If God is a force of good then why is there so much suffering in this world?

I thought I had understood the answer to this question after watching this video. Basically it says that if we conceptualize God as a principle, i.e. Brahman as a cosmic principle, then we can accept that the nature of universe is like this. In the same way we do not blame gravity for bringing objects to the earth, we cannot blame Brahman for the suffering in this world.

However, my problem with this answer is this. I learnt yesterday that in the Aitareya Upanishad it says Prajnanam Brahma, commonly translated as "Brahman is conciousness".

So how can an entity with conciousness equate to a principle? Does it not imply that there is some intelligence behind the suffering we see today?

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    Kind of related Is the ultimate purpose of life only to serve God?
    – Kedarnath
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 13:12
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    Also related to the current question - 'If nobody is really suffering, does that mean we can harm anyone?' Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 15:22
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    If you see suffering then you are seeing the illusion as real, and not the reality. The only reality is Brahman. If you can realize Brahman, then you will see no suffering, you will see only Brahman which is Infinite Bliss. Cry to God that you still see suffering. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 15:30
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    Sai - I can understand what you are saying. But my definition of suffering also means "why do bad things happen" e.g. why are people killed by earthquakes, tsunamis etc. Why do people endure horrific diseases. I think you are trying to say that we should transcend our suffering by realizing our true nature (Brahman), but my question was more to do with why should such a horrible world exist in the first place?
    – Aditya K
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 15:55
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    @AdityaKumar How to realize it? One way is Self-enquiry. Another way is complete surrender. Another way is selfless service to all living beings. All the best sir
    – Sai
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 16:08

5 Answers 5


It's true that Brahman is conscious, and that Brahman is the one that gives both rewards and punishments, so in that sense it is the efficient cause of all suffering. But it is not being cruel or capricious in doing this; it is doing this in accordance with the law of Karma. Here is what Adi Shankaracharya says in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

The Lord, we reply, cannot be reproached with inequality of dispensation and cruelty, "because he is bound by regards." If the Lord on his own account, without any extraneous regards, produced this unequal creation, he would expose himself to blame; but the fact is, that in creating he is bound by certain regards, i. e. he has to look to merit and demerit. Hence the circumstance of the creation being unequal is due to the merit and demerit of the living creatures created, and is not a fault for which the Lord is to blame. The position of the Lord is to be looked on as analogous to that of Parganya, the Giver of rain. For as Parganya is the common cause of the production of rice, barley, and other plants, while the difference between the various species is due to the various potentialities lying hidden in the respective seeds, so the Lord is the common cause of the creation of gods, men, &c., while the differences between these classes of beings are due to the different merit belonging to the individual souls. Hence the Lord, being bound by regards, cannot be reproached with inequality of dispensation and cruelty.

Ramanujacharya says the same thing in the Sri Bhashya, his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

But the assumption of his having actually created the world would lay him open to the charge of partiality, in so far as the world contains beings of high, middle, and low station--gods, men, animals, immovable beings; and to that of cruelty, in so far as he would be instrumental in making his creatures experience pain of the most dreadful kind.--The reply to this is 'not so, on account of there being regard'; i.e. 'on account of the inequality of creation depending on the deeds of the intelligent beings, gods, and so on, about to be created.'--Sruti and Smriti alike declare that the connexion of the individual souls with bodies of different kinds--divine, human, animal, and so on--depends on the karman of those souls.

So in some sense the real question is not "Why does Brahman make us suffer?" but rather "Why do we bring suffering on ourselves?"

To end things on a happy note, there is a way to escape the suffering that arises from our actions: Saranagati (AKA Prapati), or complete surrender to the lotus feet of Vishnu. This is described in the famous Charama Shloka of the Bhagavad Gita (which I discuss here):

sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja |

ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ ||

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

So in an even deeper sense, the real question isn't even "Why do we bring suffering on ourselves?" but rather "Why haven't we surrendered to the supreme lord of all the worlds yet?"

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    "or complete surrender to the lotus feet of Vishnu" You could have written God instead of Vishnu. Complete surrender to any god(Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti) will yield the same result.
    – Pinakin
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 5:40
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    @ChinmaySarupria Well, I'm a Sei Vaishnava, so I take that "mam ekam" part very seriously. I know Advaitins interpret the "I" as referring to Brahman, but I see it as referring to Vishnu in particular. In any case, if you're interested in the Sri Vaishnava arguments for why only complete surrender to Vishnu works for getting Moksha, you can read Vedanta Desikan's Rahasyatraya Sara: vishnudut1926.blogspot.ru/2014/10/… Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 5:51
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    Adi Shankara has said that the one having names or forms is not the absolute. Forms and names are just a step to reach the highest truth.
    – Pinakin
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 6:04
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    @ChinmaySarupria Yeah, I'm aware that Advaitins believe that Nirguna Brahman is the highest. Sri Vaishnavas, on the other hand, believe that the highest Brahman is Saguna, and that those that aim for an impersonal realization of their own Atma achieve a lower state of liberation compared to the eternal union with Sriman Narayana; see my question here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/6686/36 In any case, we're not likely to resolve those disputes here! Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 6:11
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    @ChinmaySarupria If you're interested in the Sri Vaishnava arguments for why the supreme Brahman must be Saguna rather than Nirguna, possessed of auspicious qualities and a divine form rather than being formless and impersonal, see the beginning of Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya: sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe48 Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 6:22

Prajnanam Brahma which translates to "Brahma is Consciousness" does not imply that Brahman is an entity. A conscious Being is an entity. Consciousness is not an entity. What Consciousness is by itself can not be defined in any way. This idea is well expressed by a passage preserved only in Sankara's commentary:

'"Sir," said a pupil to his master, "teach me the nature of Brahman." The master did not reply. When a second and a third time he was importuned, he answered: "I teach you indeed, but you do not follow. His name is silence."'

Ref: quoted in 'The Spiritual Heritage of India' by Swami Prabhavananda

Thus one can not link suffering in this dualistic universe with Brahman as Consciousness.


God never gives us any pain or trouble to suffer. It's our own work which creates atmosphere for us which may be in favour or against of us.

According to Hinduism, the idea of complete annihilation of the soul after death is inconsistent with the concept of a moral order in the universe. If everything ends with death, then there is no meaning to life. Nor is the view that the soul is created at birth and then becomes eternal at death reasonable, for anything that has a beginning will also have an end.

Reference link is below:


  • I'm undeleting your answer for the time being, but you should still add more detail to your answer. The quote you added is just from the introduction paragraph of that web page, and it doesn't talk about why there is suffering. So the very least you should replace it with a more relevant quote from that web page. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 22:48

Sometimes suffering happens due to lack of wisdom. At times due to making wrong choices, at times due to making wrong assumptions. Yet other times suffering happens due to accidents. And there are times wherein suffering is due to uncontrollable factors.

This world is an ocean. One needs to swim through it wisely avoiding the sharks of temptations and immature people. Yes reading the Vedas and Upanishads can impart wisdom.

Acceptance of what is helps one sail through life and helps us come to terms with suffering.

An attitude of gratitude lessens the suffering.

Not judging anothet person helps us prevent the suffering of hurting another person. accepting people for who they are relieved the suffering from conflicts.

And forgiveness brings about harmony, peace and joy.
You are a wonderful youngster to be reading Upanishads. You are every mother's dream child.

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 15:07

God makes us suffer because if we received every wish/desire, it wouldn't teach us anything. Every time you fall(suffer/challenges), it brings you closer to rising(happiness/success). The bad deeds you complete, you receive a punishment. The good deeds you accomplish, you receive a reward. Everything that happens in life, happens for a reason. All of the hardships you overcome, makes you a stronger and better person from inside.

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:32

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