Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

“The most interesting stories are the stories of all of us overcoming even the greatest challenges and continuing to progress into ever-heightened consciousness states.”

Thom Knoles

In the recent episode about punya and deserving power, Thom clarified that good fortune is a result of expanding our consciousness, rather than a reward for good behavior.

This still leaves the question open though, about why “bad things” happen to “good people.”

In this episode, Thom closes the loop on the question, and invites us to reconsider our definition of “bad things” and to see the role that they play in our evolution.

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Episode Highlights


Heroes and Villains



The Essence of Heroism



The Riverine Life: Flowing Forward Through Challenges



Bad Things Lead to Progress



Moving Beyond “Bad Things”



The Role of Struggles in Our Evolution



The Intriguing Nature of Life’s Obstacles



The Illusion of Good and Bad in Evolution



Lotus Flower – From Mud to Magnificence


Jai Guru Deva


Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

[00:45] Heroes and Villains

Sometimes I’m asked the question, Thom, why is it that bad things happen to good people? And it’s an interesting question because it presupposes so many things. Let’s look at some of those things now.

Let’s look at the opposite to that question. Why is it that good things happen to bad people? Could be another way of phrasing this thing. Why is it that bad things happen to bad people? Well, maybe we don’t question that. Why is it that good things happen to good people? Maybe we don’t question that either.

But evidently, sometimes, good things happen to bad people. And sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Let’s look at the good people, and the bad people, and the, and the good things, and the bad things concept. And we’ll see if we can shed some light on this and get some clarity.

First of all, the heroes and villains dichotomy, the polarity of heroes and villains. In order for there to be heroic behavior, there has to be some adversity. You can’t just say someone was born a hero and they lived a heroic life. Nothing ever happened in that life. Absolutely nothing happened.

They grew up. They ate their breakfast every day. They ate their lunch every day. They ate their dinner every day. And they did it heroically. But there’s nothing heroic about there being no challenges. If there’s no challenge, we cannot find heroism.

[02:27] The Essence of Heroism

Heroism is a very specific set of behaviors that are admirable and exemplary in the face of challenges. So no challenge, no hero. No hero, no inspiration.

Life is a very interesting storyline that needs to be understood with a greater, more cosmic perspective.

I visited this analogy elsewhere, and you’ll forgive me if I am really overusing it, but I can’t help it. It’s come into my awareness so many times in recent months. And that is that of the snow on the top of the Himalayan Mountain or any giant mountain range on Earth, but we’ll use the Himalayas as an example, as our example of the day.

We can draw a circle of about 500 miles diameter, and from that circle, we can find several major rivers of the Earth emerging out of the Himalayan range and making their way into a variety of oceans.

For example, the Mekong River, which which starts in the Himalayas, makes its way down through Southeast Asia, Laos, and Cambodia, and through Vietnam, and ends up in the Mekong Delta, going into the South China Sea.

And then there’s the Salween River, which makes its way down through Myanmar, once upon a time called Burma, and through its capital city, Yangon. And the river is a Himalayan river that makes its way through the tropics there, and into the ocean just south of Burma or Myanmar.

[04:28] The Riverine Life: Flowing Forward Through Challenges

And then we have the Brahmaputra, which departs from the Himalayas and turns north, and then comes round the Himalayas, goes for a while to the east, and then begins moving south, and then begins moving west for thousands of miles. Winds out and comes down into Bangladesh and joins the Ganges River, and comes out in the Gangetic Delta.

And then we have the Ganges itself, which winds to the north and then to the south, and then to the west, and then to the east, and then south again, and then eventually ends up coming out near Bangladesh again, joining the Brahmaputra.

All these rivers depart from a very relatively small area in the mountains. Each one of them travels through a vast number of territories, countries, counties, states, communities and cultures. The rivers all change names several times as they move through these cultures, because different cultures call them by different names.

A few things that all these rivers have in common is that they start off narrow and small. Each one of these rivers, when it commences, is no larger than your thumb, and gradually trickles, and droplets and other little tributaries add to the width of the river.

And then it moves into being a stream and then a rivulet, and then a creek, and then a river proper. And gradually, as it makes its way to the ocean, becomes broader and broader and broader, and then merges with the ocean.

[06:20] Bad Things Lead to Progress

Let’s consider our individuality to be riparian, which is the scientific way of saying river-like or riverine. A riverine life. A life that is riparian. A life that starts off with our individuality, with relatively narrow individuality, very narrow repertoire of capability. Expanding repertoire. Expanding repertoire as we move toward Cosmic Consciousness.

Just like a river that meets a so-called obstacle, when a river meets an obstacle and banks up against that obstacle, we call that a mountain lake.

So a river that’s making its way down through the mountains that meets some kind of rocky geologic barrier, begins backing up into a lake, a beautiful lake. And then eventually, the lake finds an outlet, through the path of least resistance, and makes its way into a waterfall, beautiful waterfall, and then continues moving inexorably toward the ocean, uncompromisingly toward the ocean.

And so the bad things that happen in life are like when the river meets an obstacle that’s going to turn it into a lake. From a particular perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any forward motion. From a particular perspective, there doesn’t seem to be anything that is progressive going on.

But as the lake fills and fills with beautiful deep turquoise, perhaps colored water, and provides drinking water to all of the animals around as the lake is rising, it’s, in fact, finding its way to that outlet, that path of least resistance to become a fabulous waterfall that is praised by many. And then to make its way further along, winding on its way toward the river.

[08:29] Moving Beyond “Bad Things”

Sometimes we may feel as though, “My direction in life has completely changed. Something has happened. I thought I was going here, or this particular place at this particular time, but then circumstances and events and choices that I was forced to make caused me to have to let go of rigid attachment to specific timing and outcomes, and to have a knowingness that in the larger picture, everything is evolving.”

When I don’t have that knowingness, I refer to the change of plan as “a bad thing.” “I’m a good person. I have the best of intent, and a bad thing happened.” Is it a bad thing, actually?

If we get that cosmic perspective where we go up into space and look down at our river, the river of our life, what we’re seeing is the stylizing of life, the way in which our life is being made relatable. Relatable, importantly to others because our evolution must also become relevant socially.

Our evolution must become socially relevant because as we grow, it’s natural that we have to become the inspiration to all others.

I remember when Maharishi used to sign books that he wrote. He always signed the same epithet in every book. And it was, “Enjoy the wisdom and radiate life for all to enjoy.” In other words, fill up with the wisdom and radiate that to everyone to enjoy.

[10:17] The Role of Struggles in Our Evolution

But how can we radiate anything to anyone if we don’t have a story? If they look at our life, and we were just born perfect. We got bored, and we were enlightened at birth and the first words that we spoke as a child were Vedic words.

And we never had any troubles. We never had any digestive concerns. We never had any behavioral concerns. We never had any obstacles to get past.

All we ever had was just it would be the, it would be akin to taking the Army Corps of Engineers and carving a canal from the tops of the Himalayas straight down to the ocean and making a, a concrete canal, and all those rivers that normally would wind their ways in a serpentine fashion through all those communities and countries and so on.

“Forget about that. It takes too long. Let’s just make the water. The water’s going to end up in the ocean anyway.” The logic might go. “Let’s just take that snow melt, and channel it straight to the ocean. What’s the big deal with all this winding around business?”

[11:35] The Intriguing Nature of Life’s Obstacles

The big deal is the evolutionary beauty of the overcoming of obstacles. The way in which the destiny of a river becomes the destiny of all of those who depend on it. All of those whose lives are going to depend on your life being a life where you met certain obstacles, you met certain difficulties, and you overcame them.

You rose above them. You turned into the waterfall. You became the river that watered all of the farms, that people could follow that river and see every kind of territory, moving through the alpine areas, moving through the glacial tundra, moving through the great plains moving across deserts. Colorado River, here in the United States, moving through deserts. Carving the Grand Canyon. A canal would be very boring by comparison.

So why is it that you have challenges? And we’re going to call it challenges instead of bad things. Why is it that you’re a good person, as you say it, and yet there are challenges?

It’s because this is the nature of life itself. Nature’s not interested in you simply being born with perfect experiences, no obstacles and no challenges to overcome. That doesn’t make for an interesting story at all.

The most interesting stories are the stories of all of us overcoming even the greatest challenges and continuing to progress into ever-heightened consciousness states.

And as for bad people having good things happen to them, this is our own assumption. We make an assumption about somebody being bad, meaning “They’re less evolved than I am.”

Someone who’s less evolved than I am is someone who’s a bad person. Usually, our attention gets attracted to these people due to our own failure to have a very good memory about ourself.

[13:48] The Illusion of Good and Bad in Evolution

Evolution means that we evolve from a less sophisticated, less intelligent, less compassionate state to a more intelligent, more compassionate, more sophisticated state.

Now you’re in that slightly more sophisticated, more intelligent, more compassionate, more energetic state, and you may have lost your memory about how you once were prior to you arriving at such self-aggrandizement. And the you of today can’t remember the you of the past.

And for those of us who can only remember being little goody two shoes all the way back to being babies, let me remind you that the Vedic worldview takes us beyond one individual life, and asserts the concept that there were many lives that came before this life. Many lives lived.

And who is to say that you weren’t one of those ignoramuses back in those days who was not yet the sophisticated you that you are today? Not yet the compassionate you that you are today? Not yet the highly intelligent, broad-minded one that you are today?

And so all of those who are in that category of being a so-called bad person, they’re those people who are also evolving, they’re also evolving. Their evolution may be slow relative to others, and their evolution may be behind yours as assessed by you.

And what are these good things that are happening to them? Like you, they’re being led from one event to the next event in aid of the process of evolution, but their lives will not be without challenge. And when anyone’s life is met with a challenge, the only thing to do is to rise above the challenge.

[15:54] Lotus Flower – From Mud to Magnificence

There’s a beautiful story in the Vedas of the lotus flower. Lotus flowers are given an enormous amount of attention. A lotus, for those of you who’ve never seen a photo of one or, have never seen a live one, it’s something like a lily, a lily that sits on a lily pad in a lily pond.

But if you put that lily on steroids, as it were, as we say, and turn it into something with hundreds of petals and perhaps three or four times the size, and with a vast variety of pastel hues and colors and bright effulgence, then you have a lotus.

The lotus is the queen of all the lilies in the water lily family. And yet the lotus flower, floating as it does beautifully on the lotus pond, nonetheless, if we follow the root structure from the lotus, there’s a stem that goes all the way down, and the stem is in the mud. All lotus flowers emerge from mud and become lotuses.

Though beautiful on the surface, beautiful to look at, beautiful in every way, the lotus represents for us the memory that each of us is rooted in a less sophisticated state. We came from less sophisticated states into whatever state that we’re in now.

So sometimes when we are considering why good things happen to bad people, we need to think something about our own evolution from having been a less desirable person than we are today.

And why is it that bad things happen to good people? We need to realize that it’s an opportunity for us to rise above challenges. And to take an exemplary approach to meeting those things that we prefer not to happen, but which when we rise above them, something even better happens. Something evolutionary happens.

This is our take on that from the Vedic worldview. Jai Guru Deva.

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