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
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Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.
7. THE GOOD AND THE BAD
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
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
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
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,
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
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?!
ADDITIONAL NOTES RELATING TO THE ABOVE
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
GRAPHIC SEE KEYLIGHT
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
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
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
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
POINTS TO PONDER ABOUT
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
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
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
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.