Random Thoughts

Myths and Realities of The Birth of Good and Evil

Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Judaism, the four most ancient and extant religions have myths about good and evil that are far from the truth. In Hinduism, the sage Kashyapa had two wives Diti and Aditi. The children of Diti, known as Daityas were generally the embodiment of evil, with the exception of Bali, who was unfairly deprived of his just rewards by the crooked chicanery of a midget avatar of Vishnu, the embodiment of good, who made it a habit of this partisan agenda, during Samudramanthan by depriving the Daityas of Ambrosia and in his "Sundari" version used guile to effectively counter the generous boon of Shiva to another Rakshasa king. Only doting devotees like Prahlada and Vibhishana were protected and crowned as collaborating subservient vassals. In the Krishna avatar, skullduggery, deceit and unethical behavior in the battles with Jayadratha and Karna expose the hypocrisy of the goodness of Krishna as the fable of Kach stealing Sanjivani from Shukracharya exposes the immoral deceit of Indra and the Devas.

Zarathushtra, being of probably the same origin as the Indian Aryans and possibly having his forbears amongst the wave of migrants from ancient Syria, gave credence to the locally prevalent myth of the Suras (Mitanni kingdom) and the Asuras (Assyrian kingdom) except that he made Asura, the good and Devas, the demons. The supreme good and sole deity is Ahuramazda locked in a never ending battle against Ahriman (Abhiman). Thus good and evil are distinctly personified. Judaism has similar myths about the children of the same father but different mothers (Sarah and Hagar) with the anointed wife having the better child and the concubine and her child being banished to the barren desert. It later shows evolution of thought in that two children of the same parents can manifest as good and evil as in the stories of Cain and Abel and that of Jacob and Esau. The Satan of Christianity and Islam has his roots in Ahriman of the Parsees and Mara, the demon of temptation in Buddhism. The first gives the battle between good and evil its historic birth and the second sets up Satan as the tempter who weans humans from the true path of god. One has to give credit to the Greeks for designing their gods from anthropomorphic clay. Zeus and his cohorts mutilated and killed their father and uncles imprisoned them and shamelessly seduced, terrorized and killed human females and others, while indulging in incest. The real civilization of the Greeks begins around 500 BCE with the tragedies promoting avoidance of cannibalism, incest and infanticide in the Houses of Atreus, Oedipus and Medea. Interestingly the philosophy and metaphysics of the Upnishadas part of the Vedas is a millennium older and the Gayatri Mantra, a supreme tribute to the sun, contemporary with the monotheistic sun worship of the Pharaoh Ikhnaton, though equally wrong, as proven by Darwin, the prophet who does not need a god, afterlife and similar crutches or skyhooks.

The truth and reality are quite different. All of us have the tendency towards good and evil and the slightest abrasions of life are able to expose them to the world and become manifest like festering wounds or the opening of Pandora's box. The Ashawatthama and gambling episodes of Yuddhisthir in the Mahabharata, Rama's treatment of Vali, The story of Nala and the carnal surrender of Ahalya emphasize this. No one is uniformly good or bad and each of them have condemnable faults and redeemable virtues. This is why the stories of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and "The Bottled Imp" resonate so beautifully with our emotions when we read them and prompt us to think, there but for the grace of god (circumstances) goes I.

To paraphrase the poet, who put it so well, "Jab dali apni buraiyon pe nazar, to phir auron ki burai pe nazar na rahi". Thus "Physician, heal thyself" and also, " Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". It is important that those who think, speak and act in such Manichean terms as designating "The Great Satan", "The Axis of Evil" and issue Fatwas, rain terror from the skies and urge Gideon to blow his trumpet of doom or pleasurably anticipate Armageddon, occasionally examine their visage, heart and mind in the mirror of true reflection and not those of convex or concave cosmetics, that magnify their virtues and shrink or bend their faults in an amusing acceptance!  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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