If there is really any God and if it is really true that He is all merciful and compassionate as scriptures eulogize Him, then why on earth are there so many painful and incongruous things happening at all times — children and parents suffering from famine in some countries, little children getting raped, tortured and abused, animals suffering under cruelty of man, religions encouraging herd mentality in their followers, existence of glaring inconsistencies and inequalities in creation and so on?
This was the question raised in one of the Hubpages discussion forums, by a lady with a very soft heart who had been pained by many such realities of the world . She was wondering whether there is really any God; if one were to be there, would He ever allow all these glaringly painful goings-on?
There are a couple of different ways in which these anomalies and doubts can be analysed and answers found.
Is God all merciful?
A) God-as-a-Loving-mother approach
When you are a very little girl, let’s assume you pinched your little younger brother out of contempt, out of sibling rivalry, not because of any omission or commission of his, but because you were angry that your mother loves him and cuddles him more than you.
When your mother comes to know of it, if she is a level headed woman, she will understand the reason, be patient with you and explain why you should not do such things. If you have a good heart that can understand, you will know immediately that what you did is wrong. Or your mother may warn you severely on your act and advice you not to behave like this in future.
If you happen to repeat such acts in the future knowingly or unknowingly, she may smack you at the back and warn you of more severe punishment if you don’t behave.
Now analyze the above in detail. There are three different ways you may react:
1) You may be endowed with a good heart that understands why what you did was wrong and you will not repeat it again.
2) You may understand what is wrong with you, know that it’s bad, but at some other occasion when your heart sinks to a lower level, out of an emotional an spurt, you may do the mischief again on your little brother.
3) You may not be willing to listen to any logic behind your act and your mother’s advice or warning and continue to repeat your vicious acts of vengeance in future, with increased degree of hatred. As your brother grows up, he too may start retaliating, thereby a sibling rivalry may grow to a lifelong contempt between a sister and a brother.
Now think of your mother. Whatever be your mode of negative behavior, is you mother going to dislike you and disown you? Will she not always try to reason with you, at times give punishment to you, at times act too magnanimous with you, at times get too angry with you –but will she not, as a mother, continue to love you and be concerned with your moral well being?
That’s the same thing with God. All of us are God’s children — be the doer of a heinous crime or the sufferer of the crime.
Just as a mother, God loves both the categories and his concern is only the right moral conduct and gradual evolution of all. He knows some of his children are good and some are bad. He knows that he cannot totally wash his hand off from his bad children.
We must also understand that the creation is too large, the canvas is too big, the children are too many, the acts of crimes are too varied, and the time period of God’s delivery of justice and consolation to the affected children or punishing the mischievous children is too wide for scrutiny by others who see “only a small duration of a very long movie.”
Hinduism states that this “long movie” is not confined to one birth. The “cause and effect” cycle goes on and on across several births. God’s way of consoling the affected and punishing the wicked has got its humanly incomprehensible time scale.
As an erring child, you may not be sure when your mother may behave soft with you or act tough with you. At times, you will expect your mother to beat you, but she may leave you with a warning. At times, for an insignificant mischief done by you, your mother may flare up and beat you disproportionately.
When such unpredictability exists with a human mother, why not it be so with the Universal Mother, the God? But, what looks to be unpredictable to you, may be very intentional in God’s scheme of things, because, he knows what’s best.
Hinduism calls all these unpredictability of creation as Maya. The act versus the fruits of act is dealt with in detail by Karma theory by Hinduism.
In a nutshell, an ordinary man cannot sit in judgment about God with his limited intellect. A finite scale cannot measure the infinite.
Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) – loving and serving one and all with no discrimination – be a saint or a sinner.
B) God as the Divine Player with Dualities
According to Hinduism, the whole creation and all that’s going on in it is a sort of divine play (lila) of God. Going still deeper, how did creation come into being? you need a raw material to create anything and that raw material too must have been created earlier out of something by somebody! Since all that can be created could come only from God, it leads to the fact that it is God who became the creation. “The created (Shritshi) as the creator (Shirshta) are not two different entities” says Mata Amritanandamayi, explaining the core Advaita (non-duality) philosophy of Hinduism.
The unique aspect of creation, which is part and parcel of God’s maya, is the existence of mutually conflicting dualities — Day and night, light and darkness, good and evil, health and sickness, laugh and cry, sweet and bitterness, pleasure and pain, selfishness and sacrifice, violence and forbearance, truth and falsehood and so on. In God’s divine play, all these will always be there, but he transcends both. He is not affected by any of their conflicts. “”Atmospheric air carries good smell and bad smell, but is not affected by both” – says Sri Ramakrishna to explain this.
Why should it be so? Why should God be playing jugglery with all these conflicts? Hinduism says that there is no answer to it. It cannot be comprehended from human point of view. If you have to comprehend it you should look it from the point of view of God and in order to get that view, you should become God!
But one thing is clear; knowingly or unknowingly, we all want good rather than bad; we want joy and not woe. We want to enjoy rather than suffer. Misguided and morally degraded people may choose evil to goodness, violence to forbearance and opt to give pain to others than pleasure — because they seem to derive some joy out of their lopsided behavior — till they end up facing the consequent punishments for their evil ways. We can safely say that such people are in the minority.
Sri Ramakrishna explains that the negative-halves in all these dualities are indeed needed to understand and choose the “better half” for good. Without darkness, how can you understand the glory of light? Without pain, how can you know the benefit of pleasure? Without knowing how bitterness tastes, how can you grasp the joy of tasting sweet? Without grasping what is adharma(unrighteousness), how will you know the benefit of dharma? Without undergoing hunger, how can you feel the satisfaction of a filled stomach?
So the evils exist only to glorify the good. Reject the evil and follow the good for the sake of your well being. That’s why the conflicting dualities exist in God’s creation, according to Hinduism.
Related reading: Understanding the concept of Karma in Hinduism
Understanding relationship between health and religion