Reply To: The Evil Un God

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Ashish Dalela

Whatever we call “good” is some moral principles such as truthfulness, kindness, charity, chastity, etc. And whatever we call “bad” is the violation of these moral principles by cheating, lying, stealing, unkindness, debauchery, etc. In the common narrative about God, “God is good”, meaning that He is truthful, kind, charitable, chaste, etc. And accordingly, in the common narrative, there is God’s opposite called Satan, who encourages cheating, lying, stealing, unkindness, debauchery, etc.

This common narrative about God upholds righteousness or morality as the highest religious principle, and this narrative creates serious problems about the existence of evil in this world. The simple question is: If God is good, then how can the created world have evil within it? This problem of evil which is sometimes called theodicy exists very prominently in Abrahamic religions.

In Vedic philosophy, these common narratives about God are rejected. The highest principle is not morality but happiness or pleasure. There is some pleasure obtained by working honestly, leading a chaste life, always telling the truth, being kind to others, etc. However, as almost everyone knows, there is even greater pleasure in immorality. For example, there is some pleasure in a chaste married life, but there is even greater pleasure in extramarital affairs. The problem is only that immoral pleasures are temporary. You can enjoy immorality for some time, and then you will be caught and punished. This creates the paradox that immorality should not exist because it is temporary and God is eternal. How can eternal God create something temporary and contrary to His nature?

Vedic philosophy rejects this contradiction between morality and immorality. It tells us that the contradiction between good and evil ceases to exist when there is love between the soul and God.

For example, if there is love between a parent and a child, then the parent will not be unhappy even if the child takes food from the parent’s plate. In fact, when there is love, then two lovers drink from the same bottle, eat from the same plate, share the same house, often share the same clothes, keep money in the same bank account, etc. Under love, the two people don’t keep track of how much each person is drinking or eating. If one person eats more or takes more than their “fair share”, then the other person doesn’t get upset because there is love between them. In fact, the other person has greater pleasure in life when their loved one is demanding and likes to give away whatever will make the other person happy. The more the demand, the greater is the happiness in giving things to the loved one. As a result, the standard moral principles cease to be relevant when the happiness of love becomes the highest principle concerning God, instead of morality as the highest principle.

Under the moral conception of life, there is a strict separation of identity, because under morality, what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours. At best, we can have trade, contract, or agreement of “fair exchange”. But under the loving conception of life, this separation of identity is dissolved, because what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine. Now, there is no trade, no contract, and no agreement of “fair exchange”. Anything can be given and taken because there is pure love.

This loving relationship sometimes seems to be “immoral” but it is not actually immoral because the moral conception of life is based on a strict separation of identities whereas in love this identity separation is destroyed. Of course, there are still individuals, but because there is love, they are not counting how many beans each person is eating. In fact, they are happier if more than one’s “fair share” of beans are eaten because love increases when there is greater demand and fulfilment.

All these principles are summarized in Vedic philosophy by saying that God is beyond good and evil, and the pure devotees of God are also beyond good and evil. There is no longer a contract, covenant, trade, or fair exchange between soul and God. Everything that belongs to God belongs to His devotees, and everything that belongs to the devotees belongs to God. So, they increase each other’s happiness by taking more than their fair share and giving away more than the fair share. The moral conception of God, or that “God is good” is thereby considered an inferior idea about God and His devotees. The superior conception of love destroys this conventional idea of good and evil.

Abrahamic religions are based on the idea of “God is good” and Vedic philosophy is based on the idea that “God is love”. There is a strict separation of identity in Abrahamic religions due to which there is a contract, covenant, trade, or fair exchange between the soul and God. All Abrahamic religions try to describe this contract between soul and God. But all these ideas are rejected in Vedic philosophy because there is a superior conception of love, and morality is not required. The dissolution of strict identity based on the strict notion of me and you are also destroyed, and we call this destruction of identity separation “yoga”, which means the loving union of God and soul. This loving relationship is beyond the ideas of good and evil and is the supreme conception of God.

When the soul stops loving God, then a moralistic conception of life is created. Under this conception, what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours, and then, there can be a trade, contract, covenant, or fair exchange between two individuals. When the soul further becomes selfish, then even this moral conception is destroyed and immorality is created. Now, what is mine is mine, and what is yours is also mine. Now, people try to steal from others, tell lies to get what they want, take more than they need, and don’t try to give back what the other needs destroying fair exchange.

Thus, from a perfect state of love of God, initially, a moral conception of life is created, and then an immoral conception of life is created. Most people who don’t know about the perfect state of love of God, only think in terms of the moral and immoral conceptions of life. They call the former “God” and the latter “Satan”. Then they have the problem of trying to explain how good can create evil, which is a problem that can never be resolved in Abrahamic religions. This problem is resolved in Vedic philosophy by stating that God is beyond good and evil, but this state exists only when there is love. When love dies, then a moral life is created. And when morality dies, then evil is created. Thus, from the state of loving devotion to God, emerges morality and then immorality. Even as morality and immorality seem contradictory, they are reconciled in the principle of loving devotion.

We can summarize these three types of lives in the following simple manner:

  • Non-duality: what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine
  • Morality: what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours
  • Immorality: what is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine

Both moral and immoral conceptions of life constitute the so-called “Matrix” in Vedic philosophy. If you do moral actions, then you are rewarded based on the principles of contracts, covenants, fair exchange, trade, etc. This trade is required because everyone doesn’t have everything. So, to get what you don’t have, you have to “sacrifice” something that you have. The result is that after you make the sacrifice, you get something that you did not have previously, but you don’t have what you had previously. So, the moral conception of sacrifice, trade, covenant, contract, or fair exchange creates a society in which everyone is always losing something in order to gain something else.

Most people don’t like this idea; they ask: Why can’t I have everything, without giving up anything? And this idea then creates immorality. When you act immorally, then the “Matrix” punishes you, by taking away all that you had accumulated by immoral methods. Thus, the “Matrix” is the system of reward and punishment in which even if there is some gain, there is always some loss; if we try to evade the principle of fair exchange, then there is greater loss, punishment, suffering, deprivation.

There are hence heavens and hells inside this Matrix. Heaven is called Svarga and hell is called Naraka, in Vedic philosophy. There are many such grades of heavens and hells, each affording a different kind of happiness or suffering, depending on the type and extent of morality or immorality one has led in their previous lives. The study of all these varied places in the universe is Vedic cosmology. But they are all within the Matrix, based on the ideas of “God is good” and “Satan is evil”, a moral conception of life based on trade, contract, covenants, fair exchanges, and their immoral opposites, which then create places of greater suffering, deprivation, punishment, etc.

Suffering is not difficult to create. Basically, you put two evil people together, and they will constantly try to hurt each other. They will constantly try to cheat, deceive, and extort each other. The more powerful person will win temporarily, and the weaker person will lose, for the time being, go back to lick his wounds, and then return back with greater force to destroy the previous winner. So, to create suffering, the Matrix just puts evil people together and watches the ensuing drama. There are places in the universe exclusively reserved for evil people, where such people constantly compete using immoral means. Similarly, happiness is also easy to create. Basically, you put two good people together, and they will try to have fair exchanges and give as much as they take. There is very little competition and envy between such people, and life remains peaceful and happy. There are places in the universe exclusively reserved for such good people, and they are happy.

Then, there are places in the universe, such as this planet earth, where good and evil people are mixed because everyone has some good and evil within them. Some people are more good, and some are eviler, but everyone has some good and evil within them. The mixture of good and evil people in society is the result of the mixture of good and evil within each person. You are talking about this mixture of good and evil in this world, but you have to also look at the evil within you. If you were pure and perfect, then this world would exist, but you would not be present in this world. You are in this world because there is a mixture of good and evil within you. If you become eviler, then you will be sent to a world that is eviler. If you become more good, you can also go to a better world.

The opposition between good and evil, morality and immorality, is called duality in Vedic philosophy. When these opposites are reconciled in loving devotion to God, then it is called non-duality. The material world of heaven and hell, happiness and suffering, based on fair exchange or cheating, is the world of duality, and it is produced from non-duality without a conception of morality and immorality as notions of strictly separated identities are dissolved in non-duality.

If someone behaves morally, then the Matrix will send them into a life of enjoyment, but it is a moral enjoyment of trade, contracts, fair exchanges, and duties. And if someone behaves immorally, by breaking the contracts, fair exchanges, and duties, then the Matrix will send them into a life of suffering. As a result, the soul transmigrates from one life to another, one body to another, one planet to another, and obtains different kinds of lives of enjoyment and suffering.

In the present world, many people behave immorally presently, and they will be punished in future. Their present positions of power and prestige are due to their previous moral action. When a person obtains a good life due to a previous moral life, they start thinking that they have obtained this power, position, prestige, wealth, etc. due to their skills, hard work, and guile. They don’t know that a good life is obtained by moral action and immorality leads to suffering. So they go on committing immoral deeds, just like a person empties out their bank account in reckless enjoyment, and when the bank account is empty, then he has to return to a hard life of suffering for survival. So, evil persons can also rule the world because they have a bank account of good deeds, so long as the account is not empty. When it is empty, then they return to a life of greater suffering.

So, the material world is a cycle of morality and immorality, enjoyment and suffering, life and death. And the transcendent world is ever-increasing happiness based on the love of God, and it is beyond good and evil, and hence beyond the cycle of morality and immorality, life and death. Hence, Vedic philosophy recommends that morality is better than immorality but non-duality of moral-immoral is even better than morality. This eternal life lived in a loving relationship with God is beyond the Matrix of good and bad deeds and their results and attaining it is the supreme goal of life.