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What Makes Good People Do Bad Things?

By: for gitadaily.com on Aug. 8, 2014
Opinion

Bhagavad-gita 3.39.

“What makes good people do bad things?” This is a question that has vexed thinking people throughout history. We all have probably witnessed acquaintances suddenly behaving in uncharacteristically ugly ways. In fact, we need to look no further than the mirror to find living evidence for humanity’s susceptibility to iniquity.

Some religious traditions ascribe this tendency to our inherently evil nature. They hold that the first human being indulged in an original sin, which has thereafter afflicted all subsequent generations of human beings, somewhat akin to a genetic defect.

Such a sin-centric vision of humanity, however, raises more questions than it answers: If all of us are contaminated by the same original sin, why is everyone not equally sinful? Why are some people good? If God is good, how can the overwhelming majority of his creation, excepting the first creation, be innately bad?

Gita wisdom reconciles the goodness of God’s creation with the weakness of his creatures by differentiating between our pure core as souls and the shell of impurities such as lust. Highlighting the contrast between the two, the Gita (03.39) refers to the soul as knowledgeable (jnanino) and the covering of lust as inflammable and insatiable (dushpurenaanalena). The intermediate verse (03.38) employs multiple analogies to underscore that lust covers different living beings to different extents. This variation is due to the different degrees to which they have indulged in lust in the past, in this or earlier lives.

Irrespective of how much lust has covered our pure nature, we can still uncover it. Bhakti-yoga purifies us most effectively by connecting us with the all-pure and all-wise Supreme Person, Krishna. The more we relish happiness in loving and serving him, the more lust loses its allure and the more we become wise, pure and joyful.

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[ bhagavad-gita ] [ lust ] [ soul ] [ wisdom ]
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