Is There Really a Devil, or is it just God in Disguise?

The short answer is both yes and no.  When calamity strikes, oftentimes we can quickly pinpoint the source.  If our house gets flooded, it may be caused by a river overflowing its banks.  But what of those insidious, unexplained, vexatious circumstances that cannot offhand be explained?  For example, getting stuck sitting next to a chatterbox during a lecture.  Are these situations caused by bad timing, bad luck, or some other instrument of misfortune?

Sometimes we experience periods of setbacks, downturns, and untoward encounters that seemingly cannot be avoided.  These circumstances can readily challenge our faith in God.  When events really turn bad—a car accident; the loss of employment—they test our ability to surrender to the will of God.  While St. Teresa counsels, in her famous bookmark, “Let nothing disturb you,” sometimes this can be problematic when we are faced with tragedy, illness, and loss, which can altogether take the wind out of our sails.

So, who or what is to blame when hardships are imposed on us, often preventing us from getting ahead in life, or sidetracking us from reaching our goals?  If we profess “Thy will be done” and actually practice Jesus’ good counsel, we would also believe that God is responsible for all things.  But “all things” is sometimes a hard pill to swallow.  All things includes bad things, and therein lies the crux of the matter.

Many religions have their version of a demonic influence—Mara (Theravada Buddhism), Satan (Christianity), Iblis (Islam).  Still others attribute adversities to malevolent energies (Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism).  But if there is a beneficent, omnipotent God, are these demonic influences equally or more powerful than God?  If so, we’re all in big trouble.

We would posit that God is one, nondual in nature, and as such, has no counterpart.  According to Hinduism and Buddhism, negative events and what we term “evil” are caused by an impersonal force, karma.  However, within the universe there exist negative energies.  But to personify them as possessing power independent from God is a mistake.  Nor does God maliciously allow these pesky forces to wreak havoc on our lives.  All things are contained in God; the universe is the mantle worn by God.  Good and bad are relative terms that have very real impacts on our lives.  But for peace of mind, we must gracefully remain in a state of surrender.  “Thy will be done.”  “Let nothing disturb you.”

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