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Why the Disaster Happened At Kedarnath?

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(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Lies and Distortions)

A number of people died during the recent natural disaster near Kedarnath temple. The temple survived the ravages of flood, but many people died. There is a news that the incident had shaken the faith of many people and some had even vowed never to visit the place again.

The tragedy raised an important question. How can people who visit a sacred temple or who go on religious pilgrimage can meet with such a terrible fate? If God is there, how can this really happen?

One of the Shankaracharyas commented that it happened because Siva got angry. Now, Siva has not definitely spoken to anyone about this and whatever the blessed Shankaracharya said was most likely his opinion.

There is another news in circulation according to which it happened because the authorities moved the statue of the goddess from there to another place.

A Television serial may show Siva and Parvathi as ordinary householders weeping, crying and getting angry for every small inconvenience. But it makes no sense when you consider the fact that Siva is the Lord of the Universe consisting of billions of galaxies and planets.

A lord of that kind of real estate has to do a lot of multitasking to balance things and keep the planets in their orbits. We do not think that He would be unduly disturbed for whatever happens at Kedarnath due to activities of ordinary folk given the fact that ours is a phenomenal world subject to constant change and decay and we are prone to act according to our instincts and desires.

How can our gods punish us when we are made to be ignorant, deluded and egoistic? We are created this way and we are expected to act in ignorant ways, are not we? Logically, gods should be annoyed if we disobey them and act intelligently against the intentions of Nature. This is indeed true and validated by our scriptures.

The Vedas clearly say our gods are not pleased if we try to achieve liberation. Just as we would not feel happy if we lose our cattle, gods are not happy if human beings escape from the mortal world. We therefore do not agree with any idea that suggests that our divinities out of anger or annoyance precipitated this tragedy. If we make mistakes gods would understand it since we are made to make mistakes and make wrong choices.

We know it is very difficult to reason about this with those who might have been part of the tragedy or lost some close relation. We know it is equally difficult to dispute the matter with eminent spiritual leaders who have an opinion of their own to explain the tragedy. While general public may get over with it after a few weeks, it t may take years, and perhaps decades, for some people to recover from the shock.

And this was not for the first time that a tragedy happened at a sacred place. People dying at places of pilgrimage or during religious festivals is not uncommon in India or in other parts of the world. Tragedies happen and sometimes hundreds of people die.

When things go wrong, it is human to look for causes and blame someone or something for it. When tragedies happen people become emotional. They blame politicians, government, and God or gods.

But to blame God or the divinities for them is probably stretching our imagination too far. Hindus are not expected to do it at all. In our tradition we make the choices. We call the shots.  Our gods come into picture only when we want to. Otherwise, they remain silent in their respective spheres.

It makes perfect sense for a Muslim or Christian to look to God when such tragedies happen. In these religions God is the Guardian of people. He enforces the law. He is responsible for the lives and redemption of people who believe in Him. The believers are His flock and He is their shepherd. They are bound by a Covenant, with their duties and responsibilities clearly defined. He keeps a close watch on people and rewards them or punishes them according to their deeds on the Day of Judgment. Until then, they are not punished but left to themselves.

In Hinduism, the equation between people and God are very different. In our case, God does not control our lives, unless we surrender to Him completely and obliterate all notions of duality and separation from Him. In other cases, we are judged by our own actions. God makes a promise to take full care of the lives of only those who surrender to Him unconditionally and spend their entire lives in His contemplation.

Under normal circumstances He does not interfere in our lives, unless we seek His active intervention. For the most part, He leaves us to ourselves and gives us the freedom to act according to our wills, within the limitations of the laws He lays down.

In Hinduism, there is no Judgment Day. We are, in fact, judged every day and every moment as long as we live by our own thoughts, desires, intentions and  actions. The punishment or reward comes in the end cumulatively, when we depart from here with our casual bodies.

Therefore it is very inappropriate and ignorance to blame God or goddesses for the problems we face or the suffering we undergo upon earth. If we pray, our gods will probably help us. But if we do not pray, they do not punish us. They remain indifferent. If we make mistakes, they let the law of karma to take care of it. Karma is the fence enclosing our whole world. Inside it we all are prisoners. This is the truth. Our prayers are also either answered or ignored according to our past karmas.

In Hinduism, this is the truth: we are responsible for our lives and for our actions. When things go wrong, we have to look within ourselves to find the causes, because we and we alone precipitate our reality. Even natural calamities are the result of our collective karma.

Because of this, we are not supposed to blame God for the incidents that happen upon earth. It is either individual karma or collective karma which is in play or perhaps both. Blaming God for our suffering is a bad karma because it is the same as accusing an innocent person wrongfully.

God is not responsible for our suffering. We are responsible for it. We create and recreate our lives continuously with our thoughts, desires and actions. This is Hinduism in action. While hundreds died, thousands of people escaped miraculously. Now, you may think whey they were able to escape.

Therefore, let us stop blaming Siva or the gods for the tragedy. The tragedy happened because of gross negligence on the part of many institutions who are responsible for the welfare of the people who live there and the tourists who visit it.

It is clearly a manmade disaster, shaped by human greed, in which both individual actions and collective actions played a significant role. The gods have not caused it. Probably they might have averted a much bigger disaster to save a few good souls. Therefore, let us reflect upon this incident with humility and see what we can learn from it.

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