Some say that God (consciousness) doesn't know evil, because they can't explain why a God who is good allows robberies, murders, disease, poverty, and other terrible happenings that are going on constantly on this earth. And yet, evil provides the contrast that enables us to recognize and experience goodness. Evil had to be, if there was to be any creation. If you wrote a message with white chalk on a white board, no one would see it.

There is another angle about duality, or good and evil that I want to explain to you. If a movie producer made movies only of angels (of only goodness), and showed them in the movie theatres morning, noon, and night everyday, he would soon have to close up his business. He (the producer) has to produce variety in orderto attract people's attention.

The bad man makes the hero look so much better! And we like plots that are filled with action. We don't mind looking at exciting movies about danger and disaster, because we know they are only movies (a mere appearance on a screen). If you could see what is going on behind the screen of this life, you wouldn't suffer at all. Life is a cosmic movie (projected within the screen of consciousness). I look at the beam of God's light, which is projecting these scenes on the screen of life (consciousness). I see the pictures of the whole universe coming from this beam.

Another time I was sitting in a movie theatre watching a movie on a screen. And then I looked into the projection booth. I saw that the projectionist was not interested in the movie, because he has seen it over and over again. Instead, he was reading a book. The projector was doing its job: there was the sound, and the beam of light was casting realistic images on the screen. And there was the audience caught up in the drama.

From age to age, from civilization to civilization, the same old movies are shown over and over again, only with different characters playing the parts. When I took my gaze from the light of the projector and looked at the audience in the movie theatre, I saw that they were going through all the emotions of the actors in the movie. They were suffering with the hero, and reacting to the evil of the villain. To the audience it was a tragic experience. To the operator in the projection booth, it was only a movie! And so it is with God. He has created (imagined) movies of light and shadows, the hero and the villain, good and evil, and we are the audience and the actors.

It is only because we identify with the play too much (as being real) that we are in trouble. Without shadows as well as light (contrasts) there could be no picture. Evil is the shadow that converts the one beam of God's light into pictures or forms. Therefore, evil (contrasting with good) is the shadow of God that makes this play possible. The dark shadows of evil are mixed with the pure white beam of the virtues of God. He wants you not to take these pictures so seriously.

The director of the movie sees the murders and the suffering and the comedy and the drama as means to create interest for the audience. He stands apart from the play and directs and observes it. God wants us to behave with detachment realizing we are only actors or observers in his cosmic movie.

The way to supreme happiness will not be found by the scientist nor by material-minded people, but by those who follow the masters who say "Go back to the booth of the infinite (awareness) from which you can see the projection of all these cosmic movies. Then you won't be troubled about God's creation, God's play." Because you are a part of it now (identify with it as being real), you suffer. You must stand aside and watch (witness) it, and then you cannot suffer. When you are an observer, then you can enjoy this play. This is what you must learn.

To God, this (life) is only a movie, and when you turn to him (consciousness), it will also be a movie to you.

Since God is perfect and this world is not a necessity for his evolution, it is therefore a sort of hobby (play) of God.

For example there are two kinds of artists: one type is the commercial artist who makes art pay; and the other type is one who creates art with no market value, simply for the personal enjoyment of it.

Now we can't think of God as commercial, for he has nothing to gain from his art of creation. So this world is God's hobby (play). But it is not any fun for those who are suffering in it. Because your eyes are closed (and you believe the world to be real), you cannot help thinking this world is terrible. But if you keep open your eyes of wisdom and calmness (and realize it is an appearance), you will see there is a lot of enjoyment in this world - just as though you are watching a movie.

There is so much more to life than what you think. Since everything worldly seems so real, how much more so must be the reality (consciousness) that creates this unreal reality (of the world appearance)! But the unreal reality makes you forget the real. God wants you to remember that you wouldn't mind this world if it were like a movie. Even if the brittle bones of the body break, you would say "Well look at those broken bones", and not feel any disturbance or suffering. You could say that when you are anchored in consciousness. You will make fun of your habits, and you will be intensely amused at your distinguishing characteristics, as from the balcony of introspection watch yourself perform in the movie of life.

When you know this world to be God's Lila - his play - then you aren't upset by the contrasts in this drama of good and evil.

In a dream you behold rich people, poor people, someone strong, someone else groaning with disease, someone dying, and someone being born. But when you wake up, you realize that it was only a dream. This universe is God's dream.

When you are neither touched by the nightmares of disease and suffering and worries, nor bound by the beautiful dreams, then God says "Wake up now! Come back home."

Mystics are those who are half awake and half dreaming: on one side awake in God, and on the other side dreaming the dream of incarnation.

But they can quickly get out of this dream.

So remember, God is dreaming this world.

And if we are in tune with him, we will live a divinely intoxicating life and nothing will disturb us. We will watch this cosmic movie as we watch films in a movie theatre, without being hurt. God created (imagined) us that we may dream as he does, enjoying this dream and all its contrasting experiences, as an entertainment, without being affected by it, absorbed in his eternal joy.

Ones values are profoundly changed when one is finally convinced that creation is only a vast movie and that not in it, but beyond it, lies ones own reality (consciousness).

The rishis of ancient India, having penetrated to the original cause of being (consciousness), declare that God is perfect (complete); that he needs nothing, for all is contained within himself; and that this world is God's Lila (divine play). The Lord (consciousness), it seems, like a little child, loves to play, and his Lila is the endless variety of ever-changing creation.

I used to reason in this way: God was infinite, omniscient bliss, but being alone there was no one but him to enjoy that bliss. So he said "Let me create (imagine) a universe and (appear to) divide myself into many souls that they may play with me in my unfolding drama".

By his magical measuring power of Maya, he became dual; spirit and nature, man and woman, positive and negative. But even though he has created (imagined) the universe out of delusion, he himself is not deluded by it. He knows that everything is but an (imagined) diversification of his one consciousness. Experiences of the senses and emotions, the dramas of war and peace, sickness and health, life and death - all are happening in God as the dreamer of all things - but he is unaffected by them.

One part of his infinite being forever remains transcendent beyond vibratory (imagined) dualities: there God is inactive. When he vibrates (imagines) his consciousness with thoughts of diversity, he becomes (appears) immanent and omnipresent as the creator in the finite vibratory realm of infinity: there he is active. Vibration (imagination) brings forth (appearances of) objects and beings interacting in space in the motions of time - just as vibrations (the imagination) of man's consciousness brings forth dreams in sleep.

We can say that God should never have created this world in which there is so much trouble. But on the other hand, mystics say that if you knew you were Gods, you wouldn't mind it. If you watch a movie, you like a lot of action rather than something dull, don't you? That is the way you should enjoy this world.

Look upon life as a movie and then you will know why God created (imagined) it.

Our problem is that we forget to see it as God's entertainment (the play of consciousness). When we have finished seeing the movie, we know that nobody was killed; nobody was suffering. In fact, that truth is the only answer I see when I look at the drama of life. It is nothing but an electrical-shadow-show, a play of light and shadows.

Everything is the vibration (imagination) of God's consciousness condensed into (an appearance of) images. The essence of those images cannot be severed by a sword, nor burned, nor drowned, nor suffer pain of any sort. It (consciousness) is not born, nor does it die. It only (appears to) pass through a few changes.

Just as when you are half awake and can see a dream, and know you are dreaming, and yet are apart from it, that is how God feels this universe. On one side he is awake, and on another side he is dreaming this universe. And that is how you should look upon this world. Then you will know why he created it, and will not ascribe these dream conditions to your soul. If you pass through a nightmare, you know that is no more than a bad dream. If you can live in the world in that consciousness, you will not suffer.

You won't mind then, because you will know you are dreaming. Do not pay undue attention to the passing scenes of life. You are the immortal self (consciousness) living only temporarily in a dream that is sometimes (imagined) to be a nightmare. That is the higher philosophy (and truth) of the mystics.

Do not be so sensitive. Emotional sensitivity is the silent cause of all suffering. To give strength to creation as a reality by emotional involvement in it is foolishness! To not sit still and realize your true soul nature, but to drift along as a part of the eternal motion of (imagined) creation is a constant danger to your happiness. Perhaps someday your body will be terribly sick, and though you want to walk or do other things that you used to do in your younger or healthier days, you find you cannot do them; it is a terrible disillusionment for the soul. Before that day comes, make yourself so free, that you can look upon your body with detachment, caring for it as though it were someone else's.

Be like the active-inactive Lord. In creation he is joyously busy; beyond creation he is joyously quiescent (still) in divine bliss. Be calmly active and actively calm. When you think about your mortal life and all your troubles and identify with them, you do an injustice to the consciousness of God within you. Affirm and realize "I am not a mortal being; I am spirit."

Everywhere you will see people, good and evil, searching in their own way for happiness. No one wants to hurt himself. Sins are errors committed under the influence of ignorance, or delusion. But for a different degree of understanding, you might be in the same boat. The point is, in everything we do we are seeking happiness. No one can truthfully say he is a materialist, because anyone who is seeking happiness is seeking God. Therefore, in evil as well as in good God is coaxing us back to him by our search for happiness.

The greatest sin is ignorance - not to know what life is all about. And the greatest virtue is wisdom - to the know the meaning and purpose of life and it's creator (consciousness). To know that we are not little human beings, but that we are one with consciousness is wisdom. Every night in sleep God takes away all your troubles to show you that you are not a mortal being; you are spirit. When there is health and joy, smile in the dream. When there is a nightmare or sickness or sorrow, say, "I am awake in God, merely watching the play of my life". Dismiss this world appearance of disease and health, sorrow and joy.

Rise above it. Become the Self (consciousness). Watch (witness) the show of the universe, but do not become absorbed (attached) in it.

Death and darkness cannot cast fear upon us, for we are the very consciousness out of which this universe has been created (imagined) by God (consciousness).

So do not be afraid of anything (since life is a dream - only an appearance in consciousness alone).

* The above excerpts are from Why God Permits Evil and How to Rise Above It by Paramahansa Yogananda

When Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda first appeared in 1946, it was acclaimed as a landmark work in its field. The New York Times hailed it as "a rare account." Newsweek pronounced it "fascinating." The San Francisco Chronicle declared, "Yogananda presents a convincing case for yoga, and those who 'came to scoff' may remain 'to pray.'" Today it is still one of the most widely read and respected books ever published on the wisdom of the East.

"There has been nothing before, written in English or in any other European language, like this presentation of Yoga."" Columbia University Press.

Autobiography of a Yogi is at once a delightful account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its tradition of meditation. Clearly explaining the subtle but definite laws behind the natural events of everyday life as well as the extraordinary events considered miraculous, the author reveals the scientific foundation underlying the great religious paths of both East and West. His absorbing life story thus becomes the background for a penetrating and unforgettable look at the ultimate mysteries of human existence.

Considered a modern spiritual classic, this book has been translated into eighteen languages and is used as a text and reference work in numerous colleges and universities. A perennial bestseller since it was first published fifty years ago, Autobiography of a Yogi has found its way into the hearts of millions of readers around the world.