“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)Download this episode (right click and save)
“It’s not fair. Bad people get away with their crimes. Just look at the leaders of the most powerful nations. They are liars, cheaters and thieves. They lie so many times. The media is in cahoots. They agree with certain policy positions, so they look past these transgressions. No one is honest anymore.
“Spiritual leaders are often no better. They take advantage of women and children. Their organizations then give them a slap on the wrist; only if they get caught. People’s lives get ruined. How can there be a God? How can you say karma is true if so many people skate?”
Indeed, despite what the present manifestation of the material elements conveys, there is always the time factor to fix things. Known as kala in Sanskrit, it is synonymous with death. It is one way that every person meets the Divine. Despite the staunchest obstinacy, the atheist at least acknowledges a higher power, a force over which they have zero control.
In the course of history there have been several notable examples of the fruit of the sinner arriving at the appropriate time. Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in a famous incarnation, once explained the rule to a person about to receive their due punishment. He compared the timing to how flowers appear during the appropriate season on the trees. Just because things look unfair right now doesn’t mean that the situation won’t change in the future.
Even when learning the truth about the sometimes delayed arrival of punishment, there is an objection.
“Why? Why should not the punishment come immediately?”
One of the reasons is that the gap in time allows for other events to occur. Those events serve a purpose.
Take the example of Hiranyakashipu. He was as wicked as they get. He was a powerful king who had some hints of religious culture in his life. After all, he prayed. He gave up material life for a while, too. But the difference always comes down to consciousness. Though engaged in prayer, his intent was to enjoy separate from God. He received boons that allowed him to amass tremendous strength. He wielded so much influence that the very gods who grant boons were afraid of him.
Hiranyakashipu’s greatest crimes were perpetrated against his son, when the boy was five years of age. Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. We speak in the plural because the boy couldn’t be killed. For some reason Prahlada survived every attack. The horrible reward for the king’s bad karma finally came in the form of death personified. The same Shri Rama arrived on the scene in a ghastly half-man/half-lion form. The delayed arrival allowed for the glorification of Prahlada. Through His five year old devotee, the Supreme Lord taught the power of perseverance and how yoga, a strong connection to the Divine in consciousness, transcends the effects of the material body.
This night-ranger was the direct recipient of the instructive words from Shri Rama. The setting was the battlefield, in a forest area known as Dandaka. Khara received these wise words because he and his coconspirators had literally gotten away with murder for a long time. They would attack peaceful and innocent sages in the night. The sages were engaged in yajna, or sacrifice. Yajna is synonymous with Vishnu, who is another form of the singular Divine. The night-rangers would eat the flesh of the sages after killing them.
Now Rama was about to defeat and kill Khara in battle. The ghastly reward was set to come the fiend’s way. Though it arrived at a later time, it came nonetheless. The gap in time allowed the beautiful Rama to appear in the world and show His amazing ability with the bow and arrow. His appearance gave cause for the teachings of dharma, through both action and words.
Khara and the nishacharas came from Lanka, which was ruled by Ravana. Ravana also ate human beings. Because of this, the species ruling Lanka were known as Rakshasas. Ravana even one time killed a messenger that came to his kingdom. He consumed massive amounts of animal flesh and wine. He had many queens. Still, bent on sinful behavior as he was, he had to go and steal Rama’s wife from the forest.
It looked like the kindest person was getting the worst punishment. Rama’s wife Sita was in Lanka for a while, without any hope of rescue. Still, the appropriate punishment blossomed at the right season. Rama eventually came and Ravana lost everything. The time in between allowed for Rama’s servant Hanuman to gain fame. Hanuman’s amazing journey to Lanka to find Sita is immortalized in the pages of the Ramayana. Hanuman has his own section, known as the Sundara Kand, carved out in that sacred text.
This king of Mathura took infants and threw them against a stone slab. This was his version of abortion. It was really no different than the killing of children in the womb that is commonplace today. The reason for this horrible act was fear of death. A voice from the sky had previously told Kamsa that his sister Devaki’s eighth child would be his doom. Kamsa did not take any chances. He made sure every child that was born was killed immediately.
Ah, but just as karma is inescapable, so is the Divine will. The Supreme Lord was that eighth child, and He was named Krishna. He escaped to Gokula right after birth. Years later He returned to Mathura to kill Kamsa. A swift punch from the all-attractive one ended the king’s life and his persecutions. The time in between allowed for so many things, including Krishna’s adorable pastimes in Vrindavana. In that time the loving mother, Yashoda, had the opportunity to show everyone the perfection of the mood known as vatsalya. In bhakti-yoga, devotional service, there are different moods, or ways to interact with the Supreme Lord.
The kingdom didn’t belong to him. The Pandavas were the rightful heirs. They were family too, related to Duryodhana as cousins. Nevertheless, the leader of the Kauravas would not relent. He took the important land, not caring about righteousness. On top of that, he hatched different plots to have the five Pandava brothers and their mother killed.
He even once attempted to bind Shri Krishna, who came to the city as a messenger of peace. The fiend eventually got his just reward, but it took a while. In the meantime, the perseverance of the Pandavas was shown. The exemplary character of their mother was also prominent. These historical events and more comprise the main storyline of the lengthy book known as the Mahabharata.
Within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-gita, which is the song of God. It was originally spoken at the dawn of creation. It gets passed on by saintly kings, and Krishna was reinstituting the disciplic succession by speaking it to Arjuna. The setting was the battlefield of Kurukshetra, just prior to the war that was to give the Kauravas what they deserved. In this way, the time in between allowed for so many good things to happen.
Karma is inherently fair. It cannot be otherwise. The Divine will is even more powerful. That is why the only way to be truly safe is to seek the shelter of the Supreme Lord, who loves His devotees so much that for them He breaks from His general stance of neutrality.
Of righteousness sinners not to care,
Getting away with crimes, life not fair.
Actually, all just a matter of time,
At appropriate moment dharma to shine.
Examples from history like Sita take,
Allowed for Hanuman brave journey to make.
Despite persecutions Kamsa as king still to stand,
Ended with one swift punch from Krishna’s hand.