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

  1. #1
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    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?

  2. #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?

  3. #3

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

    Quote 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.

  4. #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:

  5. #5

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

    ...That's what I meant to say. :wink: :lol:

  6. #6
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    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.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    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

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

    Quote 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

  9. #9

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

    Quote 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.

  10. #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.

  11. #11
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    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

  12. #12

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

    Quote 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).

  13. #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

  14. #14
    Stephanie
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    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.

  15. #15
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    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

  16. #16

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

    ***First, this is the internets... so please don't read this as an aggressive response. I'm just being candid.

    I try to resist the temptation of assuming someone's mindset in order to mold it into a justification of one's beliefs.

    For instance, how the hell do I know what Hitler's true motives were? It's impossible. I don't always know my own motives. Likewise, I don't know about the motives of serial killers, rapists, a old woman crossing the road, etc.

    I do know that even if you don't like the word evil, bad or evil (for lack of a different word; that is the word that we as a culture have agreed upon for negative things) does exist in the world.

    I do agree it is all about what we bring into the world. It's not as if I believe that there is a force of evil independent of things waiting to strike down on us. It is all a result of actions. And we are responsible for those, no one else.

    And there are definitely harmful and hurtful actions. Sometimes those actions are a result of our own ignorance as in the case of road rage or yelling at someone to get revenge. However, it's not black and white. I'm a rational human being; fortunately I was created that way, and nothing has yet deteriorated my rationale. However, some people have mental breakdowns and blow shit up. Others are born as child molesters. These things happen, and I'm never naive to say that it's due to some ignorance on the part of those individuals. Perhaps, it's just not in some person's capacity to be moral, e.g. sociopaths and psychopaths.

    I don't know if they are evil, but they are sure as hell aren't beneficial people, so no matter what word or concept you like to apply, there you have it.. it's there whether you pretend it to be or not, or no matter how you want to explain it such that it fit in nicely with your belief system's origin stories.

  17. #17

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

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    ***First, this is the internets... so please don't read this as an aggressive response. I'm just being candid.

    I try to resist the temptation of assuming someone's mindset in order to mold it into a justification of one's beliefs.

    For instance, how the hell do I know what Hitler's true motives were? It's impossible. I don't always know my own motives. Likewise, I don't know about the motives of serial killers, rapists, a old woman crossing the road, etc.

    I do know that even if you don't like the word evil, bad or evil (for lack of a different word; that is the word that we as a culture have agreed upon for negative things) does exist in the world.

    I do agree it is all about what we bring into the world. It's not as if I believe that there is a force of evil independent of things waiting to strike down on us. It is all a result of actions. And we are responsible for those, no one else.

    And there are definitely harmful and hurtful actions. Sometimes those actions are a result of our own ignorance as in the case of road rage or yelling at someone to get revenge. However, it's not black and white. I'm a rational human being; fortunately I was created that way, and nothing has yet deteriorated my rationale. However, some people have mental breakdowns and blow shit up. Others are born as child molesters. These things happen, and I'm never naive to say that it's due to some ignorance on the part of those individuals. Perhaps, it's just not in some person's capacity to be moral, e.g. sociopaths and psychopaths.

    I don't know if they are evil, but they are sure as hell aren't beneficial people, so no matter what word or concept you like to apply, there you have it.. it's there whether you pretend it to be or not, or no matter how you want to explain it such that it fit in nicely with your belief system's origin stories.


    Well, let me be candid in response. True. You or I don't know what Hitler's motives were, truly. Only Hitler did. We can extrapolate an idea, though from his writings. Ever read Mien Kampf? His ideologies were not, from his perspective, to feed some sick need to kill people, but because in his mind, he thought he was doing something for the benefit of the German People. Same ideology is found in Rwanda and the Sudan where Hutu kill Tutsi, Bosnia where Bosnian killed Serb, during the Crusades where both Christian and Muslim killed each other. Is all that killing evil? To you, to me, to many, heck yeah it is. Was it to them? No. To them they were doing what they thought was right. As to your coment about not knowing your own motives, isn't that one of the many point-less points of this practice? To remove all delusion and attachment to act from a place of actualized enlightenment? Moving on to rational humans. What is rational? The process by which we reason isn't really fully understood. You say "However, some people have mental breakdowns and blow shit up. Others are born as child molesters. These things happen, and I'm never naive to say that it's due to some ignorance on the part of those individuals." So you definately have a stance on the Nature vs. Nurture debate that has plagued psychologists for decades. Is a person BORN a child molester, or do they BECOME a child molester because of their environment? Do they think what they are doing is wrong? Not 300-400 years ago, it was not only accepted but common practice for females to be married and have children by age 15. That's not that long ago in the history of human evolution. And you can't say, "well, look how far we've come since then" because you're basically equating our moral and spiritual growth to our technological advancement, since people are really no different now then we were then. People still do terrible things, kill each other, the same crimes are still around now that were around then, only the tools have changed. If a man is beaten as a child, and beats his child, was he born like that or is it Pavlovian in response?

    Evil is a word. Just like tree, or rock, or soda. Humans made it to describe something, in this case something that goes against what is commonly thought of as good and virtueous behavior. This does not make it true. This description and lable of action does not create the existance of "evil", it's still just a word that people apply based on their individual ideology.

    The point is that these people who do these things, almost certainly do not do them because they are "evil" people, they do them because they think, that somehow it's ok to do them. That is being mis-guided in the dharma and being attached to their own wants and needs so badly that they forget everyone else. Be careful that you don't mistake the word we use to lable these actions for the actions themselves. That's the whole 'mistaking the finger for the moon' thing. But you are correct, these actions do exsist, and culturally we have decided to term some of them as "evil".

    But for me, the end result will always remain the same. The world is the world and the people in it will act. I will do my best to act from a place of realization, and I will do my best to help others to do the same. I don't do it because it's "good" or because it's not "evil", I do it because I want to be of benefit to others. If we all act in a similar fashion, what could we accomplish? Buddha said, in the Dhammapada, "With our thoughts, we make the world." Thoughts beget karma.

  18. #18

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

    Thank you for your response... I get really intense with this issue. I think it's one of the places where I'm caught. I will leave it be for now, and wait for Jukai preparation

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Well, let me be candid in response. True. You or I don't know what Hitler's motives were, truly. Only Hitler did. We can extrapolate an idea, though from his writings. Ever read Mien Kampf? His ideologies were not, from his perspective, to feed some sick need to kill people, but because in his mind, he thought he was doing something for the benefit of the German People. Same ideology is found in Rwanda and the Sudan where Hutu kill Tutsi, Bosnia where Bosnian killed Serb, during the Crusades where both Christian and Muslim killed each other. Is all that killing evil? To you, to me, to many, heck yeah it is. Was it to them? No. To them they were doing what they thought was right.
    Yeah we can assume his motives. I'm just saying that I don't like to extrapolate ideas to fit them in with another belief system of evil or not evil.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    As to your coment about not knowing your own motives, isn't that one of the many point-less points of this practice? To remove all delusion and attachment to act from a place of actualized enlightenment? Moving on to rational humans. What is rational? The process by which we reason isn't really fully understood. You say "However, some people have mental breakdowns and blow shit up. Others are born as child molesters. These things happen, and I'm never naive to say that it's due to some ignorance on the part of those individuals." So you definately have a stance on the Nature vs. Nurture debate that has plagued psychologists for decades.

    I actually believe it's always both nature and nurture, but to be nurtured you have to have some genetic pre-disposition to be nurtured in that way. I do believe that a sane individual can be nurtured to be a sociopath, but I also believe that there are people who are born that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Is a person BORN a child molester, or do they BECOME a child molester because of their environment? Do they think what they are doing is wrong? Not 300-400 years ago, it was not only accepted but common practice for females to be married and have children by age 15.
    I believe both are possible. I also think that marriage at 15 is quite different from child molestation.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    That's not that long ago in the history of human evolution. And you can't say, "well, look how far we've come since then" because you're basically equating our moral and spiritual growth to our technological advancement, since people are really no different now then we were then. People still do terrible things, kill each other, the same crimes are still around now that were around then, only the tools have changed. If a man is beaten as a child, and beats his child, was he born like that or is it Pavlovian in response?
    I completely agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Evil is a word. Just like tree, or rock, or soda. Humans made it to describe something, in this case something that goes against what is commonly thought of as good and virtueous behavior. This does not make it true. This description and lable of action does not create the existance of "evil", it's still just a word that people apply based on their individual ideology.

    The point is that these people who do these things, almost certainly do not do them because they are "evil" people, they do them because they think, that somehow it's ok to do them. That is being mis-guided in the dharma and being attached to their own wants and needs so badly that they forget everyone else. Be careful that you don't mistake the word we use to lable these actions for the actions themselves. That's the whole 'mistaking the finger for the moon' thing. But you are correct, these actions do exsist, and culturally we have decided to term some of them as "evil".

    But for me, the end result will always remain the same. The world is the world and the people in it will act. I will do my best to act from a place of realization, and I will do my best to help others to do the same. I don't do it because it's "good" or because it's not "evil", I do it because I want to be of benefit to others. If we all act in a similar fashion, what could we accomplish? Buddha said, in the Dhammapada, "With our thoughts, we make the world." Thoughts beget karma.
    Benefiting others means doing them good, as opposed to doing evil towards them. So you've just replaced one word for another.

    I agree with Jundo here, and now I'm done :P Good and evil are what we bring into the world, and we are responsible for it. There's no doubt we do it, and that's why we atone for it. If you don't believe that evil exists, and if you chant the gatha of atonement, what are you atoning for (nothing, a non-word)?

    Of course words are just words, but they have meaning and without them or some shared communication method, we would not be able to er... communicate. Would we see the moon without the finger?

    Ok, I'm really done now :roll:

  19. #19

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    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.
    A small act of aggression or what is perceived as aggressive can trigger a violent and extremely aggressive act by another. This is why aggressive driving can lead to road rage, or why they tell store clerks or tellers to cooperate with robbers. But this doesn't mean we have to be passive doormats, just use skillful means to make our point. There are still many people that believe that 'direct violence' is effective and advantageous, that's the reality so we have to be careful and pay attention.

    /Rich

  20. #20

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

    Hi,
    When went for my first Jukai in 2003 before commiting to the ten grave precepts we were given the three pure precepts; Cease from Evil. Do only Good. Do Good for Others.. In taking these we confess that 'All wrong actions, behaviour and karma, have been, and are, caused by greed, anger and delusion which have no beginning, born of my body, mouth and will...
    This to me seems to confirm what most people are saying here; that we are responsble for all our actions and the after effects thereof. So is evil just another word for unskillful means? Who decides when unskillful is no longer a sufficient word, and evil must be used to describe the act? The precepts show us how to avoid these unskillful means but not everyone follows the precepts. All we can do is temper our reactions to keep ourselves within Buddha way. An example of cause and effect running out of control (not following the precepts here I think): A lady was caught on cctv ( we have more of those here in Britain than anywhere else, by the way) stroking a cute little cat. Suddenly she grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck, lifted the lid of a nearby wheeliebin (trash can) and dumped the cat in it. The owners of the cat found it before the rubbish men came and emptied the bin luckilly. The woman was identified and is now under police protection. Yes, what she did was a bit reprehensible, but the hate campaign that has been launched on the internet here which includes death threats, is surely way over the top. I would say that threatening to kill someone is much more evil than dumping a cat in a bin. I am sure that she did not even consider that the cat might die, but a death threat is pretty sure.
    What I am getting at here is that (yes, I can get to the point eventually) evil breeds, if we allow ourselves to react to events without consideration and control we can create more evil than was there in the first place. My parents are probably the reason for my thoughts on this; My mother lost both her parents and lots of friends in the London Blitz during WWII and my father spent most of the war working German coal mines as a POW after capture at Dunkerque, neither of them held any animosity for the Germans after the war, I was brought up to believe peace and kindness.
    So all we need to do to stop evil is stop breeding it, The buck stops right here,with us.


    Joe

  21. #21

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

    I think the illusion that we don't know right from wrong is just that.

    We know, but we choose not to.

    We choose to unlearn, because we think it is expected of us. Does a baby do wrong?

    Nature's violence is merciful. It is the supremest mercy. It is beyond any concept we could have of randomness.

    Gassho, Mandy

  22. #22

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

    Basically what I'm saying here is that "evil" is a concept and a reality. As Jundo is fond of pointing out, we must be able to view things from a multitude of points of view. At the same time we have to be clear about what we are doing, saying, thinking, acting, etc. The point is that this four letter word e-v-i-l and the deffinition that we ascribe to it, is just a compilation of words and sounds, another lable that people use to try and separate out what is hurtful, and offensive to them about life, from all the nice fluffy stuff that makes them happy. So as Buddhists, we know that there is no such thing as "evil", there is only things-as-it-is as Suzuki Roshi says.

    However, we live in this world and in this world people do things that hurt and offend others, things that cause suffering, and yeah, that's evil. When people do evil deeds, they give life to this concept of "evil", so as Buddhists we know that evil is a very real thing.

    Also, we accept that "evil" or the negative, hurtfull, oppressive, and depressive aspects of life, the suffering, is not something that can be separated from this life, not something that can be removed from the world of Samsara. So as Buddhist, we must accept that "evil" is a necessary part of life.

    But we are not heartless people, who stand by and watch the suffering of others, brought about by their attachement to thier own egos, and desires. We all want to cultivate goodness in this world. Do that which is good, do not do that which is evil, thus all Buddhas have taught. We want all sentient beings to be free of this oppressive weight of desire, attachement, and delusion that causes them to act, think, and feel in ways that promote "evil". So as Buddhists, we work to actualize good in the world and remove evil influences.

    A question was asked of me, when I recite the vow of attonement, am I attoning for nothing or a non-thought? My answer is this: I am attoning for anything that I have done that has caused someone suffering, myself included. I am attoning for anything that I have done that others may consider evil. I am attoning for anything I have done that looking back on, I consider evil. I am attoning for anything that I have done, that inadvertently negatively effected someone, that they looked at their circumstances and thought was the work of some evil.

    Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself. Would we see the moon without the finger? Maybe, finger or no, the moon is still there, one only need look up. Would we understand it was the moon with out the finger pointing and someone saying "moon", I'm not sure. Would the moon care? All I am saying is that we need to be careful how we think about these things, lest we fall into the pit of delusion and end up mistaking the lable for the thing itself.

  23. #23

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

    Thank you Christopher!

    Gassho,

    Cyril

  24. #24

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

    Hello friends,

    Look at the Venerable Angulimala.

    He killed 999 people trying to be happy. Doing what he was assured would make him happy in the end. When he had to choose between his mother and the Buddha, he tried to chase down the Buddha. He saved his mother. Is he evil for killing so many, or good for showing compassion? Was he a victim of the greed for happiness, and the delusion that whatever his teacher said had to be true? I think the latter is true.

    Mara, Kanon.
    Heads, Tails.
    Dharma.

    So maybe it isn't a question of a "good vs evil" dichotomy. Maybe it is a progression of skillfulness. "What, when I do it, will be for my long-term wellbeing and happiness?" I'm sure that no two can agree on an answer. Maybe one wants to feed hungry children, another wants to feed a hungry Self. Deep deep down, the basic motive is the same.

    I think that the dualism inherent in "good vs evil" is an easy way to pass a judgment, to say "I must be better than you." When there is a label, there is a separation. It's much harder to look at a murderer, an arsonist, and say "I understand that you want to be happy. I want to be happy too."

    But that is exactly what we must do. I'm not going to say "perhaps" or "maybe" or the like here, because this is of such vital importance to me.

    When we try to understand, even at a very basic level, we admit the humanity of the "evil" person. He or she becomes like us; doing the best they can with what they have. It's frightening to think that people seek happiness through flame and sword, who try to do good through violence and theft, but the simple truth is that we all try. Some of us have an economic, social, mental leg up on others. It doesn't make us better, doesn't make us good. It makes us us.

    As Jundo said, the perpetrators of "evil" are victims, too. Buried in greed, anger, and delusion, they try to find a way out, and bury themselves that much further in the process. We should be compassionate, understanding, forgiving to these people.

    Because the same forces that drove them to this "evil" are driving us to the Dharma.

    Am I a demon or a saint?
    It depends;
    Have I had my morning coffee yet?


    Metta,

    Perry

  25. #25
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    Re: If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?

    By the way, I have now found photographic proof that evil exists:



    Well, no harm in lightening things up.

  26. #26

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

    hahhahahahahhahaha

  27. #27

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

    I always assumed evil would be something that you would never expect would be evil. Something like this perhaps......


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