If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

Collapse
X
 
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
  • Myozan Kodo
    Friend of Treeleaf
    • May 2010
    • 1901

    If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

    In short, as Buddhists, how do we account for / deal with the problem of evil?
  • Daibh
    Member
    • Aug 2010
    • 68

    #2
    Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

    Is it too simple to say that evil (and the thoughts and actions which constitute it) are merely a bi-product of ignorance and not seeing the true nature of reality clearly?
    [b:z5iv0uxu]Documenting the Ango - A Hat Full of Rain [/b:z5iv0uxu]
    http://ahatfullofrain.wordpress.com/
    [b:z5iv0uxu]My poetry blog - Subtle Drops[/b:z5iv0uxu]
    http://subtledropspoetry.wordpress.com/

    Comment

    • Daibh
      Member
      • Aug 2010
      • 68

      #3
      Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

      Originally posted by Daibh
      Is it too simple to say that evil (and the thoughts and actions which constitute it) are merely a bi-product of ignorance and not seeing the true nature of reality clearly?
      ...Well that in my opinion accounts for evil.

      How do we take care of it?

      :?:

      Lots of bum on the cushion time; coming to see the nature of mind clearly and having compassion for those suffering from ignorance.
      [b:z5iv0uxu]Documenting the Ango - A Hat Full of Rain [/b:z5iv0uxu]
      http://ahatfullofrain.wordpress.com/
      [b:z5iv0uxu]My poetry blog - Subtle Drops[/b:z5iv0uxu]
      http://subtledropspoetry.wordpress.com/

      Comment

      • JohnsonCM
        Member
        • Jan 2010
        • 549

        #4
        Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

        Well, I would like to start off by saying that “evil” is a point of view. It’s a category that we have created in our minds to compartmentalize things we think are “bad”, “wrong”, and “hurtful”. In truth, there really isn’t “good” or “evil” so much as simply action and consequence. Some people would not consider buying bananas from one company over another as evil, but the company they do buy from might treat their workers horribly, have poor safety standards, and pay them just enough to survive so they can pocket huge profits. Murder is “evil” but then we have capital punishment for many states and countries where you are punished for murder by being killed, this, however we call “justice”. The people that commit these acts are not “evil” people; they are misguided and confused in the Dharma, attached to their delusions to the point that they have become addictions, a form of dependance. If, through our practice of compassion, these folks were to come to a true understanding of the Dharma, they might renounce their “evil” actions in favor of actions that benefit all sentient beings.

        That having been said, there are some evil people out there. It is what it is, evil is a very real side of the multi-sided coin of human existance. There are folks out there who enjoy doing vile things to others in order to feed whatever sickness they have. As Buddhists we can realize the multidimensional aspect of the concepts of “good” and “evil”. Both that there is no good and evil, while trying to actualize goodness and provide a haven from the evil which others might do. By actualizing our practice, and becoming engaged in the world at large from the perspective of the Way, we can bring more good into the world, and hopefully combat (non-combatively, of course) the evil that is out there.

        As to aspects of the Dharma, well, as you said, it is all the dharma. If there were no “evil”, how would you possibly define “good”? It is a kind of paradox, but as Buddhists we practice and live from Nirvana, as we live our practice in Samsara, because the world is both and neither.
        :| :? :shock:
        Gassho,
        "Heitetsu"
        Christopher
        Sat today

        Comment

        • Daibh
          Member
          • Aug 2010
          • 68

          #5
          Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

          ...That's what I meant to say. :wink: :lol:
          [b:z5iv0uxu]Documenting the Ango - A Hat Full of Rain [/b:z5iv0uxu]
          http://ahatfullofrain.wordpress.com/
          [b:z5iv0uxu]My poetry blog - Subtle Drops[/b:z5iv0uxu]
          http://subtledropspoetry.wordpress.com/

          Comment

          • Hogo
            Member
            • Feb 2010
            • 497

            #6
            Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

            Very well said Christopher.

            My simple words:
            We all see the world through different eyes.
            Perhaps if we could layer the 7 billion images together we would be able to recognize evil and then deal with it.
            A touch of common sense wouldn't hurt either :twisted:

            Peace.
            Dave.

            Comment

            • Martin
              Member
              • Jun 2007
              • 216

              #7
              Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

              I don't think that "evil" exists. It's a label we apply to the universe, usually to some aspect of the universe that is stubbornly refusing to conform to how we would like it to be. What does exist, by contrast, is pain. Which, we may think, is evil.

              Gassho

              Martin

              Comment

              • Dosho
                Member
                • Jun 2008
                • 5784

                #8
                Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                Originally posted by Martin
                I don't think that "evil" exists. It's a label we apply to the universe, usually to some aspect of the universe that is stubbornly refusing to conform to how we would like it to be. What does exist, by contrast, is pain. Which, we may think, is evil.

                Gassho

                Martin
                I have thought for many years that I do not really know what "evil" is and even had some misgivings when Jundo started using the word in the verse of atonement. In any case of great "evil" I can really ever think of there is usually great pain and suffering on the part of the "evildoer", especially in those cases we most often refer to like Adolf Hitler. Was he "evil"? I don't think so...he was quite mentally ill and had suffered much in his life. I don't say this to in any way excuse what he or others did, but to call it "evil" seems to have more to do with a human difficulty for having compassion in the wake of such hatred, violence, or destruction. Perhaps I am an odd duck, but where Hitler or other such "evildoers" are concerned I try to have compassion for those who showed it to no one else.

                Gassho,
                Dosho

                Comment

                • JohnsonCM
                  Member
                  • Jan 2010
                  • 549

                  #9
                  Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                  Originally posted by Martin
                  Perhaps I am an odd duck, but where Hitler or other such "evildoers" are concerned I try to have compassion for those who showed it to no one else.
                  Not at all. This is pretty much the gist of my comment. If only there weren't the suffering that spawned the actions of Adolf Hitler, might he not have turned out to be a different man? If we actualize our practice in a sort of "Pay it Forward" kind of way, we can have a real and lasting impact on the karma of all sentient beings. Maybe realize a small piece of the Bodhisattva Vow.
                  Gassho,
                  "Heitetsu"
                  Christopher
                  Sat today

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39419

                    #10
                    Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                    Hi,

                    I will echo what several folks have already said ...

                    By my eyes, "evil" truly exists in any volitional acts, words or thoughts which seek to do harm to others or to oneself ("self" and "others", by a Buddha's eyes, "not two" by the way). Perhaps not every little harm is to the degree of true "evil" ... but there is quickly a line which is crossed. For a definition, just look around or open a newspaper ... to see the violence, greed, anger, killing, stealing, wars of taking, scars.

                    "Volitional" ... in both the Buddha's law and the civil law ... can include acting or failing to take action by "turning a blind eye" to what one should see. Many times we intentionally walk by or tolerate a situation which we could otherwise take steps to stop (the other thread today on Dharma for the homeless may be an example).

                    But does "evil" exist as a natural principle and force in the cosmos?

                    Well, I believe that it does not really matter but .... yes, "evil" is a natural force in the cosmos. Let me explain.

                    First, "it does not matter" because ... whether there is a universal standard (or God's or Buddha's standard) of "evil" or not ... this world and life and self (not three, by the way) will be what we make of it all. Whether this garden is nurtured into a place of peace and beauty ... or is allowed to become a garbage pile filled with weeds ... is largely up to our acts and choices. In an absolute sense "weeds vs. trash. vs. flowers" may not exist ... yet certainly they exist in our lives. This world-life-self can become what we make it, and we are the gardeners.

                    Second, "evil" (and likewise "love" "compassion" "generosity" etc. ) exist as natural forces in the cosmos whenever you and I choose to act in an evil or compassionate way ... BECAUSE YOU AND I ARE FORCES OF THE COSMOS, as much as the wind and stars. When we do an "evil" act, evil exists in the world. When we have a loving thought, love exists in the world. Simple as that (and leaving the question of a greater cosmic Good or Evil aside).

                    Finally, as was noted, Buddhists tend to look at both the person hurt by harm AND the person who commits harm as "victims" of greed, anger and ignorance. A violent murderer or rapist or racist, for example, exists in such way because ... deep inside ... he or she is also filled with anger, greed, division and other ignorance. Thus, the real "culprit" is not the harm doer ... but greed, anger and ignorance.

                    HOWEVER, "victim" or not ... that does not mean we need let the person be free of responsibility for their actions. Far from it! To protect society, the murderer may still have to be put in jail. The violent man who threatens to blow up a building filled with people, children, should be (in my view) stopped by any means, including his own life, if needed to prevent that (this often comes up as a subject during Jukai study ... and the Precept against "taking Life" ... so let's save further detailed discussion on the "rights and wrongs" of this until then).

                    I have counseled some victims of child abuse, for example, that ... yes ... from one perspective, we need to forgive and let the past go and understand that the person who did this was filled with greed, anger, violence. From another perspective, we also need to recognize that the scars are there, that the person may need to pay a debt for what they have done. Even recognizing our own natural anger at the past is fine ... for it is natural to feel resentment (so long as we do not become its slave). But in any event, the most important thing is not to carry the anger, resentment, abuse etc. into future generations where it will effect our children and coming generations.

                    So, I believe in the "Devil" when we make the devil real through our acts, words and thoughts. Likewise, I believe in "Kannon" and all other symbols of peace, love and goodness when we make them real in life through our acts, words and thoughts.

                    Gassho, J

                    PS - I believe that there are many "grey areas" and acts which might have a mix of good and evil. For example, I might have to be a corporate slave to a company which is engaged in generally good, but some harmful actions, in order to feed my family. Assuming that I cannot leave the company and seek other work, I should do what I can within the company to change things. If not, I should do what I can in society to counter or make up for the harm.
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Myozan Kodo
                      Friend of Treeleaf
                      • May 2010
                      • 1901

                      #11
                      Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                      Hello all,
                      Your comments really are enlightening.
                      I think “evil” is a force in the sense that Jundo says: volitional acts. In other words, natural disasters are something else.

                      I also think compassion for the offender is important – that ‘evil doing’ comes about through delusion and pain.

                      However, the innocent need to be protected, and sometimes that involves taking on the offender in a robust and forceful way. So, as Buddhists, I believe we just don’t sit back and let Srebrenica happen, for example.

                      And the problem: is ‘evil’ a distortion of the Dharma way, because it is based on delusion, or is it still a manifestation of the unborn Dharma, which is beyond good and evil, which is manifest in everything, including evil?

                      Or, how can everything really be sacred when 'everything' includes the most monstrous evil?

                      Deep bows,

                      Soen

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39419

                        #12
                        Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                        Originally posted by soendoshin

                        And the problem: is ‘evil’ a distortion of the Dharma way, because it is based on delusion, or is it still a manifestation of the unborn Dharma, which is beyond good and evil, which is manifest in everything, including evil?

                        Or, how can everything really be sacred when 'everything' includes the most monstrous evil?
                        And that may be the point where Zen teachers might say to drop the "chicken or the egg" philosophizing ... and just live so as to sacredly prevent the "Srebrenica"s both without and within (not two).
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Manatee
                          Member
                          • Nov 2009
                          • 145

                          #13
                          Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                          It is absolutely incomprehensible that we live on the razor's edge of individuality and interconnectedness, that we are organized into organisms but are made of matter which is constantly pulling toward entropy. We are living an amazing miraculous magic trick 24/7. And if we could discern the magic that goes on-- everyday magic, not supernatural-- at microcosmic and macrocosmic levels-- that is, levels we're not too jaded and familiar with--

                          --- I think evil acts are those which the doer knows spit in the face of this miracle, but does them anyway. I think in order for something to be evil, it must be purposefully done with the knowledge that it was wrong. I don't even know if "wrongness" can be explained, as much as just felt on a visceral level.

                          Mandy

                          Comment

                          • Stephanie

                            #14
                            Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                            The Buddha taught that ignorance was the root of all evil. My own experience and observation has verified this. We act selfishly, and then rationalize our behavior.

                            I saw this in myself as a driver over the past year. My daily commute is filled with extremely aggressive drivers. Early on, I began to adopt the same driving practices myself. Always trying to get everywhere fast, tailgating, gunning through yellow lights, putting my own ability to get somewhere .02 seconds faster above being courteous to another driver.

                            I did not have any feeling of "wrongness" about what I was doing. I completely justified it to myself with self-talk about all the people that were bad drivers, all the soccer moms and grandpas that should just get off the road already. Look at all these idiots that can't drive, they deserve to eat my dust!

                            Well, a fender bender and a speeding ticket later, I changed my tune, and started driving differently. It was only after making this change that I noticed how much of an asshole I'd been on the road. How my aggressive driving had not been getting me anywhere any faster (due to the timing of lights, you end up taking the same time to drive down this main stretch of road I go down whether you're going 35 or 50). How much I really didn't know about the other drivers I was judging.

                            I thought about how much joy I used to have in being the person who let someone else get over into the lane they were trying to get into, not in a hurry anywhere.

                            My asshole driving boiled down to self-centered greed and ignorance. In my self-centered greed, me getting somewhere faster was more important than how my driving affected anyone else. But it all boiled down to fundamental ignorance--ignorance that I wasn't actually getting anywhere faster, ignorance of how completely fabricated my justifications were.

                            People who do "evil" things do them because they expect to gain. People rob because they want or need money, and trust me, they justify it to themselves also--"these rich bitches are the real crooks," etc. People who kill other people really believe in that moment that they are solving a problem by doing so.

                            Some of this is our biological conditioning also. So much of human social behavior still boils down to displays of dominance and submission. People often shame or assault another person to demonstrate their own dominance and power. A lot of the more common violent actions we see in the human world are testosterone-driven aggression. As far as nature is concerned, violence isn't wrong, it is an integral part of animal life.

                            But this is where the Buddha's approach is also interesting... it does away with a lot of the thorny moral debate that can emerge over whether violent actions are truly "wrong" or "evil." A theist might argue these are evil, an evolutionist that they are natural. Buddha would simply say that they are stupid. And, well... they are. In modern human society, violence isn't as profitable as cooperation. Cruelty isn't as profitable as kindness. We don't need to beat our chests and kill and eat our rivals any more. There are many more creative ways we can compete and make a place for ourselves in the world.

                            I truly do not believe that the simplest and most natural forms of violence and aggression are "evil." The evolution of life and the evolution of our species absolutely required it. We live on a violent Earth and life means finding a way to make other life our food. Survival means defeating our rivals. But now, direct violence is outmoded and no longer advantageous.

                            Of course, some of the worst atrocities don't have to do with basic animal aggression. A lot of them emerge from the convoluted and distorted thinking that takes root in the human brain like a disease. Genocides emerge out of conceptual thinking, and looking at people as concepts instead of people. Many wars are like this also.

                            What are we left with when we drop and see through our deluded thinking? When we question our thoughts, we can't convince ourselves of our cockamamie theories any more. And self-centered aggression tends to drop away too, because we see the ignorance of it. We see that with our sophisticated human society, our aggressiveness is an anachronism and we are free to leave it behind.

                            I believe that insight has a lasting power to inspire change that guilt and shame do not. I do not believe in using guilt and shame as weapons. I do not believe in evil or in bad people, I believe only that deluded thinking, stress, and desperation, plus a biological predisposition to be aggressive add up to stupid behavior.

                            Look at the recent news story in the States of yet another mother who killed her own children. She suffocated them after getting in an argument with her mother. The mother didn't want to help her daughter with her children any more. So her daughter, feeling overwhelmed, without financial or emotional resources, killed her children to "be free."

                            For many people, this is the definition of evil. I don't see it that way. In nature, animal mothers kill their offspring all the time when there is not enough resources to sustain them. It's a natural instinct, one we of course find abhorrent, but knowing the right time to kill or abandon an offspring has been a survival key for many species.

                            But of course in a complex human society it is never necessary to kill a child. There are ways to put children up for adoption, surrender them at safe havens. If the mother had clarity, she would have been able to come up with a way of dealing with her situation that did not involve killing her children. But she was ignorant. Ignorant of the fact her stress had made her thinking untrustworthy, ignorant of her other options.

                            Hitler truly thought that killing Jews and other types of people he didn't like was going to solve his problem and make the world a better place. He did not see through all the layers of delusional thinking it took to arrive at such a truly heinous and bizarre conclusion. If he had been able to see clearly, he could not have continued through with his plans because he would have seen they were delusional.

                            This is the wonderful thing about Buddhism, I find--its gift of fearlessness, that we do not have to fear what our minds come up with, only see the deluded thinking for what it is, to remember to always question, and look, at what we are doing and how we are justifying it with our thinking.

                            Comment

                            • Taigu
                              Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                              • Aug 2008
                              • 2710

                              #15
                              Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

                              Hi all,

                              I don't believe in evil but I certainly see how wrongdoings can take place. Seeing evil would turn this all reality, the universe,into a soapy western holywood movie with good guys ( Boddhisatvas and the likes) and bad guys ( anything from a bad teenager to Staline-like people) going at each other...Sounds too familiar to me ( the very body of beliefs I was forced to swallow as a very young child).
                              Neither one, nor two.

                              Let's practice, dispel ignorance and help people along. Heaven and hell, Good and evil are but toys and easy labels. No cosmic Jihad is needed, no spiritual crusade.
                              Day after day, to deal with what is under our feet, on our plate and before our eyes. To do our job and make it real in our life.


                              gassho


                              Taigu

                              Comment

                              Working...