Have any Hindu philosophers attempted to solve the Riddle of Epicurus?


The cruelty and evil seen in the world are the results of Karmic factors of Jeevas and God can't be blamed for that. It is stated in Brahma Sutra 2.1.34 as:

Inequality (of dispensation) and cruelty (the Lord can) not (be reproached with), on account of his regarding (merit and demerit); for so (Scripture) declares.

While commenting on this sutra Adi Shankara first presents view of opponent as:

The Lord, it is said, cannot be the cause of the world, because, on that hypothesis, the reproach of inequality of dispensation and cruelty would attach to him. Some beings, viz. the gods and others, he renders eminently happy; others, as for instance the animals, eminently unhappy; to some again, as for instance men, he allots an intermediate position. To a Lord bringing about such an unequal condition of things, passion and malice would have to be ascribed, just as to any common person acting similarly; which attributes would be contrary to the essential goodness of the Lord affirmed by Sruti and Smriti. Moreover, as the infliction of pain and the final destruction of all creatures would form part of his dispensation, he would have to be taxed with great cruelty, a quality abhorred by low people even. For these two reasons Brahman cannot be the cause of the world.

Then Shankara refutes the opponent view as:

The Lord, we reply, cannot be reproached with inequality of dispensation and cruelty, "because he is bound by regards." If the Lord on his own account, without any extraneous regards, produced this unequal creation, he would expose himself to blame; but the fact is, that in creating he is bound by certain regards, i.e. he has to look to merit and demerit. Hence the circumstance of the creation being unequal is due to the merit and demerit of the living creatures created, and is not a fault for which the Lord is to blame. *&The position of the Lord is to be looked on as analogous to that of Parjanya, the Giver of rain. For as Parjanya is the common cause of the production of rice, barley, and other plants, while the difference between the various species is due to the various potentialities lying hidden in the respective seeds, so the Lord is the common cause of the creation of gods, men, &c., while the differences between these classes of beings are due to the different merit belonging to the individual souls.** Hence the Lord, being bound by regards, cannot be reproached with inequality of dispensation and cruelty.-- And if we are asked how we come to know that the Lord, in creating this world with its various conditions, is bound by regards, we reply that Scripture declares that; compare, for instance, the two following passages, 'For he (the Lord) makes him, whom he wishes to lead up from these worlds, do a good deed; and the same makes him, whom he wishes to lead down from these worlds, do a bad deed' (Kaush. Up. III, 8); and, 'A man becomes good by good work, bad by bad work' (Bri. Up. III, 2, 13). Smriti passages also declare the favour of the Lord and its opposite to depend on the different quality of the works of living beings; so, for instance, 'I serve men in the way in which they approach me' (Bha. Gî. IV, 11).

Similarly Ramanujacharya also comments on it as:

But the assumption of his having actually created the world would lay him open to the charge of partiality, in so far as the world contains beings of high, middle, and low station--gods, men, animals, immovable beings; and to that of cruelty, in so far as he would be instrumental in making his creatures experience pain of the most dreadful kind.--The reply to this is 'not so, on account of there being regard'; i.e. 'on account of the inequality of creation depending on the deeds of the intelligent beings, gods, and so on, about to be created.'--Sruti and Smriti alike declare that the connexion of the individual souls with bodies of different kinds--divine, human, animal, and so on--depends on the karman of those souls; compare 'He who performs good works becomes good, he who performs bad works becomes bad. He becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 5). In the same way the reverend Parâsara declares that what causes the difference in nature and status between gods, men, and so on, is the power of the former deeds of the souls about to enter into a new creation--'He (the Lord) is the operative cause only in the creation of new beings; the material cause is constituted by the potentialities of the beings to be created. The being to be embodied requires nothing but an operative cause; it is its own potentiality which leads its being into that condition of being (which it is to occupy in the new creation).' Potentiality here means karman.

As a sidenote, there are various branches of Hinduism (like Samkhya, Mimamsa etc..) where there is not omniscient, omnipotent God at all. So, the problem of evil doesn't exist in them at all.

For eg. In SlokaVartika Kumarila Bhatta argues that omniscient being can't exist:

  1. An omniscient person is not seen by us at the present moment; nor, is it possible to -prove (by means of Inference) that such a one ever existed before as is done in the case of the negation of such a person.

Kasika (sub commentary) on it states further:

Neither Sense-Perception, nor Inference can prove the existence of an omniscient person. In Inference we require a middle Term, which we cannot here in the case of omniscience. On the contrary, in support of the refutation of the existence of an omniscient person, we have the following inferential argument :
"The past was without an omniscient person, because it was a point of Time, like the Present.
" or again, 'Buddha was not omniscient, because he was a man like ourselves."

Kumarila Bhatta also argues that scripture also can't prove existence of omniscient person. For it is circular argument ie. Omniscient of that person depends on scripture and authority of scripture depends on omniscience of that person:

  1. Nor can the existence of the omniscient one be proved by Scriptures ; for in that case there would be mutual interdependence. And how can one ever believe the authenticity of a Scripture composed by another man.

  2. Nor can we get at any other Scripture (save the Veda) which is eternal. If the eulogies (occurring in the Veda in praise of an Omniscient Person) were eternal, then, non-eternality would belong to the Scripture itself.

  3. The eternality of the Scripture (Veda) having been established, all other assumptions (of an Omniscient Author and the like) become needless. For men could prove the existence of Duty by means of the same (Scripture), whereby (you seek) to prove the existence of an omniscient person.

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