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Karma and the suffering of a new born child

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What do the Vedas say about the suffering a new-born baby is under going, through no apparent fault of its own. I have heard that karma is the answer, but how does a new born child suffer any past life sins when it cannot even be sure of its existence, till its sustainable stage.

All our experiences of suffering and enjoyment are due to activities we have performed in previous lives. No one can trace out the origin of our embodiment, thus sometimes it is described as beginningless. We have gone through millions and millions of lives, sometimes as animals, sometimes as trees, and at present as human. The nature is designed to perfectly reward and punish us for the good and bad actions we perform. The Paramatma is the witness to all of our activities, and thus our results are perfectly calculated. Every suffering we undergo is because we have caused similar sufferings to other living entities in the past. Simply because we have forgotten the crime does not mean we are innocent. The laws of nature are so stringent and firm that they punish everyone regardless of one's present ignorance. If a small baby touches fire he will be burnt. His ignorance does not protect him from the fire. He may not know that fire burns, but the natural law i! s rigid and firm. In a similar manner, the laws of karma are firm and precise. Simply because of forgetfulness or ignorance we will not be pardoned for our incorrect actions.


It is not only suffering, enjoyment is equally rigid. The young baby does not know what good he has done, yet he enjoys. This is the law of karma.


It is actually the mercy of Krishna that we forget our previous lives. In the Gita Krishna says: mattah smritir jnanam apohanam ca, "I give remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness." Imagine if we were to remember every life we had gone through. Complete remembrance of all of our sufferings, all of our mistakes, all of the loved ones whom we had lost. Within one life our mind is so disturbed by thoughts of the past - anxieties, longings, sadness. We are unable to break attachments to matter voluntarily, so Krishna gives a second chance by suppressing these thoughts to a deeper level of mind, creating a blank sheet for us to start over. Imagine the minds of the murderers, criminals, and cruel people. We have been all of these categories, but by the mercy of God we have forgoten our evil actions. To know all of the sinful activities we have performed will drive a man insane.


If I was the King of England in my last life, how would I feel today to be born in a poor family with no money or food? I would remember all of my previous habits and likings, yet I would not even be able to feed myself. If I had loved someone in a previous life, that longing would remain forever, despite that person no longer living. Forgetfulness of our previous lives enables us to start fresh with a clean slate.


Why is one child born in poverty and another born in opulence. Why is one child born with a disease and another born healthy. It is all due to their actions in their previous lives. Ultimately we must become free from this cycle of birth and death. Only then can we truly experience our natural happiness.


Even though the Lord has given us forgetfulness of our previous lives, still He gives us the opportunity to revive that knowledge if we wish. He has not erased the information, He has only suppressed it. Through a particular sadhana and meditation it is possible to bring back that knowledge, but it serves no practical purpose other than to increase one's attachments and anxieties.


Yours in service,


Jahnava Nitai Das,

Bhaktivedanta Ashram




[This message has been edited by jndas (edited 08-28-2001).]

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