Is God cruel?

posted in: English

By Sacinandana Swami

Recently I received a letter in which someone wrote: “I am struggling with the concept that Krishna fully loves the living entities. When I look at the way He deals with someone who does not surrender to His desires, it seems He is quite annoyed and punishes him with heavy circumstances like war, rape, death, doubts about the purpose of his life and many other sufferings. Is someone who creates cruel circumstances for all those who don’t do His will really full of unconditional love? Imagine someone who torments a friend severely, just because he decided to go separately on a holiday trip.”
I thought about this question deeply, and then answered, “This question was precisely my first and most urgent question to my own spiritual master. I asked him, “Why has God, whom you praise so much, created such a cruel world?’”
I received the answer: “Krishna has not created this world, you have.” This was so piercing that I almost felt a finger pointing at me with the accompanying words: “You, and nobody else, are responsible.”
After thinking about my guru’s answer for almost fifty years now, this is how I understand what he said: I must accept responsibility for creating this world – my own small world, and the world which surrounds me. Once I take responsibility and do not look for anyone else to do so, everything can turn around and be set right.
Srila Prabhupada heard my doubt, which in the past has turned many faithful people into atheists, and turned that very question into an opportunity for personal growth. This is the way of the sadhus.
Still, I have to admit that I too sometimes become desperate when I see the amount of negativity and evil spreading on a global scale. I am then confronted by my old question again.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, grandfather Bhisma brings a very important perspective to this question, which helps me in such times. Knowing well that the Lord cannot have an evil intention towards anyone, Bhisma addressed his grandsons, the Pandavas, while he was lying wounded and ready for death on the battlefield of Kurukshetra:
“All this is caused by the inconceivable plan of the Supreme Lord, who always does what is best for everyone, because He is equally kind to one and all.”
Who can understand that Supreme therapist and His long term plans? He may sometimes deem it best to send us pain, hardship, embitterment and disease. Because pain can sometimes make us wise, going through hardship cam make us kind to others, embitterment mild, and disease strong. Thus, adversity often deepens our understanding and widens our perspective so that we hear and see better. All this is seen in retrospect.
And who has a complete picture of all factors, which bring about a situation in life?
That the Lord has only the best intention can be seen by the fact that He has placed right into the center of all the negativity the most inconceivable possibilities for our lives. He has sent the devotees, revealed the Holy Name, given sacred scriptures like the Bhagavatam and manifested holy places and Deities. As if this is not enough, He has many times appeared as an avatara (Buddha, Rama, Nrsimha, etc.). And only five hundred years ago, He came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to distribute unconditional love for even those devoid of all spiritual practice. But maybe the greatest investment of His mercy is that He accompanies us always inside our hearts as the Supersoul, giving the right impulses, often without us deserving that very special loving attention. These possibilities are equally available to all, given by Krishna out of love for every living being, not only those who are already doing His will.
I always pray that I can recognize these extraordinary signs of Krishna’s mercy and help the maximum number of people to recognize the signposts in their lives.

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