Could God have prevented the Holocaust?
Transcription by-VandanaGoel & Keshav Gopal Das
Question-Could God have prevented the holocaust?
Answer-God in general does not interfere with human free will. And if the human free will, chooses to act in evil ways , God because of the respect of free will does not interfere, although there are consequences for every action that one does. And those consequences can be severe if one misuses ones free will. That God does not desire violence unnecessarily, mahimsyatsarvabhutani. God does not want people to be violent. That is why He gave scripture to guide us but after giving scripture to guide us then He gives us our free will and it is by our free will that we decide how to act? God does not interfere in this, although He does in various ways try to dissuade people from acting in wrong ways.
Although, the Second World War is not exactly comparing its moral contours to the Mahabharata war but with respect to principle of violence, we can see the similarity. The Mahabharata war was also extremely destructive and prior to that what did Krishna do? Krishna despite being God, despite having all omnipotence, He went as a peace messenger to broker some kind of agreement between the Kauravas and the Pandavas.
The Kauravas had viciously, manipulatively, deceptively seized the kingdom and the property of the Pandavas. Not only disposes them of all, what was rightfully theirs but had grievously dishonored their wife in public. He saw there was all cause, righteous cause on the side of Pandavas to attack and break revenge. Despite having all such justification, the Pandavas did not choose violence immediately and Krishna personally went to broker peace. The Pandavas were ready to accept peace,in the most extreme terms. He said give them the five kingdoms that’s what Krishna went on the petition Just give five villages to the five Pandavas, that’s all will be enough. Krishna acts basically in the traditional Indian understanding saama ,daama, bhedaand danda, these are different strategies for negotiating with people. Saama is arriving at a friendly reconciliation, Daama is to offer allurement, danda is to threaten punishment and bheda is divide and rule.
Krishna tried all these measures during his talk with Duryodhana and the Kurus. Despite this all the Kurus, did not agree and Duryodhana was so obstinate; that leave alone giving half of the Kingdom, which was due to the Pandavas or giving five villages as requested. He said, ‘ I will not give enough land that can be accommodated on the tip of a needle. Krishna became grave and said, ‘war is inevitable’. This seems to be an extraordinary incident where apparently God fails. Krishna as stated in Bhagwat Gita and the Mahabharata to be the Supreme Lord; He is going on a mission and He fails. How is that possible? The point here is that God does not interfere with human free will. That means Krishna did not want the war but Duryodhana was obstinate. It was Duryodhana’s obstinacy that caused the war.
Srila Prabhupada used the example that the Sun does not want darkness and the Sun gives light alone but then when people turn away from the Sun they see the shadow; they see the darkness. Similarly when people turn away from God and God’s benevolent will for everyone then they face evil and cause evil. The point is that when evil comes upon when some people do some evil and when people turn away from God the extent of wrong thing they do vary from person to person but eventually they can do this kind of terrible things also.
The Mahabharata’s example of Krishna going away as the peace messenger shows very clearly that God does not want violence, especially when that violence could be avoided. The way God has made arrangement of this world is, He has given people ‘the free will’. He respects people’s free will and He even counsels people to act properly. The counsel comes through the scriptures of the theistic world tradition and that counsel also comes partially; in a fragmented way through whatever wisdom traditions are there in the World. But primarily there is God in the heart of everyone, speaking as the voice of conscience. But if people repeatedly keep saying no to that voice of conscience then their voice of conscience gets muted and then people do not hear that voice and they just do brutal things unconscionable things without the slightest tinge of consciousness. God is guiding us externally and internally but we can tune out of this guidance (just like in radio); tune out from frequencies coming at a particular level.If we tune out then we don’t listen to that signal. Similarly people can tune out of God’s frequency.
We may ask if people can tune out of God’s frequency, if you can do what God doesn’t want then how is God; omnipotent. Yes, God is omnipotent but he chooses to subordinate His omnipotence to the soul’s independence because it is the soul’s independencethat is the primary basis for fulfilling the ultimate purpose of existence. We don’t have absolute independence. Hitler did not have absolute independence to cause brutality for all eternity. Hitler by his some past good karma had the leadership qualities, he had the powerful speech, had the organizational capacity by which he became the influential leader. But he abused all those gifts because he cultivated an evil mentality and did brutality towards others.
In the Ramayana when Hanuman saw Ravana for the first time in his court, the first thought that Hanuman got was, ‘this person is so powerful’, if only this person had been Godly how much great things he could have done in the service of God? The point was to recognize that the people who do wrong, they are given the ability and they can use the ability to do right if they had chosen to do so. When they don’t they do all the bad karma, they get the severe consequences of that karma and yes those people who suffer during those times; they suffer because of whatever unfortunate circumstances come up from a remote point of view, it is because of their bad karma. But from immediate point of view it is a terrible injustice and it means to be avoided. So the Mahabharata shows that God doesn’t want violence and God counsels human beings and God tell souls not to misuse their free will and if souls, who listen to Him, then brutal things like holocaust can be avoided.