Why Did God Create a World of Suffering?


If the ultimate objective of the soul is to unite with the Supreme, why did He create this world containing maya? Had He not crated this world, no question of uniting with Him would arise, thus no suffering, no enlightenment, nothing. What made the Lord think of such a drama, the drama of this world? Ultimately, we were a part of the omnipresence, then why did He put us into different bodies in order to unite with Him (God) again?

—Vaibhav Agarwal, India


Dear Vaibhav,

I kindly ask your patience, as this answer is rather long, but I think it is worth reading.

Your question is natural, understandable, and very common amongst seekers: “Why, Lord? Why do You allow a creation with all this suffering, if we originally came from your perfect bliss and love? Why did You create the world at all, if the result is possible pain?” Even Yogananda fought with God. ‘”Why, Lord?”

He even stated in a discourse: “Now comes the question: Is God a dictator?… In one sense He is, because He created us against our will. Isn’t that true? We didn’t ask to be created. Who told Him to create us? That is the one question God does not answer. I often tell Him He had no business to create us, and put us in a body so susceptible to disease and suffering. Even a car has parts that can be easily replaced from time to time, but not this human machine. You have a right to say to God, ‘Lord, since You created me, redeem me.’ This is the way you should pray to Him. You are His responsibility.”

In his interpretations of the Bible Yogananda says that apparently God could have done a much better job with creation. Even we, if we were God, would have created a happier world:

“We think that if we were Almighty, we could create a much better world than this. We would banish from this earth cancer, accidents, weakness, revengefulness, anger, greed, murder, famine, leprosy, cannibalism, industrial greed resulting in depression, earthquakes, floods, bad weather, drought, death by pain, boredom, old age, despair, poisonous bacteria, tragedies of life, and so forth.

We would create a world with a joyous struggle, and not painful struggle, an ever-new happy state of mind for all men, entirely different from mental idleness and boredom. We would make the body with the qualities of asbestos, diseaseless, changeable according to the commandments of our will. We would have our bodies tailored in the workshop of materialization and self-rejuvenation.

We would create a variety of occupations with a variety of actions, all leading to Infinite, unending, ever-new happiness. Good citizens would be materialized by will from the ether, even as God created the first man and woman, and would dematerialize ourselves in Cosmic Consciousness after we had successfully finished our earthly entertainment.”

Sounds good, right? So then, why did suffering arise, and how? Why did God allow it? Yogananda explains how it all happened:

“The Heavenly Father was One. He existed alone. But there was no one to enjoy that joy. So He said, ‘I will separate Myself. I will create a world and let it enjoy Me.’ But as He was complete and perfect in Himself, He created an imperfect desire. But He realized that out of this imperfection He was going to bring all imperfect things back to Himself again. This is what created evil or trouble in the world….

The origin of evil came through the law of relativity. For every good there has to be bad, for light there is darkness. The darkness enhances the light. If there were no darkness there could be no light. Evil enhances the good. Just like a picture! You say, ‘I will paint a picture.’ So you make it white — you make the face and the hands and the feet and all the body white and there is no picture at all, for it all blends into one. But if you make some dark and some white you will have a beautiful picture. Do you see? Darkness is therefore necessary to enhance the light.”

Swami Kriyananda too has often explained that without duality, this world couldn’t exist. But God, for His own reasons, did want creation to exist. And so, for every up there has be a down, for every white there has to be a black.

There is an old Hindu legend which tells that when Brahma first created man, He created him wise. The first thing man did, being wise, was to sit in meditation and merge back into the Infinite. So the story was finished. And God realized that, in order to maintain His creation, he needed to create an opposing force: maya. From that time on human beings find themselves in between two forces, good (bringing joy) and bad (resulting in suffering). He has free choice in which direction to turn.

Is all this still unsatisfactory? Is there still a lingering, “But why?” In that case, here is a consoling thought:

Swami Kriyananda explains that everyones’s evolution, containing many incarnations, is like a huge drama, much more complex than any Shakespeare or Kalidasa could have ever written. In it, there are both wonderful and terrible chapters. However, when you reach the last chapter of the drama, when the soul finally exists into freedom, it is a bliss beyond compare. It is the supreme “Happy End,” which we will all experience one day. And every saint who finally finds his union with God, applauds, “Well done Lord! It was a wonderful drama.”

Meanwhile, for us who are still in the middle of the drama, it is wise to see the bad and sorrowful things in this world in a positive light: Everything happens for the best! In a drama, Yogananda taught, the role of the villain is to teach us to love the hero. Likewise, tough situations, suffering, and pain all teach us a positive lesson. So we would be wise to say yes to life, even to the most unhappy events. Everything happens to teach us something useful. Nothing comes to destroy us, only to educate us. Seen in this light, everything is good, finally resulting in the Supreme Good.

And again, for us who are still in the middle of the drama, here is the only useful message, given by Yogananda:

“One day while I was meditating, a great light appeared in my room and God’s voice said to me: ‘What are you dreaming about? Behold My eternal light, in which the many nightmares of the world come and go. They are not real.’ What a tremendous consolation it was! Nightmares, however dreadful, are merely nightmares. Movies, whether enjoyable or disturbing, are merely movies. We ought not to keep our minds so absorbed in the sad and frightening dramas of this life. Is it not wiser to place our attention on that Power which is indestructible and unchanging? Why worry about the unpleasant surprises in the plot of this world movie! We are here for just a little while. Learn the lesson of the drama of life, and find your freedom.

Make the Lord the Shepherd of your soul. Make Him your Searchlight when you move along a shadowy pathway in life. He is your Moon in the night of ignorance. He is your Sun during the wakeful hours. And He is your Polestar on the dark seas of mortal existence. Seek His guidance. The world will go on like this in its ups and downs. Where shall we look for a sense of direction? Not to the prejudices roused within us by our habits and the environmental influences of our families, our country, or the world; but to the guiding voice of Truth within.”

God bless you with deep meditations, lifting your eyes to God’s Light!