At the death of every pet kitten or rabbit, my grief-stricken kids tearfully ask the same question: "Why does God kill such cute, innocent creatures? Why does he inflict pain and disease on them? How can you say God is kind and merciful then?"
Eternal questions. No matter how many times one answers them, one can never really lay them to rest, because dil hai ke manta nahin.
There are many levels to understand and address these questions. Answering them repeatedly over the years has enabled me to explore many lines of thought. (Of late, I don't have to be the guy answering these questions; my kids explore the answers on their own, so that I'm more like the moderator of a group discussion.)
Let me share a few of our thought processes, where we try together to identify the constraints of the human psyche, which prevent us from seeing things from God's-eye-view. The human psyche fails to understand the paradox of Total Love, whereas God / Nature operates at the level of this paradox.
Statement no 1: The human psyche automatically considers lengthening of life as good, kind and merciful, and shortening of life as evil, cruel and undesirable. But God / Nature has no such automatic tendencies. To God / Nature, it is the same whether I live for another five decades, or drop dead this very instant. It makes no difference whether I stay in good health, or suffer the agonies of a debilitating disease.
Statement no 2: What is said in point no. 1 is a profound-sounding lie without the converse, which completes the paradox: You and I matter enormously to God / Nature. Each one of us ' whether human, plant or beast, predator or prey, large as whales or microscopically tiny ' matter as much as anything else in the whole universe. We matter as much as entire planets and galaxies, because we are, each one of us, like entire planets and galaxies. Each molecule is a solar system, each person's body is a tropical forest housing millions of creatures, both benign and not-so-benign, but held in check by our immune system. Indeed, each of our body's cells is an individual, as unique as you or I. The birth and death of each cell is as momentous as the birth and death of each one of us human beings.
Statement 1 plus 2 = the paradox of Total Love: Individually, we matter enormously from the God's-eye view ' and yet we are dispensable, individually and collectively. This is irrespective of whether we are "sinners" or "saints", "pure-hearted" or "guilty". It is irrespective of whether we are "destined for greatness" or "doomed to lifelong obscurity". These terms in quotes have meaning only from the human standpoint.
If I may venture to define God's-eye-view, or God's 'state of mind' in a nutshell, it would be: (i) Profound awareness of and profound love and concern for each and every being, each and every particle, past, present and future. Profound love for each part, and for the sum-total. (i.e. EVERYTHING matters. (ii) Simultaneously, profound indifference for each, and for the sum-total. (i.e. NOTHING matters.)
The death of each creature is a vital part of the equation of Total Love. Each cat on earth (male or female) on an average breeds three kittens per year. If each kitten born to ONE cat were to survive till adulthood, live out their full lifespan of 6-7 years and reproduce successfully, that one cat would bred 1,100 cats!
The same thing applies in various degrees to every other kind of animal, bird etc. What would they eat? Where would they freely roam?
So you see, for the common good of all creatures, death of all creatures in large numbers is necessary. And, as death is, so are disease, pain and suffering.
We humans seem to think that we can live outside this natural equation — that we can ‘cheat the system’. We appear to have been increasingly cheating the system for the past few hundred years, to the detriment of the other creatures, who are being crowded out. And we think this state of affairs can go on forever.
How very interesting!