Search & Read
Good and Evil
Sarah: Hello, Sundari.
First of all, I want to say a big thank you for all the work and effort you and James put into the ShiningWorld community and the satsangs.
I have tried to find my topic in the satsang section at ShiningWorld.com, but could not find it or maybe I overlooked it; sorry for that.
But here is my question:
Is it presumable, in the future, that someday a peaceful world exists, meaning that every human being is aware of its true nature?
In one of the YouTube videos, James says the world is perfect as it is, there is no good without bad, so the dualistic world will always consist out of duality, but does that mean that there will always be unconscious human beings on earth?
Sundari: Your question is a common one, and I am surprised you have not found the answer at the website. Have you tried searching words like “good and evil”?
Anyway, here is the reply from a Vedantic perspective. Firstly, your question presupposes that the world and the jiva is real, which it is not, “real” being defined by “that which is always present and unchanging,” a definition which applies only to awareness, nothing else. What is the point of trying to change something that is not real? Maya, the power in awareness to delude, makes the world and the jivas in it look real, but they are only apparently real, meaning they do exist, as does the world they live in, but in a different order of reality to awareness (satya – that which is unchanging and always present) called mithya, meaning that which is neither real nor unreal; it is apparently real (not always present and always changing, i.e. duality, or maya). Duality is a superimposition onto awareness, but does not cover it. Nothing covers awareness, because awareness is always aware of the apparent covering.
When maya appears, awareness associated with maya “assumes” the role of Isvara, the Creator, and the creation apparently manifests. The creation is made up of and originates from the gunas: rajas, tamas and sattva. They are impersonal forces that shape the way duality (samsara) plays out.
From the perspective of the jiva who is identified with being a jiva, this playing out is seen as personal and has all kinds of thoughts, emotions and actions associated with it. From one’s personal to global view, how we see the world and what happens to us – and it – will be interpreted by how the mind is conditioned by the gunas, i.e. the vasanas, which are also generated and coloured by the gunas (i.e. Isvara).
Even though I know I am the self, and not the person, the apparent person lives in the apparent reality. Of course from this perspective I see, war and peace or “good and evil” the same way you do: as injustice, heartbreaking and mindless. But the difference is I know that there is nothing to be done about it. “Evil” will always be present in the apparent reality, as will war and peace. It is rajas and tamas at their worst, if they could be personified, which they cannot. There is no way that duality can manifest unless all the gunas have the ability to express from one end of the spectrum to the other. If they could not and there was no ignorance, there would no duality and no world. There would be no jivas and no objects for awareness to be conscious of. And anyway, sometimes war is necessary, from Isvara’s point of view. Krishna, speaking as Isvara, in the Bhagavad Gita encourages Arjuna to face his karma and go to war.
Isvara, the power to create, comes from all three gunas. Sattva is the intelligence behind the creation, tamas the substance, and rajas is the power to activate and project the blueprint for the substance into seemingly infinite objects, with names and forms. Although the creation is made up of awareness and depends on awareness to exist, awareness is always free of the creation. Isvara creates without ever losing or changing its identity as consciousness. It does not “become” the creation. If it did, consciousness would cease to be conscious (like milk ceases to be milk when it becomes cheese) and there would be no sentient beings and no movement possible in the creation. But because awareness is non-dual (obviously, meaning not-two), there is only awareness for it to “see,” whether or not there is a creation for (apparently) present. The creation is not always present. It is subsumed into the macrocosmic causal body when the cycle of creation ends. This is a difficult concept to grasp because from awareness’s point of view, there is no such thing as time, no “future” world – and no creation. But the previous statement implies time and causation. It all depends on which perspective you are looking at things from, awareness or the jiva, satya or mithya.
If you think you are a jiva and are identified with objects, thinking they are real and you are real, then good and evil are a problem for you. If you can see life from a non-dual perspective, you will see that, as Isvara is not a person with likes and dislikes, it is impossible that the Creator creates good or evil. Everything that happens in the creation is just the impersonal playing out of the gunas, creating karma. Remember that the world we live in, the dharma field, or field of existence, is created so that the jiva can work out its karma.
Evil is caused not by Isvara but by ignorance of Isvara. The jiva is born with a certain vasana/karma load according to the karma of its previous births. The karma that brings an individual into body survives the death of the body if it is not resolved before death, generating a “new” body. But although the karma/vasanas, or psychology, will be the same, the individual will not be. This is because it will be born to different parents and circumstances. So the cycle of life grinds on in this way until the jiva has accumulated enough good (punya) karma to be qualified for moksa. Until this happens, the wheel or whirlpool of samsara continues, with all its suffering and apparent good and evil.
It is difficult to accept this and it is soul-destroying if you get drawn into crusading against the dark side of life. However, Isvara’s creation is playing out as it has to. Karma is impossible to understand from the jiva’s perspective, because the jiva can only look at what takes place in the apparent reality from within the framework of the apparent reality. This perspective will always be limited. The apparent reality will always be limited. The only solution is to see it from the point of view of awareness. You have to be able to step out of duality to see it for what it is: only apparently real.
Evil, adharmic acts and all their many manifestations, are abominations, and one cannot but denounce them if dharma and peace of mind are what you value. But to get involved in value judgements and become emotional about this topic is to forget the most important fact: it is not awareness that causes such horrible things. As stated, awareness is not a big person with desires and fears. Awareness is limitless consciousness. Because it is limitless, it has every conceivable power, including the power for so-called good and evil – ignorance. If ignorance is excluded from awareness, awareness becomes limited, which when we investigate, we know is not possible. The evil that we see is a result of ignorance. We know this because individuals who understand their nature as awareness do no evil. And even those who don’t know that their nature is awareness but understand the nature of the Field of Existence don’t do evil either, because they know that the field is run by natural laws which cannot be transgressed without consequence – and they desire peace of mind above all else.
This is why Christ said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Maya (apparently) makes awareness think it is an individual who does not know that it is actually whole and complete awareness. When awareness is under the spell of maya it does actions that cause suffering to its (apparent) self and to others. It is “unconscious,” so to speak, even though its true nature can only ever be consciousness – awareness, under the spell of ignorance.
At the same time there is as much good in the world as there is evil. Maya also makes awareness realise its nature as awareness, follow dharma and do many wonderful things. There are more people who are called to healing and helping than there are perpetrators of evil deeds.
Is awareness responsible for the good and the evil? Awareness is the witness of (apparent) good and evil, so it cannot be either good or evil, because both good and evil are objects known to you, awareness. You are never what you know.
Maya, or ignorance, is “responsible” for good and evil, not awareness. Maya is not real. We know this because it disappears with self-knowledge. If maya is not real, then the effects of maya, good and evil, are not real either. Suffering is taking something that is not real to be real.
When we say the world is perfect as it is, we mean that it cannot be anything other than what it is. If the world could be different, assuming maya “thought” that it was not serving awareness, it would make the world a different place. But it never does. So it must be that there is a good reason for suffering. And indeed there is. Although it makes awareness appearing as jivas seemingly dull and evil, it also makes them sensitive and awake, which provides them with indirect knowledge of their nature as awareness, thus motivating their quest for direct knowledge.
Some people respond to this knowledge by saying: “If one cannot change anything because it is not real and it is perfect the way it is, why bother trying to help anyone?” But Vedanta says: Why not help if everything is perfect? Your helping is also perfect. If it is your nature to help, you will help. If not, not. If it is your nature to sometimes help and sometimes not, then that is the way Isvara created you. Ramana did not crusade against injustice, because he understood that the world is the way it is and it will always be that way. “Do-gooders,” as we call them, are not that popular with Isvara. This is because this kind of mind usually believes that it knows better and sets out to “save” the world or people. This is not a good motivation for doing anything to help, because you are assuming you know more than Isvara does in delivering karma.
Even if these arguments are not convincing to you, what use is suffering because of the suffering you see? It not only does not change the suffering; it adds a bit of suffering to the total. We jivas have no control over results. If you want to help or contribute to peace in the world, help. But it is a thankless task, so let it be an act of service without any thought of changing things or making them better or different. Examine your motives for doing anything; see if it is to make yourself feel better, superior or to give you a purpose in life. Often do-gooders have a hidden agenda which is really about them rather than the people or situation they purportedly serve. Many have low self-esteem, and “helping” is a way to feel better about themselves. Take action to help because it is your nature to do so – or just because you can – with the karma yoga spirit – and leave the results to Isvara. You cannot beat the system. Karma yoga is the only way to peace. We all want the world to be a better place, but it is what it is.
Sarah: In one German article, I read about the cosmic cycle. It says that this cycle is responsible for the collective consciousness, and this century the energy level of every being will get higher. So, summarized, the article says human beings on earth will start to seek for peace and harmony because of this cosmic cycle. But is this right, if the dual world always includes dualities, which means peace and war?
Sundari: This is typical New-Age-type rhetoric, based in duality. While it may be true that the apparent reality has apparent cycles because the gunas are always changing, the “energy level” can only ever truly change for jivas when their personal ignorance of who they are has been removed by self-knowledge. There is no magic change possible on a grand scale that will make this happen for everyone, producing some kind of nirvana. That is just magical thinking. It is up to each of us to seek the truth by committing the mind to a valid means of knowledge, with the help of a qualified teacher. For that, there are very few true teachers – and there is only Vedanta which offers a completely tried and tested, timeless, unchanging and irrefutable means of knowledge for awareness. If you are serious about moksa, it is best to put aside most other teachings, because they will confuse you. Almost invariably, unless a teaching is solidly based in non-duality with a proper means of knowledge, it will contain ignorance and knowledge, side by side.
Ignorance often presents itself as knowledge; that is why the apparent reality is so confusing. As jivas we are a mixture of spirit and matter, so most people are perpetually confused about what is true. The worst is that so many people assume the position of truth when they are ignorant of who they are and the true nature of reality, spouting all kinds of nonsense which people who don’t know better swallow. It is impossible to know what the truth is unless you know what awareness is and what it means to know what awareness is as the jiva, who lives in the apparent reality. It’s all very well knowing about awareness, but how does that help you if this knowledge does not translate into the life of the jiva?
This is the purpose of self-inquiry. I would suggest you read all of James’ books, especially The Essence of Enlightenment and Inquiry into Existence.
Feel free to write anytime.
~ Love, Sundari