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What is the Purpose of Evil?

from The Essence of Self-Realization
by Swami Kriyananda

master“Master,” inquired a disciple, “what purpose does evil serve in God’s creation? Surely the Lord is a God of goodness and love. Is it possible that, as certain modern writers claim, He doesn’t know evil?”

Sri Yogananda chuckled. “God would have to be very stupid not to know evil! He, Who sees the fall of every sparrow, how could He not be aware of something so obvious?”

The disciple: “Perhaps He doesn’t know it as evil.”

Yogananda: “But the thing that makes it evil is the harm it does us. Certainly He is conscious that people are living in delusion, and that therefore they suffer. He Himself created this delusion.”

The disciple: “Then did God create evil?”

Yogananda: “Evil is His maya, or cosmic illusion. It is a conscious force which, once brought into existence, seeks self-perpetuation. Maya is Satan. It tries to keep our consciousness earthbound. God, the One Reality, keeps trying at the same time to draw us back to Himself, by His divine love.”

The disciple: “But then it must have been meant for Satan to play a role in the divine scheme of things.”

Yogananda, smiling: “Evil serves the same purpose as does the villain in a drama. The villain’s misdeeds help to awaken in us love for the hero and for virtuous ways. Similarly, evil and its painful after-effects are meant to awaken in us love for goodness and God.”

The disciple: “But Master, if good and evil are both merely parts of a cosmic drama, what does it matter what roles we play in the story? Whether as saints or as gangsters, our parts will be illusory, and won’t affect our true nature as images of God.”

The Master laughed. “You are right in the ultimate sense. But don’t forget that, if you play the part of a villain in a drama, in that drama you will also have to receive the villain’s punishment!

“If, on the other hand, you play the role of a saint, you will awaken from this cosmic dream, and enjoy oneness with the Dreamer for all eternity.”

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