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Articles: Philosophy
Saint vs Divine
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Saint vs Divine Incarnation and Physical illness

There is a wrong notion in some people's minds that a real saint must not suffer any physical illness or mental pain. Their notion is based on the supposition that the saint, being perfect, must not suffer like other people. But many genuine saints have been seen to go through a lot of physical and mental suffering in their lives. The saying, 'A saint has a past, and a sinner a future,' may explain why a saint suffers in this life. The saint must have done some bad deeds in one or more of his past lives. He is working out the effect of those deeds in this life in the form of physical or mental suffering. Even though spiritually illumined now, he still must work out his prarabdha karma until the force of that karma is exhausted. According to the doctrine of karma, when a person becomes a saint by having the ultimate spiritual experience, all his sanchita or accumulated karma is, as it were, burnt to ashes. But he cannot get rid of his prarabdha karma until his death. Hinduism uses a beautiful analogy to explain this. A hunter has his quiver full of arrows. These arrows are his sanchita or 'accumulated' karma. He takes an arrow from his quiver, puts it in his bow, and shoots it. The arrow shot by him is his prarabdha karma. Once the arrow is released from his bow he does not have any more control over it. It keeps on going through the air and drops to the ground when its energy is completely exhausted. Prarabdha karma is like the arrow over which the hunter does not have any more control. Prarabdha karma creates a man's body and goes on bringing pleasure and pain until all its karmic force is exhausted, and then the body dies. Even saints are not exempted from this process. There is, however, an exception to this rule. A Divine Incarnation is never controlled by the forces of karma, nor is his body caused by any prarabdha karma. God, in order to incarnate on earth in human form, creates an earthly body for Himself through His inscrutable magical power or maya and enters into it. By His maya He gives others the impression that He is born of human parents. Out of compassion for His creatures who take refuge in Him, He absorbs their sins or bad karma in His earthly body, and suffers on their behalf. He works out their bad prarabdha karma to give them relief and salvation. Neither does a Divine Incarnation generate any karmaphala for whatever he does during his earthly existence.

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