal-rights movements in the West are predominantly non-Hindu but often invoke such a belief. Animal-rights activists compare the rights of animals rights of animals
see animal rights. to those of very young human children, insisting that a lack of respect for the lives and rights of animals brutalizes humans into insenstivity toward one another. Anti-abortion activists consider abortion the ultimate form of child abuse, and claim that child-abuse rates have risen dramatically since abortion was legalized. Acceptance of abortion, they argue, leads to a devaluation devaluation, decreasing the value of one nation's currency relative to gold or the currencies of other nations. It is usually undertaken as a means of correcting a deficit in the balance of payments. of human life and paves the way toward acceptance of infanticide infanticide (ĭnfăn`təsīd) [Lat.,=child murder], the putting to death of the newborn with the consent of the parent, family, or community. Infanticide often occurs among peoples whose food supply is insecure (e.g. and euthanasia.
Though anti-abortionists may grasp that "violence begets violence," they often do not extend this insight to the issue of animal rights. Hindus and non-Hindus alike can recognize that this is self-defeating. Animals are sentient, autonomous beings possessing many mental capacities comparable to those of human children. If we fail to see animals as part of our moral community, how will we ever extend our sphere of moral concern to embrace humans in their most primitive stages of development? Anti-abortionists look in horror as an entire class of humans are systematically stripped of their rights, executed, and even used as tools for medical research. Yet this is what we humans have been doing to other sentient creatures for millennia.
A contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami Hridayananda dasa Goswami (b. November 5 1948) is a spiritual leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Born Howard J. Resnick in Los Angeles, California, on February 8 1970 he was initiated as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. , comments on this shortcoming short·com·ing
A deficiency; a flaw.
a fault or weakness
Noun 1. of the anti-abortion movement:
Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti-abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing--killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish. Thus although the movement calls itself "prolife," it is really pro-human-life. Its fudging with the terms life and human life reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as "sacred" as human life and therefore not worth protecting....if the prolife movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life...then undoubtedly it will gain great success. (12)
According to Hinduism's most sacred scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita (5:18), "the humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater." (In the traditional Indian caste system The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian Subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous, hereditary groups often termed as jātis or castes. , Brahmins are considered the highest group of humans, while "dog-eaters" are a group of humans deemed so inferior that they are placed outside the caste system Noun 1. caste system - a social structure in which classes are determined by heredity
class structure - the organization of classes within a society .) (13) Social ills such as racism, sexism, nationalism, caste-ism, and speciesism spe·cies·ism
Human intolerance or discrimination on the basis of species, especially as manifested by cruelty to or exploitation of animals.
spe arise because souls falsely identify with their temporary bodies. On the spiritual platform, all are equal. (Compare this to the Christian teaching: "In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free" [Colossians 3:11].) Prolife feminism is compatible with such a theology. Srila Prabhupada explains: "Material bodies are dresses; they are the shirt and coat of the living entity. To be either a woman or a man involves only one's bodily dress." (14) The Supreme Being is both beyond gender and equally manifested in people o f both genders.
An Injury to One Is an Injury to All: the Case of Sex Selective Abortion Abortion, Selective Definition
Selective abortion, also known as selective reduction, refers to choosing to abort a fetus, typically in a multi-fetal pregnancy, to decrease the health risks to the mother in carrying and giving birth to more than one or
Hinduism, like other religions, has been misused to justify the oppression of women. But properly understood, it is a challenge to sexism as well as to the oppression of the unborn. Indeed, some Hindus have noted the karmic link between the oppression of already-born women and girls and the oppression of the unborn--especially in their objections to the tremendous economic and social pressures upon Indian women to marry and to bear sons instead of daughters. Sons are preferred in large part because a bride's family is traditionally expected to pay a dowry dowry (dou`rē), the property that a woman brings to her husband at the time of the marriage. The dowry apparently originated in the giving of a marriage gift by the family of the bridegroom to the bride and the bestowal of money upon the bride by to the groom's family, and women have few or no options for economic support other than marriage. As in many other countries, female infanticide Female infanticide, the prevalent form of sex-selective infanticide, is the systematic killing of girls at or soon after birth. It normally occurs when a society values male children to the point that producing a female is considered dishonorable, shameful, or an unacceptable has been practiced in India for centuries. When amniocentesis amniocentesis (ăm'nēō'sĕntē`sĭs), diagnostic procedure in which a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus is removed from the uterus by means of a fine needle inserted through the abdomen of the pregnant woman (see became available in the 1970s, it became possible to practice female infanticide before delivery as well as after.
Many families have sought prenatal diagnosis--sometimes with every pregnancy-- with the intent of aborting any fetuses who turn out to be female. According to a 1994 estimate, one million female fetuses a year were aborted in India alone. Poor families especially have been vulnerable to the widespread advertising slogan Advertising slogans are short, often memorable phrases used in advertising campaigns. They are claimed to be the most effective means of drawing attention to one or more aspects of a product. for prenatal diagnosis Prenatal diagnosis
The determination of whether a fetus possesses a disease or disorder while it is still in the womb.
Mentioned in: Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
prenatal diagnosis : "Spend 500 Rupees Now, Save Five Lakhs Later." (A lakh lakh
(in India) 100 000, esp. referring to this sum of rupees [Hindi lākh]
Noun 1. lakh - the cardinal number that is the fifth power of ten
100000, hundred thousand is equal to 100,000 rupees.) This slogan plays directly on the fear of economic catastrophe that the prospect of paying a daughter's dowry has often generated. (15) One woman tearfully explained why she succumbed to this fear and aborted her baby girl, even though she felt that "each child is sent by God." Her husband, she said, "has a right to a son" and she feared "my husband will divorce me and take a new wife who will give him sons," thereby abandoning her to economic ruin. (16)
Sabapathy Siva, a physician, asks:
What happened to our time-honored dharma [natural law of holy living] and duty to our children? Illiteracy, poverty and the dowry system have corrupted the society to the level of barbarianism. The man blames the woman for bearing a female child while he himself is [biologically] responsible for determining the sex of the baby. This fact ought to be taught first to the people. Next comes the public education regarding the dowry system. It is time that the women are bought with love and respect instead of money. Those of us who have come away from such a conducive atmosphere should not kill unborn female babies in the name of abortion once the sex of the fetus is known. We have to set an example and bring back the value of human life irrespective of irrespective of
Without consideration of; regardless of.
preposition despite the sexes. (17)
The practice of sex-selective abortion has even proved directly harmful to girls who have survived past infancy. Dr. Vibhudi Patel tells the true story of sex selection's impact upon one family--a story which, sadly, has had its counterparts throughout India.
Two sisters in the Punjab [region of Northern India] committed suicide. Before that, they left a note for their parents....It is a telling story of how these young girls feel. They were very bright; they were very creative. They used to participate in all extracurricular activities. They used to write poetry. When their mother went for a sex determination test at the time of her third pregnancy, they suddenly felt unimportant and unwanted and killed themselves. (18)
Some Hindus are actively seeking to break the cycle of violence involved in abortion through the measures of education and marriage reform suggested by Dr. Siva, as well as through the Indian government's 1996 ban on sex-selection. Swami Kamalatmananda, as mentioned earlier, recommends precautions for those who are not prepared to raise a child. There are Hindus who see adoption as a positive solution. Hinduism Today has reported on a Hindu couple living in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. who adopted an Indian girl, hoping to clear the negative karma of two past abortions.(19) In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu (tăm`əl nä`d), formerly Madras (mədrăs`, mədräs`), state (2001 provisional pop. , the chief minister offers the White Cradle Program as an alternative to female infanticide (before and after birth). Cradles have been set up in hospitals and other places so mothers can leave their babies anonymously. The government finds adoptive homes for these babies and promises the adoptive families financial assistance until the children reach the age of 21. (20)
"For those Hindus who are not aware of the [soul-evolutionary] truths, it is our responsibility to advise them not to undertake abortion," says V. R. Kandasubramaniam, an elderly scholar from the Sister Nivedita Margaret Elizabeth Noble (1867-1911), better known as Sister Nivedita, was an Anglo-Irish social worker, author, teacher and disciple of Swami Vivekananda. She met Vivekananda in 1895 in London and travelled to India (Kolkata) in 1898. Academy in Madras. (21) Female feticide feticide /fe·ti·cide/ (fet´i-sid) the destruction of the fetus.
Destruction of the embryo or fetus in the uterus. Also called embryoctony. is a powerful example of how abortion--like any other violence to sentient beings--proves that an injury to one is indeed an injury to all. Hinduism compellingly explains why this is so, but one need not be Hindu to also conclude that abortion generates bad karma which harms the whole web of life.
Endnotes for "Abortion is Bad Karma: Hindu Perspectives"
(1.) Lewis Regenstein, Replenish the Earth (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Crossroads, 1991), 221.
(2.) T. K. Venkateswaran, "Hinduism, A Portrait," in A Source Book for Earth's Community of Religions, ed. Joel Beversluis (Grand Rapids Grand Rapids, city (1990 pop. 189,126), seat of Kent co., SW central Mich., on the Grand River; inc. 1850. The second largest city in the state, it is a distribution, wholesale, and industrial center for an area that yields fruit, dairy products, farm produce, : CoNexus, 1995), 40-44.
(3.) Hinduism Today, March 1986.
(4.) These verses, along with others, are listed on the Dancing With Siva Lexicon Page at http://planethawaii.com/~htoday/HimalayanAcademy/Publications/HinduLe xicon/DWSLeXicon.html.
(5.) Mohandas Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections (New York: Continuum, 1980), 150.
(6.) Hinduism Today, March 1986.
(7.) Hayagriva dasa, The Hare Krishna Explosion (San Francisco: Palace Press, 1985), 43.
(8.) A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (September 1 1896–November 14 1977) was the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (popularly known as the "Hare Krishnas"). Born as Abhay Charan De, in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. , "Slaughterhouse Civilization," Back to Godhead 14:9 (Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. : Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1979).
(9.) Satyanarayana dasa, Hitopadesa (Faridabad, India: Jiva Institute, 1997), 20-21.
(10.) Venkateswaran, 40-44.
(11.) Marjorie Spiegel, The Dreaded Comparison (New York: Mirror Books, 1989).
(12.) Hridayananda dasa Goswami, "Is Something Wrong in the Right to-Life Movement?," Back to Godhead 17: 2-3 (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1982).
(13.) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is is a translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1983), 293.
(14.) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabuhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1982), 759.
(15.) V.G. Julie Rajan, "Will India's Ban on Prenatal Sex Determination Slow Abortion of Girls?," Hinduism Today, April 1996.
(16.) Viola Roggencamp, "Abortion of a Special Kind," in Test Tube Women, ed. Rita Arditti, Renate Duelli Klein and Shelley Minden (London: Pandora Press, 1984), 266-278. See also Jo McGowan, "All Abortions are Selective," in Prolife Feminism Yesterday and Today, ed. Mary Krane Derr, Rachel MacNair and Linda Naranjo-Huebl (New York: Sulzburger and Graham, 1995), 227-230.
(17.) Sabapathy Siva, "Unisex Crime" (letter to the editor), Hinduism Today, May 1994.
(18.) Rajan, Hinduism Today, April 1996.
(19.) Archana Dongre, "Cross Culture Parenting," Hinduism Today, April 1994.
(20.) Rajan, Hinduism Today, April 1996.
(21.) Hinduism Today, March 1986.
Writer and activist VASU MURTI was born and raised in Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, , in a family of South Indian brahmins. He holds degrees in Physics and Applied Mathematics from the University of California The University of California has a combined student body of more than 191,000 students, over 1,340,000 living alumni, and a combined systemwide and campus endowment of just over $7.3 billion (8th largest in the United States). . Vasu has written articles on a number of different topics, including the secular state, science versus religion, animal rights, nuclear power, handgun control, Buddhism abortion, illegal immigration, and drug legalization LEGALIZATION. The act of making lawful.
2. By legalization, is also understood the act by which a judge or competent officer authenticates a record, or other matter, in order that the same may be lawfully read in evidence. Vide Authentication. . He is a contributor to Harmony Magazine, the independent voice of the consistent life ethic The Consistent Life Ethic is an ethical, religious, and political ideology based on the premise that human life is sacred. The ethic's adherents are opposed to abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, economic injustice, and euthanasia. movement, including its religious Leftists. Vasu is a "card-carrying" member of the American Civil Liberties Union American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), nonpartisan organization devoted to the preservation and extension of the basic rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. , Feminists For Life Feminists for Life of America (FFL) is the largest and most visible pro-life feminist organization. Established in 1972 and now based in Alexandria, Virginia, the organization describes itself as "shaped by the core feminist values of justice, nondiscrimination, and nonviolence. , Amnesty International Amnesty International (AI,) human-rights organization founded in 1961 by Englishman Peter Benenson; it campaigns internationally against the detention of prisoners of conscience, for the fair trial of political prisoners, to abolish the death penalty and torture of , and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international nonprofit organization that supports Animal Rights and has spawned a tremendous amount of conflict and controversy from its inception. . This is his second contribution to Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Journal. His first, "Similar Principles: the Animal Rights Movement, Feminism, and Abortion Opponents," appeared in the Fall, 1995 issue. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest Editor MARY KRANE DERR is a poet, nonfiction writer and longtime participant in interfaith dialogue and other nonviolence projects. Her writing has appeared in Utne Reader, the feminist spirituality magazines Mother's Underground and Daughters of Sarah, the interfaith periodicals Sacred Journey and The Roll, and the disability rights magazine Ragged Edge, among other publications. She is affiliated with the Christian tradition of her Roman Catholic and Protestant ancestors and has also "taken refuge" in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.