To make people suffer for the sake of making them suffer is the very essence of evil
It we accidentally step on someone’s foot, we will immediately apologize. But suppose someone deliberately steps on someone else’s foot – and not just stepped but also stamped on it. If the stamper has a sinister smile on their face, most observers would be appalled. Such intentional infliction of suffering for making someone suffer is the essence of evil.
To better understand the nature of evil, we need to differentiate it from suffering – all suffering is not necessarily evil. Some suffering is just intrinsic to existence, as is freezing cold in polar areas. Additionally, some suffering may serve a higher purpose, as do surgical cuts in a severely sick person. Suffering that is unavoidable or purposeful is not evil; suffering that is neither is evil, especially when it is inflicted for no purpose other than to make the victim suffer.
The Bhagavad-gita (16.04) indicates that the demonic are characterized by harshness. The more they can make others writhe and weep and wilt, the more they consider themselves strong. And they may delight in eliminating their rivals (16.14). Such people are evil.
What makes people evil? The circumstantial causes can be many, but the ultimate cause is one: distance from God. The closer we are to God, the more we manifest the godly nature that we share with him as his parts (15.07). Just as he is the well-wisher of everyone (05.29), the godly too are the well-wishers of everyone (12.13).
We might not be overtly evil, but covert evil exists in traces within all of us. On seeing outright evil in someone, we can resolve to never become like that. How can we prevent evil from enveloping us? By committing ourselves to spiritual practices that keep us close to God and manifest our godly nature.
Think it over:
- What is evil? What makes people evil?
- When is suffering not evil?
- How can seeing evil in others inspire positive change within us?
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