By Jug Suraiya
Two sex scandals - both involving religion - are doing the rounds. One is about the revelations of widespread paedophilia in the Roman Catholic church, and the alleged attempts by the Vatican to hush up the matter. The other, on a far smaller scale, concerns Swami Nithyananda, the guru who was caught on video having a romp with a couple of young women.
The 'scandal' of Nithyananda is of course not a scandal at all. A needless brouhaha has been created about self-styled 'godmen' who turn out to be satyrs in holy garb, sinners disguised as saints. Such distinctions would be meaningless both for the hedonist as well as the spiritualist. In Tantricism, for instance, to name just one spiritual discipline, sex is only a means to attain a higher level of consciousness, as are alcohol and narcotics, both of which are commonly viewed as vices.
However, the Catholic church's cover-up of alleged paedophilia and the 'sex guru' episode might revive that old chestnut: the nature of 'good' and 'evil', the difference between saints and sinners, angels and demons. Are good and evil polar opposites, implacable adversaries, like matter and anti-matter, absolute in themselves? That was the heretical Manichean worldview. This presented the problem of two absolutes, good and evil, or two infinities, which is a logical impossibility. In orthodox Christian theology, evil is not absolute in itself; it is an absence, a retraction of the good, the way a shadow is the lack of light. But this means that absolute good, or infinity, can be restricted, which again is logically impossible.
In the Indic perspective, good and evil aren't two sides of the same coin; they are the same side of the same coin. Or, to use the analogy of light, good and evil represent the two ends of the same spectrum, which ranges from infrared to ultraviolet. Seen in this light - both literally and metaphorically - good and evil are part of the same continuum, but at different margins of the same scale.
The scale can be said to be graded in terms of consciousness: that which enhances consciousness is at the upper end of the scale, or spectrum; that which reduces consciousness is at the lower end. That which heightens consciousness is what we call 'good' that which restricts or negates it is what we call 'evil'.
A work of art, an elegant mathematical equation, a melody, the words of a poet or a seer represent the good, in that they add to, and raise, the sum total of consciousness; they belong to the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. Acts of violence, such as rape (particularly paedophilic rape, which is what the Vatican scandal is about) murder, and torture, are evil in that they subtract from the sum total of consciousness, they debase consciousness; they belong to the infrared end of the spectrum.
Great spiritual leaders, like Jesus, or Mohammad, or Nanak (and scientists and poets such as Einstein and Kalidas), have enhanced and heightened human consciousness and stand at the highest end of the spectrum. Genocidists like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot (and terrorists who kill innocent people, and those who violate the bodies and minds of the helpless and the innocent) negate consciousness, to the point of extinction in the most extreme cases, and stand at the lowest part of the spectrum which brackets both saints and sinners, angels and demons.
Between these two ends of the human spectrum lies the undifferentiated light of the everyday, of the mundane, the moral compass within which the great majority of us live. Neither saints nor sinners, neither angels nor demons, but somewhere in between, safe in our mediocrity. But with the potential in our day-to-day lives to side with the one or the other, to move even fractionally, minimally, to one side or the other of the spectrum of good and evil.
How? Through our thoughts and actions, or the lack of them. What we say, what we do, what we think: does it add to or subtract from the realm of consciousness, does it expand or narrow that horizon? Are we on the side of the saints or the sinners, the angels or the demons? Both possibilities are within us.
What'll we choose to be today?