04.17 – Ask not “Why this?” but “How now?”

by November 11, 2012

When we encounter sudden adversities, we usually get the question, “Why is Krishna doing this to me?”

Gita wisdom explains that when we hold Krishna responsible for adversities, we become like farmers who hold the rains responsible for the bad quality yield. The bad yield is caused not by the rains but by the farmers through their sowing of bad seeds. Similarly, adversities are caused not by Krishna but by us through the kind of karmic seeds that we sowed in the past, either in this or previous lives.

It is futile to tax our brain for finding the specific karmic seed that caused the present reversal. The Bhagavad-gita (4.17) emphasizes that the intricate workings of karma are too complex (gahana karmano gatih) for the human mind to comprehend. This complexity arises from several reasons like:

  1. Different karmic seeds fructify after different time durations
  2. Several karmic seeds may fructify as one event
  3. One karmic seed may fructify as a series of events
  4. Our memory is volatile and fallible.

The same principle of profound complexity obscures the precise extent to which our practice of devotional service burns our karmic seeds.

That’s why it’s far more fruitful to focus on determining the best seeds to sow now and thereby get the best future yield. Accepting this principle inspires us to revise our question: not “Why this?” but “How now? How can I serve Krishna in this situation?”

Putting aside the “why” question frees us from the resentment that makes a bad situation worse by distorting our perceptions and prompting knee-jerk reactions. Focusing on the “how” question and prayerfully seeking Krishna’s guidance activates our devotional creativity. This helps us not only make the best of a bad situation but also discover the spiritual good in the materially bad situation.


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