Tragedy and Grief


I am very disturbed by death of my friend who was like younger brother to me. He was only 40 years old. He was so nice to everyone. Nicest person I have ever known. He was choked to death for no apparent reason. Why he has to die like this? He has left behind very little kids and his wife. It just breaks my heart. I am trying to understand why it happened to him. It is hard to accept this. Please let me know.

—Madhu, United States


Dear Madhu,

I am so sorry to hear of such senseless violence and a family left behind, too!

The law of karma works behind the scenes of our lives and is an unforgiving taskmaster, seemingly merciless. Think of all who are deeply affected, starting with your friend who was murdered, yourself, his wife and children, and no doubt many others.

Tragedy and death stalk each and every man, woman and child (what to mention the animals and all life). To conclude that it is senseless, random and without redeeming value is to succumb to despair and human beings have shown remarkable elasticity in times of tragedy and grief. Hope, love, and redemption are the stuff of our souls.

Belief in the purpose of all things, even tragic ones and even more, faith in the goodness of life, and the divine hand behind all things, yes, even evil, (for suffering can turn us inward to God and away from the vicissitudes and precariousness of material life whose only real promise is the reward of death for all beings) is essential and elemental to the soul’s deeper wisdom.

As Krishna comforts Arjuna in the Gita in respect to our soul (atman): death cannot kill it; fire cannot burn it; wind cannot dry it; etc. etc. We are the immortal Atman and the purpose of everything that happens to us is to guide us toward wisdom.

Your friend’s kindness toward all serves for you an ideal. Your love for him can only be proved by your own efforts to carry on his example into your own life. Can you help, for example, his family in some meaningful way? In any case, there is no lack of opportunities to help others in this world where tragedy, suffering and grief intermingle with their opposites on a daily basis. Cherish his memory and your love for him by taking his example into your life. Take the roughness of his tragic death and, as an Alchemist, turn it into the gold of being a better person. Then his life shall not be in vain and his death will, like the winter that prepares the soil for the spring, bear fruit, and thus he will live on.

God is the God of life, not death. There can be no death for the soul. Be of good cheer for your friend yet lives, and lives on in your heart. Be thankful for the friendship you shared and the example you’ve been given. There is a saying in the West: “The good die young.” Maybe some karmic burden was released by his tragic and premature death.

Be of good cheer and carry on with faith, hope, and charity for all and love for God in all.

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA