During the Cannes Film Festival last week, Our Lady of Verbal Incontinence Sharon Stone opened her mouth and — poof! — Dior China dropped her from all of its advertising and is having her image removed from all Chinese stores. Major ouch, considering there are 68 retail outlets in the economically booming country. So what'd erratic Sharon say this time? Stone was speaking to a Hong Kong television channel when she called the Dalai Lama a "good friend" — okay, no big deal. Then she launched into this part:
I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice, the bad things happen to you?
Cue YouTube infamy, Chinese outrage, formal apologies from Dior China and Stone, and a serious drop in Stone's income. And as if it weren't bad enough that she suggested the deaths of tens of thousands of people were karmic retribution for China's policies regarding Tibet, we're not so sure Stone, who claims to be a practicing Buddhist, even understands what the hell she's talking about when it comes to karma. So we called in an expert: Matthew Reichers, an instructor at the Chakrasambara Buddhist Center. He concurs that Stone shouldn't necessarily be spouting off about karmic justice: "Karma is a deeply hidden phenomena," he says. "In order to understand the specifics you have to be a fully enlightened being — so not even a renowned person like Sharon Stone would understand." Heh.
So Stone might not be enlightened enough to truly comprehend that of which she speaks — but even so, how does karma work? "Karma is essentially a special instance of the law of cause and effect, whereby all of our actions function as causes and the experiences we have are the effects," he explains, sounding mellow enough to lure us into his meditation center. "So generally the experiences we have in this life would arise from karma, and the karma we have arises from the experiences we had in previous lives."
As for whether this could be applicable to the Chinese state's actions toward Tibetans, Reichers is skeptical. "The only way you could say that is if those killed in the earthquake had in past lives engaged in actions that had specifically caused the lives of Tibetans to be destroyed. If you're claiming it's about the treatment of Tibetans, then it has to be about the past actions and lives about all the people who were killed in the earthquake." So basically, Stone would be suggesting that all the quake victims were in past lives Chinese who killed Tibetans. And that's "highly speculative and not really based on anything — no one would know such a thing," Reichers concludes. Moreover, Buddhism has an earthquake clause: Everyone has the karma to die in a natural disaster, whether you've been involved in controversial state policies or not.
With that in mind, we have to wonder about Sharon Stone's past lives. If the rules follow, she was once a harried LVMH executive in a thankless job doing damage control for a mouthy spokeswomen. —Jessica Coen