Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Problem of Evil
Chittaranjan Naik

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Chittarnajan Naik


Read Chittaranjan's discourse on the A Realist View of Advaita.


The following is derived from a post to the Advaitin Egroup Nov. 2004.

First of all, it is avidyA (ignorance) and not the ego that 'prevents us from realisation'. The ego is only the manifest product of avidyA. Strictly speaking, avidyA does not prevent us from realising our true nature - avidyA is itself the very unknowingness of our true nature. It is not a thing, but a privation of knowledge.

Secondly, we do have volition and it is not correct to say that everything just happen by itself. The power of happening does not belong to the insentient. The insentient can happen only when the sentient impels it to happen. We do have free will to the extent that it is the same divinity that shines through us as that which moves the sun and the heavens. But we are contracted beings - metaphorically speaking - and our free will is limited to the extent that we are limited clearings of consciousness in the Divine Play of the universe. There is only one Will, but due to our 'contraction' (embodiment in the limited cage of the body) we only see a part of the Will being free for us to exercise.

In trying to understand the nature of consciousness, we often forget that consciousness is pulsating with life, that it is the very life within us which is vibrant with desires, ideas - and of course will. But will is not an action - it is the immovable shakti that produces action. We, as bound creatures in this world, are bound to action and are confused between the will and the action that the will produces, but pure will is actionless - and at the same time it is the will of the living reality in us that produces the action and in that sense it is 'acting'.

Brahman is He who is actionless in His actions. That is also an articulation of His omnipotence because He is not moved by the greatest of actions. He is truly the Unmoved Mover.

Q: Was Hitler not responsible for anything he did? If Consciousness was responsible, how can this be termed an expression of Love?

A: Hitler is not consciousness pure - he derives his name 'Hitler' due to the specific persona-complex superimposed on consciousness.

Your use of the word 'responsible' in the question already tends to situate the problem in the context of 'good and evil'. But that is not the way Advaita Vedanta looks at it. According to Advaita, the cause of evil lies in ignorance. Nobody does an evil deed in the full light of knowledge - he/she simply can't. The thief, the murderer, the worst of the diabolics, are all impelled by the same motive - to fulfil a need created due to the seeming privation of their innate being.

What is this privation? It is the loss of fullness or plenitude. It is also the loss of the native bliss of plenitude. The Self is infinite and pUrNam - full. There is nothing lacking in It. It is only avidyA (ignorance) that generates the false notion of limitedness, and it is because of the thraldom of this notion that it tries to gain something which it thinks it is lacking. It has lost its innate bliss, and thus arises the desire for happiness and pleasure (kAma). It thinks it is a limited thing bound in the body, and therefore it tries to make up for its limitation through the acquisition of objects, wealth, name and position (artha). Thus arises the two puruShArtha-s (basic aims of life) of an embodied being - kAma and artha.

The One Self is divided into many 'contracted' beings. When the One is divided, then arises the question of equity between the divided beings. We all feel a sense of this equity within our own beings because we are that same Self in which the sense of justice resides as the archetype of dharma. That nature that manifests in the division of the One into many is called 'justice'. It is the wheel of dharma set into motion. It determines the fruits of our actions and the attributes that we acquire as traits and personae as we journey through this unfathomable creation. Hitlers as well as Mahatma Gandhis get created in the process. But consciousness is not touched by the attributes of the personae. It is always unmoved, blissful, and loving.

Consciousness is the very nature of Love. And the manifestation of Love here on earth is also an expression of Advaitam. Isn't it the nature of love to bind and make One out of the sundered two? Love is the call of Advaita underlying all beings.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012