When we face problems in life, we accuse God of being partial. When we are blessed with good fortune, we have no hesitation in attributing it to our goodness, and we say our rewards are deserved.

But if the rewards are deserved, so must the setbacks be. How can we expect to be rewarded for a good deed, but get away from the consequences of our bad deeds? ‘As we sow, so do we reap,’ is equally valid whether we are talking of our good deeds or bad ones.

Not satisfied with this explanation, we question why the virtuous suffer and the wicked prosper. If a person is rewarded or punished according to his acts of virtue or his misdeeds, should the wicked not be punished right away? But the answer to this is that those who are now seen as being rewarded despite their wickedness are in fact reaping the benefits of what they did in some previous birth. Reward or punishment is not instant. It comes in a future birth.

Thus the results of karma do not come at once, Goda Venkateswara Sastrigal said in a lecture.

Serving food to others is praised as a good act.

But here again, the result of such an act depends on whom you feed. Suppose a hungry man is at your doorstep asking for food, and you give him some food. The benefit that will accrue to you in another birth will be immense, because the man’s need for food is great, and you provided food to him when he most needed it.

But suppose a rich man comes to your house. You offer him your hospitality. The man has already eaten a hearty meal, and what you give him is not food that is going to save his life. In this case, the benefit that accrues to you by giving him food is minimal compared with the feeding of the hungry. Thus every action has a reward or a punishment, in accordance with rules.

Our suffering or joy in this world is not the result of God’s partiality, but it is the result of our own deeds. Life consists of both sorrows and joys. Whether it is joy or sorrow that we are experiencing, we must keep our minds focused on God and seek liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.