Are Conditions Always Neutral?


Yogananda said that "conditions are neither good nor bad; they are always neutral." I understand that morality is relative, but that doesn’t mean it’s subjective. Isn’t it true, for e.g., that harming an innocent child for pleasure is objectively bad? We have a moral duty to do good. Kriyananda also said that morality is directional in its relativity. So how can all conditions be "neutral"?

—Nirmal, UK


Dear Nirmal,

This is a subtle and sensitive issue that you raise; one that can easily be misunderstood.

My understanding of Yogananda’s words is that they relate to the level of attachment (the “good and bad”), that we bring to conditions. That doesn’t mean we should let bad things happen around us; it has to do with not reacting to those things, but rather acting in a way that involves dharma, or right action. “Rightness,” or dharma, can be understood as those feelings, thoughts, and actions, which directionally, are bringing us closer to God.

If we see a situation such as you describe, it is certainly appropriate to not condone abusive behavior. It is also appropriate to take action if warranted. However, if we react to wrong behavior in others by getting angry, then we are basically just adding more fuel to the problem.

It is difficult for us to view the play (“lila”) of God and understand that everything in life, good or bad, is happening so as to offer us opportunities for spiritual growth. God is in everything, even when we have a hard time accepting that reality. Perhaps this is the most important thing to gain from Yogananda’s words, “conditions are neither good nor bad; they are always neutral.”

I hope this is helpful.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Pranaba