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Tue Jan 29, 2013, 10:00 PM

Buddhism and Evil

Buddhism and Evil
By Barbara O'Brien, About.com Guide

Evil is a word many people use without thinking deeply about what it signifies. I'd like to compare common ideas about evil with Buddhist teachings on evil, if for no other reason than to facilitate deeper thinking about evil.

First, a qualifier: This is a topic I've wrestled with for some time, and my understanding continues to change. This essay is a snapshot of what my understanding is right now, not perfect wisdom. If you have other perspectives you'd like to share, I encourage you to visit the Buddhism forums and leave a message.
Thinking About Evil

Over the years I've observed that people speak and think about evil in several different, and sometimes conflicting, ways. The two most common are these:

Evil as intrinsic characteristic. It's common to think of evil as an intrinsic characteristic of some people or groups. In other words, some people are said to be evil. Evil is a quality that is inherent in their being.


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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Buddhism and Evil (Original post)
AsahinaKimi Jan 2013 OP
tama Jan 2013 #1
GliderGuider Jan 2013 #2
tama Jan 2013 #3
GliderGuider Jan 2013 #4
tama Jan 2013 #5
GliderGuider Jan 2013 #6
tama Feb 2013 #7
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #8
tama Feb 2013 #9
rabid_byter Feb 2013 #10
rabid_byter Feb 2013 #11
Newest Reality Mar 2013 #12

Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 10:55 PM

1. Thanks


These are good teachings.

Well, I would say in simple English that instead of 'good' and 'evil' its better to talk about feeling well and feeling unwell. And when feeling unwell there tends to arise more ill-wishing thoughts and actions towards others.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 04:15 PM

2. How about "Evil as illusion"?


Things are as they are. Suffering may be real, but good and evil are simply judgments. As such they are inherently illusions.

That's a non-dual (particularly Advaita) point of view though. I don't know how widely it is accepted across the various schools of Buddhism.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 11:41 PM

3. Good and Evil


are dependent arisings, or what Western philosophy calls dialectical opposites. Also Plato makes distinction between codependent good and evil, and non-dual "hen kai agathon".

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Response to tama (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 07:17 AM

4. Codependent arising and dialectical opposites


Are, of course, illusions as well. Interesting and useful concepts for the here-and-now, but illusions nonetheless.

My apology for the digression, everyone.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 07:59 AM

5. I assume


that you are using "illusion" as dialectical opposition of "reality". So we are speaking of language problem by means of language, realizing this as we speak.

Our language is much more verbal, using verbs, than English (and Sanskrit) which are more nominal, using nouns. Our word for 'reality" is 'todellisuus', which is derived from word 'totta', which translates as 'true'. Word 'totta' may be of same origin as English 'steady', and while holding that true we may speak of 'staying steady' rather that nominal and objectifying 'reality' or 'illusion'. Here-and-now much is staying steady. Here-and-now is staying steady. Staying steady.

Love of language staying steady, changing and resting while changing.

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Response to tama (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:39 AM

6. Yes.


And, of course, no.

I love the way different language structures can illuminate consciousness in different ways. I see what you're saying about nominal vs verbal language - it's a perspective most speakers of just Indo-European languages don't acquire.

I think when I use the word "illusion" I mean something more like "ineffable" - something which cannot be conceived in words - rather than "false", which in my usage is just another illusion. If I hold a Platonic ideal for the notion of "realizing illusion" it exists beyond language altogether, because even the verbal - "holding steady" for example - tends to raise more questions than it resolves.

But of course anything that exists beyond language is by definition impossible to talk about. Which is probably why the word "stillness" carries such magic.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 03:04 AM

7. Questioning mind


raises questions. Such as: is dualism (and non-dualism as answer) anything more than linguistic problem? I'm sure we can think a thought that surely the problem must go beyond language... and that there is a problem, to begin with. Such as attachment, which requires process of objectification.

Religions seem linguistic and symbolic structures of cultures with strongly dualistic languages, attempt's to become free of linguistic dualism. People's who speak non-dualistic or less dualistic languages don't have similar need for religion.

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Response to tama (Reply #7)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 07:07 AM

8. John Zerzan claims that language is our primary alienating invention



I confess to having a fondness Zerzan, the foremost modern American anarchist philosopher. Sort of the Jack Sarfatti of the political sphere...

Language alienates, and stillness re-unites.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #8)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 08:41 AM

9. Ah! Zerzan!


Language speaks, stillness listens.

I've listened carefully Zerzan's case against language, music, art, shamans, symbol, etc. It's a good challenge, a friend of mine wrote following article as response:


And also I was inspired to write a response to Zerzan's challenge, article called 'Symbol, Shamanhood and Anarchy' (in Finnish).

Zerzan confuses symbol with old theory of representation between language and "real" world, but the original and real meaning of that Greek concept is relation of part to a whole. Humans are of course not only symbolic species, all animals have symbolic behavior e.g. when they learn by imitating. Or even more generally, sensing by sentient beings is a symbolic relation. Nihilistic purism by Zerzan and others is not Middle Way, but extreme reaction to the extreme objectification and alienation of European languages.

What is important (in Buddhism etc.) is compassion and compassionate assistance to modern civilization to heal itself.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:26 PM

10. i was origionally a research scientist, i still work with the scientific method


i have added the Buddhist method to the scientific method. i have studied the concept of Evil for a long time, i was raised in the most fundamental of the freaky fundamentalist churches. tho i was never "Turned" by them.

i am now almost thru 'Political Ponerology' ..the study of Evil as it relates to Politics. this book is also discussed in depth with the authors of the greatest books on Psychopathy.. Dr Hare, Dr Clecky and Andrew M. Lobaczewski in the book, '911 The Ultimate Truth 2nd revision, by Quinn.

folks, there is Evil.. it walks among us, it has taken over the GOP.

what i refer to are Psychopaths, about 2% of the population. they live in a different dimension.
they have no conscience, no concept of good, no guilt, no shame, they see us as "others" no better than cockroaches. they want to turn us all into slaves to get even for not letting them slaughter, rob, rape anyone and everyone. the weird thing is that us 'others' can't identify them, but they can identify each other.. even when 3 years old. research has shown that people with IQ's about 120 can identify them fairly well. they seek positions of power and influence, but they typically have below average IQ's. that is why the GOP has a hard time locating a viable presidential candidate that doesn't come across like Romney, Dubya, Boner, Ryan, McCain, O'Riley, Ann Colter, Rush Limbaugh, Savage. that is why they have to steal elections to win, they have no shame, no guilt. they hate us because we are breathing. notice how every Bill the GOP try's to pass is devastating to millions of people.. EVERY TIME. and they are never going to give an inch to the "others", whom they despise because we are not human.

if you want to get a better idea of that Psychopaths are, go to youtube and search 'Archons'. perfect 100% description of psychopaths. they are apex predators and parasites.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:42 PM

11. in Buddhism suffering arises when one identifies or clinges to Aggregates


some other thoughts and links

I have long studied Evil, is it acquired, is it inherent, is that title imposed on something from cultural, religious or personal misconception or one's own mental/perceptual/emotional limitations or prejudice. I believe I have discovered what Evil is.. first the Buddhist side..

In the Theravada tradition suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to an aggregate.

1] "form" or "matter" external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the physical sense organ

2] "sensation" or "feeling" sensing an object as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral

3] "perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination" registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree)

4] "mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors" all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.

5] "consciousness" or "discernment" cognizance, that which discerns

my research indicates that there is only one real source of Evil. Terrorists are not Evil, they are simply suffering from the Skandhas.. they are just using inappropriate means to achieve a goal that results in more suffering.

what is Evil is Psychopathy. about 1% of people are Psychopaths, men and women who from birth are 'Apex Predators' without conscience, guilt nor remorse. we can't easily or at all, identify them by looking at them. they on the other hand can identify each other in a crowd even as toddlers, they can form 'Hives' and congregate, the GOP is a prime example, you might have noticed the GOP never does anything without millions of people suffering from it, and they wont cooperate with the low life cockroaches...




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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2013, 11:26 PM

12. In the Ati sense ...

And this takes some careful insight and introspection, depending on your background and upbringing in the sense of conditioned perspective:

The black cloud and the white cloud obscure the Sun equally.

The hemp rope and the golden chain equally bind us.

Now, lest that be misinterpreted, a person's response to it should, if they are paying attention, be self-revealing and imply a logical support for proper and ethical behavior regardless of the comprehension of what the statement reveals ultimately. The definitive does not negate the provisional, it merely exalts it and illuminates its initial perspective.

Food for thought about the question of evil vs. good and its relationship to Dharma. Is thought hungry? Why does it need to eat? Give it a hot cup of instant karma for breakfast.

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