September 12, 2022
SF Gate

Human Nature Is Good—Here’s Why.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Do you believe that human beings are good? This isn’t a hard question on the personal level. You and I are more than likely to say that we are good people. It’s the rest of humanity we are uncertain, or even pessimistic, about. If you want a serious answer about the human race, searching for an answer becomes so hard that it might be impossible.

The existence of cruelty and violence, for example, can make you lose hope that human beings are good. Too many wars, crimes, and abuses have occurred throughout history. Morally, if a society was filled with people who led perfectly good lives, except that any baby born with a birth defect was not allowed to live, that’s enough to wipe out all the good such a society has created. 

Examples like this led many psychologists to abandon the whole issue of whether human beings are good. There is simply no equation for goodness. The towering achievements of German, Russian, and Chinese culture cannot be simply deemed positive, without recognizing the negative aspects of those cultures that led to the extermination of tens millions of their own people. Life doesn’t work that way, just as a marriage that is happy for years can lead to divorce after a single act of infidelity.

Let’s accept that there is no formula that enables us to say that human beings are good, which also means that calling human beings bad or evil is just as invalid. This might not make sense if you are a confirmed optimist, who sees the best in people, or a confirmed pessimist, who sees the worst. The history of humankind indicates without a doubt that we are divided creatures, capable of the best and the worst. But there’s not much useful truth in such a statement. Cats purr in your lap but also kill songbirds. Saying that a cat can be naughty or nice, by human standards, has noting to do with whether a cat can change.

Here we reach a pivot point, because the good-bad balance in human beings is open to choice. You can consciously decide to become a good person (however you define the term) and to avoid being a bad person. There is no gene for criminal behavior or violence, so no one can say that we are programmed to exhibit violence. Yet when you look deeply into the cause of war, it isn’t bad people who cause warfare but a whole society that has decided on violence as an option. Quite often war is seen as a good option with God on the side of whoever chooses to call going to war a good thing.

Is it enough to say that you can choose to be good? For individuals, the answer is yes. If you and I believe we are good people, this means we learned not to follow negative impulses like anger, jealousy, and resentment. We feel those impulses because everyone does. But we have impulse control, and besides, everyday life doesn’t present many opportunities to act so badly that you ruin someone else’s existence, either physically or mentally.

Yet the existence of war, road rage, domestic abuse, slavery, profiting from opioid addiction, and racial injustice, among many other features of society, shows that no matter how many “good” people there are, misdeeds will be tolerated, ignored, or even condoned. Passively agreeing to a social injustice or misdeed means that you and I aren’t as good as we tell ourselves.

Yet there is a way out of this dilemma, by which you can say that human beings are intrinsically good. Human beings can opt out of the whole game of good versus bad. To do this, you must change accepted ideas about human nature. Human nature swings between the poles of good and bad, light and dark, peace, and violence in an unending process, if you remain on the surface of the mind. Seek a deeper level of awareness, and with each increment you go, you get closer to a steady state that doesn’t swing between polarities. Go deeply enough, and this steady state of silent calmness starts to bear fruit. You detect that awareness by its very nature is blissful. All contrasts, contradictions, and conflicts end here.

This escape route is the essence of Eastern spiritual traditions, but we shouldn’t identify it with the East—that is simply where the discovery was made. The Greeks were the first to discover, theoretically, the possibility of the atom, but we don’t call atoms Greek. Likewise, the possibility for establishing the mind in bliss consciousness is open to every human being regardless of age, sex, income, status, or nationality.

A skeptic might argue that too few people reach enlightenment, Nirvana, or bliss consciousness (choose any term you prefer). Meanwhile the vast majority of humanity seems stuck in the pendulum swing between opposites destined to never know if human beings are innately good or bad. But the difference between everyday awareness and bliss consciousness isn’t absolute. Instead of a wall, there is in fact a constant communication with bliss consciousness. The reason for this is that all experiences, good or bad, pleasurable or painful, are transformations in consciousness. Since pure consciousness is blissful, what we experience as pain, violent impulses, anger, anxiety, and other forms of human misery are distortions.

This has been called the idealistic strain in philosophy and religion. The ideal is considered normal; less than ideal represents a movement toward distortion. A cat feels no different purring in your lap or killing a robin. It is always obeying instinctual impulses, leaving no room for doubt or self-recrimination. Human beings, being self-aware, can choose any action, attitude, belief, or assumption. Therefore, we create mind-made illusions about how life works, and these illusions become a major factor in someone’s life story and the history of collective humanity.

If we were only our stories, the question of human goodness would never ben settled. Fortunately, there are thousands of ways in every lifetime that bliss-consciousness is glimpsed as experiences of love, compassion, altruism, joy, creativity, intelligence, beauty, insight, and personal growth. What these experiences have in common is that they are not mind-made. Anything that is mind-made must be less intrinsic. We can invent all kinds of misery and violence, but we cannot un-create love, compassion, creativity, and al the rest. These are transformations and expressions of bliss-consciousness.

Reduce this whole argument down to its essence, and an amazing conclusion emerges. Consciousness itself, as experienced through a human nervous system, is the source of every good and valuable experience you and I are having or ever will have. No matter how horrendous the pain and suffering exhibited in human behavior, human nature is intrinsically good, no matter how you choose to define good, while human suffering is a distortion of who we really are. 

DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.  Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book,  Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfillment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”

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