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Hindu Culture & Belief

Yet evil exists and God, therefore, must either be less-than omnipotent or less than all-kind. Theodicy is also a problem of polytheistic religions, however, if it is viewed as "the existential need to explain suffering and evil" (O'Flaherty 2). And, more generally, it is a problem for any religion whose system of beliefs cannot adequately explain the existence of human suffering. Hinduism, like most religions, clearly knew the strain induced by theodicy. A very early Buddhist text asked, satirizing Hinduism's inability to resolve the contradiction, "if [Brahma] is master of the whole world . . . why in the world did he ordain misfortune [and] make the world with deception, lies, and excess, with injustice?" (Bhuridatta Jataka, quoted in O'Flaherty 5).

Yet it has long been held by Indologists and philosophers that there is no Indian theodicy. The problem of evil and attempts to resolve it are, however, major features of Hindu mythology and O'Flaherty has shown that it is neglect of mythology that has led to the philosophers' misconception. Rather than ignoring myths as mere popular fiction, they must be understood as "metaphors for human situations" because, while myths may "appear to be about origins, implicit in them is a concern for the way things are" (O'Flaherty 9).

In Hindu myth, from the Vedas to the present, the nature of evil is elucidated through its presentation in stories. While the terms of the philosophic investigation of evil are


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