Focusing only on suffering’s immediate cause makes us short-sighted, focusing only on suffering’s remote cause makes us hard-hearted
Suppose someone falls sick because of being infected by a virus. While the virus is the immediate cause of their suffering, is it the complete cause? Others who are in similar situations may not get infected or may not fall sick. Various other factors such as overall cautiousness or overall immunity may be true; yet does anything else underlie them?
Medical explanations of diseases are correct, but are they complete? How can we explain medical mysteries, where people with no history of heart problems succumb to entirely unexpected heart attacks? Or how can we explain medical miracles, where people with many heart problems live longer than their physicians?
To understand the complete cause, we need to also consider the remote cause, which is one’s past karma. Gita wisdom explains that we all are eternal spiritual beings who carry our karma from our previous lives into our present life. How karma works specifically is often untraceable (Bhagavad-gita 04.17). What happens to us is an unpredictable combination of our present karma and our past karma — that is, the immediate cause and the remote cause.
If we consider only the immediate cause, we may become short-sighted. Just as a far-sighted government considers not only how specific people get infected, but also how the virus enters into their country, far-sighted thinkers consider past karma also as a remote cause.
If we consider only the remote cause, however, we may become hard-hearted. We may downplay or dismiss the suffering of the distressed by saying they are just getting their own karma, and not do what we can to help them.
By thus getting a balanced understanding of karma, we learn to focus on our dharma, the right thing to do to deal with issues effectively.
Think it over:
- Explain how suffering’s immediate cause is correct but not complete.
- How can focusing only on the immediate cause make us short-sighted?
- How can not focusing on the immediate cause make us hard-hearted?
04.17: The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.
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