Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Life, God and Karma

Since the time a child is born, it is told that it must do good, and good will come back. Honesty is the best policy. Love all, never harm anyone, treat everyone equally, do some charity, live selflessly. All this and more of the benefits of ‘good karma’ are wired into our system by our parents, teachers and religious/spiritual leaders. God too is brought into the picture. The ever-forgiving, all-loving, omniscient and omnipresent God suddenly becomes angry and wrathful if we do something that our religion or elders don’t endorse. Whatever it is that our elders wish us to learn and do, they teach us by instilling in us the fear of God(s), the policeman and destiny. I’m sure that’s how superstition was born. Some parent told his gullible kid that it was inauspicious to walk under a ladder (lest the child get hurt), and the ladder has been bringing us bad luck ever since.

As children, we tend to live in a world of idealism. We look at ourselves and everyone around us through these glasses of ‘goodness’ that we have been made to wear. We are quick to classify something or someone as good or bad based on how we have been brought up. What counts as being desirable and undesirable in our family, our culture and religion. We question the corrupt politician, the philandering neighbour, the cheating classmate, the uncle who paid a bribe, the cousin who likes to drink, the aunty who lies through her teeth – they are all bad people. We want to change the world and how it functions.

But then, we grow up and face the world ourselves. Away from the protection of our family and the matronly teachers at school. Life happens. We get hit by the reality. Idealism takes a beating. Confusion, denial, pain ensues. All those good things we were taught seem to fail. We get hurt and bitten. We face adversity. There is anger and cynicism. Some of us learn the conniving ways of the world and move on to the bad side. It is what we see as necessary to survive and win. Most of us though, still retain the goodness in us, but learn some skills to survive. We have moved from absolute idealism to relative idealism, and just enough meanness to survive the harsh reality. A very few of us remain untouched and carry our innocence wherever we go. Whatever we may become, eventually, the anger moves over to acceptance and we make peace with how the world functions. Some cynicism yeah, but it’s OK. That’s how it is. Whatever.

I have myself reached a stage when very few things surprise me. I still get awed or angry, but I hardly get surprised. Life is more of a grey area than black or white. We live on a spectrum. All of us have shades. This acceptance has led me to forgive, love, tolerate and accept most people the way they are. People once hated don’t seem that bad anymore, and those on a pedestal may have come down a notch. It is human to be imperfect. So why not rejoice in the imperfection than to be miserable looking for perfection?

When you reach this stage of acceptance, you also begin to have deeper revelations.  You understand that you are exactly where you need to be right now. You might be going through trials and tribulations, or you might be on top of the world, whatever stage you are at, it is exactly where you should be.

When we are suffering and in pain, we tend to ask God, ‘why me?’, but trust me, God knows what he is doing. He knows what is good for us. And it all fits with his great plan.

Whenever we are faced with adversity and survive it, we emerge stronger and wiser. We have learnt valuable life lessons that will help us succeed when faced with similar or more challenging situations. Some adversity will also instill in us humility, which will make us agreeable to those around us. The trick is to hold on and not break. Have faith. That God has it planned. That this too shall pass, and something better will emerge. When we embrace adversity with such attitude, we will be able to see opportunity where others see hopelessness, and use it to our advantage. We will emerge winners. Forge meaning and build identity.

Just. Have. Faith.

And, this is an atheist talking to you. Throughout my formative years, and adolescence, I had questioned the existence of God. I was loath to pray, or agree that there was someone else who controlled our destiny. (I still don’t endorse the concept of religion. More wars have been fought over religion than anything else. The only good thing it does is teach people to pray, and have an anchor in the tough times). But life does strange things. If it could make me a staunch believer, I’m sure that miracles too happen.

But then, if God has it planned, what does Karma do for us? That is a question I’m still trying to answer. Whatever you do comes back to you, life comes back full circle – or does it?

I have seen that the good, noble, kind-hearted souls feel every pain that the world inflicts on them. They may know that something is bad for them, but they will still do it if it helps someone else. Even the most intelligent of their lot gets taken for a ride because their goodness forces them to be nice. Their conscience stops them from letting their guard down and living it up. It is as if they were born to suffer.

The bad people on the other hand - those who deceive, plot and plan, exploit others, hurt them – they are so thick skinned that nothing affects them. They make money using unscrupulous means, flout all norms of society, womanize, drink it up and live it up. Even ill health seems to be scared of them. They don’t seem to have a conscience that would prick them. It is as if they were born to enjoy.

So, isn't it counter-intuitive - If you are good, you suffer, and if you are bad, you enjoy life??

Or is it that the bad people did something in their previous birth to be enjoying now (another debatable topic – rebirth)? If that is so, aren't they ruining it in this one? So the cycle of life continues – you do good and suffer – then you do bad and enjoy – then repeat – born, die, born, die…

And if it is the God’s will that one must do bad things, maybe that is the right thing for that person. He/she is maintaining the balance of good and evil on Earth. So, then, why would God punish anyone if everyone is doing everything as per God’s will? Whether good or bad. Why bother trying to be good if you were meant to be bad? Why all the schooling, teaching and preaching that exalts virtue?

I guess I have you as confused as I am about this issue. So let’s leave it at that. I would really appreciate your views on this though.

As my quest for the answers of life continues, you can expect me to write more about my confusions and insights. Someday, I hope to have found my answers, and evolved into a being of higher consciousness.

Until then, I hope I have managed to bore you thoroughly with my lecture, and confused you enough to spoil your midweek. If I have - well then – mischief managed :)


  1. There is nothing 'good' and nothing is 'bad'. It is just a perception depending on which side of the road you are on. While you were brought up in a protected environment and were taught that Honesty is the best policy, there were other kids who were taught exactly the opposite. There were probably kids who were taught things in the name of religion, that you would not approve of as good deeds.
    Remember that shloka : yada yada hi dharmasya, glanirbhawati bharata... ?
    Whenever there is 'adharma' in the universe, Krishna shall incarnate and destroy evil. The other way to look at it is that universe has its own way of dealing with good and bad and maintaining a balance. When there is too much oppression in the society, someone will develop thick skin and rise against it. Some people see them as God.
    We all tend to look for goodness in life. We do a good deed and when something good happens to us, we tell ourselves 'I might have done some good karmas in past life'. If you think about it, its just a way of dealing with life's ups and down. Through all this, it is good to have an anchor. Some might see praying to God everyday as an anchor, some look upto there parents for the same kind of support.
    Life is definitely shades of grey, you can't live in peace if you are looking for only black and white.

  2. Thanks Neha for the comment. Even while I was writing, I realised that this 'goodness' point of view is extremely subjective. Many others may have been taught exactly the opposite.
    And while the Universe does balance good and bad, what is the role of karma anyway? Just to deal with life, or does it really account somewhere? How does God do his 'Nyay' if all he needs to do is balance between good and bad?


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