Is There Evil?

The other enormous question that religion is responsible for helping us with is what to make of the “evil” that we see in the world.  Why do bad things happen? Not just to good people but to any people.

I was thinking about this because of the recent school shooting here in the states. It seems like every few months we’re hearing about another case of someone shooting into crowds of students. And our minds boggle to try to understand how such a thing can happen even once, let alone every few weeks.

I have a bit of an unusual take on good and evil.

I see those two sides as part of the illusion of the experience of the world and I think the balance and play between these two “sides” keeps things moving, providing momentum. I don’t see anything as evil. I see things that hold souls back from peace and happiness. And those things should be avoided when possible. But when horrible things happen within this life, it isn’t reality. It’s part of the story that we’re acting out.

However, as with losing a loved one to death, it is easier to see this in theory than in practice.

When I hear about children being murdered, it does make me sad. I am lucky in that I believe with all my heart that those souls will be reborn and get more chances at having a productive life. But it is a tragedy to have that opportunity cut short. I also feel for the parents who had such hopes for those kids.

Three thoughts:

  • I remember a story about a wise man who wept when someone died. His follower asked why he was upset when he knew that in reality death is an illusion. The wise man said that he mourns when it is appropriate to mourn. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel that and let it be what it is.
  • I do think that everything happens for a reason, but that attitude can cause a victim blaming effect and I don’t want that. It’s too easy for us to think that the children died because it was their fate to die. I don’t want to think that way. I want to do my best to prevent that kind of unhappiness. It isn’t my job to dismiss the suffering of others because it was “meant to be.” I’m not omniscient. I don’t know that. And even if I do, people suffering for any reason is a bad thing and those people need comfort, not to be dismissed.
  • Perhaps this is part of love that is not attached. If we are in the present moment and not thinking of the future, then the lose of life wouldn’t feel like the lose of all the future possibilities of that child? If we can love in a way that is not attached to keeping and hanging on to that child perhaps we can see how their soul is simply moving forward towards its next goal? But that sounds pretty harsh. I don’t know if anyone could really have such an attitude about her or his own child. And we are designed to love our children in a very attached way.

Those who experienced that lose got a set back in their quest for peace, joy, and enlightenment. And to me that is the real problem with “evil” acts.

It’s hard for me to speak to this because I have not experienced any tragedies in my life. So all I can speak from is theory.

One thing I can say for certain, I don’t believe that there are any evil people. Evil acts, perhaps, but people are inherently divine. I think what causes people to behave in hurtful ways is an effect of ignorance. When we don’t have a wide view of who we are, we can become very threatened. We can feel like we need to lash out at others, as though there is a competition with others. There are a lot of people are operating from a real misunderstanding of the world.

What do you think? Where does evil come from? Why do bad things happen? How do you respond to tragedy in your community? 

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


    @ Ambaa

    I liked the way you have written the last paragraph where you said that people are not evil they are inherently divine. This paragraph indicates your view of the world. There are variety of purans ( religious texts ) that explains that if your soul is very clean you will see the clean world and if your soul is dirty you will see dirty world. Now all you have to do is substitute the word soul to eyes and re read the sentence above. Same like wise where people with jaundice will see everything yellow. This does not mean that the world is yellow but they only see it yellow. The simple answer to this is that they are affected by the illness from the world and surrounding. Every now and then we will be affected by our surrounding which sometimes changes the way we think and do things. This is known as conditioning by others. You are right when you said that all souls are divine but sometimes it’s someones influence which affects in the way you and I think. It was an infuence of your perent that showed you the path of Hinduism if you see what I’m saying. Even a littlest things changes us in the way we think and do things. The influence and conditioning plays big part in our life in the way we live and do things. This is psychology in the way our mind works. Think of it in the way your cooking pot is used if you don’t clean the pot properly it will be covered with dark burns and stains. Our mind and soul are like this pot if we don’t clean it with help of Bhakti and philosophy then we are doomed like the rest of them. Some souls gets covered like the burned pot in darkness where the divine shine is lost and they end up on the wrong side called evil. Thus ends up doing the wrong things and by the time they realise it, it’s too late until they see divine intervention form above. Sometimes even this is not possible.

    You and I are not meant to have all the answers to everythings in the world and the working of it. Even when we have a right tool we may not be able to do it. This is same as having litre jug and trying to mesure how much water is in ocean. This is called MAYA. The day you and I will be able to see what’s in others mind, it will be the day we will not need the god and we will have answer to everythings. Until then we can only prey for the lost souls and those affected by the actions others.


    • Ambaa

      I love the way you’ve explained seeing the world through our own biased positions. So true!

      My position is always that I’m not trying to be the person with all the answers, you know? I don’t need to feel like I know everything and how everything works. I want to be the person with the questions!

  • Torri

    Hi Ambaa!

    Very intriguing post. I certainly have a very different worldview than you, so it was really interesting to hear what you had to say. I actually spent the last 6 months of my life living in Bali, Indonesia, where 90% of the population is Hindu. That being said, I really appreciate that you’re expressing your thoughts and ideas in this public forum, because it helps me to understand better the people who are around me, and to identify different ways of thinking. I also appreciate how you ask questions and don’t pretend to have all the answers.

    If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to dialogue a bit more about the problem of evil and suffering as it relates to human nature and the human experience. How do you define evil? How do you define suffering? If evil doesn’t exist, where did the idea come from? Is it rooted in any truth? Are suffering and evil connected in any way? Is there value in suffering? I don’t know about you, but I have a deep sense that the world’s not all as it should be, that there has been something lost and creation is groaning for the return of a former glory. What do you make of those inner stirrings that say “something’s not quite right”? Those are some of the questions running through my mind at the moment… If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear what you have to say about them!

    • Ambaa

      Thanks for writing. I definitely don’t feel like I have all the answers.

      One thing that your comment brings to mind is the Hindu worldview of time. We see the world as starting out in perfect balance and slowly deteriorating over time. This is a natural process. We are in the “end times” now, called the Kali Yuga, or the age of darkness. It is a time when it is very hard to see clearly or to act righteously. Eventually the world will return to the “former glory” because time is cyclical. At the end of this age, the world will be destroyed and there will be a period of rest. After that the world will spring forth again.

      There is good and there is evil on the level of the world, but that is part of the great play that is going on around us. We are acting in a drama. Good and evil keep the momentum of that drama moving forward. But my belief is that the ultimate reality is a much bigger picture in which the ups and downs within the world are not ultimately of that much importance.

      When you believe that all souls are completely immortal and death is an illusion, meaning only to go back stage and then come back in another role, it takes a lot of the sting out of the suffering that we see.

      So, that’s my perspective!

  • seeker

    Interesting discussion. I work as a therapist with men who most might consider evil (child molesters) but I really couldn’t call them evil. They have done terrible things that they need to pay for. They need to change their attitudes and behaviors or accept the consequence of prison. However, there is good in everyone of them in some ways. Does anybody have a definition of a person who is evil? Or an example?

  • Pingback: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?