Various religions define good and evil in various ways. However, one thing is certain. Since our society has existed, good and evil have also been in existence and many religions see them as two sides of the same coin. Some religions see them as counterparts, one of which focuses on promotion of happiness and the other on everything evil or all that is contrary to happiness. Every religion and mythology define them in its own way and they find representation in various forms like demons and angels in Christianity and Devas and Danavas in Hinduism. But the concept of good and evil has always been there and in old times people considered everything that made them unhappy evil – even diseases – and everything that made them happy good. Evil and good are considered to be interdependent in Hinduism. When one exists the other will also exist or evil also exists in the shadows of good or that evil is necessary. The existence of good depends upon evil and evil exists relative to good.
They can also not be separated or in other words understood independently. According to the Vedanta philosophers, the difference between good and evil is not of the kind, but of the degree like that between light and dark. (Abhedananda, n.d.)The same thing can be good in one condition and evil in another. While fire can give life by helping us cook food, it can be evil by burning down homes and destroying lives. It depends upon the condition. Related to the concept of good and evil is the concept of karma in Hinduism. Karma is a very important concept and not just one’s life, but his afterlife too depends on his Karma. In general karma means ‘doings’. The law of Karma in Hinduism is that as you sow so you reap. Just as your doings are, so your life is. If you do good, you get good in return in this life and in later lives too. You do evil and it is evil that comes to you. The evil in our lives is mostly due to our selfishness and it is why ‘Karmayoga’ stresses on elimination of selfishness since selfishness gives rise to evil. So, evil in ‘Hinduism’ is a relative term mostly used to understand the importance of good.
The view of good and evil in Jainism also is to a great extent similar to that in Hinduism. The concept of karma occupies a place of importance in Jainism also, however, slightly different. In a person’s life god gives rise to happiness and evil to pain and misery. ‘Punya’ is the consequence of good deeds and ‘Paap’ of evil. In Jainism as a man does, he is repaid with it. One who sows ‘Paap’ or evil, gets evil in return and one who sows ‘Punya’, finds everything good in his life. Moksha is the elimination of everything good and bad. Evil karmas or wrong doings result in low birth in the next life. So, Jainism also views good and evil as a part of a person’s life.It is our Karma that according to Jainism determines the quality of our life. (Sivananda, 2004) Buddhism also views god and evil as innate and inseparable aspects of life.
According to this view one particular individual cannot be labelled as fundamentally good or bad. A human being is capable of committing the greatest good as well as the worst of the evils. Good and Evil in Buddhism are not viewed as absolute, but as relative. Good and Evil are understood according to its consequences in our lives and its effect on others. Evil is mainly born of selfishness and of the feeling that our actions should be aimed at benefitting ourselves. In Buddhism while good represents enlightenment or profound self-knowledge, bad represents profound darkness. Evil is a life’s innate delusion which negates the potential of enlightenment and causes suffering for oneself and others. The differences of us and they are created by evil and the ugliness and meaninglessness in our lives is also due to it. (SGI, 2002) Taoism also views good and evil as relative and not as absolute. Yin, even if it be considered a negative principle does not manifest it alone. If people can accommodate themselves to the nature’s laws and principles, it is good. Going against the nature’s laws will only breed evil.
It only brings difficulties and trouble. Deviation from the nature’s laws will only give birth to societies which are evil and harmful. However, in Taoist belief it is also held that good deeds reflect in good health and suffering is the sign of the sins a person may have committed. Yet, one common factor about Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Taoism is that somewhere they all stress that evil gives birth to evil.(Hardy, n.d.) In Confucianism also, good or evil is not considered an original aspect of the human nature. However, people should earn to act ethically in the society as it is not an original part of their nature. Individuals are to born with moral goodness or badness, but it depends on their own motivation, whether they build a moral character or not. Confucianism rather than discussing the difference between good and bad stresses on ethics and morality and that one should follow the ethics for the promotion of good in the society.(Waxman, n.d.) At the heart of Shinto’s understanding of good and evil is purity.
Purity and impurity represent good and evil in Shinto. Pollution or sin, known as ‘tsumi’ separate us from the purity and make us impure. Shinto ethics are based on the idea that human beings are basically good. Evil comes to us from outside and is brought by the evil spirits. They affect humans like a disease and reduce their ability to resist temptation. Human beings, when they act sinfully, bring pollution upon themselves, which obstructs the flow of life and blessing from kami.Shinto basically believes in goodness as the fundamental human nature which gets polluted by sin in the course of life and gives rise to various evils. These evils disrupt the natural world and the social order. (BBC, n.d.) The basic Christian belief regarding good and evil is that Good is always more powerful than evil.
People are born with a free will and they are free to choose between god and bad. God, according to Christianity is the source of all goodness. The devil is a symbolic representation of the temptation to do something evil. God despite being omnipotent and omniscient cannot and does not interfere with people’s free will to choose between good and evil. Evil and suffering are a part of the God’s plan and men who fall for temptation are bound to suffer in their lives.(BBC, n.d.) The Islamic view of good and evil is slightly different from that in most other religions. It does not ascribe the choice of good or evil to metaphysical powers. As per the Islamic view god created both good and bad and then let it be known to man through successful revelations. However, as in Christian belief, Islamic faith also holds that He left the choice of good and bad to human beings free will.However, it becomes his responsibility that the path he chooses is good or bad because he himself will bear its consequences.
However, Islam and Quran also emphasize upon the importance of deeds and their consequences.(Elvie, 2014) Sikhism also stresses on goodness by choice. God does not impose his will on us, but has let us have free will to choose between good and bad.God does not inflict suffering on us but he allows it to happen as a test of courage and faith. As per the Sikh belief also good actions lead to good Karma which in turn leads to ‘Mukti’.Mukti is the liberation from the cycles of birth and death. Evil in Sikhism is defined as the things which prevent someone’s Mukti. Pride, lust, anger, greed or desire all represent evil and prevent human beings’ Mukti and cause suffering.(BBC, n.d.)
In our society also we see good and evil being manifest in various ways. Good manifests itself in the acts of kindness and goodness whereas evil manifests itself in the crimes and mishaps that take place daily. We see people spoiling their lives and causing trouble to others. It happens because of our temptation for the evil. Whether it is crime or alcoholism, it happens because of temptation of doing the wrong thing. It is why we cannot disregard our religious teachings. Good and evil both are inherent in the human nature and manifest themselves in our deeds. It is a universal truth that a person who chooses the wrong path meets pain and suffering in his life and nothing else. One should do good to get something good.
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