Good & Evil – A Perspective based on A Story from YOGA VASISHTA

Good and Evil – volumes have been written and spoken on this subject by philosophers, story tellers, scriptures, thinkers and so on. Khalil Gibran, a well known Libyan philosopher of early 20th century made certain profound observations on Good and Evil. He says: ‘A fruit(which is always giving away) can’t tell a root(which is always sucking away nutrients from its surroundings):”Be like me and keep giving extravagantly”. According to Gibran the fruit has a need to give while the root has a need to keep sucking nutrients. I would extend the logic further and say that the ability of a fruit to give is enhanced by the root’s apparently selfish act of sucking nutrients!

A story from YOGA VASISHTA provides some useful insights into the question. All of us are familiar with the story of Prahlada and Hirayakasipu up to the point where the Demon-king was killed by the Lord Nrsimha. But many of us may not be familiar with the story of Prahlada after the departure of Hiranyakasipu.Here is a brief account of the story:
Prahlada became the King of the Demons after Hiranakasipu was killed by the Lord. His devotion to Vishnu was so great that he was constantly worshipping the Lord. Soon all the Demons in his kingdom also came under his spell of Bhakti and turned ardent devotees of Vishnu. Funnily though, the gods could not digest this.They approached Vishnu and said: “Oh Lord, whatever is happening in the netherworld is utter non-sense. How is it that the Demons who are supposed to be your traditional enemies, have become your devotees overnight? This is bizarre to say the least! The combination of Demons and Goodness is highly incongruous and unnatural. In Your creation all beings are expected to live according to their fundamental nature. It’s painful to see the demons worshipping You”.
Lord Vishnu got annoyed with the attitude of the Gods. He dismissed their imaginary fears and assured them that all’s well. On the other hand, the Lord felt it was a matter of great delight to see such a total transformation of the wicked Demons.

But in course of time there were unexpected turn of events. Prahlada renounced everything and sat in transcendental meditation unmoved like a rock. The Demons tried to disturb him but didn’t succeed. And as the story goes, his ‘TAPAS’ went on for over thousand years. The Demons were left without a leader and soon there was utter chaos and anarchy in the netherworld. There was no rule of law and the weak were overpowered by the strong.The Demons were destroying themselves and the Gods completely benefited from this situation.
In the meantime, Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe, while relaxing on his serpentine couch (of Adisesha, the divine serpent)in the Milky Ocean (Kshirsagar), was scanning the state of affairs in various parts of His Universe (using perhaps the Lord’s equivalent of the modern day CCTV). He was immensely pleased with the state of affairs on the earth as well as in the realm of Gods. But He was greatly disturbed by what He saw in the netherworld of the Demons. He could not reconcile with the prevailing anarchy among the Demons because He could visualize what damage it would cause to the world order. He mused,’The Gods will now be without their traditional rivals. They will have nothing to fear or hate and therefore will soon reach a state of enlightenment and get liberated. If that were to happen, then the humans on the Earth will have no Gods to propitiate. There would be no YAJNAS performed on the Earth which would result in drought, famine and eventual annihilation of mankind’.
Therefore, Lord Vishnu, playing His role as the protector of the Universe and the world order, went straight to where Prahlad was meditating and woke him up from his deep state of SAMADHI. He reasoned with Prahlad and convinced him to take charge once again as the King of the Demons. Prahlad realized his folly and took upon himself the role of the King and brought peace to the netherworld.The Demons were thus saved from self-destruction and thenceforth could play their role constructively!

This is the fascinating story of Prahlad after Hiranyakasipu. It clearly establishes that both Good and Evil have a place in maintaining world order. You can’t have one without the other. In fact it is true of all pairs of opposites.
It’s relevance can’t be overstated even in today’s world. For instance, there can be no healthy democracy without a strong opposition party. To take another modern day example, we all know that the collapse of the Soviet Union certainly did affect the healthy world order as America became free to act recklessly in the absence of a strong deterrent.

Published in: on April 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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