Good people, in particular, religious and spiritual people, often feel baffled about the nature of good and evil. They are unable to reconcile good or superior power with the existence of evil in the world. Some of the devotees would approach Sri Ramakrishna with questions about the nature of God. They would ask him that if God is the creator of this world, why there is evil. More so, why do we find evil and wicked people often thriving, while the apparently good people suffer?
Sri Ramakrishna would patiently listen to them and clarify their doubts with a beautiful analogy from daily life. He would say that a lamp is burning in a room. One person enters it and proceeds to read the scriptures by the light of the lamp. After he leaves the place, another person enters the room and forges a cheque using the same light. The light of the lamp, however, is not affected by either of the incidents.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that God or Brahman or the Ultimate Reality is not affected by the events or happenings of the existential world. No doubt, He is the creator of the world. But He is the dispenser of the fruits of the individual souls’ actions of their past lives. Thus, according to one’s Karma one gets favourable or unfavourable circumstances in life and one should not blame God for such happenings.
This attitude strikes a beautiful balance between self-effort and divine grace. For example, it is possible for a person using the lamp to increase the intensity of the flame by one’s self-effort. Thus, although we are born with samaskaras or tendencies due to previous lives, one is gifted with the capacity to work for one’s own betterment and to lessen the effects of the actions of the previous births. Unless one strives hard for spiritual evolution, it is not possible to lead a life of peace and happiness.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 11th Apr 2015