“The Supreme Lord is so kind to His pure devotees that in proper time He calls such devotees up to Him and thus creates an auspicious circumstance for the devotee. Maharaja Parikshit was a pure devotee of the Lord, and there was no reason for him to become extremely fatigued, hungry and thirsty because a devotee of the Lord never becomes perturbed by such bodily demands. But by the desire of the Lord, even such a devotee can become apparently fatigued and thirsty just to create a situation favorable for his renunciation of worldly activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.24-25 Purport)
“In studying Vedic literature, it seems a little too convenient sometimes with the explanation for tragic events. For instance, such and such horrible fate befalls a person. Then later on you get an explanation for it. It is almost like a rationalization, after the fact.
“King Dasharatha is forced to be separated from his beloved son, Shri Rama. The pain of separation is too much to bear; the king departs the world early. He realizes beforehand that there was an incident from the past, where he made a mistake while hunting and forced a similar separation for other parents. He got cursed to have the same happen to him.
“When Shri Krishna’s queens are left under the care of Arjuna, the great bow-warrior, a collection of dacoits is able to overcome and overwhelm that hero of the Pandava family. The explanation is that something happened in the past, which caused those queens to suffer such a fate.
“Maharaja Parikshit had to be forced to renounce the world, and so the Supreme Lord arranged for him to become fatigued at just the right moment, in just the right place. Time and time again we come across such stories. Isn’t it wishful thinking, though? People are so optimistic in their belief in Divine control that they make these magical correlations, attributing random and negative occurrences to some grand design of an intelligent controller.”
What would be the other explanation? That things just happen randomly, without meaning? If that were the case, there would be no such things as science and medicine. There would be no reason to expect the sun to rise in the morning, for the winter to arrive in a few months, for the newborn to grow up to be a fully functioning, independent adult.
The explanations are rational in the sense that many times people realize from their own past actions, karma, that the result comes back to them. As an example, when I was younger I compelled my parents to pick me up from college in a large vehicle. This was in order to fit all of my belongings, of which I had too many.
A few years down the road, I suffer the same fate in dealing with my own children. I get it even worse, actually, as I am thrown into a high-traffic area, with competition for parking. There is even more cargo to haul, and a smaller time window to pack everything into the vehicle.
It is only obvious to the people paying attention. Action brings consequence, and it is not guaranteed that the results will manifest immediately. Shri Rama describes for the negative case that the response arrives in a ghastly form, in a timely manner, in the way that flowers blossom on trees.
अवश्यं लभते जन्तुः फलं पापस्य कर्मणः।
घोरं पर्यागते काले द्रुमाः पुष्पमिवार्तवम्।।
avaśyaṃ labhate jantuḥ phalaṃ pāpasya karmaṇaḥ।
ghoraṃ paryāgate kāle drumāḥ puṣpamivārtavam।।
“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)
Good and bad are relative in a material world, and the principle extends to what someone would consider pious behavior. If they should unexpectedly come into money, they can explain the situation from a past good deed, such as a charitable donation.
If they are blessed with good children, it is a gift from above. It is the passing down of responsibility from previous generations, without whose love and support we would not have made it through life successfully.
Diving deeper into the issue, we see that karma is a concomitant factor in a material existence. As soon as there is the fall to the land of birth and death, there have to be corresponding activities which yield further development of the covering.
अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं
स्वभावो ऽध्यात्मम् उच्यते
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
The more a person realizes this, the sharper their vision becomes. To realize cause and effect on the grand scale is to come closer to seeing the spiritual quality within all of us. This is the Brahman-vision; separate karma from the equation to notice the untouched identity value of the individual.
मैत्रः करुण एव च
सन्तुष्टः सततं योगी
यो मद्-भक्तः स मे प्रियः
maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca
santuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yogī
yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me – he is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.13-14)
More than just explaining the negative, the wise person attributes every outcome to past work. Hence they are better situated to remain equal regardless of the circumstance. Shri Krishna confirms that such a person is very dear to Him.
Moreover, tracing out the cause of all causes leads to the original person, the adi-purusha. This is another way to define the Almighty. He is sarva-karana-karanam. He creates karma, which is the system I must participate in while living a material existence.
He also rescues me from karma, should I choose in His favor. In that sense, liberated souls like Maharaja Parikshit remain entirely under the control of the spiritual energy, as Shri Krishna guides everything towards a proper and blessed outcome.
Their fate in Krishna residing,
Who to proper outcome guiding.
Otherwise under karma’s sway,
Tossing negative and positive way.
Every action with consequence to come,
Wise understanding from past work done.
Supreme Lord at the origin of it all,
Protected when as His servant to call.