There has been no dearth of good and pious people in this holy land of ours. Some of these great men, whose names come to our mind effortlessly, are Samartha Ramdas, Tulsidas, Thayumanavar, Pattinathar, Appayya Dikshitar, Appar, Tirugnanasambandar and Ramalingaswamigal. These saints and devotees of God devoted all their time to doing good deeds only. They have left behind a wealth of devotional and metaphysical literature which is a perennial source of inspiration to us.
These good personages were incessantly engaged only with goodness in thought, word, and deed. Nothing evil came anywhere near them. The only way to avoid evil is to engage our minds fully and always in good things, without giving thought to evil, even in a negative way. If a person takes a resolve not to think of, speak, or do evil, (which is thinking of evil in a negative way) he is likely to lapse into evil immediately and powerfully, as he will be reminded of evil, by the very fact of his resolve not to think of evil. An old sanyasin was once asked how he overcame the promptings of kaama (desire). His reply was that when kaama knocked at his mind’s door, it found his mind so busy that it withdrew of its own accord. A vacant mind provides opportunities for evil thought, temptation to gossip, etc., to enter it. When once an evil like kaama enters the mind, it will establish its sway there. But, if the mind is filled with good thoughts always and we are also consequently engaged actively in doing good deeds always, evil influences dare not come anywhere near us. The sure way of getting rid of dus-sangam (bad company) is sat sangam (good company).
Mere meditation and japa may not fully help us to avoid evil. By habit they may tend to become automatic, resulting in the consciousness being enticed away by evil. Therefore, one has also to engage himself continuously in good things. One way of keeping the body and mind engaged in the right way is to copy the stories about and the teachings of great saints and devotees. The more one engages one’s mind in good direction, the less will be the opportunity for evil to enter it. Singing of Sri Varadaraja of Kancheepuram, Sri Appayya Dikshitar said,
मन्ये सृजन्त्यभिनुतिम् कविपुङ्गवास्ते
तेभ्यॊ रमारमण मादृश एव धन्य: ।
त्वद्वर्णने धृतरसा कविताधिमान्ध्यात्
यत्त्त्वढङ्ग् चिरचिन्तन भाग्यमेति ॥
Manye srjantyabhinutim kavi-pungavaaste,
Tebhyo ramaaramana maadrisa evadhanyah;
Tvadvarnane dhrtarasaa kavitaadhimaandyaat,
Yattatvadang chirachintana bhaagyameti.
The meaning of this verse is: “There may be other poets, O! Lord, who can compose verses in Thy praise quickly. I am slow. But my good fortune is greater than theirs; for, while I struggle to put Thy praise in verse, my mind lingers longer on thy resplendent features.”
In the very process of doing good, evil automatically vanishes from one’s consciousness. That is the lesson the lives and examples of the great sages of our land teach us. Therefore, the way to keep ourselves free from evil is not by merely saying ‘evil must go’, but by always thinking of good, speaking about good deeds, and keeping the company of the good.
January 25, 1958