Some people are retarded because they have done something wrong in a previous life; it is the law of karma. But others are retarded simply because they have been attacked and now they are helpless. That is to say, in some cases a person has violated the cosmic law; in some cases the person has not violated any law but undivine cosmic forces have attacked him.

If someone has done something wrong, then he will meet with the consequences: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. In the case of mental retardation, the punishment is the person’s lack of progress. Time is a factor. If one is prevented from making progress, is this not punishment? It is like this: a child is running a fifty-yard dash and someone prevents him from finishing. The actual punishment is that he is delayed, for eventually he will run and touch his goal.

A retarded person doesn’t even know what his punishment is. Here the cosmic forces are kind; they hide the good things. Here, “good” means things that will tempt him, things that others enjoy, but he cannot; otherwise, his suffering would be beyond his capacity, beyond his imagination. He would be terribly frustrated. It is like an operation. Sometimes, you know, it is necessary for a doctor to make some part of you numb or senseless before an operation. Doctors use chloroform or something else, because that is the only way a person will be able to undergo a very serious operation. If they didn’t use chloroform, then there would be too much pain for that particular person to bear. So the person has to be lifeless. If life were there, he would create a scene.

We have to know that the real soul is not unhappy, but at some point the vital has captured the soul. It is like the vibration in a house. Although this house may have a good soul, the vibration of the house may be ruined. If the vital comes and ruins the vibration of the being, then the soul’s capacity remains fast asleep. The soul cannot do anything with its potential. When we say the soul is sad, we mean that the vital has taken possession of the soul and covered the possibilities of the soul. It is like the sun when the sky is dark and raining; the soul is eclipsed. When the sun is covered by clouds and is not performing its usual function, what good is it to us at that time?

Again, there is always something to pick a person up and carry him to his destination after he has been wounded and that something is Grace, Compassion. A retarded person may come back deaf, blind or crippled, or he may be retarded again in his next life — a crippled soldier of the Divine. But with the Grace of a spiritual Master, a retarded person can come back as a normal person. If Grace intervenes the law of karma has to surrender to evolution. We are evolving when we consciously or unconsciously are doing the right thing. But if we do something seriously wrong, our progress stops there and we are caught by wrong forces that take us away from the path of Truth. Eventually though, we have to follow the path of Truth because deep inside us is the soul, the sea of Truth.

It can happen on rare occasions that if a person has a very large heart, he may take incarnation with a serious defect such as retardation in order to lessen someone else’s bad karma. If the mother has done something very wrong and the daughter is most kind and sympathetic, the daughter may say, “Let me take it,” or they will each take half. If the mother has to suffer, say, for twenty years, in that case the daughter may take ten years of it and the mother will only have to suffer ten years.

The soul may or may not have the consent of the Supreme to do this, because the soul doesn’t ask the Supreme’s permission for every little thing. In the case of the soul, the lifetime during which it takes on the karma is just like a minute in the Supreme’s Eye, so the Supreme doesn’t interfere. This experience, according to the Supreme, is not even as much as a pinch in the soul’s life, although for us it may be unbearable.