Divine Creator and Human Suffering: The Problem of Evil in the Light of Sri Aurobindo

One can fully understand the space from which this question comes. When we look at this world in all its grim and sordid aspects (and there are plenty if we go down the lanes of history) then it is natural to blame it all on the Creator, to pass a summary judgment convicting the Divine without even trying to understand the reasons why the world is as it is. But this kind of superficial reaction, though understandable, neither helps us understand anything nor does it solve the problem for us. In this argument we are presuming three things, none of which is true.

First of all, we are presuming that God has created the world as a puppet show for fun, like some horror film, so he sits back, relaxes on some wonderful beach and watches the grim tale unfold. This is the Semitic conception of God who is cut off from creation except once when He sent His son to redeem humanity of its sin (which we do not even know). Our modern karmic theories influenced by these ideas of sin are like an enlarged version of this script. The only difference being that God comes several times and humanity sins through lives, and the sins are supposed to be redeemed through a strange dual justice, first a term in heaven or hell and next as a reward or punishment here in another life. Whatever may be the truth of the matter (and partial truths there always are) it cannot fully satisfy either human logic or our deeper sensibilities. The original Vedic conception is that God is not only above but pervades the worlds below.  Not only does He dwell in all beings but takes upon Himself their sorrow and pain constantly returning peace and joy and strength. It is perhaps that is why human beings continue to hope and dare and generally, exceptions apart, bounce back upon life. Where do they get this strength to fight and seek, this ability to pluck joy and love in the desert lands of life as some may call it? Thus seen we can at least spare God from the charges that He sits in His Bliss and watches the bad show indifferent to evil and pain. There are regions and states of Bliss and Peace to which we are called to share, and all are called to them, regardless of antecedents, but to dwell in that state one needs some preparation. Our pains and sufferings are unconscious preparations but we can equally make the journey happier and smoother. This is what yoga is about.

The second error is in believing that we are condemned forever. We can grow and be one with the inalienable bliss. God comes several times to show us the way, to bear the burden,  to carry us along with the least damage and suffering.  The history of our spiritual evolution is full of countless sages, saints, Avatars, all taking upon themselves the suffering of humanity to walk with wounded feet on behalf of God, as His representatives, and sometimes,  even He Himself comes down as the Avatar and suffers in a human form.  But the report goes that man always refuses to listen. Rather he resists or turns the whole thing into a fixed formal religion that institutionalizes God shutting off His tireless Grace and replacing it with human laws that even God must follow.  But if He prefers Grace and Love over justice then too we convict Him with being partial and unfair. All that happens is only to spur us towards our own highest state. Just as a mother lets her children take up the challenges, face failures and defeats, even as some warrior women of old, let their brave children face death rather than live facing ignominy of cowardice so too the Divine lets us pass through the purifying furnace of hell to make us grow into godlike strength.  You may say that what about the many dying en masse? One answer is that through this sacrifice they too are being prepared to come out of en mass state to an individual stage of development. The soul does take a leap (as indeed all of us do) when we pass through extreme adversity. The danger is always followed by a wager that we deserve. To have all our problems solved and sorted out by God’s magical wand with no struggle or effort means no evolution but a robotic mechanical stone-like humanity if we can even call that human. That is what happens to children who are provided with the best material conditions.  They have all the outer comforts but very little inner riches. Evolution cannot be like magic. It will involve steps and processes like a jigsaw puzzle for being a qualifier in the game. While God pours all His energy and force of Love the one who must evolve should be strong and supple and wide to receive,  contain and utilize it wisely. Man often misuses thrice the dose of God’s gift or else breaks down with pride. Hence the long delay.

The third and most fallacious, even dangerous assumption is that human suffering is only physical,  as if hunger, poverty etc. are the only things man lives for and if these are eradicated by some magic, all will be well.  But a closer and deeper look will show us that the truth is otherwise.  Men whose hungers are fully and more than fully appeased get into the booby trap of endless greed. Well, some may be content with this animal-like state but most human beings are not. Surely hunger must be appeased, degradation of women (rape is only an extreme example or consequence of men treating women as pleasure objects) must go and if we take a look at the facts we will see that human beings are slowly changing and rejecting all this evil stuff.

True, a lot is still to be done but if we look carefully and compare the world pre- and post- 1960 you would see a palpable difference for the better. Who do you think is bringing about this gradual shift in human thought and sensitivities? The man in the last two thousand years has only set examples of the most inglorious deeds from invasions, slavery,  complete absence of women rights, kangaroo courts, abuse of women and children,  total oppression of the poor and the weak. We compare this and many other things from public executions, mass killings, conversions by fraud and force, beheading and stoning as a way of rendering so-called justice and look at the post-1960 period. The facts are there for all to see.

Imagine if God turned back and asked man what did you do with all my wonderful gifts?? Thankfully He doesn’t ask because all is Himself.  He quietly does what He must, not sitting in His heavens of bliss and splendour above, but descending into clay giving Light while burning mortal eyes in kerosene lamps. He is busy lifting man to a still higher state while man is busy ridiculing and condemning Him without even making an effort to understand His ways,  let alone walk the way shown by Him. It is so because we want everything the easy way, God to do everything while we sit in our couches weaving theories about what God could and should do. Do we know the reason? Because to acknowledge evolution,  to acknowledge God and yoga is to acknowledge the need of the effort and our efforts are only directed towards food, progeny, clothing and shelter!

This is where the problem stands. Man wants to evolve without effort. Well, he can but it means either one of the two things.  One is to wait for millenniums and go through a long complex hazardous process (yes, there is and has to be a process in evolution due to the interconnected nature of the universe). Or else make a conscious and glad surrender to the Divine which became human (that is what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s birth signifies) and go through the safe fast lane. The door has been opened, the Light has come, the Way has been shown. But God is too much of a Democrat to force Himself upon us with all His might. Were He to do so then the result of such pressure would rather be a breaking down of the unprepared humanity than its evolution.  Hence the choices through which we become ready to receive the Omnipotence of the Almighty.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother came to prepare us to receive God’s Omnipotence in this house of clay. They came to assure us of the luminous future and showed us the way through their life and their words how to solve the problems that we just mentioned and much more, to evolve beyond man so that the very possibility of the problem ceases to exist. But their message and work seem to meet with the same resistance from man as it happened with messages of divine beings who came before them. Well, they are not disheartened at this since they know it too well and hence sacrificed their very body to release man from this resistance arising due to the captivity to ignorance and unconsciousness. But by embodying the resistance rather than the aspiration that they planted we can only delay and complicate the process.

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