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"Resist ye not evil"

by Peter Holleran

   A friend of mine just wrote me the following:

   "On this trip to Babaji in India, I got that we should stay focussed on what we are here to attempt while we have bodies, and why make two fools under one roof by " resisting evil "? In other words don't let's get sidetracked by fighting injustices...better to continue on our spiritual focus rather than righting wrongs...after all Kal and Maya work hard to arrange these lessons for humanity, with the valuable sufferings. This world is a reform school, why carpet it? This world is a motel we are passing thru, why stop to fix the plumbing? Where can I learn more about the meanings of "resist not evil "?

   Dear bro:

   I hesitate to get into this, out of fear that it really needs a book-length treatment! It is a very important question, however.  "Where can I go to find out more about the meanings of resist not evil?" Well, it is doubtful there is one book or teacher, but it is really strewn throughout many teachings. There are, of course, a number of levels of considering this. I will venture a few humble comments.

   "What is evil?" seems the first line of business to explain. What is it to you might be the real question. Yet perhaps we can say without too much trouble that "good" is anything that promotes the realization/evolution of consciousness," and that "evil" is anything that goes against the realization/evolution of consciousness."  For us lowly beings, however, this is not always easy to tell. But this is better than explaining good and evil in moralistic relativistic terms. If we accept that God is all, then evil is part of God's plan. If that is so, we then ask, "why?" A few things come to mind: it provides resistance with which to foster the development of consciousness. As Ramakrishna said,"it thickens the plot." Second, evil tests our relative progress in understanding. In this respect I view "Kal" as the "archangel of testing." And three, evil provides a bit of "chaos", which also forces us to develop consciousness.

   The problem comes in the process of judgement, or ourselves and others and circumstances. What is bad may sometime really be good, and vice versa, right? We all have seen how this plays out. Even the development of the atom bomb was at tremendous goad towards a globalization of consciousness for humanity. If one studies the way the Manhatten Project, etc., came about, all the amazing coincidences that happened, he will marvel at the wisdom of the divine mind behind it all.

   From a personal perspective, imo, 'resist not evil' is something we choose in one manner or another whenever we face the automatic  tendencies of our lower self: physical, emotional, mental. Do we fight these (maybe sometimes we might, to establish new patterns, eventually making the old ones obsolete from non-use), or do we simply bring non-judgemental awareness and acceptance (which is not necessarily approval) to them - or to others who act them out? It seems the latter is largely what Jesus had in mind. If we look at the Buddha under the Bo tree, when he confronted Mara the temptress, or Milarepa facing the demons, or, again, Jesus facing Satan - did they fight against them? According to the scriptures, no, they met them with awareness, with neither attachment or aversion, and thereby vanquished them.

   So to me that is the central theme here.

   If you are concerned about whether to take up a social cause, well, I don't see an inherent conflict there, as long as one maintains equanimity throughout, has a desire for such activity, time to do it, and non-judgementalness while doing it. My Master once said that some initiates might have to get into politics. If one really believes in the truth of nonduality this is an entirely valid consideration. The only problem is the time and circumstance one may have for it. And how deep one wants to go down the rabbit hole! (1) Certainly, however, we can at least share information via the internet and email! That much we can do, to try to help steer this ship of mother earth in the direction of further good, to make it a better vehicle for the evolution of consciousness. The earth itself is also a living being and is evolving, too, according to esoteric doctrine. I am not an escapist and do not see our salvation only in getting out of here. Thus, I try to take a more nondualistic, less traditional, view of Sant Mat and other mystical teachings.  But each person also has to pick and choose his battles with the time, energy, talent, and desire he has available.

   Christ did say, "resist ye NOT evil'. It appears to my way of thinking that he meant this in psychological terms of non-resistance and non-reactivity more than anything else, and neither for us to be a doormat nor an ostrich in practical affairs. We can not  avoid standing for righteousness when it is called for. But we can also do this without holding onto fixed views and opinions - including the view of having no views or opinions! Likewise, we are not called to judge, but we are not to judge ourselves for judging, either! It is a mental attitude, a state of mind, most of all.

   It might be said that there are basically three ways of perceiving this issue, as well as the entire notion of spiritual work. They may be considered to be distinct, but also progressive stages. We generally are not in a position to just begin the path by choosing one or the other. However, they are not water-tight compartments either. At any one time in our process we may emphasize one or the other attitude, depending on our maturity and the fluctuations of our ability to handle experience. Thus at one stage improving oneself may be the most important thing one can do, while at another forgetting oneself will take center stage.

   The first is the traditional dualistic approach given in most spiritual teachings, where we use the faculty of discrimination, dualistically, to separate good from evil, wholesome from unwholesome, right from wrong, virtuous from unvirtuous, hindrances from helping factors, spiritual from material or worldy, etc.. This is the basic spiritual approach as given to beginners, who are strongly attached to the world of dualistic perception, reasoning, and understanding.  He tries not to feed those, and cultivate the opposites where required. It involves discernment, self-introspection, and necessarily judgment, but ultimately what might be called the highest or "sattvic" form of judgement, i.e., that which serves liberation from dualistic suffering, which will eventually be transcended as he develops (without being entirely discarded). 

   A second-level of approach is what could be called a more 'tantric' approach. Not tantric in terms of working exotically as the Tibetan Buddhist yogis or Hindu siddhas do with the chakras (and certainly not anything in terms of gross sexual manipulation of energies!), but tantric in the sense of seeing the spiritual qualities that are latent within the hindrances, 'failures', 'dacoits', lower tendencies, moral judgements, and transmuting them into those higher qualities.  A simple example of this is taking your lust, and, without judgement,  paying friendly attention to it without acting upon it (or even if one feels compelled to act, not yet being perfect); still, not labelling it as bad; it may in fact be necessary in a case where, for instance, one has been a repressed anchorite in a former lifetime, or just earlier in life, and needs to express desire in this area this time to come to balance; the notion of desire as bad is a key area needing transformation; one may have key desires that need to be fulfilled in order for the soul to move on; we realize that this is contrary to traditional forms of Buddhism regarding the role of desire, for instance, but it appears to be so); so one trusts and allows himself to feel it - i.e., the 'burn', frustration, tapas or heat, if he is not acting on his impulses, or the human side of it if he does, and eventually feeling the deep human and then spiritual need underneath it (with such a distinction made less and less as time goes by), which will turn that feeling into longing for something more primal or basic instead of just physical desire, which is often emotionally based and not purely a physical appetite). Paramahansa Yogananda replied to a disciple who wanted him to do away with his feelings of lust, ""If I did so you would feel like you were losing your best friend." Similarly, Sri Ramakrishna told a devotee that if he did likewise"he would find his life insipid." To merely kill out desire is to kill out allpassion, the energy that fuels life and creativity. In the tantric sensitivity, this energy must be transformed and transmuted, not suppressed or merely sublimated. The same attitude may be taken with anger, or any other 'negative' quality. The principle of tantra is "by what one falls, one rises." (the Vimilakirti Sutra). In this stage one doesn't try to be perfect, but to realize and extract the perfection within the apparent imperfection. There is a great deal of tolerance, patience, and acceptance here. It is a step higher than dualism, a bridge between that path and the next stage, that of nondualism.

   The third and highest traditional approach or understanding, then, is the nondual one, as in Dzogchen, for instance, where the various hindrances are 'spontaneously liberated' as they appear, as long as one keeps to the nondual view 'introduced' to one by his guru. This is obviously not easy to do, and impossible for a beginner. Many in fact want to jump to it when they haven't grown into the previous two stages, with partial or disastrous results. One doesn't just choose this way, it must present itself as inevitable at some point. Here good and evil are seen as two sides of the same coin, and not different from one another. It does not mean that in practical terms one does not choose one or the other, but he does not see any difference in their essence, and is beyond ordinary likes and dislikes, or aversion or attraction. It is a higher stage of practice/realization, but glimmers and moments of it may be had at any level of practice, and it can be assumed as an inner attitude at any time, even when acting dualistically choosing right from wrong.

   So one can take these three views when considering the question of 'resisting evil' or 'resisting not evil'. Neither is right or wrong, but appropriate and natural at any given stage of maturity. To tell an undeveloped person not to try to be a better person might be poison, while at another time it would be useful instruction.

   Now, we would be amiss if we did not address the liabilities in each of these stages, and a fourth way not directly addressed by these three stages. In the first approach we remain bound to some degree, despite our best efforts, to the conventional ego self that most of us live in every day, although through a subtle alchemy and the power of grace of the higher self or a Guide some change will nevertheless be made. In the second there is the danger that we may try this prematurely and only act out or exascerbate our weaknesses. In the third, while there is no liability when truly actualized, if understood only in a conceptual way, as perhaps a meditative ideal of quietness or an exclusive identification with a timeless, changeless 'absolute' Self, then the personal contribution and a sense of true aliveness can be missed. A 'fourth' way, then, perhaps with its closest affinity to the second or tantric stage, reveals itself as an evolutionary self that is the creative force of the universe alive within us, as the human face of the very impulse of evolution itself.

   This is hard to classify as either personal or impersonal, but not so hard to actually live and embody, when all the factors are in place. And it appears to be the way that human 'spiritual' evolution is heading. Hope this helps.


(1) Without getting too far into this, it must be said that just as there are archtypal forces of good in this universe, so there are archtypal manifestations of evil, call them the Forces of Mara, the Black Lodge, demons, Shamael, Satan (a corruption by the evil brotherhoods of 'Sanat Kumara', said to be ruler of the inner Planetary Government), the Illuminati, and so on. This is actually a very complex subject. "Kal", however, the so-called 'Negative Power' in Sant Mat (created, however, 'from the finest hair of the Sat Purush', or the 'Positive Power') would not be in this category, but more a personification of the 'Lords of Karma', the regents within time, which in some teachings are also referred to as 'Angels of the Presence', Devarajas of the Seven Planes', 'Lipika Lords', or 'Guardians of the Four Directions' - a special class of 'Four Archangels of the Elements' - which can hardly be said to be evil. Kal, then, interpreted dualistically as 'a collective force of cosmic evil' would just be a reflection of the same confused attitude of humans feeling victimized by the universe around them. The Laws of Karma are very intricate, as is their administering by several hierarchies of evolved beings. The Lords of Karma make use of and direct so-called 'forces of darkness' on the lower planes to act upon those who transgress the Laws of Life. Thus the working of karmic law is one of the reasons for the allowance of the continued existence of 'evil'. Interestingly, and revealing, is the fact that 'evil' spelled backwards is 'live'. Break the Laws of Life, and evil will show up as a learning experience to direct one back to the right course. There is no fear of evil for those who adhere to the Laws of Life. As part of humanity, however, one may have a share in collective karmas, which must be met with acceptance as being one's due. To deny or run away is to delay the repayment and eradication of the karma. One of the best ways to avoid creating new karmas and evoking grace for the elimination of old karma is through a life of service of others.

   Best not to judge, and thus add one's own negative thoughts to pollution of the subtle planes. The fact is we can not know all the causes of events and their effect upon us until the very high level of personal development - of causal consciousness. Until then we need to grow and use our intuition to guide us in knowing when to stand up for ourselves, or for others ('resist'), and when to step down and simply observe fate in action ('not resist'). [For more on "Kal" see the article "Sant Mat: A Comparative Analysis: Part Four" on this website].