Getting Spiritually Better
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Continuing our feature Getting Spiritually Better, we offer below the seventh installment. We hope you like it, and would share it with others who are interested in enquiry and self-improvement. Do write and tell us what you think, how you find it, whether it is useful, and in what ways this feature can be improved.

Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.


 From God we came To God we returnIn this world, we see both good and bad. People sometimes wonder: "If everything came from God, why is there bad at all? Why isn't everything good?" This is a legitimate doubt. But there is an answer to this 'problem'.

It all depends on one's perspective. A truly evolved soul sees everything as a play of the Lord. Not only that; he sees the Lord Himself playing all the roles; thus, in this viewpoint, even a so-called evil person is merely the Lord in disguise. In other words, since everything is the Lord and the Lord alone, nothing is bad - QED. It is as simple as that - this is the philosophy of monism or Advaitam, as Swami refers to it.

Most of us, indeed, 99.999999% of the people are nowhere near Advaitam or this state of Absolute Oneness, being immersed in the world of duality or pairs of opposites. In this perception, there is 'good' on the one hand and 'bad' on the other. However, what seems 'bad' is not really bad; it is a case of something that has not 'evolved'. This brings in the question of evolution, innate tendencies [Gunas] and other such factors. These points need some elaboration.

Years ago, they used to have what was called the Hall of Mirrors in amusement parks in America. In this Hall were placed a large number of mirrors, all of which would reflect only distorted images. When one stood before these mirrors and looked at them, one would see a large number of faces, each appearing different. This would of course cause plenty of amusement to children, because they would be seeing themselves with so many different forms as it were. The person was just one, but the variations in the reflections were many - that really is the point. This we must keep in mind, when we examine the Lord's Grand Master Plan.

It is important to appreciate that there IS a Grand Master Plan behind Creation. Many scientists seem to feel that the Universe is without a purpose, and that evolution of the species is the result of a series of random mutations of the DNA, modulated by the principle of the Survival of the Fittest. This is far from true. Creation does have a purpose. As Swami says, "There was no one to know who I was; so I separated Myself from Myself in order to Love Myself!" This may sound a bit mysterious but Swami has provided the necessary clarification.

Basically, there is a cycle. First, God created inanimate matter. From this came the plants; the important thing The Divine Cycle about plants is that they have life, as compared to inanimate, gross matter [like stones, for example]. Plants do not have a brain. Animals came next in evolution; they have a brain, with limited capabilities of course. After this came the human being, who is vastly superior to animals because, among other things, he has intelligence. This does not end the evolution sequence. If one were to ask, "What next?", there is a clear answer. Man has to become conscious and aware of his origin, Divine origin in fact, and become one with God. One may the describe sequence in evolution in terms of equations as below:

God + Sankalpa [Divine will] = Gross Matter.
Gross matter + life = Plant.
Plant + brain = Animal.
Animal + intelligence = Man.
Man + Awareness = God!

From God we all have come and to God we must return. A plant cannot return to God; an animal cannot directly return to God; a human being alone can, and that is why, Baba often tells us that human birth is a precious gift. The exact phrase He uses is: Jantunaam Narajanmam Durlabham, meaning essentially that human birth is rare, and a sacred blessing. Hence, [human] life must not be frittered away in the pursuit of trivial goals and ambitions like the pursuit of creature comforts, sensual pleasures, power, wealth, etc.

OK but what has all this got to do with the co-existence of good and evil? We shall take up that point next. Every human being has come up from many previous lives as lower species. Thus, all humans carry with them tendencies of the past. These tendencies are governed by three basic Gunas. Guna means basic characteristic or tendency. The three Gunas and their importance would be discussed elsewhere but here we note that people come in various shades and types basically because they represent different combinations of the three basic Gunas. Suppose a human being still retains some tendencies that the person had in a much earlier birth, say as a tiger; then that person would tend to be cruel. In short, every human being is on some step or the other of the 'evolution ladder'; some are on the higher steps while others are on the lower steps. The person whom we today describe as bad, will be a good person sometime later; it is inevitable. As Baba puts it, a sweet fruit has earlier gone through many stages when it was bitter, sour, and sweet and sour, before it became totally sweet. Hence the saying: "Every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future."

In a nutshell, everyone is trying to evolve; most people are way behind, while a few are way ahead. The Universe is thus like a huge University cum School complex, in which most of the students are in the lower classes while a handful are at the Ph.D level. Seen in this manner, what seems bad is not really bad; nobody expects a raw fruit to be deliciously sweet; in the same way, a so-called bad person will one day in the future become good himself; that is evolution, and the process of evolving is inevitable. Under natural forces, this evolution might take a very long time, but the individual has the capacity to accelerate his/her personal evolution by self-will. All it requires is firm determination. And the fountainhead of that determination is Love for God.

Meanwhile, every person must realize that he or she must not 'slide down' but go 'up'. What does this mean? Simply this: Every person must try to shake off the chains of past tendencies and evolve towards God. This is what Sadhana or spiritual exercise is all about. As Swami often says, Sadhana does not mean performing elaborate rituals, mechanically chanting for hours, etc. It simply means a) getting rid of one's animality, b) living like a refined human being, and c) rising to the level of the Divine. In practical terms it means that one must curb desires, be selfless, practice tolerance, etc.

For one who is able to truly see Oneness in Creation, the different people in the world would all appear like God in disguise. This evolved Soul would say, "There is God coming as a Postman to deliver mail. That is not a Postman, but God coming to say hello and to serve me! Let me take this opportunity and greet God with a nice smile." To a rationalist all this may sound like a lot of stupid make-believe, but there HAVE been noble Souls who have actually gone through life this way. Swami Vivekananda gives many real examples. Our beloved Swami says that the Rishis of old were not bothered by wild animals in the forests where they lived because, the Love they radiated captivated the animals. They saw God even in tigers and snakes!

As already mentioned, most of us, however, are immersed in duality; we see good and bad as distinct features; under the circumstances, if we associate with 'bad', we would inevitably be dragged down. On the other hand if we shun the 'bad', it would accelerate our return to God.

Incidentally, this resolves an apparent paradox. If everything is good, then what is the meaning of 'avoiding bad company', 'seeing no evil', etc.? It simply means: "For a person immersed in duality, good and bad do have a meaning. Such a person, for rapid spiritual progress, must avoid 'bad' entities - meaning, seeing 'bad' things, hearing 'bad' things, and doing 'bad' things. It is like a careful driver not allowing his attention to be distracted by the sights etc., on the two sides of the road. In addition, for the vehicle to move properly, a good driver must have his hands on the steering wheel, and press the accelerator pedal in a controlled manner. In the same way, apart from the don'ts, the spiritual seeker has some do's also. While the don'ts mainly pertain to mind and sense control, the do's relate to performing good actions, being selfless, loving others, expressing gratitude to God, etc."

Man, it is said, is a mixture of the Divine and the animal. Having originally come from God, he is basically Divine. Having evolved from the lower species, he can and does have baser instincts. It is up to him to realize that he must go forward, i.e., to God and not backwards, i.e., towards animality. In this context, Baba draws an important analogy. He says that in a play, the actor must act according to the dress that he wears. For example, if an actor is in the attire of a King, then he is expected to act like a King and not like a clown. The human body too is a 'dress'. Those who wear this dress must act like REAL human beings - they should be full of human qualities and virtues like forbearance, the spirit of sacrifice, etc., and not be the embodiments of greed, lust, and jealousy.

Linking to the earlier chapters, the following may be noted:

1. The great imbalance one sees today in Society is largely the result of individuals failing to be what they really ought to be. Instead of making sure that the fountain of Godliness within controls and drives them, they are permitting the external situation to shape them. Inevitably, this drags the individual down spiritually.
2. The individual must firmly resist this downward slide. He/she must not succumb to the argument, "What is the use of my reforming when the Society as a whole is so rotten? If I spend my energy in reforming, it would get me nowhere; I would just get drowned; reformation is a losing proposition." Instead, he/she must confidently assert: "I don't care about win or lose, survival or extinction. I am wearing the dress of a human, and I must be true to the dress I don. That is my primary responsibility and duty."

If one follows the path towards God with firm and unshakable determination, then one can be sure that God will confer His Grace to ensure success. Remember what Baba often says: You take ONE step towards Me and I shall take a HUNDRED steps towards you! Yes, that really is TRUE, as many have discovered by personal experience. What then are we waiting for?!


  • The above discussion deals with an apparent paradox and resolves that paradox.

  • To get a feel for the concepts involved, consider a beam of white light that passes through a prism. We all know that the white beam would get split into different colours.


     The prism of sensesOK but what is the point? The point is simply this. The Divine pervades the entire Universe. But our senses are like the prism; they compel us to see and experience differences.

  • But what is wrong with that? After all, is it not God who gave us the senses? Why then complain if the senses are doing their job? True God gave us the senses, but what if we misuse them? That really is the point.

  • Any use of the senses that tends to keep us away from realising our Divine nature, and that delays our union with God is a misuse.

  • OK, the senses are used properly; then what? When one keeps the senses and the Mind under perfect control, then one would clearly perceive Unity in diversity. It would be like recombining the split beam with another prism working in the opposite direction.

  • GRAPHIC [use two]?

  • The senses are like the first prism that splits. Sense control is like the second prism that unifies. A man BELOW the senses would see only diversity whereas a man ABOVE the senses would see only Oneness. Diversity and Unity are thus a matter of perspective.

  • Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity offers an example of how different perceptions can be when perspectives are different. This theory compares what two observers would actually see of the SAME events. One of these observers is stationary while the other is moving with a uniform velocity. It turns out that if the moving observer is going at a speed close to that of light, then two events that would appear distinctly spaced out in time can appear SIMULTANEOUS to the moving observer! Now who is correct? Relativity says that what the stationary observer sees is correct for him and likewise, what the moving observer sees is correct for him? We might wonder, "How can two contradictory things be correct at the same time? Impossible!" Is it? Just imagine a person in Puttaparthi making a phone call to someone in Chicago. It is 12 noon in Puttaparthi and therefore there is bright sunshine everywhere; but in Chicago, it is midnight and dark everywhere. Thus, the person in Puttaparthi and the person in Chicago have very different environments. In the same way, a person who is immersed in duality would perceive the world in one way while the person who sees only Oneness everywhere would see that very same world in an entirely different way.

  • Swami Vivekananda talks about a saint named Parvi Baba who lived some two hundred years ago on the banks of the river Ganges. He lived in a cave full of cobras! He never thought of them as deadly snakes but embodiments of Divinity! We would all imagine that this saint was a nut but for him we worldly mortals were the mad people. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often used to say, "Everyone in the world is mad. Some are mad after money, power and the like while a few are mad about God; that is all!"

  • A new question arises: "OK, for a person immersed in duality, how do you explain the presence of the 'bad' in the world?" The following analogy may help. God created grapes. When grapes are crushed, we get grape juice. Grape juice is a refreshing drink. There is nothing wrong with it. However, this very same juice can ferment whereupon it can be harmful. The message is that bad emerges when there is a perversion of the good. In other words, to start with there is nothing that is bad. But if perversion enters the picture then good can become bad.

  • Bhagavan Baba sometimes illustrates this adulteration by considering the example of Love itself. Love as God has installed it in us is pure and unsullied. It is totally Divine. But when this Love enters the world, it runs the danger of getting degraded, if one is not careful. It is rather like the grape juice getting fermented if one is not careful.

  • OK, what are the forms this "degraded Love" assumes? Well, it can manifest as attachment, desire and so on.

  • Why does such degradation occur? It occurs on account of body-consciousness. A person who is not totally selfless, wants various kinds of advantages for his "body". For example, a mother may love her son immensely and also make all kinds of sacrifices. But she may also have various expectations. She may want her son to become great so that she shines in reflected glory and feel proud. Or else she may expect her son to take care of her in her old age. This is an example of "tainted" love. Swami's Love, on the other hand, is an example of Pure Love, without any trace of any selfishness whatsoever.

  • OK, agreed that everything starts off as good, and if there is perversion or contamination, then the even the good can become bad. So, in this dual world, how is one to conduct oneself? That is simple! Avoid, a) seeing what is bad, b) avoid hearing what is bad, c) avoid speaking what is bad. All this is readily achieved by avoiding bad company and seeking good company.

  • Granted, but we are told we must seek Oneness. But on the other hand, all this advice is strongly emphasising duality. Will it not trap one in the dual world?

  • Not really. Once a person starts being good and stays with it, the vision of that person would gradually grow. And one fine day, the vision of that person would become so wide that his whole perspective would be different; he would now begin to see good even in what "appears" to be evil. It is like fire burning and purifying everything.

  • May be, but all that is going to take a very long time. Meanwhile, how to get along in a dual world, shunning the bad, and yet trying to believe that even the bad is really good in disguise? Is that not double-talk?

  • To one steeped in the dual world, indeed this might sound like double-talk. But it really is not so. For example, long ago when people were told that the earth was spherical, they did not believe it. They said, if it were so, people on the other side would fall down or fall off the earth! But we know that they do not. Clearly, these mis-guided people lacked that piece of knowledge, which explains why people do not fall off. In the same way, in spirituality too, one must get rid of one's ignorance before the non-dual aspect becomes truly meaningful.

  • OK, one accepts the non-dual view but how to live and function in the world wherein 99.99999 percent of the people are immersed in duality? This is where the idea of the Cosmic Drama comes into the picture! The concept would be discussed later.

  • Basically, one must go through life constantly reminding oneself that it is all a Drama, scripted by the Lord, and in which the Lord Himself plays all roles in disguise.

  • Many years ago, in Divine Discourse, Baba after narrating the well-known story of Prince Prahalada and his demonic father Hiranyakashipu, Swami stunned the audience by declaring, "Hiranyakashipu nene," meaning that Hiranyakashipu also was none other than Him!

  • But why did God have come disguised as Hiranyakashipu? Well, there could be many answers to that. One is that God came as Prahalada's examiner, donning the role of the wicked father Hiranyakashipu. Another is to tell the people of the world how to set priorities in this dual world, always giving primacy to God; in other words, how to act properly in the Cosmic Drama!

  • To sum up, although in reality there is nothing bad in Creation, from a practical point of view, that is, from the point of view of most of us who are immersed in duality, it is better to consciously avoid what is supposed to be bad. It is like an aircraft taking off from an airstrip that is surrounded by hills. As should be obvious, unless the pilot carefully avoids the hills, there would be disaster; it is the same in life; one must negotiate past obstacles and the so-called bad form the greatest obstacles.


  • It was mentioned that the picture that the world presents depends on one's outlook. If it is positive, then one would see nothing but good. If it is negative, one would see nothing but bad. [Remember the saying that a glass filled 50 % with water appears half-full to some and half-empty to others?] In general, all of us are a mixture of some positive traits and some negative traits. Thus our outlook is not quite perfect and therefore flawed. Swami has described this in terms of looking through coloured glasses. Look up those quotes. He also describes this in terms of putting clean water in bottles with various colours. That also would be a useful quote to offer during discussions.

  • Many would not agree that there is no bad in the world. These are the people who believe in absolutes. How would you try to convince them that everything depends on outlook? This is largely a matter of anticipating the objections and being ready with the reply. Such a mental exercise would help in getting rid of one's own doubts.

  • It is also important to consider how one would motivate young people to avoid seeing bad and be good. In some respects, the young of today are better sensitised than those of an earlier generation with regard to green issues. For example, most children who have been exposed to issues relating to the environment would readily oppose the slaughter of whales, the wanton destruction of forests and so on. But how to motivate the young to be good in matters relating to sensual pleasures of various kinds, where the media is playing havoc? This important issue needs careful thought. The strategies evolved could be used in EHV classes and the like.

  • It was mentioned earlier that in the quest for Purity, one need not feel that total Purity is impossible, and that therefore one need not waste time seeking the impossible. It is like this. God wants to see if we are determined to seek Purity. If we are bent upon Purity, that is enough for Him. He will then stretch our His hand and redeem us.

  • One can understand this concept with the help of what is called a logarithmic scale. Using powers of ten, one can write numbers as follows: 0.001 = 10-3. 0.01 = 10-2. 0.1 = 10-1. 1 = 100. 10 = 101. 100 = 102. 1000 = 103. And so on. Thus, one can make a scale like below:

    This is the logarithmic scale. In this scale, there is no zero and no infinity. Thus, on a logarithmic scale, one cannot be totally Pure or totally impure. All of us are somewhere or the other on this scale. Thus, in principle we can never attain perfect Purity! And yet, people get redemption. How? That is because, God lifts us out! He will do so when He is convinced that we deserve redemption. Thus we need not be scared that we cannot attain perfect Purity. What is needed is the determination to become as Pure as possible.


Volume - 2 Issue - 2 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004