The Material World Will Never Be Fair

(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 1 September 2003.) According to World Bank figures: * More than 1 billion live on less than US$1 a day - that's poverty by many standards. * 3 billion live on US$2 per day * More than 1 billion don't have access to clear water * 3 billion do not have sanitation facilities * 2 billion don't have access to power * 1% of the world's population can't read * Less than 1% has access to the Internet. Not that the World Bank can be trusted as unerringly accurate, but these statistics are food for thought. Do the rich get richer and poor poorer? It would seem so. Maybe life's just not fair. After all, none of us remembers asking to be born. The age old question is why many live short painful lives and others are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Why the massive inequalities? Why are there always more poor than rich? Recently I was invited to speak to a class of 17-year olds in a New Zealand school. The course was history and the subject that day was 'war'. An inconclusive discussion ensued about 'innocent Iraqis' and 'innocent' people in the New York's trade towers dying by the thousands. Then I broached the subject of karma. The class, for the first time, went silent and began to listen. The students seemed to realize that karma might be the answer to one of the most perplexing problems of all time, namely, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" In that classroom a new topic of interest has been floated, and the pupil's awareness extended. Every generation seems to claim ownership of different events in history. Yet many think any time in which they live is pivotal and important, so the global technology revolution is seen to make this era unique. On the other hand, many teenagers say that the end of history coincided exactly with their arrival on earth. Beyond, but not opposed to these radically different positions, is that we all come into this world as a result of prior actions in previous lives, and personal and global circumstances reflect this. By knowing how to overcome and transcend our not so apparent birth 'rights' we can become free from resentment or fatalism, discover what we have to learn, and positively work for change.