We started the meeting with the paper “The Problem of Evil”, initially reading the first half page. Comments were:
- There is no evil. There are tsunamis and aeroplane crashes but these are not evil. They are just part of the drama. It’s just that we have preferences. We see things from our own point of view. In fact everything is as it should be.
- There are also terrible things going on in the world like oppression and torture, but we need to recognise they are all the result of certain triads. You can’t just have nice things happening. For nice things to happen, bad things also need to happen. All possibilities, all the different triads are happening all the time. Some we like and some we don’t like. It’s a balance.
- The description of the three philosophies is biased and wrong. There are many scientists and scientifically inclined people who don’t believe in God but who feel that there is far more than just the material universe that is the subject of science. Scientists reading this paper could be offended. Also, what is described as the non-dual view is not non-dual and not Advaita. There is no “benign Creator” in Advaita. Everything is One, the Absolute. We are the Absolute, everything in this room is the Absolute, everything in this and all other universes is One.
H.H. wrote:Those who resort to the Way of Knowledge (having acquired the Knowledge through the teacher), they always like to look within to the Self. Having acquired the Knowledge, the Self becomes the Guru. They do not see it as different; they see it as the Atman or the Absolute – not Absolute as a God, but Absolute as Atman. So for them there is no difference; they like to think and talk only about the Atman.
But for those who are on the devotional side, the God is of the Saguna (having a name and form); and the Teacher, who leads him towards this, seems to be very important, and they are seen to be working through the Teacher to the God. [Record 1974, p58, 59]
The discussion continued: "If there is no evil, does it mean there is no good?". "Absolutely - there's no good and no bad." "In ordinary life, should we therefore not refer to anything as good or bad?" "It's not like that. It's about emotional response, attachment. If someone sends you a document to review, you might well say 'I think it's very good' or 'this bit is very good, but the final page needs some work'. But you are being entirely impartial about it." One person pointed out that the Bhagavad Gita which we had studied some months ago explained all this very clearly. He had listened to the Melvyn Bragg programme on Radio 4 about the Gita that morning and it was still available on 'Listen Again'. (Note: This might not work for overseas forum members.)
We then read the quotation from H.H. at the bottom of page 1. This prompted the initial commenter to say. “Well H.H. has said everything there is to be said. There is no evil. So there is no problem. Nothing more to discuss.” Everyone in the group seemed to agree.
At this point our meeting taker revealed that the paper she had really wanted to use that evening was the E Group paper “What is going on?” However she had felt she couldn’t do this as we had already studied it earlier in the term. (See here.) But it was one of those papers that had really hit home when she read it unlike many others that just wash over her. And she had further questions on it. So we focussed on this for the rest of the meeting, but with a ban imposed by our meeting taker on any discussion of choice and free will.
Her first question was about the meaning of the following:
The cosmos is composed essentially of vibrations—everything, at a certain level, can be seen as being composed of waves or frequencies. Sound, light, smell, touch, emotion, thought, desire, all these things have a particular frequency just like radio waves.
Someone explained that from the point of view of science, the material world is just that. Originally people described the universe as being comprised of atoms – hard, solid, indivisible things. Then the atom was split into various particles and energy. And then those particles were split and at this level things start to get strange as we are in the world of quantum physics. Everything is both a wave (vibration) and a particle depending on how you look at it. So the material universe is essentially just energy – vibrations. Now it is not then difficult to imagine a similar model operating at the subtle level (e.g. the level of our psychology) and at the causal level.
Our meeting taker then asked how one could really feel this energy operating within you in ordinary life. One answer was that to start with you can certainly be aware of your heart beat and your breath. Then, if you are completely quiet and still you can feel other more subtle energies flowing within you. Beyond this you can sometimes feel energy from all around flowing through you. Thoughts seem to come from outside. But you must be very still and that takes practice.
Someone else explained that the idea needed to move from the head to the heart. Another agreed but felt that this is difficult for intellectually predominant people. Stillness is the key.
The meeting taker then asked what was meant by “simply feel the energy of whatever mechanical emotion is rushing through us”. One person said that she could often detect a distinctive, very slightly uncomfortable feeling which she felt was a tiny, almost insignificant negative emotion associated with identification. That feeling alerted her to the need to let go of whatever she is identified with and allow a feeling of expansion.
Two members of the group were experiencing difficulties in their dealings with close relatives. In one case, the person was feeling entirely calm and sattvic, but the relative knew exactly which button to press and this resulted in an angry outburst with all the sattva disappearing in an instant. There was simply nothing that he could do about it. Another was in a household with a very negative person and would come home from the meeting and be confronted by all this and so all the sattva gained from the meeting was lost. It was suggested that instead of getting upset and annoyed with himself, perhaps he could simply try to observe what is going on impartially. The relative is behaving mechanically – she can’t help it, and he is reacting equally mechanically. Two machines interacting with each other in a pre-programmed way. Then perhaps sometimes he might be able to try what the paper suggests – to avoid expressing the emotion he is feeling.
Someone else said that one can regard these types of situations as being very helpful, because in each case the group member had noticed that he was being negative and this provided an opportunity to learn to deal with the negative emotion. He then offered to say things to deliberately annoy his wife (also a group member) in order to help her in this way. Despite encouragement from two other members of the group (who perhaps sensed the opportunity for some fun) this kind offer was rejected.
There was further talk of stillness. For one person reaching the stillness continued to be a problem. It was suggested that instead of ‘trying to become still’, she might try just ‘listening to the silence’. Then someone quite rightly remarked “you keep going on about stillness. This is the noisiest kind of stillness I have ever encountered.” At this point as it was well past 9pm, the meeting closed.