What Is Evil in the Hindu Religion?

by James Stuart

From notions of dharma to karma to the Hindu pantheon of gods, Hinduism addresses the problem of evil in in a number of ways. Unlike religions such as Christianity and Judaism, which struggle to understand the presence of evil in a world guided by a supreme and all-powerful God, Hinduism presents a conception of evil that easily fits within the context of the religion's cosmology.

Dharma

In the Hindu faith, evil comes from violating dharma -- the natural force of virtue that permeates the universe. Dharma is both universal and particular to an individual's status. For example, universal dharma includes helping people in need, while individual dharma for a child might consist of obeying his parents. According to Hinduism, if a person acts contrary to this dharma, like when they hurt another person, they are creating evil in the world.

Karma

Hinduism teaches that evil is cyclical and when individuals experience evil, it's part of the divine Hindu system of justice known as karma. When people violate the natural dharma, they receive negative karma that will cause evil to befall them in the future. Because of the Hindu belief in rebirth, negative events in this life may be the result of an evil act in a previous one.

Gods

Although Hindus do worship a supreme god known as Brahman, his manifestations make up the pantheon of lesser gods in Hinduism. These gods are not wholly good or evil, but complex beings with a range of facets. Although many gods like Vishnu try to thwart evil and challenge lesser Hindu deities and demons, even these gods sometimes cause evil. For example, the Hindu creator god Brahma was guilty of the sin of incest for which the god Shiva admonished and punished him.

Origin

The notion of rebirth also addresses the problem of evil's origin. According to the Hindu faith, no aspect of reality, including the universe itself, is outside the cycle of death and rebirth. For this reason, evil has no origin, and always goes back to an earlier action. However, Hinduism does teach of the fall of man when demons destroyed the Golden Age of peace and caused humanity to fall from grace and act evilly.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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