What causes suffering?


Is all kind of illness, suffering of one and that of the ones with whom he/she is attached like parents, brothers, sisters, wife and children is result of sins committed by him/her in this life or in past lives? If so, then how to overcome fear of about his/her misdeeds of previous birth about which he/she is not aware?

Take case of myself in this life; till today I have not done anything wrong to my conscious knowledge, but I am worried looking at suffering of parents, brother; and in turn I also suffer.

—Bhushan Patel, India


Dear Bhushan,

I hope that I have understood well enough to answer you correctly. If I have misunderstood your question, please write again.

If you are asking if illness and suffering are caused by one’s misdeeds in this or other lifetimes, the answer, generally speaking, is yes.

The law of karma is fairly exact. Whatever you do puts into effect energy patterns which, if they are going in a good direction, bring you beneficial results, and if they are not, the results can be harmful to you.

There is no point in worrying or being fearful about what you or anybody in your family has done in the past to cause or deserve what is happening now – even if one cannot remember it at all. What is done is done!

What is important is to change the way you live now, so that the future will change for the better for you.

It must be emphasized that this a very individual thing. Your karma and your life is your responsibility. Others? Well, you can love them, pray for them, and set the best example you can, but in the end, each individual has a personal responsibility for changing himself/herself.

Naturally we suffer when those around us suffer. But if you don’t how to swim and jump into a lake to help a drowning person, then you may drown yourself also, and nothing good has been accomplished.

Paramhansa Yogananda says: “Learn to be even-minded and cheerful under all circumstances.” How do you do that? Through daily, deep meditation which teaches you calmness and non-attachment.

This does not mean that you do not help those who need help. Rather you do it calmly, with the right attitudes – those of non-attachment and of knowing that God is flowing through your every action – it’s not your own energy, but God’s working through you!

If you want to know more details about the laws of karma and reincarnation, according to Yogananda’s teachings, I would strongly recommend you read this book: Karma and Reincarnation: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda.