To make people suffer for the sake of making them suffer is the very essence of evil
Suppose we accidentally step on someone’s foot. We’ll immediately apologize. But suppose someone deliberately steps on someone else’s foot – and not just steps but also stomps upon it. If the stomper has a sinister smile on their face, most observers would be appalled. Such intentional infliction of suffering upon another is the very essence of evil.
To better understand the nature of evil, we need to differentiate it from suffering, because 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. Such suffering is not evil. Evil is essentially the suffering that’s inflicted for no purpose other than to make the victim suffer.
The Bhagavad-gita (16.04) indicates that demonic people are characterized by harshness. The more they make others writhe, weep and wilt, the more they consider themselves strong. They also may delight in eliminating their rivals (16.14). Such people are undoubtedly evil.
What then 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). He is the well-wisher of everyone (05.29); when we become godly, we too become the well-wishers of everyone (12.13).
We might not be overtly evil, but covert evil exists as traces within all of us. On seeing outright evil in someone, we can resolve to never become like that. How then can we prevent evil from enveloping us? By committing ourselves to spiritual practices that keep us close to God and help us 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?
16.04 Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance – these qualities belong to those of demoniac nature, O son of Pruthu.
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