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From where does evil come? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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अथवा बहुनैतेन किं ज्ञातेन तवार्जुन ।

विष्टभ्याहमिदं कृत्स्नमेकांशेन स्थितो जगत् ।। 10.42 ।।

atha vā bahunaitena kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna

viṣhṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛitsnam ekānśhena sthito jagat

Or what avails thee to know all this diversity, O Arjuna? (Know this that) I exist, supporting this whole world by a portion of Myself.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Verse 42

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Questioner (Q): It's being said that the Lord supports the whole world by a portion of Himself. What does this mean? Also, most of the verses in chapter 10 talk about all the best of every category that occurs due to the Lord. How about the evil we see in people? From where does that come? Does it even exist or is it just an outcome of impure perception?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Many questions.

“The lord supports the whole world by a portion of himself. What does it mean?”

It's simply a statement to drill some humility into the world. The world, for all its expansive claims, is not even big enough or heavy enough to demand a big portion of the Lord to sustain itself. It's almost like Krishna carrying the mountain on his little finger.

Bring that image very vividly to your eyes. Little Krishna—and he is carrying the Govardhana on his little finger. Why the little finger? Why could it not have been depicted like Atlas, that he is carrying it both his hands on his shoulders? The image has been very thoughtfully crafted. It is to show that even this entire mountain called the world, is not heavy enough to demand too much effort from the Lord. After all, the world is finite, and that which we call as the Truth is infinite. Even a portion of infinity is infinite. Divide infinity by a million—what are you left with? What are you left with? Infinity.

That's what is being said here. Even a little portion of the Lord is sufficient to carry the world. Rather, the world is not so big that it can even claim too much of the Lord’s effort. He just wishes and the world operates. As they say, "Kun fayakun”, or “Let there be light." It’s never said that the creator had to work really-really hard to create the world. Ever heard that the creator was found slogging and exhausted, dehydrated or something? After all, he is creating the entire universe. No small job. Instead, what is being said is, you know, he just sat and maybe, "Lo! (Take!) Here you have the world.” Or he just wished, didn't even bat an eyelid.

These are exercises in humility. The world is being shown its place. The world is being shown how much it deserves, that's all.

Then, "Most of the verses in chapter 10 talk about all the best in every category and say that the best always occurs due to the Lord. Then, what about the evil that we see in people? From where does the evil come?"

The evil is nothing but virtue gone drunk. You want to be good, but you are so occupied with your intention to be good; you are so enamored by the charm of goodness that you drop all common sense. That's what evil is. Simply put, you could say evil is misplaced goodness. Evil is goodness corrupted upon itself. Evil is goodness corrupted due to its own exuberance.

Go to the most evil man—even he wants to do good, or does he not? Have you not heard some people arguing? And it would be evident even to an outsider that one of them or both of them might be talking utter nonsense, but it is quite possible that the arguing parties actually do believe that they are making sense and talking truth. We start believing, deeply believing in stuff that is patently false. There is a reason.

Very-very deep within we know that our destiny is Truth. We know we are right. We know we have to be right. And then we get so impatient with our destiny that we start behaving as if we have already attained it.

Think of a very talented child, very talented child. Let's say, he is talented in the game of cricket. This child prodigy is playing fabulous straight drives, and square cuts, and leg glances at the age of eight. His heartbeat tells him that he is made to conquer the stadiums, to conquer all rival teams. There is something within him that continuously keeps telling him that he belongs to the Champions League—but he is eight. But in this exuberance of his intuition, he somehow manages to step on the cricket field where two senior parties are playing, and he goes there and challenges. He says, "Hey listen all you 25-year olds! I'm dead sure I'm the champion!" And he says, "Come on, who is going to bowl to me?" And here you have a burly fast bowler, 6"4, who comes thumping in. First ball—our little champion cannot even see when it came, where it went. Second ball—same thing. Third ball—same thing. Fourth ball—he hears the crackling of furniture. Something behind him has just broken its systems. That's our situation.

Even when we are making the most felicitous argument, something within us knows we are right. Yes, you are right, but your argument is not. You can never be wrong, but your argument can be. You can never be wrong, because the one you are is pure and absolute Truth. How can the Truth be wrong? But this personal embodiment of the Truth can surely go wrong, and the biggest wrong he can do is to assume that he is the Truth itself, and nothing but the Truth. Yes, you are the Truth, but you are Truth plus something else, and that something else can go wrong.

Be cautious! Don't be so certain that you are only the Truth. Yes, you are the Truth, but not only the Truth. Therefore, you require a lot of practice and sadhana to get rid of that which is over and above the Truth. There is a lot of excess stuff that you are carrying. This excessiveness has to be effortfully dropped. It is not actually dropped: it is a process of painfully grating it away. There is bloodshed involved. Layer after layer has to be grated away.

That's what falseness is: thinking that you are the Truth without having done the requisite homework. Yes, you are the Truth. Yes, you are the champion batsman. But you have not yet done your homework. Do your homework for the next ten years, little kid, and then step on the pitch, and then no fast bowler would intimidate you. Right now, you are just a potential. * Potentiality is not actuality. Between your potential and your actuality lies a lot of required hard work. We fail to put in that hard work and then, very dishonestly, we just talk of our potential.

Yes, potentially we are all the absolute Truth. We are nothing but the Ātmān.

Actually, we are nonsense. And then, if you want to call your current state as that of the Truth, then you are just equating nonsense with Ātmān. This is sacrilege.

Truth is your potentiality; ego is your actuality.

I’ve heard many people put it otherwise. They say, "No, Truth is your reality." No sir! Truth is my potentiality. Truth is not my actuality. If a spiritual teacher tells you that in reality you are nothing but the Truth, run away. This will greatly please the ego, to hear that you are nothing but the Truth, but run away! Truth is merely a distant star to us. Truth is our destiny, but we are far from the destination. Yes, Truth is our inevitable destiny. We will reach there, but we haven't yet reached there. Let nobody comfort us, let nobody delude us by telling us that we are already home, that we are already at the destination. We are not. Such false comforts would destroy us. Such false comforts would lead us to equate the ego with the Truth—it's bad! The potential definitely exists. But you will die with the potential remaining just the potential unless you work seriously hard. Most people die carrying just the unexpressed potential within. And that's what is going to happen to most of us. It's an old story.

Then, "Does evil even exist or is it just an outcome of impure perception?"

There is again this cult these days that says that “there is nothing wrong ever; it's just a game of perception”. They keep using this word again and again, over and over again: ‘perception’. They say, "No, no, no. All evil is just impure perception; there is no evil really!" There is only evil. Forget about “there is no evil really”. There is just evil. And the topmost evil is to deny the existence of evil and say, "There is no evil." So, all these people who are perceptionists, perception cultists belong to the topmost evil grade. You know what they come and say? They say, "You see, everything is alright. Because you hold expectations, so you start calling some things good and some things bad. Now drop your impure perception, and there will be no suffering to you!"

So, there is the animal being butchered somewhere—and everything is alright. “There is nothing wrong as such. Anything that happens happens for the good! Why are unnecessarily worried?” That kind of people, be very cautious of them. These are the kind of people who should actually not be helped if they are lying crushed under a huge rock. Going by their own philosophy, anything that happens is good.

So, if you’re lying crushed under the rock, why should I interfere? All happens for the good! If all happens for the good, then why are you even bothering to educate us that all happens for the good? If we do not understand that all happens for the good, even that is good, right? If all happens for the good and we are ignorant about the fact that all happens for the good, even our ignorance is good! Why are you then bothering to help us, educate us?

Surely, in helping us, you are as resisting our ignorance, which means you are admitting that not all is good.

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