Vanity thought #494. Replying to massacre questions

I’ve heard someone asked a question during Bhagavatam class – what should we tell people who can’t understand why God has allowed the murder of twenty elementary school children without sounding heartless? Not only the speaker proffered an answer but several members of the audience also chipped in.

This is not as encouraging as it sounds, it means that truly satisfactory answer is still elusive. I don’t think I can offer one either but there are many other things to consider before we should even attempt answering.

Let’s say someone approached us and asked: “How can you believe in God who allowed this to happen?” I don’t think we should even try to answer this person. How we believe in God is our business, we can’t share this secret if we suspect even a shred of animosity.

“How can I/people believe in God after this massacre? Please help me understand” is a more acceptable version. It shows that the person at least considers the possibility of God’s existence. Still, what we should see is that he has a completely wrong concept of God, material world and living entities within it. When this concept fails him he wants us to repair it instead of learning how the world actually works. I don’t think we can help here. The concept is broken, it’s unfixable, it was wrong from the start, just ditch it. If they are not prepared it would be a waste of time trying to answer.

Another aspect is that questions like this don’t sprung out on their own – people feel agitation in their minds and they want a spiritual equivalent of Xanax. They don’t care how God does what He does, they just want the pain to go away. Well, it’s a legitimate reason to seek spiritual answers but it’s not a spiritual one, we should not lose sight of that.

This is where we come to the question of compassion – we are supposed to show compassion in our answer, if we don’t show compassion than our answer is considered a failure. This is not fair – first we have define what compassion is. Soothing their mental agony is not compassion, it’s pouring oil into the fire of their material existence. Compassion is informing them about the existence of Krishna and about our eternal relationship with Him. If we do it right the agony would go away without any extraneous efforts. If we fail we’d be declared cruel and heartless and banned for life, so we should be very very careful here.

This is where we might consider the time, circumstances, our own abilities and whether we have the support of Lord Chaitanya or not. Sankirtana and preaching is the absolute, overarching principle but in the material world everything has a time and place.

If we approach a sleeping person and shout “Krishna!!!” in his ear we might do him some real long term spiritual benefit but short term we might get punched in the nose and never be allowed to talk in his presence again.

On the absolute level talking about Krishna to a person in coma is as beneficial as talking to a person sitting in a Bhagavatam class. The only difference is that a Bhagavatam listener actively engages his senses in processing the information, engages in service, but the person in coma cannot.

What we mean by “showing compassion” in this case is eliciting a positive reaction from the listener, having him perform at least shravanam, and maybe even kirtanam vishnoh. This depends on the circumstances. Sometimes it’s more difficult, like during the time of grief.

One of our ISKCON sannyasis once said that he doesn’t talk to people who hasn’t defecated yet. He reasons that people become much more agreeable and receptive after passing stool.

Perhaps it’s okay to pass on the challenge to pacify some agitated minds right in the wake of the massacre.

My point is that the question is quite loaded, we shouldn’t rush in without understanding all the implications. Once we figure it out we might attempt to say something.

It’s quite interesting to look at it from God’s point of view. The children of Sandy Hook didn’t actually die, all this crying about it based on ignorance. What has happened to them is that they served out a chunk of their karma and are well on the way to their next life. This is actually a good thing, they don’t have that debt overhand anymore.

I seriously doubt people would ever agree to look at the massacre from this angle but it doesn’t make it wrong.

They would object on the grounds of children’s innocence but from God’s point of view innocence doesn’t exist, each body in this world is the result of karma and it will create another set of karmic reactions during its time on Earth. No one comes here with a clean slate, as innocence would imply. What they mean is that they can’t believe this kids had such a combination of karmic reactions that their time here was so short.

Well, why? Thousands and thousands of children get legally killed even before they are born, people do not cry about them. Hundreds and thousands of children get killed in American initiated or sponsored conflicts all around the world. No one protests that it breaks their karmic laws. Why these children of Sandy Hook should be so special? Just because they are children of self-righteous parents?

How righteous are they exactly? Did they ever take shelter of Krishna to claim that He broke His promise to personally protect them? No, they didn’t, if they ever appealed to God it was to their own imaginary concept of universal order supplier. That’s not what surrender means, sorry.

One answer I heard today stood out – someone on the internet asked how God allowed this to happen in our schools and some clever cookie answered: “I’ve been banned from your schools, sorry, can’t help you there. God”

If all these answers do not sound palatable in the name of compassion than perhaps people shouldn’t be even asking. Eventually they will learn that this “compassion” leads them nowhere. Even dogs can get trained that way but we are dealing with the modern civilization here, they are too proud to accept sound advice, they prefer to continue in their own ways.

God bless them…

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