72. The Difference Between Good and Evil
Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. I am currently working on a revised edition with even more in-depth commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V
Summary: The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavadgita describes the difference between divine and demonic qualities (daivasura sampada). The author explains why some people are pure evil, how evil manifests in creation and whether evil can exist at all in Isvara, the Supreme Being.
In Hinduism we recognize the highest supreme reality or the eternally indivisible, indestructible and immutable pure consciousness as Supreme Self or Brahman. Brahman means that which expands exponentially and is always ahead of everything. Just as modern astronomy describes the universe as continuously expanding, Brahman is an ever-expanding reality. No one can fathom his beginning or end or know his full manifestations.
He is recognized in the Upanishads (Vedas) as the Supreme God or God of gods, who is mostly unknown and whose true manifestations even gods do not know. In his purest state Brahman is not a being, but pure consciousness. However, in association with his divine Nature he manifests in numerous forms and states (bhavas) from the highest Isvara or Hiranyagarbha to the lowest organisms and from the highest state of equanimity and stability to the lowest state of chaos and confusion.
As the Supreme Self, Brahman pervades all as their very Self (Atman). According to the Bhagavadgita, his divine Nature (Maha Shakti) is of two kinds. the higher and the lower. His higher Nature manifests in everything as its best or most excellent or most brilliant qualities, and his lower Nature as their opposite.. He is the intelligence of the intelligent, the virtue of the virtuous, the strength of the strong, the beauty of beautiful things, the devotion of devotees, the austerity of ascetics and renunciants, and the courage of warriors.
Mixed with the gunas, those qualities lose their purity and intensity in the jivas. When a large number of such supreme qualities manifest in their full intensity and purity in one person or a being, we recognize that one as a divine person or a divinity. When such qualities are concealed or veiled in something or someone by the impurities of Maya, which result in their opposite, we recognize that as dark and evil. In incarnations his divine qualities fully manifest from birth since the higher shaktis are active in them from the beginning. In Asuras, they are almost inactive. Hence, they are filled with their opposite or demonic qualities.
Thus, everything in the objective realm is a manifestation of the Lord only in which he manifests himself or conceals himself in different degrees to create the diversity of good and evil which we witness in creation. A person becomes divine or demonic by the expression or suppression of divine nature or the highest or the purest of divine virtues and qualities. When tamas and rajas predominate, divine qualities become concealed and demonic qualities become expressed to the extent they are strong, but when sattva guna prevails divine qualities manifest and demonic qualities become suppressed to the extent a person is pure.
Thus, divine and demonic nature manifests in creation due to the expression or suppression of the divine Nature of the Supreme Self. When it is veiled by impure gunas, evil nature prevails in the field of Prakriti, it being the default state of lower shaktis who work as the instruments of Maya. Just as darkness prevails when the sun is absent, evil prevails when light of divine nature does not radiate in a being.
Therefore, if you want to awaken and manifest the divinity in you, you have to engage in self-purification through the twin methods of abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (renunciation and indifference) which are recommended by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavadgita and Patanjali in the Yogasutras.
When our consciousness is surrounded by the cloud of impurities, Brahman or the Self remains concealed. When it is dissolved, he shines forth and becomes self-evident through intelligence, speech, senses, qualities, knowledge, character, vigor, virtues, mental brilliance, selfless actions, devotion and so on. When such people live amidst us, we venerate them as saints, seers and great souls. It is in their company or proximity you come closest to what we consider Isvara or the Supreme Being in person. Otherwise, he is imperceptible to the mind and senses.
Evil arises and grows strong when divine qualities are veiled by impure gunas. From a purely spiritual perspective an asura is but a deva (god) in whom divinity is inactive and evil is active while a deva can be a potential Asura if he loses his virtues, purity and divinity. A human being can potentially be an asura or a deva depending upon whether he lets his divine nature shine or not. Strictly speaking, evil is not the opposite of good. It is the absence of active divine nature.
There are also no dark or demonic souls although we may use these terms to describe evil people. Since evil can never exist or be a part of Brahman or Atman, all souls are pure and resplendent only, and given an opportunity, manifest the divine nature of Brahman only in their embodied state. The evil ones are just embodied souls who are stuck in the darkness of Maya and cannot see the shining Self with in them or realize their divine nature. In them the radiance of the Self does not spread far.
It is why in the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna says that even if the most sinful person changes his ways and turns to him with devotion, he will consider him to be well positioned in life and qualified for liberation.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, Main Page
- The Wisdom of the Upanishads, Main Page
- The Bhagavad-Gita Essays and Translations
- An Introduction To The Bhagavad-Gita And Its Three Secrets
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- The Abbreviated Bhagavadgita
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- The Many Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- Divine Qualities Of A True Worshipper Of God
- The Bhagavadgita on Karma, the Law of Actions
- Maya, The Grand Illusion Or The Delusion Of The Mind
- Aspects, Emanations, Incarnations and Forms of God Vishnu
- Dvaita or Advaita What is the Truth?
- Symbolism in the Bhagavadgita
- The Truth About Karma
- Meaning and Definition of Bhagavan
- Brahman the Supreme Universal Lord of All
- What is Bhakti or Devotion?
- Bhakti Marg, the Path of Devotion
- History and information about Mathura and Vrindavan Temples
- True Devotion and Qualities of a True Devotee
- Essays On Sorrow And Its Spiritual Significance
- The Yoga of Knowledge or the Samkhya Yoga, Verses and Commentary by Jayaram V
- Essays On Dharma
- Esoteric Mystic Hinduism
- Introduction to Hinduism
- Hindu Way of Life
- Essays On Karma
- Hindu Rites and Rituals
- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
- Symbolism in Hinduism
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Concepts of Hinduism
- Essays on Atman
- Hindu Festivals
- Spiritual Practice
- Right Living
- Yoga of Sorrow
- Mental Health
- Concepts of Buddhism
- General Essays
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