I got a mail from a friend with a question:
I was once a theist and after a prolonged period of open-minded inquiry I was able to give up theism and became agnostic. Ever since then I was wobbling between being a theist and atheist. I see myself being pulled in both directions by two contradicting logics. Between 2003 and 2007 I was an agnostic with an inclination towards theism. After 2007 I am increasingly tilting towards atheism.
* The logic that was pulling me towards theism was mainly the functioning of biological systems. What stumped me completely was the DNA compaction mechanism and the DNA replication mechanism. There are other things such as immune system and various negative feedback cycles stabilizing
* The logic that pulled me towards atheism was mainly the ugly face of nature. Generally when people talk a lot about the beauty of nature they are ignoring its ugly face. Mainly the ugly side of nature is the sufferings of the living beings. Why is God indifferent to sufferings of living beings.
Let me describe you a few situations.
(1) A human pulls a cow away from its calf and sells the calf to a veal industry and butchers the cow for its meat. One can clearly see that agony of the separated cow and calf.
(2) A female human child is forced into prostitution by a few male thugs often raping her against her wishes. She seems to get no protection from anyone.
(3) A herd of deer gets surrounded on all sides by forest fires and die a painful death.
In all these situations why are not the sufferers receiving God’s compassion or protection. Whether it is a personal God or a Universal Consciousness, compassion is a property associated with God.
Here is my reply:
Here is the explanation as per the Indian scriptures.
You need to establish the model for your discussion first. The model to start with is the triad – Jiva, Jagat and Ishwara.
The core of the model is free-will. The Jiva is defined as the entity possessing free-will and who is responsible for its actions. Under a given situation outside and its tendencies within, it always has the free-will to decide what to do and how to face the situation. There is less freedom in action, more freedom in thought and complete freedom in attitude. What it faces today, both from outside (as situations) and inside (as tendencies) are the result of the way it exercised its freewill in the past. This model assumes that Jivas are infinite in number and each Jiva exists from infinite past and will exist into infinite future. The Jiva is different from the body and mind. The body and mind are its instruments to experience and express. Its body, mind and the world comprise the other entity, “Jagat”. The third entity, Ishwara, is the sum total of all the laws of nature. Actually, there is only one law in nature – the law of conservation, also called the law of causation. All laws of nature are merely the manifestation of this one law in various fields. This law applies both to Jiva and to Jagat. When the law is applied to Jiva, it becomes the law of Karma – “you reap what you sow”. Each Jiva does action by thought, word and deed using free-will. These cause their effects. The situation opening up in front of the Jiva is the result of its action. The sum total of all situations needed to fructify the actions of all the active Jivas decides the state of the Jagat. Not all Jivas are always active. Some may be in dormant state because the current state of Jagat is not suitable for any of its past actions. The Jagat also exists from infinite past to infinite future. Its state keeps changing. At times it becomes unmanifested and re-manifests. This is what is termed as “destruction” and “creation”. In reality, there is no creation or destruction. It is only a change in the state of manifestation of the Jagat. Jivas include all beings – humans, animals, plants, etc. But free-will operates only in advanced life forms like humans, where there is a conscious application of choice. Lower life forms experience the results of the past actions, but cannot create new ones.
The concept of God as a compassionate being who gives worldly prosperity to people who accept and worship Him/Her is childish. That is to slowly introduce the triad model to lay people. The Gayatri mantra is a prayer which just asks for a clear understanding. To get the understanding, you need to experiment in the world with a clear head. To get the clear head, you need an unbiased intellect that is not clouded strong desires, anger, jealousy, hatred, arrogance, etc. To get this, you need to lead an ethical lifestyle with honesty and kindness. Personification of the “law of causality” as a human-like being who is just, compassionate, etc. psychologically helps in facing the situations in life with a clear head, so that you can learn the lesson without being bogged down by success and failure. The lesson to be learnt is the inevitability of the law of causation. Once you are convinced about this simple law, you will wonder, “If things are so simple, what is the purpose of this cycle? Am I eternally damned into this cycle? I don’t want success or failure. Desire-work-achieve/fail-desire-work-… – what is the point? I don’t want anything. Can’t I just be in peace?” All these are to take you there and make you ask these questions from the core of your heart. When you ask these questions, you get into the next model. That would be a different topic. Briefly, when you seek a meaning to this, you hit the limits of this model. Then a new model opens up. You find that you are not the limited Jiva but unlimited Consciousness. The triad model is replaced by a dual model – Me and not-Me. As you proceed further you hit the limitation of the dual model also. Then dual model is replaced by the final non-dual model. Thus, the entire purpose of life is to understand the reality.
Most of the questions, like in the case of the herd of deer, arise because of our thinking from the point of view of the body of the deer. We surely need to be compassionate and do whatever is possible. But we never know which is best for the world in the long run.
As for the other two situations, surely the people responsible for the act will have to face the consequences, if not in this life, in a subsequent one. The justice of God (a.k.a. law of conservation as applied to the Jiva) is unfailing, like all natural laws. The victim also is facing the situation as the result of a previous action, if not in this life, a previous one. But that does not mean the rest of the society should keep quiet. It is the duty of people to fight for justice and against oppression. May be the current suffering of the victim is because of having been an inactive witness in a previous life.
I hope this answers your questions.