Recently, more than 100 children were massacred by the terrorists in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. The entire world was appalled by the merciless killing of such innocent souls. One of my friends posted on his facebook wall:
“If there is a God, how can he let this happen?”
Not very indirectly, it meant that God doesn’t exist because if he existed, he wouldn’t have allowed such macabre event to happen.
The crime is increasing throughout the world. We hear people getting murdered, women getting raped, people dying from starvation, and other completely unwanted events happening across the world. We, then, wonder if there is an all-powerful loving being, then why he doesn’t rescue the victims. How can he let such things happen?
Unable to find any satisfactory answers to these questions, some of us conclude that God does not exist, as my facebook friend was alluding to.
Before, I attempt an answer to the title question, let me ask a couple of questions:
In our image of an ideal God, would he be judgmental or non-judgmental?
Secondly, in our image of an ideal God, would he grant us freedom or force us to behave in a certain way?
Give us freedom. Right?
The good thing is that we have a non-judgmental God, who grants us complete freedom to create our lives the way we want.
The bad thing is that given our freedom, we have created the world as it is – a world of appalling inequality, a world of insecurity, a world where children are being massacred, a world of nuclear weapons, a world where women are not safe.
And now, we choose to lay the blame back on God for not interfering in our affairs. On one hand, we ask for freedom and on other hand, we ask him to interfere.
Now, one may say here that freedom should be taken away from those who can commit such horrendous acts. It would lead to a better world, one may argue.
The thing here is that God is non-judgmental. So, he does not judge you or the entire world. He lets us create the world the way we want, without judging it to be good or bad.
In the absence of any bad judgment, he will obviously not interfere. Besides, if we ask him to take away the freedom from people who commit such horrendous acts, who will define “horrendous”? Some may define “not always following one’s parents” as horrendous. Then, almost all of us would lose our freedom, and freedom means life.
I am not trying to defend God here. The point I am trying to make is that we don’t need to discount the existence of God just because we are not able to answer some questions.
I believe rather than asking questions and even doubting the existence of God, we would be much better off if we all start thinking of ways and acting to solve the problems we are facing. But I think we prefer intellectual debates and facebook discussions over real problem-solving.
Coming back to the question – why bad things happen if there is God?
Let me take this question on an individual level and rephrase it as:
Why do we suffer if there is a loving all-powerful God?
The simple answer is that by the law of the universe “As you sow so shall you reap”, we reap what we sow. Given that God has given us the freedom to sow anything (create our destinies the way we want), if we sow seeds that bear sorrow and suffering, then we’ll need to suffer.
Now, one may ask “what are the seeds that bear sorrow and suffering?”
The answer can be found in the purpose of suffering.
The purpose of suffering is to bring us closer to our true self or God. Rather, it is said that the universe always creates the best conditions at every moment for us to connect with our true self. If we are not willing to grow towards our true self and are lost in the temporary sensual pleasures, then the universe will bring us suffering in order to push us towards the real joy of our true self. It may seem contradictory or strange that the universe gives us suffering so that we can be more joyful. But that is what the message of Gurbani is. And if you think from the overall understanding of yourself and God, there is no other reason for you to suffer.
A short story I heard from Osho might be worth sharing here:
A person met a Sadhu and asked for his blessings.
The Sadhu asked him to go a mile in the north direction and dig up the earth.
The person went and dug up the earth. He found a coal mine. For the next one year, he sold the coal from the mine and became rich.
After one year, he went back to the Sadhu.
The Sadhu asked him to go a mile even further and dig up the earth.
The person was hesitant now. He was happy with the money he was making and wasn’t interested in making more efforts. However, when asked by the Sadhu again, he agreed to do so. He then went and dug up the earth. He found a silver mine. For the next one year, he sold the silver from the mine and became much richer.
After one year, he went back to Sadhu again.
Initially, the Sadhu scolded him for not understanding his clues. The Sadhu then asked him to go a mile even further from the silver mine and dig up the earth.
The person agreed to Sadhu but with even more resistance. When he went and dug up the earth, this time he found a gold mine. Then, for the next one year, he sold the gold from the mine and became extremely rich.
After one year, thinking that he can’t get richer, he went back to the Sadhu.
The Sadhu was impatient this time with the person. The Sadhu gave him an earful as to why he wasn’t understanding his clues. He then asked him to go a mile even further from the gold mine and dig up the earth.
When the person went and dug up the earth, he found a diamond mine this time. His riches knew no bounds now. For several years, he didn’t visit the Sadhu.
Then, one day, he thought of expressing his gratitude to the Sadhu, and he went to the Sadhu.
Seeing him, the Sadhu said, “You’ll never understand. You always need to be coaxed into growth. If you had travelled a mile further from the diamond mine, you’d have reached my Ashram, where you get the real wealth.”
The problem with us is that whatever level of joy we reach, we think that there cannot exist more joy, and we stop growing. Then, the nature has to coax us into action. To push us to grow and reach a more joyful state, the nature may resort to use temporary suffering. All suffering is temporary unless we use our free will to make it permanent by focusing on the same thing over and over again.
Actually, the problem with us is even more vicious than getting stuck at a level of joy. The problem with us is that we are seeking joy outside in the form of possessions, money, fame etc. Gurbani says:
I see people abandoning their passions to pursue jobs which pay them more. By consciously rejecting joy in favour of more money or fame or social status, aren’t we deliberately calling suffering into our lives?
I see people spending lesser and lesser time with their families to do jobs that demand a lot of time. By consciously rejecting joy in favour of more money or fame or social status, aren’t we deliberately calling suffering into our lives?
I see people cheating others, slandering others, bootlicking others, using evil means – all to get more money. By acting against our true nature of virtues and love, aren’t we deliberately inviting suffering into our lives?
It is really ironic and sad to see how we intellectual and intelligent people consciously make choices and commit acts that can only bring misery into our lives. And then when misery strikes, we curse others and run after more money or fame.