Why do good people suffer?

Recently in a mailing group, a person asked the age-old question: Why do good people
suffer, when apparently bad people seem to enjoy.

One classic reply given by Indian philosophers is based on the Doctrine of Karma. They
say that they are reaping the effects of what they sowed in their past lives. Logically
speaking, this has to be so, going by the Law of Cause and Effect, which is so universal.
However, it is hardly consoling to suffering souls. There should be a more down-to-earth
answer too. And, here is what I wrote in reply:

First a small story:
Lord Vishnu took the form of a pig to save the earth from drowning and to
kill the evil Hiranyaksha. After the work was done, He was happily enjoying
rolling in the mud as a pig. Brahma and Shiva came to Him and asked Him
to come back to His abode, Vaikunta. Vishnu as the pig said that He was
not interested in anything else other than His mud pool. Shiva took His
trident and chopped off the head of the pig and Vishnu went back to His
abode of Vaikunta happily.

Now coming to the question:
It is almost impossible for embodied beings to see anything beyond the
senses. We are so much attached to the body that we cling to it with all
strength. The Lord out of His infinite Grace gives us calamities in life so
that we wake up and start questioning.

As long as we have a nice peaceful dream, it never occurs to us that we
are dreaming. We keep smiling blissfully in ignorance even if the whole
house is on fire. But nightmares and rude shocks in dream are a blessing
in disguise. They wake us up to the real world. Similarly, it is the troubles
in life that wake us up to the spiritual world.

My Guru said once to me, “If the Lord wants to enter into your heart, He
will cut it open and it will be a painful experience.” He said that it is said
in the Bhagavata that if the Lord wants to bless a devotee, the first thing
He does is to remove his wealth and cut off other worldly ties. It is troubles
that teach us to rely on the Lord and none else.

You may ask if it is worth all the trouble 🙂

Well, there are three kinds of enjoyments:
The first kind destroys the senses through which you enjoy the sense objects.
As you keep indulging, more and more sense objects are needed to give you
the same enjoyment. In the absence of the sense objects, thought of them
gives a lot of misery.

The second kind of enjoyment does not destroy the senses. As you keep
indulging, even a little hint gives a lot of joy. Mere thought gives you a lot of joy.

Then comes the third type where no senses are needed to enjoy. Once you
have have tasted it, you can never lose the taste of it. You will be enjoying it forever.

Vishayaananda (sense pleasures) come under the first category.
Bhajanaananda (pleasures arising in the mind) come under the second category.
Atmaananda (bliss of Self/God realization) comes under the third category.

As you can see, Bhajanaananda is better than Vishayaananda. And Atmaananda
is better than Bhajanaananda. So, seek Bhajanaananda even if it means to sacrifice
Vishayaananda. And troubles in life forcibly deny us Vishayaananda and make us
seek an alternative. With right guidance at that time, we naturally land up at
Bhajanaananda, which eventually paves way for Atmaananda.

Thus suffering in the world of the senses prompts us and make us seek joy in the
realm of the spirit.

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