What kind of karma, I wonder, was the unfortunate Anna Nicole Smith working out in her short life? Talk about hungry ghosts! She was, it seemed--I know her only through media accounts, and therefore not at all--a glutton for attention, ready to use anything, not least her body, to attract it. Viewed from the outside, through the filter of rumor, gossip and media distortions, her life seemed to be an unmitigated disaster, a skein of scandals, lawsuits, personal entanglements and tragedies that plagued her every footstep. Could it be that this woman was required to use the life she only recently lost to atone for some awful karma acquired in a previous one? Can she hope for a better one to come?
This is one aspect of Buddhism that frankly leaves me skeptical and puzzled. There's a kind of logic to it, certainly--that we're doomed to keep coming back until we get it right. That our actions have consequences seems like no more than common sense: I have not the slightest difficulty in believing that harmful and unskillful acts bring undesirable results, and that mindful, decent behavior brings rewards. It's the transmigration part that bothers me. But then, since prior lives and subsequent lives are unknowable, at least to one still as distant as myself from enlightenment, perhaps it's simply unnecessary to concern myself with them. This present life is enough, and certainly as much as I can cope with.
As for poor Anna Nicole, well, the best I can do is send her loving-kindness in whatever state she may currently exist, and hope that she'll have earned the chance, through her suffering, to have a better shot at happiness next time around.