At Bijaya, 2012
Given the long and varied history of worship and devotion in India, we commonly hear the significance of the Bengali religious festival, Durga Puja, in simple, perhaps layman's terms, as the "victory of good over evil". Somehow, throughout the world, this idea finds great resonance, and in every culture we find this wish to be triumphant over some imagined (or occasionally real) "evil" that is out there, waiting to disrupt or otherwise damage the presumed "orderliness" of conscious life.
For the longest time, I have myself accepted this notion of "good over evil" at face value, and have even spoken of it in what now seems to me to be simplistic terms. In more recent times, however, upon witnessing the state of events in the human world over several years, and reflecting upon this good and evil paradigm, I have now come to the conclusion that it is incumbent, in fact absolutely essential for all human beings (not just Bengalis or Indians) to move away from this paradigm. In other words, I am asking for a fundamental paradigm shift in this regard. Some might see this as rather radical, and likely invoke ideas from established and venerable sources that clearly sustain or reinforce the paradigm. Are the established authorities, then, in error? I shall come back to this issue a little later.
Let me discuss first why I believe the good and evil paradigm has serious problems in its application or interpretation. To examine the paradigm, we must first establish whether evil exists in this world, and if it does, how it affects humans and other living beings. The obvious straight answer to the question of evil is of course, yes, evil does exist- it has existed from the very first time Being manifested itself. When that primal Sattva (the conscious Being) first appeared, as Tagore tells us, it was full of questions, and had few answers:
(MRC translation from Rabindranath Tagore's Prashna)
The Sun of the first Dawn
Witnessing the fresh manifestation of Sattva
Queried, Who art Thou?
The response was silence and enigma.
Eons passed. Then, the last Sun of the very last sunset,
Pronounced its very last question
In the stillness of dusk upon the western seashore,
Who art Thou? And there was no answer. (Trans. MRC 10 2012)