When dealing with the distressed, focus not on their karma; focus on your dharma

Suppose a newborn baby is crying. Should the mother neglect the baby by thinking, “She is in pain because of her own past karma”?

No, never. Whatever the baby’s past karma, the mother needs to focus on her own dharma. And her maternal dharma, the right thing for her to do, is to care for her baby. Past karma should be considered in a way that increases her diligence in doing her dharma, not increases her negligence. 

Suppose the baby is crying because of some incurable condition. Then the mother needs to steel herself and care for the baby as well as she can in that situation. What can’t be cured needs to be endured. For enduring the incurable, knowledge of past karma can be a helpful resource. If the mother keeps fretting, blaming, resenting her baby’s condition, she may become an emotional wreck incapable of caring even for herself, leave alone her baby. To prevent such breakdown, she may need an appropriate intellectual framework to help her accept the unchangeable and focus on the changeable. One such framework is the philosophy of karma. Knowledge of karma should strengthen her maternal instincts, not deaden those instincts. 

When Arjuna was in tears at the start of the Bhagavad-gita (02.01), Krishna didn’t dismiss Arjuna’s pain by attributing it to past karma. Instead, he gave the Gita’s wisdom, which provided a holistic understanding of reality, including karma. That understanding empowered Arjuna to accept his situation and refocus on his dharma (18.73)

We too need a similar considerate, compassionate intent when dealing with the distressed. By focusing on our dharma, not on their karma, we can help them change the changeable, accept the unchangeable and make the best of their situation. 

Think it over:

  • When dealing with the distressed, what should consideration of past karma do and not do?
  • How does the Gita demonstrate the proper use of philosophy? 
  • When dealing with the distressed, how can we use the knowledge of karma appropriately? 


18.73: O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.


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  1. Dear Guru,

    Guru your teaching’s are really unique. Every time i visit this blog, i learn really something very useful and somehow i feel very inspired. In this lock-down period watching “MAHABHARAT” on TV and reading this blog are making my day great. Thank you very much for your continuous effort.

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