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.

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? 


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About Ambaa Choate

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.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    The way I see it is similar to Hinduism, from what I’ve read so far – evil is merely ignorance, represented by darkness. Now, let me throw something out here as something to consider. I wrote over two years ago to a friend:

    “I also explained to her that I live in a world of consequence. I am aware that devout Christians will not commit this or that because it’s in the bible as one of several Commandments, the Word of God. However, I go deeper by thinking in terms of consequences instead. Why is it wrong to kill someone? What if there is no right or wrong, but there are consequences…? Think about the man shot by someone. Yes, the man is dead and his life was taken from him. What about everyone else in that man’s life, including the killer? What about his parents grieving the loss of their son, his wife/lover/partner’s grieving over him, and his friends and colleagues who will no longer see, hear, and enjoy his company in their own ways? What about the consequences for the killer? Now he’s on the run, and a group of people are looking for him to make him pay for his actions. If he survives their actions by going to prison, he will lose the right to roam about in freedom, eat whatever and whenever he wants, and he may in fact die in prison through murder, execution, or in sickness. Even worse, how does he look upon himself as a murderer? What happens when he finally realizes what happened with everyone who knew that victim? I myself have gone through this with all the animals who died at my hunter’s blood-stained hands, [a horrible realization to live through and heal from]. Every time we want to do something of great consequence, we must think of these things. We must come in touch with the world of consequences rather than parroting, “It’s against God’s word.” This is just one aspect of religion’s potential for screening out understanding and thinking things through. The obvious needs to be stated in case the person listening to you doesn’t understand WHY.

    “What I didn’t tell her, as she would not be ready for this revelation, was that Christianity teaches dominion over animals through husbandry, for us to use as people see fit. Animal products create the most problems of anything we put into our bodies as food. As a result, people carry around the fastest-acting poisons in our bodies, save for pollution and chemical exposures.”

    I have been vegetarian for 20 years this past November and vegan for 15 of these last 20 years. It was a major milestone in my journey to be at peace in my natural world. I won’t even kill mosquitoes, just brush them aside after they land on me. I just cannot bring myself to do it. I feel sad at the bugs who die on my windshield every day that I drive somewhere. I wish it wasn’t like this… I apologize to every dead animal on the road somewhere, expressing sorrow for the world that they had to live in, as though I feel responsible for their deaths.

    I have a neezoomeegeezoo, a mantra from my liturgical language of Ancient, which states, “This is the Age of Awakening, a time when the Blanket of Darkness is removed from your eyes and you are able to see the light within and elsewhere. May you be successful in your Quest for Freedom.”


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