Why Bad Things Happen Even To Good People

Why do bad things happen even to good people? Why is there so much suffering in the world?

Religions are hard-pressed to find a convincing answer to these questions because the existence of evil, suffering and pain in our ‘lived life’ is incompatible with the omnipotent, omniscient and completely benevolent notion of God. If the creator of the universe has all positive virtues and no negative attributes then there connot be any evil or suffering in the world.

Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, has articulated the dilemma: “If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is not omnipotent; if he is able but not willing, he is not benevolent; if he is both able and willing whence cone evil?”

Some theologians tried to unsuccessfully solve the riddle of evil by glorifying suffering: “Suffering is not always a misfortune. It often helps us to grow. In the depths of sorrow we receive light”; “Suffering is not punishment but the prize of fellowship. It is an accompaniment of all creative endeavour”; “Suffering takes us to the centre of things and away from trivialities of life”.

These unsatisfactory answers have led philosophers like Nietzsche to reject the conception of God as the creator of the universe and conclude, “The Christian conception of God….. is one of the most corrupt conceptions God arrived at; perhaps it represents the low-water mark in the descending development of the God-type. God degenerated to the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration”.

Because of the inadequacy of solutions to the problem of evil many have used it to argue for the non-existence of God. InSumma Theologica, St Aquinas wrote: “If of two contrary things one were to exist without limit the other would be totally eliminated. But God is something good without limit. So, if God were to have existed no evil would have been encountered. But evil is encountered in the world. Therefore, God does not exist”.

The doctrine of karma offers a satisfactory solution to the riddle of suffering. According to it, God’s creative act is in conformity with the law of karma. Though He is omnipotent, and can violate the law of karma, He does not do so because that would be inconsistent with His moral nature and violate of the principle of natural justice.

The Mundaka Upanishad explains creation with the allegory of different seed sown in the earth. Just as sown seeds yield according to their kind, different plants and trees in turn yield different kinds of fruits and medicines. Just as the earth does not in any way interfere in the process of the growth of each seed, God also puts human beings in different positions according to their nature and karmas. God is not responsible for the evil, suffering and pain. Evil as well as good, are the outcome of one’s own karmas of three types: Sanchita Karmas, accumulated actions (from past lives as well as in this life) whose fruits have yet to be reaped; Prarabdha karmas, the karmas which have started yielding results; and Agami Karmas, the future actions. Of these it isposible to avoid the consequences of Sanchita karmas and abstain from Agami karmas through religious practices and sadhana. But one cannot escape the consequences of Prarabdha karmas which have become operative. We have to live with the negative or positive outcome operative. We have to live with the negative or positive outcome of these karmas. We alone, and not God, are responsible for the outcome.


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