Q.544 – Evil in the world

A: Why is there evil? Why illness and pain? Why do we have to die?

Certainly, why is the world in such dire straits at present? Why does the USA have to have people like Trump as potential president? How can the president of COP28 be promoting more oil and coal? Why can’t Israel and their ‘enemies’ see that they are all simply humans?

One could go on… and on. And we do!

As you say, from the perspective of absolute reality, there is no world nor creature in it. So the question does not arise – there is no creation.

At the level of the world, the teaching is that everything is lawful. Jīva-s are born into a body and a situation according to their actions in past lives. (See BSB 2.1.34 for example.) And it is a long-established facet of Indian belief that the universe proceeds from a paradisical age down to a degenerate one. We are currently in the last phase, known as kali yuga, which Monier-Williams (the Sanskrit dictionary) translates as the ‘age of vice’. This began on the 18th Feb. 3102 BC. (!) At the end of this yuga, the world will be destroyed and the whole process begin again.


The scriptures (e.g. vācārambhaṇa sutras in Chandogya) tell us that what we see in the world is the result of superimposition because, in our ignorance, we fail to realize that there is only Brahman.

Several quotations might help:

It is not the world but attachment to it which is the root of all misery.” – Swami Nityaswarupananda.

Misery, being an object of perception, cannot affect the Self, which is not an object of perception.” – Ṥaṅkara, Brihad. Up. Bh. 1.4.7.

When to the man of realization all beings become the very self, then what delusion and what sorrow can remain for that seer of oneness.” – Īśavāsya Upaniṣad, 7

One thought on “Q.544 – Evil in the world

  1. The purpose of Advaita is to investigate into the reality of a ‘I’ / ego that is separate from the world, and to break through illusions. And we live in many layers of illusions.

    Suffering – yours / others; physical / mental – calls us to look at the cause of suffering. And conclude that it is a result of the ego, which attached to the body/mind, seeks to enrich / protect itself. And suffering that we see around us, is a result of other egos that seek to dominate and ‘win’.

    So a jnani, given an absence of ego and body/mind attachment, is likely to minimise participation in a society that is inherently based on greed and violence – and no longer be touched by this body/mind suffering, and no longer be a contributory cause to others’ suffering (which we inevitably do the more we participate in this society).

    Sankara is his commentaries said that a jnani would live without possessions, and on what comes by chance; OR would throw himself into activity for the benefit the world.

    So Advaita is not an excuse to ignore others’ sufering because it is illusory whilst being disturbed by one’s own. Krishna, in Bhagavad Gita, says you treat others as you would yourself.

    As for ‘the world will be destroyed’, we are getting very close given Ukraine, Palestine and Taiwan, and the narcisistic, self-aggrandising idiots on both sides of the uniparty in the US, and its equally mendacious satraps in Europe,

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