An Indian Civilizational Perspective

But Why Does Your God Punish Me??

Just read an old blog post by Atanu Dey.. on Baba Amte – and he was referring to an article by Arun Shourie. Now, Shourie’s son is spastic and he has provided a very sensitive insight into this. This is what he says:

So, suffering can be put to work. Suffering teaches, it transforms. From this many assert that there is a purpose to it, that it has been put in place, it has been inflicted by design. That is what I am not able to reconcile myself to. The point was once put by a child at the Spastics Society school with a finality that sealed it.

Baba Amte was in Delhi. He was so kind as to take time off to visit the school. As everyone who has met him knows, he has presence. His work has been of the highest order. To see Anandvan, the settlement of leprosy patients that has grown up as a result of his life-long service of them is to see a miracle. Persons afflicted by this terrible ailment lead lives of utmost dignity. They grow crops — “Everything other than tea,” they say joyfully — they produce goods — “Everything other than salt,” they say in triumph– they man a complex and extensive irrigation system. They cook, they teach. By their earnings they have endowed an enormous college for the uncaring, ungrateful community of those like us who are “healthy”. Their houses are spotlessly clean. When one is in the presence of Baba Amte, therefore, one is in the presence of a person who has worked a miracle. And he has done so by sheer grit, by a super-human obstinacy. And then there is his own physical condition — he cannot sit, he has either to stand or lie down.

He had been round the school. He had planted a pipal sapling. He was now lying on a cot, talking to the children. Every word he said rang true, for he was not reciting words, he had lived them.

Alok raised his hand. Now, Alok Sikka is as much of a fighter as Baba Amte. He is, if I may say so, in Baba Amte’s mould. At that time he could not walk, he had to crawl on all fours. His speech was difficult to comprehend. He had a hundred problems. But his spirit was — and remains — as strong as Baba Amte’s is. After Baba Amte had finished his talk, and perhaps Baba Amte had said something about God, Alok asked, “But why did your God do this to me ?”

For a moment there was silence. Baba Amte then said, “I will tell you what happened once.” He told us that one of Gandhiji’s associates had a retarded daughter. The associate and his family, including the daughter were staying at Gandhiji’s ashram. Upon reaching his quarters one day the father found the child in a most distressing condition. He was moved to rage. He lifted up the daughter, and stomped back to Gandhiji’s room. Gandhiji was sitting with his head bowed, silent, in contemplation. The father as good as hurled the child into Gandhiji’s lap. “Why has your God done this ?”, he screamed. Gandhiji was startled. He did not speak for a moment. And then he said softly, “He has done this to melt your heart into kindness.”

We were all moved. Not Alok. He said, “But if your God wanted to make my parents kind, why did He do this to me ?” Everyone was dumbstruck. Including Baba Amte.

And for good reason. After all, look at Baba Amte’s own life. He was a very successful man of the world. One day he was out for his early morning walk. Perhaps the sun had not risen or there was fog, I forget the exact circumstance. But one could see for only a short distance. He heard a groan of agony. He walked over. There in the dirt on the side of the road, with nothing but a few newspaper sheets to shield him against the searing cold, lay a man unconscious, disfigured by leprosy. Baba Amte gave up all his affairs, and with just his wife and, as he says, one lame cow set off to serve lepers the rest of his life.

Over the years, as he served them — so many of them broken in spirit, disfigured in body — dread, revulsion, anger, frustration, all must have welled up in him. Seeing these emotions and reactions, watching them mindfully as the Buddhist masters would say, he must have overcome them. But could one therefore say that the others had been afflicted with that terrible ailment so that he might conquer fear, rage and the rest ? Obviously not. And that is why, whenever we have met since that encounter with Alok, Baba Amte has told me, “I am still searching for the answer to Alok’s question.”

After which Atanu goes on to give his editorial comments on the various religious theories that touch this issue:

Also read:  "Hinduism" and the HIndutva forces

Then the article goes on to discuss briefly the various answers that some religions give. To my mind, all those answers are fundamentally flawed.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

I think there is a fundamental flaw in understanding the “Karma” construct here by Arun Shourie. To say:

” Nor do the other explanations work any better. Karma — the child’s or the parents’ ? But then you have to explain why the person did the original evil deed which then predisposed him to go on doing deeds which would eventually land him in such a state. His lila, His sport ? What kind of an entity would that be whose sport it is to inflict such pain on others ? ”

This is akin to viewing a Capitalist society where multiple forces work from a Communist eye glasses!! Proper Capitalism creates a “framework” of laws and competition – within which most actors function. Yet they come to efficient decisions. Now, if Jyoti Basu was to ask WHO has “designed” the Supply Chain for the Grocery distribution in Texas – that would assume that SOMEONE actually has the authority to decide the ACTUAL DESIGN! Which is nonsensical! But its true in Communism… similarly in my estimation – Creator or that entity had – in the role of a legislator – created some basic laws. Thereafter He/She/It is now just an Executive and a Judiciary – and NOT of activist kinds. He/She/It can only INTERPRET the laws in the great Karmic drama… not “decide” them! Design actually is “created” by the interplay of the actors! Its a “method” that comes out of the “Plural Chaos”!

So, Alok’s question has been faced by ALL of us and will be faced in future by us again – in our many journeys of soul… God CANNOT DO ANYTHING TOWARDS ANY END!.. for he is by definition “Akarta”*! (* Akarta means one who DOES NOT Act!) Therefore to ascribe a “design” to all that happens – is a communist paradigm viewing a Capitalist God! If you were to read Vasishtha Yoga by Swami Venkatesananda (State Univ of NY publication) – you will see Vasishtha putting this squarely – he says “Divine” and “Fate” is nonsense.. those who talk in those terms are IGNORANT FOOLS (almost in those words)! There are only two things that affect you – past deeds and present deeds… and the latter are more important than the former.

Well.. Atanu read my email.. and our discussion went on.. here is what Atanu wrote to those thoughts:

I am convinced that Shourie is smart and will not make silly mistakes when it comes to a fundamental concept such as “karma.” I think perhaps it is a misreading of what Shourie wrote. I hasten to add that I agree with you about the “akarta” attribute of god (or any other agent that serves the same function.) A “God” by definition cannot be lacking and therefore cannot have desires and therefore cannot have a motive to act and therefore is not motivated to act and hence does not act. Only minor “gods” have desires and needs (to be worshipped, appeased, called pretty names), get offended at the drop of a hat, and reward and punish and do all sorts of silly anthropocentric crap.

And my reply to him.. (I will try and bring the entire conversation if possible):

Sure he must have figured that out.. but I guess he just got blinded in this article. Part of the problem also is that though the “Akarta” construct seems the only spiritually logical way to “understand” God… this is an argument that is very easily forgotten in the face of a tragedy or difficult situation… for in those moments – the “perceived” God – who can help (a Devta really) is the only conceivable entity available. At such moments to NOT ascribe an “intention” to God seems an inescapable weakness of human mind! That is why Gandhi said what he did to that guy… the statement would have never come out of a person who has NOT only understood the “Akarta” but also “ingrained” the logical consequences of that paradigm.

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