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Religion Library: ISKCON (Hare Krishna)

Suffering and the Problem of Evil

Written by: Benjamin E. Zeller

The present age of Kali Yuga represents the second manner in which ISKCON understands the cause of evil and suffering. In addition to living in a world characterized by illusionary material nature, human beings also live in an era of decline and collapse. As such, human society lacks the natural ability to maintain itself and sustain the ethical and moral imperatives of civilization. Individual human beings also lack the discipline, intelligence, and nobility of spirit to follow the ancient techniques of yoga that the Hare Krishna movement understands as rooted in the Vedic texts. During such an era, ISKCON maintains, only the techniques of theistic devotional (bhakti) permit a person to escape from the suffering of this world.

In addition to the illusionary nature of materiality and the present age of decline, ISKCON understands suffering as rooted in the karma of individual people. Like other Indian religious systems, the Hare Krishna movement understands karma as a natural law of cause of effect by which one's actions have long-lasting impact. ISKCON devotees believe that some karmic reactions occur immediately, such as when a person who eats meat feels heavy or sick. Yet karma also acts in the long run, meaning that a meat-eater will experience future violence reciprocal to that required to kill the meat animal. Since Hare Krishna devotees accept the notion of reincarnation, this effect may occur during the present lifetime or in some future existence. Ultimately, any action that causes suffering to others will eventually result in suffering of one's own.

Study Questions:
     1.    What are the three central concepts of evil? How do they cause suffering?
     2.    Describe the relationship of theology and maya.
     3.    Why is time considered to be cyclical? What can be said of our present era?
     4.    How does karma relate to reincarnation?


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