Does the Soul Choose to Be Evil?



Master had said that it is we who with the guidance of other spiritual masters choose what kind of life would lead bfore we take birth and people we would encounter to enable our spiritual growth.There are many people who are murderers, cunning, harmful and selfish. I have seen so many (sociopaths) men who are full of lust confess love to women just to talk dirty advantage and vice versa. Why would such people choose a life full of vices for themselves? How would such a life help them grow spiritually?

—Sana, India


Dear Sana,

I agree that it is inconceivable that a soul would choose to be a murderer or other kind of despicable character. That is one reason why, to my knowledge, Paramhansa Yogananda never said that which you attributed to him. I know it is popular in some circles to speak that way, but from what I know of Master’s teachings, I cannot imagine him having said that. His emphasis was ever on how desires—which is to say, unresolved karmas—determine the circumstances of most souls’ incarnations.

Swami Kriyananda was once asked the following: “Someone who arrives in a city and is absolutely starving will eat at the very first restaurant that he or she sees. There is no discrimination; there is only desperation. But if that person is not starving, but simply realizes that it’s time to feed the body, he or she will take as much time as needed to find a quality restaurant that seems likely to provide nourishing food. Is reincarnation like that?”

Swamiji’s reply was affirmative, by which he meant that the more strongly a soul is bound by desire for ego-gratification, the less choice it has in anything, whether before or after birth. Souls that are still deeply enmeshed in delusion have virtually no choice; their karma dictates even their thought processes. That would certainly apply to a soul that would murder, or live a life of crime, or be habitually untruthful. However, those who are relatively free of desire (which is to say, relatively free of karma) can indeed make some choices. And the freer they are of desire, the more choice they have—even to the extent that highly advanced souls can choose to incarnate in multiple bodies at once, so as to work out their karma more quickly. Wow!

The masters do say that everyone has some degree of choice—fortunately, else we would never grow. How much choice do we have? Best to live as though you have complete freedom of choice, lest you become fatalistic and passive. It takes dynamic energy to become free.

So let’s not worry about people who deceive, or cheat, or even murder. They are doing the best they can as they stumble about, creating more and more suffering for themselves. Compassion would be a better response for us. Bless them—and avoid them as much as possible.

Meanwhile, let’s work on overcoming our own desire for anything that further enmeshes us in ego-limitation and self-gratification.