74. How Evil Nature Manifests in Humans


by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. I am currently working on a revised edition with even more in-depth commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

In the 16th chapter of the Bhagavadgita, from verses 7-21, Lord Krishna describes the qualities and conduct of evil nature because of which those who possess it keep hating God and fall into the lowest hell. Human beings are not evil by nature. They are not born with demonic nature or an inherent hatred for God, but with predominantly human nature, which is largely rooted in divine qualities and which keeps them life-oriented, positive and hopeful. Hence, human beings naturally prefer light rather than darkness, empathize with others and possess humanity, love and compassion. They are moved by death, destruction and suffering. They also possess conscience, which keeps them in check in difficult situations.

In the cosmic hierarchy human beings stand between gods and demons. They have the potential and propensity to be good as well as evil. Hence, for various reasons and due to many influences human beings may develop evil qualities and end up personifying evil nature. It does not happen in every case, but the vulnerability does exist in all which is well exploited by the evil ones. It has been said that in the remote past, Asuras, the evil ones, used to live in remote worlds, far away from the earth. As the epochs (mahayugas) progressed, they began invading the earth and coming closer. In the Age of Kaliyuga they managed to invade human beings and began living inside them, thus making it difficult for them to stay free from evil influences.

We can see the results of this development in the world today. People are increasingly pursuing materialistic goals and turning away from the good old moral values and ethical conduct which used to guide people to regulate their lives and protect them from falling into evil ways. Asura tattva is now one of the predominant aspects of human nature. People have learned to accept it, appreciate it and even admire it. In the 19th verse of the same chapter, Lord Krishna alluded to the danger that asuras may prevail not only in their own bodies but also in others’ bodies. In the present-day world, Asuras seems to have found a way to settle in human consciousness and control their thinking and actions. One can see the growing influence of evil nature in popular literature, television shows, movies and in the preferences and choices of many people, even the most educated ones. Demonic nature is evidently mixed up with human nature, making it difficult to separate the two natures.

Why people fall into evil ways

Demonic nature or evil qualities may manifest in humans for various reasons. The important ones are listed below.

1. When asuras are born as humans. Sometimes, they take birth as humans for various reasons. Many rakshasas such as Ravana, Hiranyakasipu, etc., were born in this manner to destabilize the world.

2. Due to past karma. People may carry forward their evil nature from one birth to another. Lord Krishna himself said in the Bhagavadgita that he casts the evil ones in demonic wombs (asura yonis) whereby they remain deluded birth after birth and sink into the lowest hell.

3. Due to association with evil people (dussanga). Our minds are impressionable. Therefore, it is important with whom you cultivate friendship or in whose company you spend your time.

4. Due to evil thoughts (duralochana). As one thinks, so does one become. If the mind is preoccupied with evil thoughts, it does not take long for a person to become evil as evil tendencies gain strength.

5. Due to evil actions (dushkarma). Our scriptures equate selfish actions with evil actions. Actions which arise from selfish desires and intention produce sinful karma and lead one towards death and rebirth. The Upanishads state that all the organs in our bodies including speech, but except breath, are vulnerable to selfishness. Hence, it is difficult for humans to escape from evil influences.

6. Due to association with impure places (desa). Evil influences are stronger in certain places which are frequented by evil beings or where impurities and evil forces are present. Our scriptures prohibit people from visiting them or living there.

7. Due to time (kala). Time also plays an important role. For example, Hindu almanacs suggest that certain times in a day or certain days in a month, or certain months in a year are inauspicious because of evil influences. It is also said that evil increases in each successive Age. It reaches climax in the Kaliyuga when God releases all the evil ones into the world, to give them a last chance to redeem themselves.

8. Due to lack of self-control. Human beings are born with several impurities such as egoism, attachments, ignorance and delusion. Hence, they are very vulnerable to evil influences. If they are not careful and do not exercise self-control (atma-samyama), they will easily fall under the influence of evil nature. Lord Krishna says that lust (kama), anger (krodha) and greed (lobha) are the triple gates of hell. One should therefore renounce them and follow the scriptural injunctions regarding the dos (vidhis) and don'ts (nishedha) to escape from evil nature and its consequences.

The antidote to demonic nature is divine nature which is characterized by divine qualities such as fearlessness, cleanliness, predominance of purity, knowledge, charity, self-control, study of scriptures, etc. By cultivating them, abiding in the Self, taking refuge in God, and practicing devotion and surrender, one can keep evil nature under control and strengthen divine nature. Divine qualities are for liberation, whereas evil qualities are for bondage and suffering. It is easier to fall into evil ways since it is the path of least resistance, whereas to cultivate divine nature one has to strive hard and overcome many impurities which are inherent to human nature.

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