It is a pet theme of western athiests and westernised Hindus to point out that the presence of evil in this world is not compatible with a loving creator. How can a loving, all powerful God, allow thousands of people to die for no fault of their own?
I would like to show that while this argument is a potent weapon against Christian theology, it fails against the Hindu Darshanas.
HINDU DARSHANAS ON CREATOR
Hindu Darshanas do not say that our universe has been created by God. Even Hindu monothiests like the Vaishnavas reject any such claim. The universe is anadi or exists permanently. It is sometimes actually present and sometimes exists only in a seed state. So the western athiest argument of incompatibility between a loving creator and an evil creation fails since there is no creator.
ORIGIN OF EVIL
You might still ask as to the origin of evil. Where does evil come from? Doesn't the presence of evil in the world taint God or Brahman? Since Brahman is all according to Advaita Darshana, doesn't the evil in this world taint Brahman? The answer is that although evil is contained in Brahman, Brahman is not affected by it. The closest analogy is that of a snake. A snake contains poison but is unaffected by it.
BRAHMAN AND HUMAN MISERY
One can then raise the following objection: isn't Brahman responsible for human misery if evil is contained in Brahman? The answer is a resounding No.
The argument runs as follows:
Gita 5.14 says:
"In regard to all beings in this world, the sovereign soul is not the cause of agency, nor of actions, nor of the fruition of actions. It is Nature that does all this. "
It is our contact with nature, both animate and inanimate, that is the cause of suffering. Brahman is egoless and is not the cause of agency or action.
REASON FOR OUR SUFFERING
So why do we suffer?
Gita 2.14 says about this:
"Contact of the senses with their object generates cold and heat, pleasure and pain. They come and go, being impermanent. Bear with them patiently, O scion of the Bharata race!"
The world contains both good and bad men, both good and bad things. This is because the world is an expression of Maya Shakti, both Vidya and Avidya, of Brahman. (Vidya Maya leads man to Sattva while Avidya Maya leads man to Tamasa state.) Contact of our senses with this world will consequently yield both pleasure and pain. This is the nature of the world. We have a choice. We can remain here and uselessly worry about the problem of evil or we can purify our mind, know Brahman, and escape this life of both pleasure and pain. We suffer because we are ignorant of the Divine Spirit and choose to remain in this world.
Gita 5.15 says on this issue:
"The all-pervading Being does not accept the sins or merits of any one. Knowledge of the Divine Spirit is veiled in ignorance, and therefore beings are deluded."
THE WAY OUT OF SUFFERING
To sum up, this world of ours contains both good and evil. Since this world has not been created by God, one can't blame God for evil. It is not God but nature that creates horrors like tsunamis. Humans suffer because they choose freely to live in a world that contains evil. So even though Brahman contains evil, one can't blame Brahman for our plight. It is our freely chosen wish to stay in this world that leads to suffering. So is there a way out? Yes, there is a way out! The way out is to know the Divine Spirit by purifying our mind and thus be free from this world of pleasure and pain.
More posts by this author:
- The problem of evil in Hindu thought
- An outline of Hindu dharma
- Who is right, Sankaracharya or Ramanuja?
- Science and religion in Indic traditions don’t Conflict
- The illusory universe and its purpose
I did my school, college and parts of my University education in Kolkata. I got my M.Sc degree from Kolkata University. I went to USA in 1979 and got my M.S and Ph.D in Physics from University of Pittsburgh in 1984. I did my Post Doctorate in University of Southern California, Los Angeles and then worked as a Research Scientist in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Space Sciences Center of University of Southern California. My scientific work includes heavy ion-atom scattering, multiphoton ionization and heliosphere data analysis of Pioneer 10/111 and Voyager 1/2 deep space spacecaft and analysis of solar extreme ultraviolet data obtained from SOHO spacecraft. I have been a National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA) Principal Investigator from 2002 – 2007. I have been a member of a NASA awards committee to decide allocation of money to different scientists. I have also refereed scientific articles submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research and Astrophysical Journal.