Heaven and Earth are unkind

I ran into an interesting Facebook post recently. An Indian woman agonized over this situation — she saw a lizard trying to catch a moth, and she was wondering whether she should help the moth escape. If she had done so, then the lizard would go hungry. What to do?

Such a dilemma reminds me of a chapter I read in the Tao Te Ching. It says, “Heaven and Earth are not kind. They treat all people as straw dogs.” On the surface, it seems discomforting to know that Heaven and Earth do not give a damn. The Tao is very different from the God of Christianity, or even the Buddha of Mahayana Buddhism. God is said to be loving and merciful. Buddha is said to be full of love and compassion. Why is the Tao of Taoism so cold?

One way to understand this is that the Tao does not play favorites. I responded to this Indian woman referenced earlier. I said she should not interfere with nature. Nature is not partial to any particular creature. Hence, nature is unkind. Being kind to the moth will be cruel to the lizard and vice versa. Whatever acts of kindness we do to one party may become an act of injustice to another party. If we interfere with nature, we will most likely upset the ecosystem.

It is for this reason that I dislike the Christian portrayal of God as a personal God. If there has to be a God at all, I prefer to have a deist God — a God that does not interfere with human affairs. I also dislike the notion that a believer and pray and petition to God to ask for favors. For favor done for one party may become a disservice for another party. If there is a God at all, such God should not play favorites. Think about two farmers, each praying to God. One wants sunny weather. The other wants rain. They plant different types of crops, thus have different needs. If God were to love everybody equally, then God should not help any party.

Jesus came very close to Lao Tze’s teaching when he said “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The God (or the Tao) love everyone equally. Therefore, He does not intervene. That indifference is actually universal love. In the U.S., it is customary for our presidents to conclude an address to the nation by saying “God bless America.” Does this mean that God will bless America more than He will bless, say, China or North Korea? Since when has God become partial?

I have no problem with people believing in the existence of God. But I have problem with people making God too small. God is “unkind,” precisely because His love is impartial.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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