“But, that’s so unfair!” How many times have you spoken these words, or at least had this thought? I know I often have. Maybe someone else got the praise for something that you did. Or maybe you got the blame for something you didn’t do. It’s hard to resist this thought when we see ruthless, selfish people gaining power over others, while honest, selfless people are left to struggle. Then it’s all too easy to lose faith and become cynical.
It was probably just such a reaction that led someone to comment, “No good deed goes unpunished.” When a devotee shared this statement with Swami Kriyananda, he corrected him, saying, “No, that’s not so. It would be truer to say, ‘No good deed goes unnoticed.’”
Recently I heard a wonderful story in this regard from the annals of India. There are many tales about Lord Krishna traveling with his devotee, Narada, giving him spiritual instruction along the way. In this account, Krishna and Narada are wandering through the countryside disguised as beggars, and they happen upon a town. Dusty and hungry, they come to the splendid house of a prosperous merchant, whom they ask for food. With heartless indifference, he coldly drives them away, saying, “Get you hence, you worthless beggars. I have nothing for you.” Narada looks at Krishna, but Krishna only smiles.
Eventually, on the outskirts of the town they come to the poor mud hut of an old farmer. He lives alone and has little to offer them, but kindly invites them to take rest in his hut. His one possession is an old cow, which he proceeds to milk; he then offers all the milk to the two beggars. Narada looks again at Krishna, who says nothing, but stares reflectively off into the distance.
The next day as they are leaving, they stop for water at the local well, and are surprised to find the townspeople all aflutter with some news. “Have you heard?” they ask. “The rich merchant had a big financial windfall and has doubled his wealth, while the poor farmer’s cow died, leaving him with nothing.”
This turn of fortune is too much for Narada. He pulls Krishna aside and cries, “My Lord, how can you allow such injustice? The rich man had plenty to spare, but he gave us nothing, and now he gets more riches. Yet the poor farmer gave us everything he had, and now he loses even his one possession. This seems so unfair!”
Krishna smiles again, and this time he speaks. “The rich man believes that wealth and possessions will bring him happiness, so by receiving yet more, he will learn the more quickly that only suffering comes from worldly attachments. The poor farmer has great devotion for God, but his old cow was his last attachment. Now his soul is free.” Looking tenderly into Narada’s eyes, Krishna concludes, “Remember, the ways of God are filled with love and wisdom, and everything balances in the end.”
Patience, inner strength, devotion, and trust in God: these are attitudes that help us find peace and understanding in this confusing world of mirages. So the next time you’re tempted to think something is unfair, replace that thought with this one: “God is in charge of this world, and is lovingly bringing to each soul just what they need to find their freedom.”