Why do natural disasters wreck havoc in holy places like in Kedarnath?
Answer summary by Kanai Krishna Prabhu
- Karma is at work: Material world is a place where God does not manifest His power in very direct ways, but rather the principle of action and reaction (Karma) occurs. When we destabilize and disturb natural balances, then there are reactions to such wanton intervention of humans in the coordinated functioning of nature. Reaction to destabilizing of natural balances e.g. massive deforestation, excessive pollution, slaughter of millions of animals in meat industry etc comes in form of natural disasters.
- Actual holiness of a place: Laws of action and reaction operate everywhere, whether place is holy or unholy, and in all circumstances. Holiness of a place is not its immunity to such natural adverse phenomena, but it is understood through spiritual presence, experiences of God that we can have at the place. These experiences do not necessarily have to be some supernatural intervention stopping natural course of action and reaction, but rather experiences that bring purification or transformation in our lives. The sanctity of a holy place remains independent of what happens in such a place. Just because a place is holy, it does not mean that character of people there is going to be flawless. So, just as moral evil is possible in such a place, natural evil i.e. inclement weather, and extreme natural calamities is also possible.
- Karma not for postmortem: Were all the people that died in Kedarnath sinful? Concept of Karma is not to become insensitive or irresponsible. We should be prepared to deal with disasters that can occur at such places which are vulnerable to natural disasters; else we are failing in our duty. The scale of such disasters is uncommon in this case, but the occurrence is not uncommon. Just as government should be prepared to fight the diseases in epidemic prone areas, it should be well prepared in such disaster prone areas, in terms of preparation and rescue operations. So, while offering practical humanitarian help, we should not be thinking of what the victims’ karma is, but what our dharma is. We should offer our prayers and good wishes, and practically do whatever we can, to help victims. In this way, we can maintain humanitarian sensitivity and human compassion.
- Understanding ‘why’ of the event: At the same time, we know that things in this world don’t happen by chance. Such events are reactions to actions that we have done in the past. Nobody suffers unjustly in this world, from a multi lifetimes perspective. From one lifetime perspective, it may appear unjust, but karma works from a multi lifetimes perspective. At a philosophical level, we understand that such disasters are reactions to one’s actions in the past, and at a practical level, we understand that these reactions can be aggravated further due to our unpreparedness or indifference towards such disasters.
- To summarize; we should understand such events from a Karmic perspective, respond to them from a humanitarian perspective, but should know from spiritual perspective that spiritual sanctity of such places remains intact in spite of such disasters.