Suffering, Poverty, and Karma


Many people are suffering in poverty and seem to never be able to get out of it. Is this only karma or lack of effort. Recently I see people printing fake money and no one seems to be able to stop it. Will this create bad karma for them because even though it is bad, they are not hurting anyone?

—Yogi, Malaysia


It is very difficult to see people suffering and in poverty. The karma of individuals, both in this life and from past lives, certainly plays a role in why they have to deal with this. Karma, the law of action and reaction, is also why it is so difficult to get free.

In addition, mass karma, which includes the karma of whole countries and groups of people, also has its influence. Some areas of the world, and some groups of people, seem unable to extricate themselves from what might be described as cycles of poverty and suffering. It seems in some places that it will never end.

But the story of each soul, and how an individual deals with such circumstances, is unique. Some people, in the midst of terrible circumstances, are nevertheless able to make the most of what they have been given, and even to help others around them. Some people understand that their circumstances are not simply thrust on them “by life,” but have been brought about by their own past actions. They understand that this “karma” is not only theirs to bear, but also to learn from.

It can be helpful to imagine the kind of karma that may have brought poverty stricken people to such difficult circumstances. By doing so, we can begin to understand the lessons an individual may need to learn through facing those circumstances. For instance, if someone were wealthy in one lifetime, and looked down on and even despised the poor people around him, and did nothing to help them alleviate their pain, then he or she might well find himself in similar circumstances of poverty in a future lifetime. This would give him the opportunity to understand what such poverty feels like and to perhaps begin developing compassion for others in such circumstances.

Spiritually aware people, who are now trying to resolve past bad karma such as this, may have the memory of having been wealthy, and having had no compassion for others. Through this memory, and through wanting to be free of this kind of karma, they may try in this present lifetime to resolve this by helping others.

The law of karma, of action and the resulting reaction, is exacting. It determines what circumstances we find ourselves in, both in this present lifetime and in future lifetimes. This is why Sri Yukteswar, Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, said in reference to karma, “All circumstances will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

The people you mention who are printing fake money will certainly reap the results of their actions at some point. This will be their karma to deal with. The main thing to remember is to stay away from negative activity such as this. It is important to focus all your attention on dealing with your own life’s challenges (your karma) and to helping uplift those around you in some way. In this way, whether you understand the karmic tests that are coming to you or not, you will begin to grow in a positive direction of expansion of consciousness, and of increasing sympathy and compassion for others.

A book you might find helpful is Karma & Reincarnation, from the Wisdom of Yogananda series. You can find this on the Crystal Clarity Publications website.