Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good or innocent people? When we see or experience first hand the suffering of children, for example, we may question the very existence of God or question whether or not He is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving. In this yoga wisdom talk, Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda explores the problem of suffering and sheds light on a real, lasting solution to this very real issue that all of us face.

Reincarnation & Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

Video Transcript

Jagad Guru: Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people, good or innocent people?  Today we’re going to be talking about this subject in connection with reincarnation.

Let me read a letter that I received recently from a viewer.  It’s from a woman whose eight year old son recently died of cancer and she’s experiencing extreme sorrow.  She’s very distraught.  She says, “My eight year old son recently died of cancer.  He suffered greatly.  You teach that we should love God, but why and how can I love someone Who let such a horrible thing happen to someone so innocent?  His life was cut off before he could even enjoy it.  It’s unfair.  Frankly, I am beginning to question the very existence of God.  And if God does exist I must question whether or not He is all-powerful or if He’s all-wise or if He is truly compassionate and loving.”

You know, this woman’s reaction is very typical of what a lot of us experience. Everyone of us must have experienced, even if it’s only through the newspapers, we experience people who are apparently innocent, especially children, people who are innocent or apparently innocent or good people and something bad happens to them.  And when this happens we have certain reactions concerning this in connection with our ideas of God.  In other words, we start to doubt, we start to have doubts about God, either His existence or whatever it is.  And that’s what I wanted to get at here.

What are some of the things that are expressed in this lady’s letter and that we experience when something bad happens to someone who is good?

Audience: That there is no God.

Jagad Guru: Yes.  The most common reaction is that there can’t be a God.  And this, of course, is the basis for many atheists’ belief that there is no God.  In fact, one of the main things the atheist will say if you say to them, you try to tell them that God exists, they say, “Listen.  There can’t be a God.  If there was why would there be so many things wrong in the world?  Why would there be so many things wrong?  I mean, it’s…” right?

Audience: Yes.

Jagad Guru: So this is the first thing, that God doesn’t exist, okay?

If we accept the existence of God, however, and something bad happens like this and we accept, “Yes, God does exist,” how do we respond?  What’s another way we respond?  Yes?

Audience: That God is cruel, that He doesn’t mind if we suffer and that He really doesn’t love us.

Jagad Guru:  Right.  That God doesn’t care if we suffer.  In other words, either God doesn’t care that we suffer or He cares but He likes it. (laughter)  In other words, He’s a sadist.  In other words, “God, how could you let this thing happen?”

Like this lady, she’s writing sincerely, “How could God let this happen?  If God really was caring, a caring person, a caring entity, if He really cared, if He felt love, then why… how could He possibly let this happen?”

And they can’t understand, “How could God care,” you know, “and still let this happen?”  And you experience being angry in a sense, being incensed that, “God!  How could You let this happen?  I mean, don’t You have any feelings,” right?  Because we experience… what do we experience when something happens like that?

Audience: (indistinct)

Jagad Guru: No, no, no, no.  When a…

Audience: Compassion.

Jagad Guru:  You experience compassion.  When something bad happens to a good person you experience compassion, you feel sorry, “Oh, this is so unfortunate,” and you feel sorry inside.  It hurts you, right, and so then you’re thinking, “How come it doesn’t hurt God?  How come He doesn’t care?”  In other words, you start thinking of yourself as being more compassionate than God. That you are more sensitive than God is, that you love this person who was hurt more than God loves that person.  This person who suffered, the child with cancer, who died of cancer at eight years old, you love this person more than God loves them.  God doesn’t really care.  And not only does God not love your son, God doesn’t love you either because He’s making you suffer the loss of your son.

So God… in other words, if we accept, “Yes, God exists,” but then we start thinking of God’s character, His attributes, one of His characteristics is He doesn’t care, He doesn’t have compassion.  Either that… it’s even maybe even worse; maybe He’s just a sadist. He likes to see little children suffering. This is what some people conclude, you see?

Or what else?  What’s another reaction, possible reason why God would let this happen?

Audience: Maybe He’s not all-powerful, maybe He can’t do anything about it.

Jagad Guru: Maybe He loves… in other words, maybe He’s compassionate still?

Audience: Possibly, yes, but He’s not powerful enough.

Jagad Guru: Right.  In other words, there’s another way to go about this, or another reaction one might have and this is called trying to solve the problem of evil or trying to solve the problem of suffering.  And that is by concluding, as one Jewish scholar or rabbi did recently in a book that was entitled, ‘Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?‘, his solution to this problem, this theological problem of why bad things happen to good people is… his solution was, he concluded that God loves us but He’s not all-powerful and therefore even though He would like for bad things not to happen, you see, He’d like for bad things not to happen, still they happen anyway because He can’t do anything about it.  That He just doesn’t have… it’s just gotten out of hand.

So they begin to deny the all-powerful nature of the Supreme Being, that there is no supreme controller, there is no… in other words, in that sense, there is no God because when we talk about God we’re talking about someone Who is all-powerful as well as all-loving, you see?

But when they’re faced with the situation, when a person is faced with the situation where something bad happens to someone good they start doubting, that either… they think, “Either God does not love me,” or, “love this person.  He’s not a loving entity.  He does not care,” or they think He cares, He loves, but He doesn’t have the power to do anything about it, right?

And there’s another possibility, and that is He’s not wise.  He maybe doesn’t see it or something.

So what are these reactions based upon, okay, what are they based upon?

Audience: This world’s here for our enjoyment.

Jagad Guru: What’s that?

Audience: This world’s here for our enjoyment.

Jagad Guru: Right.  It’s based upon our idea of our relationship with God and our relationship with this world.  In other words, why do you think that you exist?  Why do you think God exists?  In other words, why does… no use bothering thinking why does God exist because that’s the reality.  But why does this world and you exist?  Why do you exist in this world?  What is the… in other words, what’s the relationship between this world, God and you and others, okay?  Why do most people, probably most of you here and those of you at home, why do you think God made this world and why are you in it?  What’s the purpose of this whole trip here?

Audience: To enjoy it.

Jagad Guru: Huh?

Audience: To enjoy it.

Jagad Guru: Why did God make it?

Audience: So we could enjoy.

Jagad Guru: God created this world so that you could enjoy it, right?  This is the concept that most people have.  They believe that God created this world so that we could be the lords and enjoyers of it.  Our purpose in life is to enjoy the world.  God’s purpose in life is to help us enjoy.  Right?  “He created this world for us to enjoy; He’s very kind, He has given us this world to enjoy,” right?

Audience: Right.

Jagad Guru: What happens then when things go sour and we don’t enjoy ourselves, in other words, we suffer. What happens?

Audience: It’s God’s fault. Blame God.

Jagad Guru: It’s God’s fault.  God screwed up, okay?   So we believe that God created this world for our enjoyment, that we are our material bodies, that I am my body.  You see, you probably believe that you are your body and therefore you believe that this world is meant for you to enjoy and that, in fact, God’s purpose is to make it so that you can enjoy in this world.  But then you run into this problem of suffering, right?  You keep suffering and you see other people suffering, right?  And this is what we call, what?  Bad.

Really what it comes right down to it, what’s bad?

Audience: The suffering.

Jagad Guru: Suffering.  And not existing in this world: death.  Because God created you… you are your body, remember?  This is what they teach you, this is what you believe, that you are your body, God created you, okay, and He created this world for you to enjoy.  However, a couple problems here.  One: your body is destined for death.  Every body has died, okay?  It’s inbuilt, built into this creation, and you in it, is that it’s temporary.  Your body is temporary, you’re not going to survive, okay?

Bad means that you don’t get to live here.  Good means you get to live here, right?  This is based upon the illusion that this is your home.  You are your body, this material world is your home and your happiness will come from living here and enjoying your senses in this world, right?  And God is good, “Thank You, God,” when He helps you enjoy, “Oh, thank You God for helping me enjoy.  Thank You God for giving me this and giving me that,” right?

So then when you get kicked out of this world God’s being bad, something bad is happening, okay?  When your body starts falling apart, oh, this is bad, okay? You don’t understand, “Oh, there’s suffering in this world!  I don’t understand it!”

Why are you so confused about the reality of suffering in this world?  It’s because it contradicts your belief that this world is supposed to be a place of enjoyment created by the perfect creator.  God’s supposed to be perfect and He’s a perfect creator and He created this perfect world and yet it’s full of suffering, and you don’t understand it.  How can a bad thing happen to good people, right?

Well, since just about everybody thinks that their son is good, right?  Everybody thinks their son is good, right?  Or their daughter is good or their parents are good, and since we all get smashed in the end, you know, we all die, we all experience diseases and old age and death, what to speak of the toothaches and stomach aches, okay, that means bad things are happening to good people all the time, right?

Audience: Right.

Jagad Guru: I mean, your bad person is my good guy, right?  You know?  So that means God screwed up.  We start thinking that God is, what?

Audience: Incompetent.

Jagad Guru: Incompetent.  He’s a lousy creator.   He created this world as a place of enjoyment for us and it’s a place of misery.

So God is not a perfect God.  God is a lousy creator.  Either that, either God’s a lousy creator or He’s stupid, He didn’t know what He was doing, “Oh, I’m sorry, you guys,” or He’s a sadist.  He created suffering, He made it so that there is suffering on purpose so that He could watch,  you see, and go… you know, a sadist: He likes to see people suffering.  He does not love us therefore He created a world where we would suffer, you see?  Right?

Audience: Right.

Jagad Guru: This is all based on ignorance.

In reality, you are spirit soul in essence, you’re not your material body.  You are eternal.  You have existed eternally.  You are not matter, you are spirit. You are part and parcel of God, you’re part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit.

THIS place, this place made of matter, this is not your real home.  This is a foreign place.  You are eternal but this world, all of the bodies in this world, everything in this world is temporary.  This is not your natural habitat.  You’re a fish and you’re out of the water. Your real home is in the world of spirit, the kingdom of God, but now you’re in this temporary material world.

Why did God create this temporary world?  Why did He create it so that it was temporary?  Why did He create these material forms?  Why are you in this material form?  Why are you suffering, experiencing birth, diseases, old age and death? Why are all these people here in all these bodies?  What is the real purpose for the existence of this material dimension and why is it a place of suffering?  And what do you do about it?

Your true essence is spirit.  You are a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Spirit Soul, you are a child of God.  God lives in His kingdom eternally and He is enjoying Himself there, He’s completely satisfied living in His world, living in His dimension where everyone in His dimension is engaging in His loving service.

In other words, everyone in the spiritual world LOVES to serve God. You are part and parcel of God.  You belong in that world, you belong in the kingdom of God engaging in the loving service of God and experiencing your natural happiness in connection with your loving service to Him.  This is your real identity.  You are spirit, your natural function is to engage in the loving service of the Supreme Spirit.

However because you and every single person in this world, because you experience envy of God, you want, yourself… you don’t want to be the servant of God, you want to BE God, because you have a desire to be the lord, to be the enjoyer, to be the master, okay, because you have this desire, therefore you are placed in the material dimension, you are placed in the material world.  You enter the world of material nature.  You come under the laws of material nature, sometimes called the laws of karma.  You become under the laws of cause and effect, action and reaction.  This is called being under the laws of material nature or being bound on the wheel of birth and death.

In this condition every person who comes in this world must suffer.  We experience birth, and this is a suffering condition.  We experience growing old, this is a suffering condition.  We experience our bodies having disease, this is a suffering condition.  And finally we experience being kicked out of this world and having to take on another material body.  This is called death and this death is a suffering experience.  So throughout this world we experience birth, diseases, old age and death, we always suffer in this world.  This world is a place of suffering.

Why is it a place of suffering?  It is a place of suffering because it is meant to be temporary.  This world is not meant to be eternal.  This is that section of God’s kingdom where temporariness is the law, where time is the master and we come under the laws of time.  In other words, God creates this material dimension not for our enjoyment but, rather, for our attempted enjoyment, so that we could attempt to imitate God and be the Supreme Lord and enjoyer.  But, in fact, because we’re not God and because we can’t really be happy playing the role of the supreme enjoyer and master, built into this world, God has made it… God has created this world so built in it is a certain amount of suffering, built in it, it’s temporary.  So that we can gradually be educated so that we wonder, “Why am I suffering?  Why is this world temporary?  Is this my real home?  Is trying to be the lord and enjoyer my real function?”

In other words, pain or suffering has a purpose.  The pain and suffering that’s built into this world has a purpose and that purpose is to make us question whether or not this is our real home or not, you see?  Pain has a purpose.  Not all pain is bad, you know?

One time I gave the example that if you were… if you didn’t have the feeling of pain of the sensation of burning, for example, your hand burning… let’s say, for example, there’s a candle here or a little fire here and my hand’s like this, you know?  If I didn’t have the sensation of pain my hand would burn off and then it would bleed to death or get infected but I wouldn’t know it was infected because it wasn’t painful.  I would never get it fixed and therefore I would have to leave this body, right?  So pain has a purpose.  So, oh, I move my hand, right?  In other words, it teaches me to do something.  I react to that pain.

So we have to learn how to accept that pain is built into this world and it will always be here.  You understand this?  It’s part of this world and it should point out to us that this is not our real home. If, for example, someone comes into this world and only lives here for five years and after their body’s five years old for some reason they have to leave this world.  Because, in fact, the reason that person had to leave this world is based upon their own karmic reaction, due to their own karma, due to their own past activities, in other words, now they are experiencing according to the laws of material nature, they have a reaction. “As you sow, so shall you reap.”  This is the cause and effect.  So this person then leaves this body and he takes on another body.  In any case there is no real difference because no matter whether a person has on a body here or he takes on a body in another place, in another part of the material dimension, he still suffers birth, disease, old age and death.

So you should not be thinking that, “Oh, he would have been so happy if he could live here forever,” because, in fact, that’s not the purpose of the world, that’s not the purpose of existence.  The purpose of existence is to develop our love for God, develop our remembrance of our identity as sparks of God so that we can leave this temporary material dimension and go back to the kingdom of God.  The purpose of this world is not just to enjoy ourselves to the fullest because this world is a place of suffering.  Do you understand this?

Audience: Yes.

Jagad Guru: Alright.  So are there any other questions in this?  Yes.

Audience: If God is not responsible for bad happenings does it also mean that He’s also not responsible for good happenings?

Jagad Guru: Right.  He’s not responsible for good or bad happenings.  God is not responsible for the reactions that someone has.  Sometimes you have a good reaction, you know, you get maybe you strike it rich.  That’s not God being good to you.  You know, you may say, “Oh, thanks God for being good to me,” but it’s not God being good to you.  It’s due to your own past previous activities.  It’s your good karma.  And when bad things happen to you don’t think that God’s being bad to you.

When good things happen to someone else, whether it’s your child or your father or a stranger don’t think that, you know, that God’s being bad to that person or if good things happen that God’s being, you know, good to that person.  The fact is each of us is under the laws of material nature, the laws of karma, we’re sowing and we’re reaping according to how we have sown, okay?  So don’t keep thinking that God’s, you know, arbitrarily being good to some people and being bad to other people and being cruel and being nice.  That’s just not the reality.

Yes, anyone else?  We got a couple…

Audience: So can meditation help me be free from reincarnating and being under karmic law?

Jagad Guru: Yes.  Meditation really means focusing your heart, your mind, your entire being upon the Supreme Lord, your relationship with the Supreme Lord. And when you develop this relationship, when you come to understand this relationship then you live upon this reality, you see?  And then when you leave this body you go back to God because you have developed your attachment to God, you have made it so that you’re no longer attached to this world.  If you’re not attached to this world you don’t come back here.

In other words, when you begin to taste love for God then it becomes a greater flavor, a greater happiness to you, there’s greater happiness in that, developing your love for God, that taste of love for God, it’s a greater happiness than the happiness that you get from trying to be the lord of the world.  And so that at the time of death when you leave this body you have now, you have no more karmic reaction to have to come back and experience and you go back to God because you’re more attached to God than you are to trying to be the lord of this world.

Yes, one last question.  Yes?

Audience: Yes, I understand that this material world is not our home but can’t a person still be happy while we’re here?

Jagad Guru: You can be happy while you’re here if you’re developing your relationship with God while you’re here.  Try to understand that God is the most lovable entity.  The fact is is that God IS all-powerful and God is also all-loving and He is all-lovable.  He’s the most powerful yet He’s the most lovable and the most loving Person.  God is a person and you are a person and you’ll be happy when you have developed your love for this Supreme Person Who is your natural relative.  He is the Supreme Father, the Supreme Friend.

Don’t be in the illusion that God is somehow not perfect.  The fact is God is perfect.  God is your perfect Friend.  You should learn how to meditate upon this Supreme perfect Friend.  Cultivate, develop your attachment for Him, your love for Him and in this way you’ll be happy now.  You’ll be happy now and at the time of death you’ll be able to leave your body and go back to Him and be happy later on too, you see?  No more reincarnation.

So through meditation you develop your love for God, you live for God really; in that way you’re happy here, even though there is death in this world you still experience happiness because you know, “I’m not this body.  I’m the eternal servant of God,” and you taste that happiness of love for God even while you’re here you’re serving Him.  And then when you leave your body you go back to Him. That’s all the time we have.

Thank you very much.

Want more? Learn a simple yet transformative meditation practice for developing your attachment to God and uncovering the spiritual love and wisdom that resides within your heart. Jagad Guru teaches mantra meditation in this online class: Learn Mantra Meditation 

Explore the deepest meaning of meditation in this yoga wisdom talk by Jagad Guru: The Deeper Meaning of Meditation