Why Bad Things Happen To Good People And Vice Versa?
Oftentimes, it seems as though the good and innocent suffer, while the less moral individuals enjoy the pleasures of life. Individuals who are sincere, hardworking, compassionate, and helpful are often seen suffering from various ailments. Everyone expects good deeds to be rewarded by society, and by the Almighty. However, this is not always the case. It becomes a quandary as to why soulful individuals endure relationship, financial, and physical hardships. Yet these immoral and unjust beings adopt corrupt practices and flourish in material and physical wealth. Why is this so? When situations in life do not present ideally, we often are left standing, bewildered, and asking why does this all happen? Then we think of three possibilities: 1) God is cruel for letting things happen the way they are. Blaming God is just our way of avoiding personal responsibility. Instead of understanding the reason for that we continue to blame God. And so naturally we ask, “Why would an allloving, all-powerful God not take care of all the suffering? Does God not love us or is God not powerful? Why would a good and great God let these things happen? If God is out there, why doesn’t He stop all the horrible things people have done over the centuries? 2) Things are happening completely by random chance and that there is no rhyme or reason behind these. Everything is random and nothing can be done. 3) Perhaps we all have had a hand in our own suffering. Even if we can’t recall any reason for our current hardships, surely somewhere in the past there is a reason and some sort of justification for what we are now going through.
But Sikhism sheds light on this complicate issue and helps us understand exactly why things happen this way? Sikhism explains that answers to this esoteric concept are not limited to our existence in just this lifetime. An average lifespan of 80 years is but a speck of sand in the grand scheme of existence. We cannot fathom the lifetimes of “Good and Bad” deeds that we have accumulated from our past lives. Though it may seem as if good deeds are not rewarded immediately, it is part of a much more complex novel. The mere 80-year chapter in which we live now begins and ends in the blink of an eye. However, the soul is the immortal and infinite entity that lives on forever. It is this soul that will appear in another lifetime, carrying along with it the countless deeds and sins that we have preformed over past lifetimes. “We are free to sow the seed, but once we have done so, we have no option other than to reap the fruit.”
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji says: (Ang 432) Do not blame anyone else; blame instead your own actions. Whatever I did, for that I have suffered; I do not blame anyone else. Sheikh Fareed Ji says: (Ang 1379) “Fareed, the farmer plants acacia trees, and wishes for grapes. He is spinning worn out wool, but he wishes to wear silk”. Just as our past is responsible for the present, our present moulds our future. According to the law of karma, every action, physical or mental, has its own consequence, which must be faced either in this life or the next. Therefore, the doctrine of karma is linked with the beliefs of reincarnation and transmigration. Thus, we are on a constant journey to better our lives and to always engage in good deeds. For those individuals who live by the sword, they may not die by it in this lifetime, but will face karma in the next lifetime too. The natural question that arises is, “Why am I being punished for something from a previous life, if I cannot even remember it?” However, when faced with the opposite situation, we never question why good things happen to us in this life. We immediately rejoice and say such phrases as, “Finally, it’s about time this happened to me!” The underlying theme here is that we must control our actions in this lifetime, in order to better prepare us for the next. We may not remember what we did last year, right? How can we remember our past life? We oftentimes trudge through daily living during this one lifetime, how can we handle a whole new set of problems? We must always live in the present because in doing so we are bettering our future. The laws of nature control us, and these force us to perpetually inhabit a succession of temporary material bodies. Once we take a human birth, our destiny is shaped by karma. In ignorance, we identify ourselves with each body we enter, and we suffer again and again the pains of birth, old age, disease, and death. Life after life we transmigrate through plant, animal, and human bodies, sometimes on this planet, sometimes on far better ones, sometimes on far worse. There are actions we do now that determine our future material births. And such acts sentence us to future births in the material world, there to reap what we have sown. Guru Sahib clearly mentions: (Ang 695) “Why do you slander the Lord? You are ignorant and deluded. Pain and pleasure are the result of your own actions” It is due to our action from previous lives, that we find ourselves in our current situation. Nobody is responsible for a person’s suffering other than himself, because all karmic records are carried with the soul into the next life.
Just as one makes a credit card purchase on day one, he will not receive the bill for his purchase for another thirty days. Our deeds in life are like that magical credit card. Total Karma is the vast store of piled-up Karma accumulated in the preceding and in all other previous births. In other words, it is the aggregate sum of yet unseen Karmas committed during innumerable previous existences. This is our total cosmic debt. Every moment of our every day, we are either adding to it or we are reducing this cosmic debt. This debt constantly appears in new physical bodies, in order to exhaust its balance of total karma. Sikhs strongly believe that heaven and hell are here in this world. The karma accumulated during a lifetime will decide how hard or good a life will be. Virtue is rewarded and sin creates suffering. Negative deeds over the years can lead to physical, mental, or various other disabilities in the next life. Sikhism has modified this idea of karma into two directions. Firstly, efforts of the individual are necessary for improving his own condition. Man is responsible for his lot. He must not blame God for his destiny. He must think of the present and the future. Secondly, the law of Karma does not cease to operate after death, because death is just a matter of physical disintegration, and has no effect on the soul, which survives. The concept of karma or "law of karma" is the broader principle that all of life is governed by a system of cause and effect, action and reaction, in which one's deeds have corresponding effects on the future. Karma is thus a way of explaining evil and misfortune in the world, even for those who do not appear to deserve it - their misfortune must be due to wrong actions in their previous life. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji says, "Listen, listen to my advice, O my mind! Only good deeds shall endure, and there may not be a second chance.” Most human beings can’t see the true reality of God because they are blinded by their own self-centred pride (ego) and concern for physical things. When we are in a difficult situation, we should not worry. Instead we should think, it could be a lot worse. By executing various pious activities one achieves different positions in heavenly life, by acting impiously one achieves different positions in hellish life. No one knows what bad stuff they did in their past life and that is why their current life is. All sin is punished, only the timing is uncertain. Besides, how do we know that some people are not punished for what they do? Maybe we just don't know it. Thus people are allowed to pursue material enjoyment, but they must observe moral and religious codes. And those who follow these codes, who live pious lives of restricted sensual pleasure, are assured of even greater enjoyment in the life to come. We have a long history, and the happiness and distress that our lives will bring is set. We are indeed children of destiny, hostages to fortune, but it is a destiny we created for ourselves, a fortune self-made. And in this life we are continuing to create our future.
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji says, “Your destiny is written on your forehead, according to your past actions” (Ang 689) Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji says, “The inscription inscribed upon one’s forehead is eternal and imperishable; it cannot be avoided by avoidance” (Ang 1101) The main question that arises now is, “How do we get rid of this bad karma?” Gurbani explains that these adverse effects of karma can be obliterated by Guru’s grace. A person must switch his focus from himself onto God. This self-surrender is a conscious effort to win divine grace. To understand “hukam” and proper conduct in accordance to Sikhism, a person can eradicate all sins from the past, and one can reach “mukti” (liberation) from all the previous karma. Sikhism modified the theory of Karma in two directions. Firstly, efforts of the individual are necessary for improving his own condition. Man is responsible for his lot. He must not blame God for his destiny. He must think of the present and the future. Secondly Guru Sahib shows us the way to get rid of all the bad karma, if we pray before him sincerely and get his grace, because he is so merciful that he forgives us in a second. Guru Sahib shows us the way that we should request before him in this way: Because of the balance due on my account, I can never be released; I make mistakes each and every moment. O Forgiving Lord, please forgive me, and carry me across. (Ang 261) O Lord do not take my accounts into account; this is your forgiving nature. (Ang 619) I make so many mistakes, there is no end or limit to them. O Lord, please be merciful and forgive me; I am a sinner, a great offender. (Ang 1416). As the seas and the oceans are full with so many drops of water, so vast are my own sins. Please, shower me with Your Mercy, and take pity upon me. I am a sinking stone - please carry me across. (Ang 156) Unite with me, O Merciful Lord; I have fallen at Your Door. (Ang 709) O Lord, please forgive Your slave now, in this life, so that he may not have to return again to this terrifying world-ocean. (Ang 1104) Please forgive me, O Lord God Master; I have committed unaccountable sins and mistakes. (Ang 618)
If we realize that our only sanctuary is the grace of our Guru and the bliss of his kirpa (blessings) then we will quickly realize how a complete surrender before Guru Sahib is all it takes to redefine our karma and repave the path we will follow tomorrow. Understanding that as our father, Guru Sahib does not take into account our faults and forgives us in no time, we should not doubt this even for a second. However, with this said, we must remember that all ego and attachment must be thrown away before we embrace the holy feet of our Lord. Until we have complete faith and trust in his teachings and the belief that only he can shape our future, our karmic actions will continue to haunt us as it is an amount that we are still indebted to pay. If we completely surrender before Guru Sahib, then He does not take into account our faults and forgives us in no time. We should not have even an iota of doubt about it. Additional proof can clearly be found in our Guru Sahib‘s words: He does not know any bitter words; the Perfect Guru does not even consider our faults and demerits.(Ang 784) He does not remind me of my faults; He hugs me close in His embrace. (Ang 1101) My Guru is the Forgiver. He forgives me. (Ang 157) As the eternal caretaker of this world and others, Guru Sahib already knows our inner darkest secrets and wrongdoings. He knows exactly what we have done, what we have thought about doing, and what debt we owe this world based on sins from our previous lives. Although Guru Ji knows everything, he is still eager for us to show repent and to detail how much his grace and sanctuary means to us, and therefore, we must always take measures to show our understanding of mistakes and to develop and improve as human beings. As children of Guru Sahib, he knows we will make mistakes and deviate from the chosen path at times, but as a father, he will always be there to help guide us towards our final path the correct way. As Sikhs, and children of God, we must be sincere and lay all of our sins and secrets out before him and seek continued forgiveness. It is only then that Guru Sahib will forgive us without a split-second of hesitation. There is never a delay from our Guru Ji in granting forgiveness and reshaping our destiny. However there is always a delay on our part as we deem ourselves to be the only person in control of the energy that is in this world, when in reality, it goes back to previous deeds committed in lives we know nothing about. Therefore, we must remember that the only way to get a clean slate is to embrace our Guru Ji’s holy feet and long for his forgiveness as it only takes a second to start a new life with his blessing. Only with his grace will all previous bad karma vanish in an instance, and only with his grace, we will ever understand the true path we are supposed to lead and change the world, both for ourselves internally, and for the world on an outer level.
In conclusion, let us not forget what Guru Sahib has stated so clearly for us to follow: “Because of the balance due on my account, I can never be released; I make mistakes each and every moment. O Forgiving Lord, please forgive me, and carry me across.” (Ang 261) Guru ji does not take our accounts into account; such is His forgiving nature. He does not consider our shortcomings and weaknesses, when we do Ardaas with pure mind and forgives our countless sins in an instant. Guru Ji already knows our darkest secrets, He knows exactly what we have done, but Guru Ji wants to know how close we are to Him. If we are sincere and lay all our sins and secrets out and ask for forgiveness, then Guru Ji will forgive us in no time. There is no delay on His part. Guru Ji forgives us and that is it. Then all our bad karma vanishes away. Bachans of Dhan Dhan Baba Isher Singh Ji of Nanaksar: Delay is in our submission to God, there is no delay in forgiveness from His side.