Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
YOU DON’T EAT A LION DOESN’T MEAN LION WON’T EAT YOU!
One of my friends is working in a state-government’s administrative department. She is very honest, dedicated and hardworking. She cannot stand any manipulation or corruption.
Her fellow workers in the department follow the so-called ‘practical philosophy’ of life: ” I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine”. They make a living out of scratching and not by performing their duty or work properly. It goes without say that they are corrupt to the core. They know how to manipulate the system and squeeze money out of it. Since she does not support this, naturally, she becomes enemy no.1. So, they have stalled her promotion and stopped her progress. The department laws are strict on her, but not for others.
She is very frustrated and told me: “Uday, merit has absolutely no value in the department. Nobody support justice. The world is unfair…”
“Yes- I agree with you – world appears unfair. And we have to live a fair-life in this unfair world – that’s the toughest challenge in life. If you are honest and hard working, everybody would dump work on you while they take away the credits. This is the way of the world…”
“Are you justifying it?” she asked.
“Hmm…”I smiled: “No”
“Uday, why do such bad things happen to good people?”
“Do you have any logical reason why bad things should NOT happen to good people?”
“There is no apparent reason or explanation I can give that would explain all the sufferings, miseries, evil, torture, destruction and hunger in the world! You’ll never understand it. You can try all your formulas, religious and otherwise, but nobody; nothing can give you a clear or fools-proof explanation…”
“So, there is no reason at all?”
“There could be – but no one has found it till now. I can give you one hundred reasons. For instance – Result of bad karma (past in this life or previous): even though we may be good in this life, we suffer in order to rid ourselves of the burden of our bad actions in previous lives. Or I can tell you: “Everything has a cause and effect” Or “everything happens for a reason”. But all explanations come with shades of grey. So we have to accept that there may or may not be any reason… Why should everything need to have a reason? ”
“But it is totally unfair…”
“Life isn’t fair; it never was and never will be. You know it – life is a mystery. Our thinking mind cannot make ANY sense out of it. We can neither define anything nor can we generalize”
“That’s all philosophy. Please come home to the ground reality. What would we do when tragedy fall on to an innocent person? Naturally, anybody would think: “It’s not fair,” “there’s no justice,” and “God’s not paying attention”…right?
“See, it rains on everyone, irrespective of you being good and bad. Everyone is going to have some bad times and some good times. It doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad. Things happen. This is the way of the world…”
“That’s very depressing seeing that there is no value for justice and truth in this world…”
“Can I tell you an animal story? I don’t remember whether it is from Panchatantra or Jataka…”
A young village boy was walking along the bank of a river. He heard somebody crying for help. “Please help me, please save me”.
Looking around, he found a crocodile caught in a net; unable to escape, the crocodile cried out to the boy.
“If I help you out of that trap, you’d grab me and eat me.” the boy said.
The crocodile shed tears! It pleaded with him: “How can I eat a person who saved my life? Honestly, I promise you that I won’t devour you. Please save me!”
The boy felt pity and began to cut the net. No sooner was its head free from the net than the crocodile grabbed the boy’s leg in its jaws: “I have been starving for few days now…”
“Hey, you dirty croc! Is this fair? Is this what I get for my good actions?” the boy screamed. More than helplessness and fear, the boy was shocked on the total ingratitude of the crocodile.
“What to do kid? Such is the way of the world! Such is life!”
“It is totally unfair…”
The crocodile says, “Do you want to ask someone if it isn’t so?”
The boy looked at a bird on a nearby tree and asked: “Is the crocodile justified? Is this the way of the world – full of injustice?”
The bird replied: “I spent my time and efforts to build safe nests on the top of the trees for protecting our eggs. Yet, snakes come and swallow them. I was totally helpless. The crocodile is saying truth. The world is full of injustice…Such is the way of the world! Such is life!”
“You heard it kid. Let me eat you…”
“Wait…” the boy saw an old donkey that was grazing on the banks of the lake and repeated his question.
“While I was young, my master loaded soiled linen on my back and extracted maximum amount of work from me. Now that I am old and feeble, he has abandoned me saying that he cannot feed me…The crocodile is right…There is injustice and unfairness in the world…Such is the way of the world! Such is life!”
“Ok kiddo…you heard it…now, if you have any last prayer, I have a good mind to allow it…”
“One second, let me ask that rabbit, please one last chance…”
“Hmmm” crocodile was getting angry.
The rabbit said, “No, no! I cannot accept what the crocodile is saying. It is utter nonsense!”
“No.?”Crocodile got angry.
“I can’t hear you. I can’t come near you, be little louder…You’ve got that boy in your mouth? Release him.”
The crocodile laughed at this and said, ‘I am not a fool! If I let go, the boy would run away!’
The rabbit says, “You are stupid or what? Have you forgotten how strong your tail is? If he attempted to run away, one slash of your tail would kill him.”
The crocodile fell for this and releasing the boy, continued its argument. The rabbit screamed to the boy, ‘Run! Run! Don’t just stand there!’ and the boy took to his heels.
Crocodile became very angry and shouted at rabbit” “You cheat…this is injustice…”
The rabbit smiled: “You know very well. There is injustice and unfairness in the world…Such is the way of the world! Such is life!”
The boy ran to the village and called all the men folk. They came with their weapons and killed the crocodile.
The boy’s dog came along with them. The dog has spotted the rabbit and started chasing it. The boy screamed at the dog ‘Hey! This rabbit saved my life. Do not attack him.’ But alas, before the boy could intervene, the dog had chased and killed the rabbit.
As he watches the rabbit die, he says, “The crocodile was right, this is the way the world is, and this is the law of life. There is injustice and unfairness in the world…Such is the way of the world! Such is life!”
“So you are justifying all these wrong things?” she asked me.
“I am NOT…Today our life style is defined and determined by marketing and media forces. We are proud that we, human, can think. But the painful truth is that our thinking is conditioned by the market and we are not even aware about it. This force has already corrupted and manipulated human mind – it makes a human selfish and insecure. That’s why people do not care for others and do things that turn to be bad for others. Today’s style is “live and let die”. It appears that those who exploit others or manipulates win in the practical life…Those manipulators are leading a successful social life. Those who stay with truth would face all sort of troubles and miseries…This is not 100% generalization, but majority cases are like this” I said.
“So there is no value for truth and there is no justice?”
“It appears like that…”
“What do you mean by “appears like that”?”
“The sky appears blue, but the colour of the sky is not blue…”
“No – I want a serious answer…”
“There is no answer or reasoning for the most of the things in the universe……”
“So you don’t have answer for ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ And you say, still we have to be good?”
“In fact the bad happenings are warning to be better. When bad things happen to good people they tend to become better, not bitter…”
“Funny answer…very funny…”
“How do we light a matchstick? It is ignited by striking the match against a rough surface – the friction will lead to light. When we confront with rough things in life, it should lead us to light.”
“Hmm…But why justice and truth disappeared from the world?”
“There is a proverb: God sees the truth, but waits…The truth would hide beneath the clouds of frauds just like sun hides behind dark clouds” I smiled.
“You do not understand the sufferings that are why you can smile it off…”
“No, I have suffered a lot in life, probably more than you do…”
“So you became corrupt now…when people become older, they will lose their zealous, value-systems and become corrupt…”
“Don’t jump the gun. I have not become corrupt or manipulator. I accepted the fact: the world is unfair. And I am trying to live a fair life myself, rather than trying to change the world…”
She thought for a while then said: “Still I cannot tolerate this kind of injustice….This is wrong. Very wrong. Why god is not punishing bad guys? Is it that we also have to become bad to live in this world?”
“No. Your logic is not correct. Everybody is corrupt doesn’t mean you have to be corrupt….Let me make a prediction – your fellow workers, who were unjust to you will get their due, if not from god, but from their own karma…They cannot escape the wrong doings that they did to you. Even god can’t help them…”
“How is it possible?”
“To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. All of them have family and a future life – you wait and see what will happen to them. Some reactions will take time to act upon.”
“I am very confused about all these things. There is no room for a decent, honest and truthful person in this world. So what do we do?”
“First, we need to accept the world as is. Let me repeat: The world will appear unfair to us. Still we need to live a fair life…Sometimes the bad things would be temporary. In long-run it could turn to be a good thing…Let me tell you another story…”
“What is it now?!”
A villager had a horse. One day it had run off during the night. All his neighbors told him that such was bad luck.
The villager replied, “Maybe…”
The next morning, his horse returned leading two wild horses back with it.
The villager neighbors said this was good fortune.
The villager replied, “Maybe…”
The next morning, the villager’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses which threw him off and he broke his leg.
“Bad fortune!” said the neighbors.
“Maybe…” said the villager.
The next day the provincial army came by to gather up all of the young men in the area in preparation for a war but because the villager’s son had a broken leg he was not inducted into the army.
“Good fortune,” said the neighbours.
“Maybe…” said the villager. I finished telling the story and smiled at her.
“Hmmm…This is just a story….every time bad things cannot become good things later…”
“True…but the moral of these two stories are…”
“I know what you are trying to say: (1) The world appears unfair (2) We have to accept it as is (3) Truth won’t have immediate benefits (4) All bad things may not be bad…”
“Intelligent… And also, the same action can be considered sometime as good and sometime as bad (based on intention or motive)….You shouldn’t “do” (so called) good things simply because you think you will get something out of it. You should do things freely without any attachment to the outcome. You give because you want to give and you have no emotional attachment or expectations on what you get back…”
“But how do we manage the frustration, anger, helplessness, and all the other emotions that flood in when this happens?”
“We do not know why bad things happen to good people, but we can do what we can to help, and to remember that underneath those dark clouds, the sun is still shining. Every bad experience you have – there is a lesson learned. Its knowledge gained. It’s one of the ways God (if you believe in) make you a stronger, smarter person….”
“Ok…Hmm…Feel bit relaxed. Can you analyze how do these bad things happen?”
“You are back to square one – your mind (ego) needs an answer – a black and white answer – that a conditioned-mind can understand. It is not satisfied. But it is the nature of mind. It will continue asking why bad things happen to me.”
“Yes – the question always pops-up”
“Ok. Let’s do a deeper research into this so-called “bad-things”. Bad things can be broadly classified into four:
1. Genetical: Diseases and conditions: Being good cannot protect you if you are unlucky – You cannot guarantee that you will not develop the condition – it is usually (but not always) unpredictable. Those genes won’t disappear just because you are good.
2. Bad things are done by others to you – like what happened in your case. They are insecure and do not value ethics in life. Unpredictable and unexpected things can happen from others – e.g. back stabbing, mugging, exploitation, cheating etc… Common sense will help you to reduce the risk but being good cannot protect you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those insecure asuras (demons) won’t care whether you are good or not.
3. Natural calamities: These too are unpredictable and no place on earth is safe from natural disasters. Natural calamities can’t distinguish between good and bad people and being good cannot protect you.
4. Accidents, financial loss etc: Again, being careful and cautious can help you to certain extent. If you go deeply into the reason, you would see about 80 percent of bad things happen in this category due to your own mistake or ignorance. Please understand you will get a nasty shock if you touch electric wire knowingly or unknowingly. But, still there are 20 pct bad things happen because of others (see the category 2 above). And they don’t care if you are good and bad. At the best we can try to minimize the risk if we can but we can’t eliminate the unpredictable.
I hope you got my points” I paused.
“So it is not surprising that bad things happen to good people. That’s the way the world works!”
“Yes- that’s it. Besides inconsistency in life is what makes it interesting and livable. It keeps you wondering and looking for explanations… It gives you a purpose. Humans would become organic robots otherwise! If only good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people, would we still have freedom of choice?”
“So there is no point of being good…”
“Being good is a relative term… The concepts of good and bad are different in different places and culture…Religions and society teach you good and bad based on its perception or concepts. It conditions you. We make judgments of good and bad based on our own conditioning. What is good for one person is bad for another. Therefore what constitutes a ‘good person’ or a ‘bad person’ is a relative consideration. On the whole it makes no difference if you are good or bad AS FAR AS THE UNIVERSE IS CONCERNED…good and bad is defined by the society or man-made religions; not by cosmic…The cosmic will protect only when you do cosmically good and it necessarily not a good thing in terms of religion and society…”
“What’s cosmically good?”
“That’s something beyond our mind. So better don’t spend time on it – you will never know as long as your mind is active. We need to transcend our conditioned mind to realize what is cosmically good…”
“Hmm. So we just have to accept the fact as it is…”
“Better. The fact is that a bad thing has happened. What to do now? Don’t be part of the problem by thinking “why did it happen” – as long as you remain as part of the problem you won’t find solution or way out. Why should you spend time on searching WHY?”
“So there are no definite good and bad?” she asked again.
“Unfortunately, NO…See, the same nerve carries the message of “pain” and “pleasure” to the brain…”
“So how to live without a concept of good and bad…”
“Good question – Please understand that you won’t eat lion doesn’t mean that lion won’t eat you. You are honest doesn’t guarantee that everybody would be honest…Still you have to be honest. That’s in your genes. Ask yourself – are you being good by choice or by force?”
“Then why worry about outcome? But, when you live among a community, try to follow the set of moral values, ethics, laws and principles set by the society and the country. Otherwise, life would be more miserable than this…”
“But there is no guarantee that living a good life will help you…”
“NO – still, it is better than being bad in the community. The inherent being good will give you more moral strength in a society or community…As I said, be good because you want to be good. When you are good, without expecting good results, the cosmic will take care of you – that’s the secret…”
“How are you living then? It “appears” that you follow certain principles…” she mocked at me.
“Hmmm…I believe in non-violence. And I believe that the nature will intervene when something not good happens…This is my belief…I am well aware about the difference between belief and truth. In practical life, we may have to follow a set of beliefs – but don’t take it as granted. I remain as a truth seeker. I always try to de-condition the mind to unlearn myself. If cosmic grace is there, I would transform. Otherwise…”
“I will lead an idiotic life searching, why do bad things happen to good people and will blame all others…”
“As you know courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear….Similarly, being good despite your bad surrounding is the real virtue. Living a fair life in the unfair world is pure divinity…”
She said: “I understand….Still I didn’t get a complete solace, Uday”
“I know you believe in god. If you are a pure devotee, you won’t feel any stress…”
“Pure devotion is surrendering. If you have surrendered to the divine, you will know everything in this universe happens with the knowledge of cosmic intelligence. Even a grass won’t move without the “knowing” of cosmic. So the cosmic knows a bad thing is happening to you. There should be a reason for it – we do not know. So, worrying about bad situation is equivalent to insulting the cosmic wisdom. Do you want to insult god by worrying about a situation that is provided by god? When good things will happen to you, why didn’t you look for logic and reasoning?”
“Your mind says good things happen because I deserve it, and bad things happen because of others…”
She smiled: “Now I got my answer”
P.S: Lord Sri Rama is known as “Maryada Purushotama” (literally the Perfect Man) – a person with all good qualities and characteristics. Was he able to live happily at least for one year in his life period? His life was full of miseries, struggles, troubles, fighting with demons and all those bad things. Despite being the perfect man, all bad things happened to him. Bad things didn’t make him bitter, but he evolved as the best man in the whole world.
June 01, 2013
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at [email protected]