Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


Question of Neli: There is a question that I am chewing from a long time and I am hesitating to ask because I am thinking is this a provocative question or should I ask…?

Tirtha Maharaj: Let’s hear it! We can judge.

Neli: In Christianity there is a personality carrying all the bad characteristics. The Satan. From vaishnava literature we know that Krishna is carrying all the good qualities. Is there a personality in vaishnava philosophy carrying all the bad qualities, like in parallel with Christianity?

Tirtha Maharaj: I don’t see anything provocative here. Well, where does the conception of Satan originates from? From Zoroastrianism. It comes from а kind of Persian and Middle East conception, from dualistic worldview that there is light and there is darkness, that there is a good God and there is, so to say, a bad God – one representing positive forces and the other representing bad forces. That conception was so to say imported into the Old Testament and then from the Old Testament through Christianity it spread all over the world. But if you go further to the East, you will find different explanation for the same thing. For example, Mahaprabhu says there is no bad and there is no good. In one sense that means that there is no light and no darkness. Why? Because it is only the spiritual truth that exists. The relative conceptions of good and bad are relevant only on the material plane, the plane of dualities. But beyond that level there is no opposition. For example the brahman platform as a unified platform of existence, beyond dualities of material nature, is just bright, there is no darkness there. And beyond that divine light we know that there is a source of that divine light and this is the pastimes of Krishna, He Himself.

Nevertheless we shall put the question: then where illusion starts from? If there is only God and the light of God, how is it that illusion is there? But illusion, we know, works in double ways – one is the divine illusion and the other is the material illusion. In one sense we can say that the grossest expansion of God’s energy is this maha-maya, or the worldly illusion, which distorts the visions. And therefore, due to this illusion ignorance will come, and from ignorance wrong activities will come and from wrong activities sinful reactions will come. But we should know that according to our understanding even the representative of maya is not bad. She is Durga, Durga Devi, she is a demigoddess, she’s got a duty to perform and she is a bhakta. Or even the god of death, Yamaraja, is a servant of the Supreme, although his duty is to punish those who deserve that.

Neli: So, there is or there is no such personality – the most cruel, the most envious…

Tirtha Maharaj: Very good question. Look at me.

We can say there is none. But sometimes in the divine lila, in these roles of the stories we find negative characters also. And we know that there are the devas and there are the asuras. But actually they are brothers and sisters, coming from the same father. Well, maybe the mother is different, but the father is the same, so they are brothers, half-brothers. And somebody has to play the negative role in order that those who play the positive role could accomplish their mission. And what is the name of the chief Satan? Lucifer, correct. What is the meaning of the name? – “Who brings the light”. O-ho! Is this a satanic action – to bring you the light? And what was his position before?

Neli: Fallen angel.

Tirtha Maharaj: Before he was not fallen, he was only the chief angel. That again means that the origin is divine, there’s no negative. But by misuse of so called freedom, he had to serve the negative part. Yet ontologically, originally we can see that even the representative of the negative side comes from the positive side. And when some character in our tradition is described as very cruel or very negative, it is only a part of the game.


(to be continued)


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