Question to Radhanath Swami: If there is a God who is all loving and compassionate, how could he allow the attacks on the World Trade Centre to take place?
Radhanath Swami briefs about how people are taking it: Today the world is drastically shaken by recent events that have taken place in the United States of America. I just came from that land. I have never seen America in such a condition. It is shaken to its very core. Remember that it is the most powerful nation in the world setting the trends and the pace in economy and politics for the entire world. The People are shocked and are in great fear. Many people are rejecting the conception of God because of what has happened. I spoke to several pious people who believed in God their whole lives. They asked me, “If there is a God who is all loving and compassionate, how could he allow this tragedy to take place? If God is the Supreme Controller of everything that exists, why didn’t he turn that plane just a few feet one way or the other? Why over 5000 people—men, women and children—who were just going about their work had to suffer such an incredibly miserable violent death?”
Did you just stop to think of how those people died? When these planes hit the building and they exploded, those thousands of people were in a blazing fire and they couldn’t get out of it. One of my friends works right next-door to the World Trade Centre. He happens to be the financial director of American Express Company, International. He was on his way to work and he saw a plane hit the World Trade Centre. He was about a hundred feet away from the building. And he couldn’t understand what was happening. He thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t go to work today.” So he just stood there, trying to figure out what was happening…. and he saw another plane hit the other tower and it exploded and fell to the ground. Up there, people were burning in the flames with no way out. Dozens of people jumped from the hundredth floor, ninetieth floor, and eightieth floor. Rather die in fresh air than suffocate and be burnt to death. Serious suffering.
I was at a community and a couple came to see me and they were telling me some problems that they had, some problems at their house. This was just a few days after the catastrophe. I told them, “If you were on the ninety sixth floor of the World Trade Centre when it was on fire, and you were given the opportunity to come back and be in the exact situation that you are in now– would you think it as a nice opportunity? We would do anything to be back in this situation. Is it not? So why are you complaining now? Why are you thinking it is the end of the world?”
Whenever you think that life is against you, put yourself in the shoes of those people on the WTC on September 11th 2001. Isn’t your situation better than theirs? So be grateful for what you have.
So are we to blame God? If God is an all loving, all compassionate person, why would he allow such innocent people to die? It is a fact that God is all merciful and all loving. In all the scriptures throughout the world, God, His sons, His prophets, and His representatives, they all give us the same message that the material world is a place of suffering. It is not our home. “Get out, and go back to the Kingdom of God. Back home back to Godhead.” This is the basis of every religion. In 1970, when I was living here in India, I met some very devout Christians and they gave me a rare version of the Bible: The St. Thomas version written by one of the personal associates of lord Jesus Christ. And I remember one statement of Lord Jesus in it that affected me a lot. He said, “This world is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house upon it.” But people are going to the churches begging God to give them a better house!
Lord Krishna tells us in Bhagavad Gita
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”
The soul is eternal. It can find no real satisfaction in the temporary enjoyments of this world. Whether you die of a catastrophe or whether you get old and die, it’s suffering in either case. Have you even studied what happens in old age? It is really miserable.
Krishna tells in Bhagvad Gita
From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.
The Srimad Bhagavat says,
“For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. His goal is the spiritual world, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step (this material world.)”
So God, out of His causeless mercy, comes to this material world again and again to tell us that this is a miserable place. He tells us where our real home is. Even though the people of this world have rejected Him, offended Him, He still keeps coming, “You are misusing your free will. Come to Vaikunta, the spiritual world, the doors are open. Come in.” He sends his representatives, His scriptures, to provide everybody this opportunity. But we reject!
When there are catastrophes like this, I sometimes hear religious people say “It is just their Karma” or “They are reaping what they themselves have sown.” That is true, but as spiritualists our business is to save them. We should feel for them and give them relief, whatever their Karma may be. Karma is between them and God.
When Srila Prabhupad came to New York City in 1965 and saw people suffering in forgetfulness of God, he didn’t just tell them, “It is your karma.” He wept, he cried, his heart was broken and he was willing to risk and sacrifice his life to save them. That is a truly advanced spiritualist, a Vaishnav. Wherever we see or hear of suffering, we should cry to think of people’s physical, mental, and spiritual suffering. And that should be more of an impetus for us to do something to help them.
Do you know that when those people were burning in the towers of the World Trade Centre, hundres of firemen ran into the blazing fire risking their lives to save them? They knew they could never come out alive. Please listen very carefully. These firemen had wives, children, parents, bothers and sisters. Practically all of them were family people like most of you. But yet they were willing to run into a building that was about to fall down–suffering pains and death to save others.
Do you know what is Halloween? It’s one of the most famous festivals of United States of America. Young children get costumes, dress up and go out at night. They go door-to-door and people give them candy etc. The most popular costumes on every Halloween, from the beginning of Halloween, are hobgoblins and skeletons for boys, and witches for girls. And sometimes they dress up like a basketball star or football star. Do you know what the most popular costume is for all the children all over America this year? Firemen. Their heroes are these men who were willing to risk their lives for the welfare of others.
From the spiritual point of view, the entire material world is like that World Trade Centre after being hit by those planes. It’s on fire. The fire is burning in every living entity’s heart – within and without. People are suffering. And the transcendentalists bring the rain cloud of God’s mercy to extinguish that blazing fire of material existence. Due to ignorance people are burning from the sufferings of material life. Srila Prabhupada, our Guru, came to every continent of the world as the supreme fireman to extinguish the blazing fire of material existence. He was willing to sacrifice and risk his life to save our souls.
Like these firemen, who were willing to risk their lives to save the body, we as bhakti yogis should be willing to risk our lives to save people’s souls from the blazing fire of material existence. If you save the soul, that soul finds ultimate peace and happiness for eternity. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in these terms, is Srila Prabhupada’s fire department and he has recruited us to be his firemen and fire ladies.
Radhanath Swami draws yet another lesson
We have to be united. Amongst those firemen there were black people, white people and people of so many colors. They were all of different religions and ethnic backgrounds. They may have had some disagreements and they may not have liked each other. But when they were in there fighting against fire, they were one. They were in total harmony. They didn’t have time to be disunited over petty, ridiculous issues.
We are in the blazing fire of material existence. The world is on fire. To help people, we have to be united and we have to put aside all separatism. That is compassion. That is love. That is devotion.