shankaracharya with students image
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God and Nature

Question: If God is good, why is God’s creation in the form of nature often harmful and even violent?

Answer: his question vexes many people. Earthquakes, famine, disease, and death all occur according to the laws of nature. These natural laws, like everything else in the universe, ultimately come from the Lord. Then why does it appear that the Lord’s goodness not always expressed in nature?

The basis for this question is our very limited concept of what is “good” and what is “bad.” Generally, good is what we like and bad is what we don’t like. Of course, what is good for one person may not be so good for others. Some people love karela, bitter gourd, others do not. So we must admit that our concepts of good and bad are ambiguous and ill-defined.

In nature, the concepts of good and bad have no place at all. When a tree is struck by lightening or dies of disease, it eventually decomposes in the ground, becoming fertilizer for other living plants. The death of the tree is neither good nor bad; it is natural.

In the same way, when earthquakes, famine and disease affect human beings, we must recognize that it is natural. Such events are terribly sad, no doubt, but they cannot be called bad. From a spiritual perspective, anything that leads to spiritual growth is good. The hardships we encounter in life usually force us to grow stronger and wiser to cope with the difficulties. So, if the tragedies of life lead us to become more wise and to grow spiritually, how can we call these tragedies bad?

Even the tragedy of death sets a person free from the sufferings of this life to proceed on the journey of spiritual growth as it continues from one life to the next. It is indeed sad when we encounter tragedies naturally occurring in life, but each of these situations can be an opportunity for our ongoing spiritual growth.