“It sounds harsh to tell a mother who just lost a child in a car accident, “Well, it is just their karma!” People will think, “What is wrong with you crazy devotees? What do you mean? Have you no love or sympathy?”:
If we express karma in such harsh ways, it can be misunderstood, but at the same time, how can such occurrences be anything other than karma? If we do not accept karma, it means that we do not accept the existence of God or His position as the ultimate controller. We will begin to accept that God has no laws or that Krishna cannot really maintain His own kingdom, as if it overwhelms Him.
We hear that karma causes various situations, and although we can process events in this way, we still have to deal with the actual issues at hand.
When somebody is born in poverty or with a deformity, it is not necessarily bad, because they will not have as many material facilities to distract them in this lifetime.
In general, some representations of bad karma include legal problems, chronic diseases, lack of education or lack of beauty.
These are some general signs but they do not necessarily indicate that someone is suffering from the reactions of their previous sins.
For example, everyone gets sick and everyone dies. In terms of legal problems, excessive litigation usually indicates the influence of karma. If we understand these influences maturely, we can approach issues with this knowledge in the background. Imagine someone falling down the steps and hitting their head while you stand at the top step and say, “You have some heavy karma. Hopefully you don’t have any more coming or you may fall even harder the next time.” How would you feel in that situation with someone addressing you in such a harsh way? At the same time, we understand that some uniform scheme of reciprocity underlies all situations.
For this reason, we need to be careful about what we do.Someone might be in anxiety because they cannot have a child. There are people who commit suicide because they cannot have children. However, this same person may have had many abortions in a previous lifetime. Krishna gave them so many souls to care for previously but they kept refusing them and eliminating them. In this lifetime, they desperately want a child but they simply cannot have one. While there may be some karmic situation behind the scenes, to address the person in this way is harsh—we should be sensitive and supportive when someone is experiencing the fruits of bad karma.
Whether or not our help will be effective is, of course, also influenced by their karma, but we should always try. These are delicate issues.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami
Reflections on Sacred Teachings II