Problem of Evil

Certain questions always seem to surface. With regards to the existence of God, a popular one is the problem evil: ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ The Greek philosopher Epikouros, succinctly summarises the contention. Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? If so, it would jeopardise His omnipotence and strength. Is God able to prevent evil but not willing? Is so, it would challenge His all-compassionate nature. If God is neither willing nor able to prevent suffering, could you really call Him God? So the question remains as to how suffering can coexist with the notion of a compassionate, all-knowing and all-powerful God.

The Vedic teachings approach this dilemma by broadening our perspectives. The scriptures introduce the concepts of Karma and Reincarnation, positing the idea that this life is merely a chapter of existence, and our situation is ultimately a reaction to our activities in past lives. Our experiences in this life (both positive and negative) are meant to educate us about the nature of this world and our deeper purpose here. Experiences are meant for our spiritual evolution and growth, and sometimes that education may come in the form of distress and pain.

Children are often eager to touch different objects of interest, many of them quite dangerous. Once, a mother who was observing her child repeatedly trying to touch a moving fan used an ingenious technique to educate him. She turned the fan off, and when it was still moving fast enough to cause some pain, but slow enough to avoid any permanent damage, she allowed the child to put his hand in the fan and be hit. Feeling the pain, the child resolved never to do repeat the act, but simultaneously all his fingers remained intact! Similarly, karmic pain and suffering helps to educate us without permanently damaging us. The soul (the self) is ultimately beyond the body and the mind and never becomes scarred by the misfortunes of this world. These concepts are not meant to blame people for their own suffering or justify someone’s pain, but rather help us approach life’s challenges with a deeper perspective in mind. As one introspects and reflects in hard times, rather than blaming others or slipping into dejection and hopelessness, one will experience amazing insight into the spiritual reality.

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