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Through his research, writer, journalist and former Union minister Arun Shourie exposes the incongruity of the world's major religions when it comes to seeking answers to God and suffering. CfB presents a review of his book, Does He know a mother’s heart?

Does He know a mothers heart? How suffering refutes religion
By Arun Shourie
HarperCollins Publishers
Pages:  432
Rs. 399

Most of us believe in God and we assume and presume that our god will deliver us from all kinds of sufferings.  We worship Him for his blessings- right from giving us this and that down to making India victorious in cricket.

Our attempts to communicate with God become intense and we seek His intervention when confronted with insurmountable odds and suffering. Soon we begin to question our belief in the “almighty” when an innocent child is dealt cruelly by fate and his suffering only worsens; when his deeply loving and caring mother is inflicted with Alzheimer’s...

Does God exist and if he does, does He really care about the unspeakable cruelties in the world around him?

Anyone contemplating on God and suffering will find the multi-faceted Arun Shourie’s book immensely fascinating. The book is centered around the deep bond of love in the Shourie family and the answers that he seeks while attending to his cerebral palsy-afflicted son Aditya and wife Anita who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after an accident in her 40s.

One after another, fate dealt cruelly with Adit- premature birth followed by insufficient oxygen in the incubator that led to cerebral palsy and then the innumerable complications. One blow after another and yet the defenceless child showed love and gratitude towards those around him; not anger, hatred and resentment over his condition.

Through the depth of research, Shourie exposes the incongruity of the world’s major religions when it comes to seeking answers to God and suffering. In India, all suffering is blamed on bad karma- the sins of the past life. “Karma,” says Shourie, “is a convenient fiction” while borrowing the phrase from Eliot  Deutsch. It not only provides an explanation for suffering but also “puts God off the hook.” He extensively quotes the great Indologist P V Kane who observed that “our sense of fairness and justice would be shocked by the inequalities in the world” if the doctrine of Karma and transmigration were not there. Karma, which is inextricably linked to rebirth, is then, nothing more than a clever intellectual invention.

All of these are then mere props- God, godmen, karma, the religious scriptures…They may have their value, says Shourie, but one must realize that no cosmic purpose is served by our suffering or that of those dear to us- just as no cosmic purpose is served by our birth or death. This is because there is no cosmic purpose, to begin with.

Having arrived at this realization, Shourie says, it is worthwhile to put suffering to work, here and now. Begin by accepting responsibility for the circumstance; learn from Viktor Frankl to exercise the freedom of choosing how we react to situations. And find salvation by serving- in whatever way one can-  those who are in pain. “Even if our circumstances prevent us from serving those who are in pain, we can serve those who are serving them: all of us have the wherewithal to be the servants of servants.”

This is deeply researched, powerful and insightful book born out of personal experience and trauma. It can be life-altering for many.

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