Alzheimers Disease and Karma


My father has Alzheimers disease. Would this be the result of his past Karma?. Why is this disease becoming so rampant globally during this time in history?

—Derrick, United States


Dear Derrick,

There is individual karma and there is group karma. There are several points to cover first before considering the specifics:

  1. Do we, as a society, really know whether Alzheimers is more prevalent than a hundred years ago OR are we simply more aware and have simply given the old fashioned term “senility” are more nuanced and scientific designation?
  2. In terms of mass or group karma, our society is exposed to new medical risks based on major changes in environmental toxity (food, air, water, EMF’s, etc.), processed food diets, higher levels of stress (or at least different forms of stress), urban (vs rural) living conditions, exposure to higher levels of radiation, and on and on and on! Our group (i.e. cultural) karma is such that being exposed to these physical and mental stresses, new to the human race, means that as a race we have karma that we share together.
  3. Finally, yes, it is also equally possible that your father’s karma (in having Alzheimers) is specific to him and his past.

It is not easy to ascertain the distinctions in this case (where Alzheimers is so widespread) between personal karma and mass (group) karma. But ultimately karma is karma and what happens to us is never simply random, at least on some level.

Consider, for a moment, the proposition (indeed, Vedic teaching), that our egos do not really exist in an ultimate sense as a separate reality from the One. If that is true, we must reconsider what we mean when we say “my karma.” Indeed, the reason “I” have karma is because our past actions were performed from the false belief that “I am” a separate entity.

Dissolve the ego sense of separateness and you dissolve the impact of ripening karma. You can’t change the past action but you can change your response to the appearance of karmic consequences by not reacting; by staying centered in the Self and fixed upon deepening your faith in God and in the goodness of all things. “What comes of its own, let it come,” Paramhansa Yogananda counseled. Old age is about acceptance of what you cannot change, including actions of the past.

In your father’s case, I would offer to you this thought: there is little to be gained by trying to imagine that your father’s illness is due to his past actions, at least other than living on the planet at this time, that is. This disease is rampant; death is certain; and, ultimately our body needs to “die” from one cause or another.

Rather, I would emphasize comfort and care for him; understanding when he makes mistakes or gets frustrated with himself for his lapses. Care, comfort, love and acceptance are the greatest gifts beyond whatever medical care may be available and appropriate. Help him dwell in the present moment. A certain amount of psychic freedom, by the way, comes when the brain and mind and memory begin to dissolve. Some people actually become sweeter (but not all, of course). Perhaps you can help him to cope and to accept with quiet and calm joy.

Nothing is gained by exploring the causative factors from a karmic point of view, in other words.

Blessings and joy to you both,

Nayaswami Hriman