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935(3) Response to "When 'Bad' Things Happen to 'Good' People"

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  • NamoAmituofo
    Mar 29, 2006

      For www.TheDailyEnlightenment.com

      Replies to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheDailyEnlightenment/message/523
      (3) Response to "When 'Bad' Things Happen to 'Good' People"

      Q : I have some questions regarding the above article. I agree that we should always try to do good and have faith in the law of karma. However, from a psychological/emotional viewpoint, whereby a normal human being, after facing continuous negative events or having to always cope with endless bad things that happen to him/her, would come to a point where he/she would suffer either depression or have a mental breakdown.

      A : Yes, unfortunately, this seems to be the case for many in drastic cases of suffering. But if you think about it carefully, the problem, even from the psychological/emotional viewpoint for a non-believer in karma, is not so much the lack of faith in karmic justice, but arises from being attached to definite expectations of good results in certain ways from certain good actions.

      There are two ways to "solve" this problem... If one believes that life is utterly unfair and chooses to stop doing good, it is okay in the sense that this might not harm others directly. If this person can truly be happy henceforth, it's okay in that sense. But chances are, this person will be bitter. This person will still be suffering. On the other hand, it is much more skilful to believe that there is moral justice, that the good fruits of doing good will be tasted in good time, in this life, if not the next. Such a person is likely to not dwell in depression, and to actively and happily carry on doing good to benefit oneself and others. In this sense, depression actually can arise from not having faith in the power of goodness. Not looking beyond itself, doing good in itself is actually therapeautic. When we help others, we have to park our problems aside. And in the process of helping, we learn to help ourselves too.

      Q : How should such a person cope with the negative events or deal with depression? Since he/she would most likely breakdown when the situation exceeds his/her threshold for containing stress. Each and every unenlightened individual has his/her own limits. How do we deal with the after-effects of the biggest and toughest problem when one day, we're being "defeated" and lose faith in the law of karma?

      It might be helpful for this person to take a break from doing good, and be counselled by a good Buddhist friend on the fact that it is having expectations that is causing the suffering, not the failing of the law of karma. As mentioned in the article, bad things sometimes happen to good people - because they have previous negative karmic burdens which bear fruit too. Goodness will bear good fruits - but not always at the speed we expect.

      It is worth reflecting on the many other instances when the law of cause and effect obviously bears true - to restore faith in the efficacy of karma. For instance, there are criminals who seem to have escaped from the law but still get caught years later. Even if not, they live lifetimes of guilt and fear. Isn't that karma at work? Another instance, which is more positive - there are many who have served society well and are thus well-loved and appeciated by many - eg. the Buddha!

      - A TDE Reader & Shen Shi'an