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Divine and Demonic Qualities

Chapter 16

Lord Krishna said: Fearlessness, purity of the inner psyche, perseverance in the yoga of Self-knowledge, charity, sense-restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty; nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstinence from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride---these are some of the qualities of those endowed with divine virtues, O Arjuna. (16.01-03)

There are five distresses in human life according to yogic scripture (PYS 2.03):

1. Ajnana (lack of Self-knowledge),

2. Asmita (or ego: considering oneself separate from Brahma),

3. Abhinivesha (fear of death and rebirth),

4 and 5. Raga and Dvesha (likes and dislikes for pair of opposites).

The fear of death is the greatest distress in human life. Ajnana creates ego that causes fear of death, likes and dislikes, selfish desires and all other demonic qualities. Self-knowledge (Jnana) gives rise to divine qualities mentioned in verses 16.01-03. Lord abides in the heart of persons with divine qualities as wealth abides in the heart of a greedy person. From the practice of virtue comes dispassion; from the practice of austerity, spiritual wisdom that bestows liberation---so declare the Vedas.

One must not condemn or commend anybody including one­self (MB 3.207.50). We should treat others in the same manner as we would like ourselves to be treated (MB 12.167.09). The dualities of friend and foe, joy and sorrow, good and bad, likes and dislikes, are but effects of Maya, not eternal reality. A person of de­monic nature needs to be dealt with and controlled differently than a person of divine nature (MB 12.109.30). No one is perfect. People do things because they don’t know any better, so we should not censure them. We all pay the price for those who act out of ignorance. Speaking ill of others is the most heinous sin. Do not see others’ faults; improve your own shortcomings until you yourself become enlightened.

One should not talk about, listen to, or even think about the faults and shortcomings of others. When we think about the defects of others, our own minds become polluted. Nothing is gained by find­ing fault with others; therefore, find your own faults and correct them. To love the unlovable, to be kind to the unkind, and to be gracious to the ungracious is really divine. It is said that we will have to account for how we treat others.

Values may also create problems if one forgets that people have different values; my values will be different from yours. A conflict of values between individuals ruins relationships. In practice, sometimes two values of the same person also conflict. For example, if telling a lie saves a valuable life, one should not tell the truth. One should not be blindly attached to values because a value is not absolute. We should neither sneer at any ideal nor judge others by our own standards because basic unity in variety is the plan of the creator.

All kinds of people make up this world. You want to change others so that you can be free, but it never works that way. If you accept others totally and unconditionally, only then you are free. People are what they are because they have their own backgrounds, and they cannot be otherwise (Swami Dayananda). You can love your spouse, unconditionally, and not like the way he or she acts. Your enemy might become your friend if you allow him or her to be who he or she is. If you want to make an enemy, try to change someone. People will change only when it becomes more difficult to suffer than to change. No one is in a posi­tion to disqualify another’s way of life, thinking, or ideas. Evolution on the ladder of perfection is a slow and difficult process. It is not an easy task to get rid of latent Karmic impressions (Samskara) of the past, but one must try. Changes come by one’s own effort and when the season of the grace of God comes, not a day before. Also, the manifes­tation of primordial energy, consciousness, is different in different beings. Therefore, seek reconciliation with everything in the universe, and everything will become your friend. Ramakrishna said: When divinity dawns, the human weaknesses vanish of their own accord just as the petals drop off when the flower develops into the fruit.

Mortals are helplessly tied like cattle by the rope of latent and residual desires born of their Karmic footprints. This rope can be cut only if we use the God-given knife of intellect that animals do not have. A tiger is controlled by the instinct to kill and is helpless in this regard. Human beings are endowed with intellect and power to reason by which they can slowly and steadily cut the rope. We fail to use our power of rea­soning and intellect due to ignorance. One’s enemy is none other than the other side of oneself. Sometimes intellect is taken away by the trick of divine illusory energy (Maya) before the dawn of fate-born adversity. One must use intellect, the precious divine gift to human beings, to analyze the situ­ation. There is no other way to get out of the vicious circle of Maya.

No one can hurt one who does not do violence to others by thought, word, or deed (VP 1.19.05). Even violent ani­mals do not harm those who practice nonviolence by thought, word, and deed (MB 12.175.27). One who does not do violence to any crea­ture, gets what one wishes and becomes successful in all spiritual disciplines without too much effort (MS 5.47).

The higher form of life uses the lower form of life as food for sustenance (MB 12.15.20). It is impossible to practice nonviolence---or any other value---in an absolute sense. Even farming operations involve violence to in­sects and earthworms. Practicing nonviolence towards all creatures is meant for our own evolution on the ladder of perfection. A minimal amount of necessary violence in the day-to-day practical life is required. Determination of minimum violence is, of course, very subjective. Violence should never be used in service of a personal grudge. It may be used to defend the weak or to uphold Dharma (order and justice).


O Arjuna, the marks of those who are born with demonic qualities are: hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness, and ignorance. (16.04)

It is the universal practice to return the favor---in one way or another---to those who have been helpful to you (VR 5.01.113). An ungrateful person is the worst person. One must aban­don such a person (MB 12.168.26). There is no atonement for ungrate­fulness in this world (MB 12.172.25). It is said that even car­nivores do not eat the flesh of an ungrateful person (MB 5.36.42). One must feel and express genuine gratitude if one accepts something from another person. Real happiness is in being grateful to God for what we have, and control the desire for what we want.
Divine qualities lead to salvation, the demonic qualities are said to be for bondage. Do not grieve, O Arjuna---you are born with divine quali­ties. (16.05)

Habits of sinful activity are very difficult to get rid of; therefore, one should always avoid sinful acts and practice good deeds (MB 3.209.41). Fundamental morality is the backbone of spiri­tual life. Self-knowledge without moral virtues is incomplete and is hypocrisy. The world seems good to the good and evil to the evil.


There are only two types (or castes) of human beings in this world: The divine, or the wise; and the demonic, or the ignorant. The divine has been described at length; now hear from Me about the demonic, O Arjuna. (16.06)

Self-knowledge manifests as divine qualities, and ignorance manifests as demonic qualities. Those who are in tune with the cosmic plan have divine qualities; those who are out of tune with the divine plan possess demonic qualities. Those who acted piously in their past lives are born with more divine qualities, and those who were sinful in previous lives are born with predominance of demonic qualities.

Created beings in this world have both divine and demonic qualities in them---so declare the Vedas and the Puranas; where there is divine quality, there is prosperity, but where there is demonic quality, there is misfortune and bad Karma in the end (TR 5.39.03).

Persons of demonic nature do not know what to do and what not to do. They have neither purity nor good conduct nor truthfulness. (16.07)

They say: The world is unreal, without a substratum, without a God, and without an order. Sexual union of man and woman alone and nothing else causes the world. (16.08)

Adhering to this view, these degraded souls---with small intellect and cruel deeds---are born as enemies for the destruction of the world. (16.09)

Filled with insatiable desire, hypocrisy, pride, and arrogance; holding wrong views due to delusion, they act with impure motives. (16.10)

Obsessed with endless anxiety lasting until death, considering sense gratification their highest aim, and convinced that sense pleasure is everything, bound by hundreds of ties of desire and enslaved by lust and anger, they strive to obtain wealth by unlawful means to fulfill sensual pleasures. They think: (16.11-12)
This has been gained by me today; I shall fulfill this desire; I have this much wealth and will have more wealth in the future; (16.13)

That enemy has been slain by me, and I shall slay others also. I am the Lord. I am the enjoyer. I am successful, powerful, and happy; (16.14)

I am rich and born in a noble family. Who is equal to me? I shall per­form sacrifice, I shall give charity, and I shall rejoice. Thus they are deluded by ignorance, bewildered by many fancies, entangled in the net of delusion, addicted to the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, they fall into a foul hell. (16.15-16)

Self-conceited, stubborn, filled with pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices only in name for show, not according to scriptural injunction. (16.17)

These malicious people cling to egoism, power, arrogance, lust, and anger; and they deny My presence in their own body and in others' bodies. (16.18)


I hurl these haters, these cruel, sinful, and mean people, into the cycles of death and birth in the womb of demons (or degraded parents) again and again, according to their Karma. (16.19)

O Arjuna, entering the wombs of demons, birth after birth, the deluded ones sink to the lowest level without ever attaining Me (until their minds turn Godward by His Grace). (16.20)

A never-ending war between good and evil forces is going on in each person’s life. One takes birth to learn to purge the demonic qualities that block the gateway to God-realization. God appears only after the devil within us is completely subjugated. Spirit does not have any of the three qualities of material Nature. These qualities belong to body and mind only. Scriptures say: The divine, illusory energy (Maya) creates a multitude of pairs of oppo­sites, such as good and evil, loss and gain, pleasure and pain, hope and despair, compassion and apathy, generosity and greed, perseverance and laziness, courage and cowardice, love and hatred, merits and demerits, and divine and demonic qualities. They have no real existence whatsoever. Therefore, it is wise not to note any merit or demerit in people (BP 11.19.45, TR 7.41.00).


Lust, anger, and greed are the three gates of hell leading to the down­fall (or bondage) of the individual. Therefore, one must (learn to) give up these three. (16.21)

The Upanishad says: A golden gate (of lust, anger, greed, illusion, delusion, and attachment) blocks the passage to God (IsU 15). This gate can be opened by concerted, individual effort only. Lust, anger, and greed were created to control the entry of hu­man beings to heaven and to lead them to the gates of hell. Lust, anger, and greed evaporate from the mind only after discovering that there is no ‘I’ and ‘my’. Uncontrolled greed for material possessions of modern civilization may destroy the possessor by destroying the natu­ral environment, the very support of life and civilization.

Selfish desire or lust is the root of all evil. Mundane desires are also the origin of all demonic qualities. These demonic or negative qualities, such as an­ger, greed, attachment, pride, jealousy, hatred, and fraud, are born out of de­sire and are also called sin. Desire, when fulfilled, brings more desires, thereby breeding greed. Unfulfilled desires cause anger. Anger is a temporary in­sanity. People do sinful acts when they are angry. They who act in haste under the spell of anger, repent afterwards. Igno­rance of metaphysics is responsible for lust; therefore, lust can be removed only by acquiring Self-knowledge. Lust also obscures Self-knowledge as a cloud covers the sun. One must learn to control desires with contentment, and anger with unconditional forgiveness. They who have overcome desires have really conquered the world and live a peaceful, healthy, and happy life.

One who is liberated from these three gates of hell, O Arjuna, does what is best and consequently reaches Me. (16.22)
Lust, anger, and greed are the commanders of the army of illusion (Maya) that must be defeated before salvation is possible. The best way to become free from demonic qualities is to follow any one of the paths discussed in the Gita, as well as other scriptural injunctions.


One who acts under the influence of desires, disobeying scriptural injunctions, neither attains perfection nor happiness, nor the Supreme Abode. (16.23)

The world becomes full of sweetness and beauty for those who live their life according to the law of the scriptures (RV 1.90.06). A scripture is the blueprint for society. It deals with every aspect of life and lays down the ground rules for proper devel­opment of all men, women, and children. For example, Manu said: Women must be honored and adorned. Where women are honored, there celestial controllers dwell pleased. Women must always be loved and protected from the temptation of evil-minded men. A woman’s father protects her in childhood; her husband protects her in youth; and her sons protect her in old age (MS 3.56). Fortitude, righteousness (Dharma), friends, and spouse---these four are tested only during adversity. To be de­voted---in thought, word, and deed---to each other should be the only religion, the only vow, and the only duty of a husband and wife (TR 3.04.05). However, men and women have differing roles to play in the cosmic drama; therefore, their needs and temperament are different.

One must not find fault or criticize any scripture because the scripture is the foundation stone of righteousness (Dharma) and social order. One can get name, fame, peace, and salvation by just following the scriptures (MS 2.09). The study of scriptures keeps the mind ab­sorbed in high thoughts and is a spiritual discipline by itself. One is deliv­ered by the practice of the truth of the scriptures and not by mere lip service. Guru Nanak said: One who preaches to others but does not practice the same, shall take birth again and again.

Let God, Gita, and Guru show us the way to en­lightenment. People cannot be saved from the spell of divine, illusory power (Maya) just by using their own wisdom. They must follow a scripture with faith, espe­cially in this age when it is difficult to find a true guru. Adherence to the high teachings of the scriptures will ward off all evil and bring about good. If a bridge is built, anyone can easily cross the river, no matter how wide a river is. Similarly the scripture is the bridge to cross over the river of Maya. Therefore, one should always follow the guidance of a teacher who is well versed in the scriptures, as stated by the Lord in the following verse:

Therefore, let the scripture be your guide in determining what should be done and what should not be done. You should perform your duty following the scriptural injunction. (16.24)

The Ten Commandments of Hinduism according to sage Patanjali (PYS 2.30-2.32), are: (1) Nonviolence, (2) Truthfulness, (3) Non-steal­ing, (4) Celibacy or sense control, (5) Non-greed, (6) Purity of thought, word, and deed, (7) Contentment, (8) Austerity or renuncia­tion, (9) Study of scriptures, and (10) Surrendering to God with faith­ful loving devotion.

Compare these with the ten basic teachings of the Bible: (1) Thou shall not kill; (2) Do not lie; (3) Do not steal; (4) Do not commit adultery; (5) Do not covet; (6) Do not divorce your wife; (7) Do for others what you want them to do for you; (8) If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek; (9) Love your neighbor as yourself; and (10) Love the Lord with all thy heart.

The Eightfold Noble Path of Buddhism is: Right view, right thought, right speech, right deeds, right livelihood, right effort, right resolve, and right meditation. Abstinence from all evil, performance of good acts, and purification of the mind is the doctrine of Buddha.

The five cardinal principles of Islam are: (1) Faith in God, His message, and His messengers; (2) Meditation and prayer on the glory, greatness, and the message of God for spiritual growth; (3) Helping others by giving charity; (4) Austerity for self-purification by fasting in the month of Ramadan; and (5) Pilgrimage to the holy places.

All great masters have given us Truth revealed by the Supreme. Krishna taught us to feel spiritual oneness by seeing divinity in each and everyone. Buddha taught us to purify ourselves and have compassion for all creatures. Christ asked us to love all beings as we love ourselves. Muhammad taught us to submit to the will of God and act like His instruments.

In some religions, however, only the members of one’s own sect are considered favorites of God, and others are consid­ered infidels. The Vedas teach not only mere religious tolerance but the acceptance of all other religions and prophets as analogous to one’s own.

The Vedas say: Let noble thoughts come to us from everywhere (RV 1.89.01). The dignity and welfare of humanity lie in the unity of races and religion (Swami Harihar). True knowledge of relig­ion breaks down all barriers, including the barriers between faiths (Gandhi). Any religion that creates walls of conflict and hatred among people in the name of God is not a religion, but selfish politics in disguise. We have no right to criticize any religion, sect, or cult in any way.

Differences in human interpretation of scriptures---the transcendent voice---are due to taking the literal meaning, prejudice, ignorance, taking lines out of context, as well as distortion, misinterpretation, and interpolation with personal selfish motives.


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