Below we have compiled many verses, mostly from Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita for understanding why "good and bad" things happen to us, and more specifically how each of us individually reacts to such events as devotees or Vaisnavas. The ultimate goal of all action, according to our philosophy is to only act for the satisfaction of God, or Krishna, and in that way no personal karma is generated. OK, here we go….
O greatest among human beings, it is very difficult to ascertain the particular miscreant who has caused our sufferings, because we are bewildered by all the different opinions of theoretical philosophers.
There are many theoretical philosophers in the world who put forward their own theories of cause and effect especially about the cause of suffering and its effect on different living beings. Generally there are six great philosophers: Kanada, the author of Vaisesika philosophy; Gautama, the author of logic; Patanjali, the author of mystic yoga; Kapila, the author of Sankhya philosophy; Jaimini, the author of Karma-mimamsa; and Vyasadeva, the author of Vedanta-darsana.
Although the bull, or the personality of religion, and the cow, the personality of the earth, knew perfectly well that the personality of Kali was the direct cause of their sufferings, still, as devotees of the Lord, they knew well also that without the sanction of the Lord no one could inflict trouble upon them. According to the Padma Purana, our present trouble is due to the fructifying of seedling sins, but even those seedling sins also gradually fade away by execution of pure devotional service. Thus even if the devotees see the mischief-mongers, they do not accuse them for the sufferings inflicted. They take it for granted that the mischief-monger is made to act by some indirect cause, and therefore they tolerate the sufferings, thinking them to be God-given in small doses, for otherwise the sufferings should have been greater.
Maharaja Pariksit wanted to get a statement of accusation against the direct mischief-monger, but they declined to give it on the abovementioned grounds. Speculative philosophers, however, do not recognize the sanction of the Lord; they try to find out the cause of sufferings in their own way, as will be described in the following verses. According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, such speculators are themselves bewildered, and thus they cannot know that the ultimate cause of all causes is the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead.
Some of the philosophers, who deny all sorts of duality, declare that one's own self is responsible for his personal happiness and distress. Others say that superhuman powers are responsible, while yet others say that activity is responsible, and the gross materialists maintain that nature is the ultimate cause.
As referred to above, philosophers like Jaimini and his followers establish that fruitive activity is the root cause of all distress and happiness, and that even if there is a superior authority, some superhuman powerful God or gods, He or they are also under the influence of fruitive activity because they reward result according to one's action. They say that action is not independent because action is performed by some performer; therefore, the performer himself is the cause of his own happiness or distress. In the Bhagavad-gita (6.5) also it is confirmed that by one's mind, freed from material affection, one can deliver himself from the sufferings of material pangs. So one should not entangle oneself in matter by the mind's material affections. Thus one's own mind is one's friend or enemy in one's material happiness and distress.
Atheistic, materialistic Sankhyaites conclude that material nature is the cause of all causes. According to them, combinations of material elements are the causes of material happiness and distress, and disintegration of matter is the cause of freedom from all material pangs. Gautama and Kanada find that atomic combination is the cause of everything, and impersonalists like Astavakra discover that the spiritual effulgence of Brahman is the cause of all causes. But in the Bhagavad-gita the Lord Himself declares that He is the source of impersonal Brahman, and therefore He, the Personality of Godhead, is the ultimate cause of all causes. It is also confirmed in the Brahma-samhita that Lord Krishna is the ultimate cause of all causes.
There are also some thinkers who believe that no one can ascertain the cause of distress by argumentation, nor know it by imagination, nor express it by words. O sage amongst kings, judge for yourself by thinking over all this with your own intelligence.
The Vaisnavites, the devotees of the Lord, do believe, as above explained, that nothing can take place without the sanction of the Supreme Lord. He is the supreme director, for He confirms in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) that He, as all-pervading Paramatma, stays in everyone's heart and keeps vigilance over all actions and witnesses all activities. The argument of the atheist that one cannot be punished for one's misdeeds unless proved before a qualified justice is refuted herein, for we accept the perpetual witness and constant companion of the living being. A living being may forget all that he might have done in his past or present life, but one must know that in the same tree of the material body, the individual soul and the Supreme Soul as Paramatma are sitting like two birds. One of them, the living being, is enjoying the fruits of the tree, whereas the Supreme Being is there to witness the activities. Therefore the Paramatma feature, the Supreme Soul, is actually the witness of all activities of the living being, and only by His direction can the living being remember or forget what he might have done in the past. He is, therefore, both the all-pervading impersonal Brahman and the localized Paramatma in everyone's heart. He is the knower of all past, present and future, and nothing can be concealed from Him. The devotees know this truth, and therefore they discharge their duties sincerely, without being overly anxious for rewards. Besides that, one cannot estimate the Lord's reactions, either by speculation or by scholarship. Why does He put some into difficulty and not others? ….
The King (Pariksit) said: O you, who are in the form of a bull! You know the truth of religion, and you are speaking according to the principle that the destination intended for the perpetrator of irreligious acts is also intended for one who identifies the perpetrator. You are no other than the personality of religion.
A devotee's conclusion is that no one is directly responsible for being a benefactor or mischief-monger without the sanction of the Lord; therefore he does not consider anyone to be directly responsible for such action. But in both the cases he takes it for granted that either benefit or loss is God-sent, and thus it is His grace. In case of benefit, no one will deny that it is God-sent, but in case of loss or reverses one becomes doubtful about how the Lord could be so unkind to His devotee as to put him in great difficulty.
Jesus Christ was seemingly put into such great difficulty, being crucified by the ignorant, but he was never angry at the mischief-mongers. That is the way of accepting a thing, either favorable or unfavorable. Thus for a devotee the identifier is equally a sinner, like the mischief-monger. By God's grace, the devotee tolerates all reverses.
Maharaja Pariksit observed this, and therefore he could understand that the bull was no other than the personality of religion himself. In other words, a devotee has no suffering at all because so-called suffering is also God's grace for a devotee who sees God in everything. The cow and bull never placed any complaint before the King for being tortured by the personality of Kali, although everyone lodges such complaints before the state authorities. The extraordinary behavior of the bull made the King conclude that the bull was certainly the personality of religion, for no one else could understand the finer intricacies of the codes of religion.
Now what follows is what happens to "mischief mongers"…
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa cites the following quotation from Skanda Purana concerning the blaspheming of a Vaisnava: In this conversation between Markandeya and Bhagiratha, it is said: "My dear King, if one derides an exalted devotee, he loses the results of his pious activities, his opulence, his reputation and his sons. Vaisnavas are all great souls. Whoever blasphemes them falls down to the hell known as Maharaurava. He is also accompanied by his forefathers. Whoever kills or blasphemes a Vaisnava and whoever is envious of a Vaisnava or angry with him, or whoever does not offer him obeisances or feel joy upon seeing a Vaisnava, certainly falls into a hellish condition."
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa (10.314) also gives the following quotation from Dvaraka-mahatmya: In a conversation between Prahlada Maharaja and Bali Maharaja, it is said, "Those sinful people who blaspheme Vaisnavas, who are all great souls, are subjected very severely to the punishment offered by Yamaraja." In the Bhakti-sandarbha (313) there is a statement concerning the blaspheming of Lord Visnu. "One who criticizes Lord Visnu and His devotees loses all the benefits accrued in a hundred pious births. Such a person rots in the Kumbhipaka hell and is bitten by worms as long as the sun and moon exist. One should therefore not even see the face of a person who blasphemes Lord Visnu and His devotees. Never try to associate with such persons." In his Bhakti-sandarbha (265), Jiva Gosvami further quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.74.40): "If one does not immediately leave upon hearing the Lord or the Lord's devotee blasphemed, he falls down from devotional service." Similarly, Lord Siva's wife Sati states in Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.4.17): "If one hears an irresponsible person blaspheme the master and controller of religion, he should block his ears and go away if unable to punish him. But if one is able to kill, then one should by force cut out the blasphemer's tongue and kill the offender, and after that he should give up his own life."
Ok, now that is pretty scary information about offending a devotee or Lord Vishnu. That should set a humble tone for the following discussion.
1.) “Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all sins.” (Bg. 4.16)
2.) A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping, and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them. (Bg. 5.8-9)
A person in Krishna consciousness is pure in his existence, and consequently he has nothing to do with any work which depends upon five immediate and remote causes: the doer, the work, the situation, the endeavor and fortune. This is because he is engaged in the loving transcendental service of Krishna. Although he appears to be acting with his body and senses, he is always conscious of his actual position, which is spiritual engagement. In material consciousness, the senses are engaged in sense gratification, but in Krishna consciousness the senses are engaged in the satisfaction of Krishna's senses. Therefore, the Krishna conscious person is always free, even though he appears to be engaged in things of the senses. Activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, evacuating, etc., are actions of the senses meant for work. A Krishna consciousness person is never affected by the actions of the senses. He cannot perform any act except in the service of the Lord because he knows that he is the eternal servitor of the Lord.
3.) The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature. (Bg. 3.27)
4.) The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature. (Bg. 5.14)
The living entity, as will be explained in the Seventh Chapter, is one in nature with the Supreme Lord, distinguished from matter, which is another nature – called inferior – of the Lord. Somehow, the superior nature, the living entity, has been in contact with material nature since time immemorial. The temporary body or material dwelling place which he obtains is the cause of varieties of activities and their resultant reactions. Living in such a conditional atmosphere, one suffers the results of the activities of the body by identifying himself (in ignorance) with the body. It is ignorance acquired from time immemorial that is the cause of bodily suffering and distress. As soon as the living entity becomes aloof from the activities of the body, he becomes free from the reactions as well. As long as he is in the city of body, he appears to be the master of it, but actually he is neither its proprietor nor controller of its actions and reactions. He is simply in the midst of the material ocean, struggling for existence. The waves of the ocean are tossing him, and he has no control over them. His best solution is to get out of the water by transcendental Krishna consciousness. That alone will save him from all turmoil.
5.) You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. (Bg. 2.47)
There are three considerations here: prescribed duties, capricious work, and inaction. Prescribed duties refer to activities performed while one is in the modes of material nature. Capricious work means actions without the sanction of authority, and inaction means not performing one's prescribed duties. The Lord advised that Arjuna not be inactive, but that he perform his prescribed duty without being attached to the result. One who is attached to the result of his work is also the cause of the action. Thus he is the enjoyer or sufferer of the result of such actions.
6.) Nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world. (Bg. 13.21)
The different manifestations of body and senses among the living entities are due to material nature. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and these varieties are the creation of the material nature. They arise from the different sensual pleasures of the living entity, who thus desires to live in this body or that. When he is put into different bodies, he enjoys different kinds of happiness and distress. His material happiness and distress are due to his body, and not to himself as he is. In his original state there is no doubt of enjoyment; therefore that is his real state. Because of the desire to lord it over material nature, he is in the material world. In the spiritual world there is no such thing. The spiritual world is pure, but in the material world everyone is struggling hard to acquire victims who present different pleasures to the body. It might be more clear to state that this body is the effect of the senses. The senses are instruments for gratifying desire. Now, the sum total – body and instrument senses – are offered by material nature, and, as will be clear in the next verse, the living entity is blessed or damned with circumstances according to his past desire and activity. According to one's desires and activities, material nature places one in various residential quarters. The being himself is the cause of his attaining such residential quarters and his attendant enjoyment or suffering. Once placed in some particular kind of body, he comes under the control of nature because the body, being matter, acts according to the laws of nature. At that time, the living entity has no power to change that law. Suppose an entity is put into the body of a dog. As soon as he is put into the body of a dog, he must act like a dog. He cannot act otherwise. And if the living entity is put into the body of a hog, then he is forced to eat stool and act like a hog. Similarly, if the living entity is put into the body of a demigod, he must act according to his body. This is the law of nature. But in all circumstances, the Supersoul is with the individual soul. That is explained in the Vedas as follows: dvasuparna sayuja sakhaya. The Supreme Lord is so kind upon the living entity that He always accompanies the individual soul and in all circumstances is present as the Supersoul or Paramatma.
7.) One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which is created of material nature, and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees. (Bg. 13.30)
This body is made by material nature under the direction of the Supersoul, and whatever activities are going on in respect to one's body are not his doing. Whatever one is supposed to do, either for happiness or for distress, one is forced to do because of the bodily constitution. The self, however, is outside all these bodily activities. This body is given according to one's past desires. To fulfill desires, one is given the body, with which he acts accordingly. Practically speaking, the body is a machine, designed by the Supreme Lord, to fulfill desires. Because of desires, one is put into difficult circumstances to suffer or to enjoy. This transcendental vision of the living entity, when developed, makes one separate from bodily activities. One who has such a vision is an actual seer.
8.) And that understanding which cannot distinguish between the religious way of life and the irreligious, between action that should be done and action that should not be done, that imperfect understanding, O son of Prtha, is in the mode of passion. (Bg. 18.31)
Intelligence in the mode of passion is always working perversely. It accepts religions which are not actually religions and rejects actual religion. All views and activities are misguided. Men of passionate intelligence understand a great soul to be a common man and accept a common man as a great soul. They think truth to be untruth and accept untruth as truth. In all activities they simply take the wrong path; therefore their intelligence is in the mode of passion.
Some conclusions: Let us review some of what has been stated above so that we can get a more clear understanding of what is actually going on in respect to each of us within our respective bodies, all the time.
1. A devotee's conclusion is that no one is directly responsible for being a benefactor or mischief-monger without the sanction of the Lord.
2. Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction.
3. A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping, and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. (Bg. 5.8-9)
4. A person in Krishna consciousness is pure in his existence, and consequently he has nothing to do with any work which depends upon five immediate and remote causes: the doer, the work, the situation, the endeavor and fortune.
5. A Krishna consciousness person is never affected by the actions of the senses.
6. The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature. (Bg. 3.27)
7. The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature. (Bg. 5.14)
8. The temporary body or material dwelling place which he obtains is the cause of varieties of activities and their resultant reactions. Living in such a conditional atmosphere, one suffers the results of the activities of the body by identifying himself (in ignorance) with the body.
9. As soon as the living entity becomes aloof from the activities of the body, he becomes free from the reactions as well. As long as he is in the city of body, he appears to be the master of it, but actually he is neither its proprietor nor controller of its actions and reactions. He is simply in the midst of the material ocean, struggling for existence.
10. You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. (Bg. 2.47)
11. Nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world. (Bg. 13.21)
12. When he is put into different bodies, he enjoys different kinds of happiness and distress. His material happiness and distress are due to his body, and not to himself as he is.
13. The being himself is the cause of his attaining such residential quarters and his attendant enjoyment or suffering.
14. One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which is created of material nature, and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees. (Bg. 13.30)
So this is quite a compilation of quotes, only from Bhagavad-gita in which Srila Prabhupada is explaining that this body we inhabit, does basically everything for us and to us. It digests the food we eat, totally unbeknown to us, it gives us illusory happiness and distress (these are completely foreign to the pure spirit soul, as spirit never mixes with matter), it creates a constant magic show to our consciousness thru imperfect senses in which we believe we are this or that human male or female body which belongs to such and such material family or such a race, was born in such a place, grew in another or the same place, developed "associates or friends" along the way, and has or is giving us at present so much happiness or distress. And none of the above is real in the same way watching a movie is also not real since it is only flickering beams of light upon some viewing screen. The movie can and will create emotion, like fear, love, hate, in the exact same way our senses present to us (the viewing soul within) the so called life that goes on outside our bodies as a daily affair. There was a movie once done by a Hollywood comic where he was put thru an entire series of life-like scenarios where he had some kind of wife, some kind of job, some place of residence, and while he was going about his daily "life" the whole thing was being generated by the movie makers behind the scenes – so in actuality none of what he thought was real, was real at all. It was only a very complicated movie set, but he was made to completely believe in it. The movie was called the Truman Story, starring Jim Carey. So how is this any different than what has been explained above in Bhagavad-gita?
The hero of the story (Jim Carey) finally figures it out one day by going behind one movie set that showed the ocean out in front of him, but was in reality just another illusion presented by the movie director.
This revelation he had is comparable to us when we finally realize we are not these bodies, but the consciousness within them. When that day comes, we will no longer be in illusion in that way, because once we know who we really are, as Srila Prabhupada so aptly states, the clutches of maya will no longer be an obstacle. It is a long road until that state of Krishna Consciousness arrives, but one important development upon that road is the above understanding of not identifying wrong doers with actions upon ourselves. When things happen to us, we have to understand it is coming initially from our own actions, with the Supreme Lord as Supersoul generating all the "movie sets" along the way.