Is God Compassionate?

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.

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About gokulmuthu

A student of Advaita Vedanta in the light of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramana Maharishi, etc.
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9 Responses to Is God Compassionate?

  1. Anand Balaraman says:

    Gomu I am sorry it too this long to post my reply. Instead of getting bogged down with too many details let me just take just
    one step at a time. First model (triad model of Jiva, Jagat & Ishwara).

    According to your description
    (A) Jiva is defined as an entity with free will.
    (B) Jagat is the mind, body and matter
    (C) Ishwara is the sum total of the Laws of Nature.
    (D) The Only one law of nature (Law of conservation)
    – when applied to Jivas, manifests as Laws of Karma
    (which determines the evolution of jivas)
    – when applied to Jagat, manifests as the Laws of Physics
    (typical arrogant Physicist)
    My Questions :
    Q1. In statement B when you include mind in Jagat do you mean
    Jagat is made of mind and matter? My understanding is mind
    is a product of the interactions of matter and so is a
    combination of certain aspects of Iswara & Matter.
    Q2. Are there differences between the terms Achith, Jagat
    and Prakruthi or they are all synonyms.
    Q3. When you say Law of conservation – what is the conserved
    “quantity” you are talking about?
    Q4. Assuming Jiva is conscious always, between two births it
    should not have a mind. How does it feel to be without a
    mind?
    [I have tried suppressing mind during long hours of
    attempted meditation. It is difficult to say if there
    was ever a state without mind.]
    Q5. What is the connection between mind and free will?
    [ It is possible for mind to exist without freewill
    (example : animals). I cannot understand free will
    without mind. My understanding of free will is the
    freedom to choose from a given set of options.]

    • gokulmuthu says:

      Q1. In this discussion one aspect of Ishwara as the sum total of the Laws was described. Also, Ishwara is the fundamental substance out of which both Jiva and Jagat are made of. The Laws cannot be separated from the substance and vice versa. Ishwara’s aspects as the Laws and the substance are called His lower aspects. Also, Ishwara is the Consciousness behind the whole existence. This is called His higher aspect. Thus, Ishwara actually forms the basis for both Jiva and Jagat.

      Q2. Yes. Acit (meaning non-sentient or non-Conscious) is the same as Jagat, which is the same as Prakruti. This Prakruti is also called as “Apara prakruti” (lower nature), as opposed to “Para prakruti” (higer nature), which is the Cit (Consciousness).

      Q3. The “effect” of action in the form of thoughts, words and deeds is conserved. Just as we have conservation of matter, energy, charge, momentum, etc. the “effect” of action is conserved. This is called in several common terms as “paapa”, “punya”, “good luck”, “bad luck”, “fate”, “destiny”, “adrishta”, “daivam”, etc. The technical term is “karma phala”.

      Q4. Every night when you are in deep sleep, the mind is in its potential dormant state. Inactive mind is as good as no mind. That is the state of the mind between births. There is no need of a physical body to support the dormant state. The state is encoded in the entire system. When you say an object has a certain about of potential energy, it is with respect to the rest of the system. You can read http://www.sidewalkastronomers.us/id71.html for details of this concept.

      You cannot “feel” the no-mind state, because you “feel” with your mind only.

      Q5. Free will is a faculty of the “kaarana sharira”. Mind (containing intellect, emotions, memory, ego and inner senses) is a faculty of the “shukshma sharira”. Physical body is the “stula sharira”. In a typical, mind “operates” the physical body, and will “operates” the mind. There are cases where volition is suspended, like in sleep or coma. The will is the core of individual identity. You cannot say it is absent in animals or plants. It is not fully exercises in animals or plants. Animals may not do much against nature. For example, they may not fast on Ekadasi. They may not decide to remain celibate till marriage or life-long. But they experience the pleasures and pains. To do this, they need the will. As defined, the will is the one that is responsible for action and its effects. So if animals do not have the will, it will violate the law.

      Mind cannot exist without will. The mind is only an outer covering. The will is the real individual. The operation of the will may get suspended as in case of a person sleeping or in coma. If you consider “Will” as the repository of “karma phala”, it can exist without the mind. If you consider “Will” as the dynamic entity that decides among a set of options, it needs an active mind.

  2. Anand Balaraman says:

    (A) Ishwara is the fundamental substance out of which both Jiva and Jagat are made.
    QUESTION : Does it mean during pralaya Jagat OR/AND Jiva are converted back into the Ishwara (higher aspect)? If so does
    the process still conserve karma phala?

    (B) The will is the core of individual identity. You cannot say it is absent in animals or plants.
    REPLY : Oh! I just took your statement that animals do not have freewill. But you clarified that they have will but do not have the freedom to exercise it.

    (C) Every night when you are in deep sleep, the mind is in its potential dormant state. Inactive mind is as good as no mind. That is the state of the mind between births.
    QUESTION : Does it mean that between successive births the jiva will not be aware of its existence just the way one is not aware of one’s existence in deep sleep. That would imply, strictly speaking, that the jiva cannot choose his next birth but rather would be allocated something that is approximately of his interest. If I want apple but get orange (both are fruits anyway)
    I may not say I got what I wanted.

    (D) There is no need of a physical body to support the dormant state. The state is encoded in the entire system. When you say an object has a certain about of potential energy, it is with respect to the rest of the system.

    REPLY: I do not understand the analogy of PE here. PE of a system has no physical meaning what has physical meaning is the difference in potential energy between two configurations. Probably you just wanted to say mechanical energy that appears to have been lost is actually stored in a dormant form which could be regained.

    (E) Mind cannot exist without will. The mind is only an outer covering. The will is the real individual.

    QUESTION : Does it mean Jiva and Freewill are one and the same just like Law Of Conservation and Ishwara are. The moment a Freewill unit disappears the corresponding Jiva disappears?

    (F) The “effect” of action in the form of thoughts, words and deeds is conserved. Just as we have conservation of matter, energy, charge, momentum, etc. the “effect” of action is conserved.

    REPLY : If that is what you mean by “Law of Conservation” a better term would be “neurality of karma” would be a more appropriate term than “conservation of effect of action”. It may not be an issue with non-physicist but a physicist would be uncomfortable to see a conserved quantity without a corresponding symmetry. But I got the idea.

    I downloaded all the mp3 files of Paramarthanandaji’s lectures. I will be listening to them tomorrow. It is good way of passing time during my flight across the diagonal of the American Continent. Thankyou. More questions after Friday.

    • gokulmuthu says:

      (A) Yes. Karma phala is conserved across pralaya. The entire universe may be recast, but you cannot escape your karma phala.

      (C) Yes. You do not have the freedom to choose the part of karma that fructifies in a given life. Out of the tons of karma phala, a part will be chosen based on the karma phala of the other individuals who also come along. If a person has a karma phala to be born lame, he will be born as the son of someone who has the karma phala to be the father of a lame child. Like this there are numerous strings. This massive jig-saw puzzle has to fall in place. That happens as per the law of karma. There is no approximation here. There are tons and tons of karma. So there is always something that can be picked up appropriately. But every bit of it is what you truly deserve by your past action. There cannot be any violation here.

      (D)The moment I say that karma phala is carried over, the usual question I have faced is “where is it stored?” The answer is that in the state of the entire system.

      (E) Yes. There is no Jiva without Freewill. Freewill defines the individuality of the Jiva.

      (F) When I mean by conservation, I mean this: if you draw a boundary around the Jiva, there will be a balance in the net outflow (in the form of action) and net inflow (in the form of situation). I may be using a wrong physics term.

  3. Anand Balaraman says:

    One more question what is the origin of freewill? If a freewill unit disappears, according to “conservation of karmaphala” Jiva should still continue to exist until all its karmaphala is neutralized and then and only then can it disappear. Am I right?

    • gokulmuthu says:

      The Freewill and Jiva cannot be separated. Jiva is “anaadi” – without beginning. Similarly, in this model, Jagat and Ishwara are also “anaadi”. To put it in another way, this model explains the steady state only. It does not explain the boundary conditions. For that you need to go to the second and third models.

  4. Anand Balaraman says:

    sorry “if a freewill unit disappears” should read “if a jiva gives up freewill voluntarily”

    If we allow enough time, all freewill units will disappear and we will be left with just the Ishwara. Beyond that point there will be no jivatmans only the paramatman will exist. With no jivatmans there is no need for Jagat either. What is the nature of time here. Hopefully I find answers to these questions in swamiji’s lectures if not I will get back to you.

    • gokulmuthu says:

      🙂 You have hit the point. Freewill will be there as long as individuality is there. Giving up freewill is giving up individuality. That is what the third model is about. There is no individuality. Individuality is only a convention for convenience of transaction. Just as we define latitudes and longitudes for convenience of communication, this individuality is just an imaginary assumption for convenience. We have got deluded that it is real and that is the source of all the problem. The Jiva-Jagat-Ishwara triad are there only in the first model. That is given to explain our current experience. We need that model to transact in the world. Beyond that it does not have any reality. If you dig deep, as you are doing, you will hit its limits and you will have to look at a more generic model.

      As I told you, in the second model we bundle all objects into one group and the Subject into another. In the third model, the objects are also shown as non-different from the Subject.

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