Good and Evil People
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2002-10-31
That there are good and evil people who should be treated differently is not the correct Hindu perspective, and we don't want this to go into the minds of our children. This is the subject of Bodhinatha's next Publisher's Desk article for Hinduism Today. Everyone is a divine soul. Though their actions may be low-minded, we should act toward everyone in a way that encourages them to improve their behavior.
I am working on a 'Publisher's Desk'. It is not quite finished and it is behind schedule. The Ganapati Kulam is going to be asking for it very soon. It is a hundred words short, of all things! There is this blank space ... it is beautifully laid out and all, and there is this blank space right at the end. We can't put a picture there. So, I thought I would read and comment on it and hopefully generate some refinement, polish it up here and there as well as, get some inspiration for adding another hundred words.
The inspiration for this is George Bush, though we don't name him, as such. But you know, he gets up there and starts talking about the evil empire, you know. What was it, evil what? Evil which? Access of evil, right! He loves to talk about evil, good and evil. Of course, we are never the evil, we are always the good. The other guys are the bad guys, the evil guys. Labels the world, has us categorize people as, "These are the evil people, these are the good people." So, we behave one way toward the good people and another way toward the evil people. That is OK. We can treat the evil people differently than the good people, because they are evil.
It is an attitude that is worth commenting on because Hindus are hearing this, Hindu children are hearing this. We don't want those attitudes to influence us because it is not the correct Hindu perspective. It is the catechism 'Dancing with Siva', that everyone is inherently good. Everyone is a divine being. There are not any evil people. There are evil actions and there are good actions but, there are no evil people. Everyone is good and even, on a deeper level, everyone one is divine. Seeing everyone as a divine being on the inside, no matter how they are acting on the outside is the Hindu perspective. Definitely a Hindu perspective, because we want them to improve their behavior. We don't want to simply punish them and destroy them because they are evil. We want them to improve their behavior because they are on the spiritual path towards Gods, even though they don't realize it. That is the idea. We want them to improve their behavior. We want to act towards them in a way which encourages them to improve their behavior, change their conduct to one with a higher standard of behavior. So, here we go.
"Since September 11, there have been increased statements by Western leaders, unnamed, condemning some men as being evil and extolling others as being good. This, of course, is not the Hindu perspective. But, since we hear these statements so often, it is good to take time to reflect on the Hindu point of view regarding good and evil, as well as for those who are parents, it is good to discuss the Hindu view with their children to make sure that our and our children's thinking on the matter remains uninfluenced by Western thought."
So, that is the reason for doing this. Make sure that we are clinging to our eastern Hindu perspective here, don't get confused by some Western ideas.
"The Hindu viewpoint is that all of mankind is good, as we are all divine beings, souls created by God. In fact, we are all one family, vasudeva kutumbakam. The whole world is one family. Each soul is emanated from God, as a spark from a fire ..." Brings back last phase, that spark. Almost burned up the cushion. "as a spark from a fire and begins its journey which leads back to God. All human beings are on this journey, whether they realize it or not."
So, that is an important point. You don't have to realize or think you are on a spiritual journey to be on a spiritual journey. It is like, children are growing up. They may not realize they are growing up, they are maturing. As adults we see it, they may not think about it. It is taking place, maturation takes place, in the spiritual sense, even if we don't realize it.
"If all are on the same journey, why then is there such a disparity between men? Clearly, some act like saints and others 'act' like saints ...", because they are not, that is their actions.
"Some take delight in helping their fellowmen, while others delight in harming them. The Hindu explanation is that each of us started the journey at a different time. And thus, some are at the beginning of the spiritual path and are young souls, while others are near the end and are old souls. My Paramaguru, Gnanayogi Sivayogaswami, in speaking to his devotees, would describe life as a school. There were some in the M.A. class, and others in kindergarten and that he gave to each, according to his advancement."
That is a paraphrase. I want to actually look up the 'Words of our Master' book, the exact words. That is what he said.
"Man's nature can be described as 3-fold. Spiritual, intellectual and instinctive. It is the instinctive nature, the animal-like nature which contains the tendencies to harm others. Men who are expressing these tendencies are young souls. So, what do they need? They need to learn to harness this fully. Thus, the Hindu approach to such a man, is not label him evil, but rather to focus on helping him learn to control these instincts and improve his behavior."
So, that is the point. We don't want to go around labelling people, evil, good, evil, good. Evil people should be punished. Good people should be rewarded. No. Everybody, if their actions are evil or good, should be trying to improve their behavior. Just being good is not enough, we want to be even better. So, improving behavior.
Gurudeva describes this in an insightful way. "People act in evil ways and are not yet in touch with their soul nature and thus, totally in the outer, instinctive mind. What the ignorant see as evil, the enlightened see as the actions of low-minded and immature individuals."