Question: If god resides in everybody (as we believe in the soul concept of hinduism), how come He is good, dutiful, and noble in some and wicked and deceitful in another? And if it were our previous actions that decide our state of affairs, then there would have been a time when all were good. How did the soul deviate form the lord?

God resides in everyone’s heart as the Paramatma, accompanying the individual living entity. In the Gita Lord Krishna states this as follows:

isvarah sarva-bhutanam
hrid-dese ‘rjuna tisthati
bhramayan sarva-bhutani
yantrarudhani mayaya

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”

As the Paramatma, the Lord’s function is that of an observer and witness. He sees the activities of the individual living entity, but does not interfere in his actions. He directs the wanderings of the living entity by providing knowledge, rememberance and forgetfulness to the conditioned soul according to the souls desires:

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. ”

The activities manifested through the body have no connection with the Paramatma. They are manifested by the desires of the individual living entity (jiva-atma). In every body there are two souls, the individual living entity (jiva-atma) and the Supreme Lord (paramatma). The individual soul is eternally dependent on the Lord, thus even to fulfil his material desires he requires the assistance of the Paramatma. Even to reject the the Lord, he requires the help of the Lord.

The Paramatma is equal to all, for He is situated beyond the dualities of good and bad. In the Gita it is stated:

samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu
na me dvesyo ‘sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
mayi te tesu capy aham

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”

The Paramatma is equal to all and situated beyond all material activities.

The individual soul, on the other hand, is covered by the modes of nature (gunas), and thus according to his conditioning within these modes he may manifest good or bad desires, which lead to good or bad activities. This conditioning within the modes has been built up over countless lives, from time immemorial. At every moment we are increasing our conditioning within various modes of nature by our activities and association. Those who are influenced by the mode of goodness (sattva-guna) have a tendency to perform good activities. Those who are influenced by the lower modes of passion and ignorance (rajo-guna and tamo-guna) have a tendency to commit sinful activities.

The Paramatma witnesses the activities of all the living entities so that He may award the appropriate results to everyone through their karma. The individual soul is only the knower of his own individual body, but the Paramatma is the knower of all bodies simultaneously. Though He appears to be situated in many different bodies, actually He remains as one. It is just like the sun, which appears to be overhead no matter where one stands. For a man in India, the sun appears to be directly overhead, and for another man in China, the sun also appears to be overhead. In a similar manner, the Paramatma appears to be situated separately in everyone’s heart.

The deviation of the soul from the Lord traces back beyond time. Originally we were situated in the marginal spiritual realm of tatastha-shakti. Those who develop a desire to be the Lord are given this material world where they may fulfil that desire. Factually, being parts of God, we are all servants. It would be foolish for the hand to want to become independent from the body. Such is the situation for the soul who wishes to be separate from the Lord. The Lord, being full of love, provides this material world to the deviant soul for two purposes, to allow the soul to act as the Lord of matter and thus fulfil his desire, and to provide an environment where the soul can realize his proper position as a part of God. The entire material existence is like a university which the soul may utilize to come to the proper understanding of who he is – an eternal servant of God.

It is the duty of the part to serve the whole. A part of the body must act to serve the entire body. A member of a country must act to serve the country. A family member must act to serve the family. This is a universal law which functions naturally. The individual souls, being part and parcel of God, have a duty to serve God. When they carry out that duty, they are properly situated. When they choose to ignore the absolute whole, and instead develop selfish desires, at that time they are given this material world.

The individual soul, being quite atomic or infinitesimal, very soon becomes entangled in his fantasy world. Though he comes hoping to be the Lord of matter, he ends up becoming it’s servant. At that time the Lord incarnates to again put him on the proper path of education and enlightenment.