Blaming God for Your Problems or Suffering
Question: I am a good person. I pray to God every day, but I have no relief from the problems or the suffering? Why is God punishing me and why is he so callous? It is as if he doesn't seem to care how we live, or whether we live or die. If he is so perfect, why did he not create a better world?
If this world is perfect, the idea of heaven becomes redundant, is it not? It seems God is a good salesman. The prospect of heaven or liberation becomes a good selling point, if the earth is full of suffering. Therefore, he may have made earth a difficult place to live. It is as if he puts you in a dungeon and offers you the prospect of a permanent stay in a five-star hotel for good behavior. Yet, to a lot of people the earth does not seem to be that bad. The earthly life has its own charms and attractions. Otherwise, everyone would have become a renunciant and strived for liberation.
On a serious note, blaming God for our suffering may be just an emotional and irrational response. Maybe God just does his duty (Dharma), and in the process, some are being hurt. In truth, everything around you do influence you in some way, does it not? Directly or indirectly, your friends, relations, colleagues, family, the institutions with which you are associated, your job or profession, the government, the earth, the planets and the stars play some role in your life. They make you happy or unhappy, and facilitate or obstruct your desires and actions. In the same manner, God may be influencing your life too.
When things go wrong, it is common for people to blame God, while atheists and rationalists respond with, “I told you so,” attitude. Many people blame God for the suffering in the world or for the calamities and natural disasters, wondering how can a compassionate God let them happen.
However, the subtle truths of the Vedas and scriptures such as the Bhagavadgita are not known to many. Hence, their thinking about God mostly falls into the general mode, which is influenced by popular beliefs. The question is, whether it is appropriate to blame God for what happens to people or to the world? How far is he responsible for anyone’s life or their personal fortunes?
God is invisible, physically unapproachable and mysterious. Any conclusions which people draw about him are speculative, inconclusive and indeterminate. The doctrine of karma implies that God is not responsible for our lives. Individual and collective actions shape the destiny of the beings and the world. Therefore, blaming God in itself may be bad karma. From the devotional perspective, blaming God is symptomatic of the lack of faith, knowledge and purity. In this discussion, we will examine these questions from the perspective of Hinduism.
Two approaches to God
In Hindu devotional theism, we primarily come across two main attitudes or beliefs that are associated with God. Both are popular and influence the lives of people. They are stated below.
- I am an aspect of God
- God is my creator and controller
The first one is the spiritual path of renunciation with self-knowledge. The second one is the practical path of righteous actions, with right knowledge and pure devotion. In the first, God is viewed as oneself. In the second, God is treated as a Supreme Being, Lord and Protector. Both the approaches or belief systems are valid in Hinduism in their own respective ways.
They played an important role in the development of the ritual and spiritual philosophies and practices of Hindu Dharma. The schools of dualism (Dvaita) and nondualism (Advaita) are centered around them. In the following sections, let us examine these two approaches in the context of the relationship between God and his devotees.
I am an aspect of God
This approach acknowledges your spiritual nature as an eternal Self. If you believe that as an eternal soul you are an aspect of God and represent him upon earth, it follows that you have to reflect that attitude in every aspect of your life and exemplify God in your thinking and conduct, performing his duties as if they are your own without any duality.
As a part of it, you have to cultivate divine qualities such as detachment, selflessness, purity, truthfulness, sameness, nonviolence, non-possession, equanimity, stability, etc., and reflect them in your thinking and actions. As the upholder of Dharma, letting God become the center of your life, you have to manifest him through you and in you.
Those who live their lives in this manner, transcending their desires and attachments, never find a reason to complain about anything. They accept the events and outcomes in their lives with equanimity. Living their lives as a sacrifice and exemplifying the ideals of Dharma as the true devotees of God on the path of renunciation they experience no duality or little duality.
However, you do not ordinarily find such people in today's world. Even if there are, they are not easy to find since they do not seek public attention. If at all people find such a person, they put him on a pedestal and worship him as God himself, rather than follow his example. The truth is in God's reality there is no duality. He is both the subject and the object, the cause and the effect, the one who causes the suffering and suffers from it. From this perspective, the question of blaming God does not arise.
God is my creator and controller
In this approach, which is more popular, devotees put an onerous responsibility upon God, believing that he is their Supreme Lord and controller and responsible for everything that happens to them. However, in most cases their devotion remains tainted by selfishness and egoism. If you want God to take care of your life, you must totally surrender to him and let him take responsibility for it, accepting whatever that happens to you without judgment and complaint.
If things do not happen according to your expectations, you have to accept it as the will of God or part of your karma and remain steadfast in your devotion. A true devotee never complains because his surrender is total, and his faith is pure and firm. In real life, it is difficult to see such devotees whose minds are free from egoism and selfishness.
Most people worship God, but they do not possess the trust or the conviction to surrender to him unconditionally, or believe that whatever happens is the will of God and for their good only. They engage in desire-ridden actions. When life takes unexpected turns, they either lose faith in God or try to take control of their lives. The truth is, when people perform actions with desires and attachments, they become responsible for them and their consequences. God plays no role in them, other than being a witness. Worship is also karma when it is done with selfish intent.
You surrender must be total.
Your relationship with God is important. Left to himself, God does not take sides. However, you can bring him to your side with purity, faith and devotion. Such is the power of true devotion. It makes an otherwise indifferent and detached God listen to you. You may approach God by different paths, but it is important to remove the barriers that stand between you and him. With purity, faith, resolve, knowledge, righteousness and devotion, you can let God be part of your life.
The Bhagavadgita clearly states that God is indifferent and equal to all. He does not easily interfere with our lives. However, he may respond to the prayers and supplications of his devotees. Therefore, if you have a serious problem or adversity in your life, pray to him with all sincerity and accept the outcome, but do not blame him if your prayers are unanswered. Even as a devotee, you still have to resolve your past karma and overcome your impurities.
The Upanishads state that Isvara, the Supreme Lord of the universe, is without desires, duality and attachments. He has numerous aspects, of which Death (Kala) or Time is one. He is the lord of the mortal world. Hence, it is subject to death, destruction and impermanence. Calamities and destructions are, therefore, part of our lives and no one can fully escape from them. Since he is also the protector and upholder, pray to him with all sincerity when you have problems and difficulties, without blaming him if they are unanswered. Blaming God is in itself a negative karma because both creation and destruction are part of his functions and he may be just doing his duties for the order and regularity of the worlds.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- Essays On Dharma
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