To help the distressed, address both their distress’ immediate cause and remote cause

Suppose a doctor encounters a patient suffering from alcoholism and condemns that patient, “You are a wretched drinker; you deserve to suffer.” That would be judgmental and irresponsible; the doctor needs to treat the patient first. 

But suppose the doctor never tells the patient the disease’s cause fearing that the patient may feel offended. That would be irresponsible — not judgmentally irresponsible, but sentimentally irresponsible. As a part of the treatment, the doctor needs to explain, non-judgmentally and unsentimentally, the behavior that led to the suffering and urge the patient to make healthier choices. To help the patient become healthy and stay healthy, a responsible doctor needs to address the problem’s immediate cause, say, the patient’s bodily pain, and its remote cause: alcoholism. 

When we meet those in distress, we too need to be similarly responsible by addressing both levels of causes for their distress: the immediate cause, which is often situation-specific; and the remote cause, which is often related to past karma. 

If we condemn the distressed by saying they are simply getting the results of their karma, we become judgmental and alienate them. We need to address their immediate pain, by offering practical help or at least emotional support. After establishing a human connection, we can address the issue of karma by explaining its basic rationale: we all are parts of a Whole bigger than ourselves (Bhagavad-gita 15.07) and need to live harmoniously. When our actions are driven by self-centered sensual cravings, we create negative karma. When we live to serve devotionally, we pave the way to a better future. If we never mention karma out of fear of offending them, we are being sentimental. 

When we holistically address the immediate and remote causes of others’ distress, our help to them becomes truly transformational. 

Think it over:

  • Explain with a metaphor how suffering can have immediate and remote causes. 
  • When helping others, how can we avoid becoming judgmental?
  • When helping others, how can we avoid becoming sentimental?

***

15.07: The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.

 

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When dealing with the distressed, focus not on their karma; focus on your dharma
Knowledge expands the avenues available for us to address those problems
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1 Comment

  1. JAPA addressed the distressed in a correct way

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