Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More on creating evil

She wrote: Since you don't buy into the Christian mythology about good and evil, and you DO buy into the Buddhist mythology, that there isn't a good and evil, does it all boil down to just whose mythology that YOU DO buy into? Is everyone not entitled to believe in the mythology that suits them the best? Is saying the Buddhist way of thinking is the best and only truth, NO different than the Christian saying that his way is the ONLY WAY? By believing that your way is the best, are you not guilty of doing the same thing? Might each and every WAY be right in it's own way, for different people? Because YOU don't buy into it for yourself, does it make it so? And, are you qualified to say what is and what is not? If not, can you tell me beyond a doubt who is? Is everything not just speculation in the end, because until you actually die, you can't really be sure? Can you tell a Mother whose child was slaughtered, that such an act was not evil? If that act is not evil, can you tell me what it is?"
I don't think most people consider their beliefs to be mythology, but I think she is right about there exists a belief system to support any belief... from Nazism to Christianity.

Buddha asked that people trust his "way" because they experience what he describes, rather than just because he says it. He might have not liked the idea that his "way" to end suffering became a religion. He probably had enough of his childhood religion by then, and he wanted to pay more (actually all) of his attention to the here and now.

In the quote above, she talks about the mother calling (or not calling) the slaughter of her child "evil." This is an interesting assertion that I was not thinking about—that an "act" can be evil. What if the slaughtering was done by gust of wind hurling knives through the air? Would that be evil as well? Or do we need a doer with an "evil" intent. So who is evil, the act or the person?

Thinking about this riding on a plane from Philadelphia to Austin (stopping in Orlando) gave me more clarity about the precept "creating evil." I'm not sure this will satisfy the commenter above, but here it is. The precept is saying don't create evil, which we do when we label certain events (or people) evil. It is not the Buddhist way. The precept is asking us to be without judgment, acting equanimously.  So, yes, evil exists, as does suffering, but it is in our heads. Is it productive to create evil? Probably not.

5 comments:

Car Jerome said...

I had thought Buddhism was about moving beyond good and evil, and as Nietzche suggested with that same phrase, asking what our morality is really aiming us toward. Two Pali sutras on this are useful:

The Kalama Sutra
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel008.html ,
which is about free inquiry and details "wrong views" and briefly addressed appropriate inquiry.

and

The Simile of the Snake Sutra
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel048.html ,
which teaches us how to use and discard a teaching (by combining two similes, the simile of the snake with the simile of the raft).

Only when we move beyond definitions and labeling, my experience on the cushion tells me, can we find peace and tranquility. "Or not" as my frist Teacher would say.

dorthy said...

Kim, I have read that Roman Catholicism rejects cremation. So, your story about the sky raining knives to kill children reminds me of the question, "What if the Pope died in a house fire?" Or, " If the Pope died in a house fire, could he still go to heaven?" That might actually be a more likely event than the knives falling out of the sky. But, I suppose if you were attending a circus or something, it could happen. Evil might just be a description used to label an act so profane, that it is actually beyond the comprehension of most sane minded people. What are the worst words we can use to describe events so horrid? They are few.

I think, but I am not sure, but the Buddha asking that people trust in HIS "way," might be a little like Jesus asking us to "Just Have Faith." What I am saying is that I wonder WHAT YOU ARE TRUSTING IN? Just wait until I ask you to explain why a man dying on a cross can save you from your sins!

Before I started this journey into learning about Buddhism, I was told that it was a mistake, because Buddhism had turned into just another religion, like all the others. I was also told that there were better paths, though they were few, that were not just religions. I didn't want to follow a religion, and I still do not. Sometime all your ranting about the precepts sounds much like a Christian ranting about the 10 commandments. Which in essence say just about the same thing. Telling a person how to live their life in a good way, not to cause harm, and bring bad things into their lives. It would be most interesting for you to do a comparison between the precepts and the ten commandments, to see if they are both alike. You can talk about those kinds of things all you want, but until a person actually lives them day in and day out, as a regular part of their life, then they really don't do anyone much good at all.

Thanks Kim, for answering my questions and printing what I am writing. It isn't personal, I am just wondering?

Dorthy Greenfield

Kate said...

The precept is saying don't create evil, which we do when we label certain events (or people) evil. It is not the Buddhist way. --- Mr. Kim

I don’t think one necessarily ‘creates evil by labeling things evil’. One does not become evil when one opposes a war (because it is evil and/or wrong). One does not become evil by saying a serial killer shouldn’t kill (because it is evil and/or wrong). One does not become evil by pointing out that another ought not dump poison in the river (because it is evil and/or wrong).

But of course you use that one word, ‘certain’, in order to not make ‘all’ labeling evil generating. So which labeling doesn’t create evil and which labeling does create evil? Is it really the Buddhist way to not label things as evil? Is it really the Buddhist way to “be without judgment”? What distinguishes ‘being without judgment’ from ‘being without thought’ or ‘being without opinion’ or ‘being without responsibility’?

The Christians seem to have this saying “Thou shall not judge.” I have never understood it. It’s not even a real commandment. What shall I not judge? If one doesn’t learn to make judgment, one will end up doing stupid shit over and over again. One has to make judgment, and hopefully one will use good judgment more often by practicing the ability to judge himself/herself and also those around one.

So, yes, evil exists, as does suffering, but it is in our heads. --- Mr. Kim

I don’t believe evil is only in our heads. Sometimes it walks in the shared reality outside of our minds.

Kate said...

What if the slaughtering was done by gust of wind hurling knives through the air? Would that be evil as well? --- Mr. Kim

Yes, if the wind was cause by an evil spirit or demon bent on destroying the child because the demon resents childlike innocence. Yes, if the tornado is caused by an arrogant God who has made a jerk-like bet with the Devil that this human won’t curse the name of God no-matter-what and so the knifed-up-baby-death was a test to see who wins the bet. So ‘yes’ is a possible answer, but good luck getting revenge or justice.

Or do we need a doer with an "evil" intent?

I don’t think you need intent to create evil. What if one buys this awesome t-shirt that was made with child slave labor, but one has not clue about the labor camp upon the purchase of said t-shirt? Now one is not as evil as the man holding the gun screaming at babies, “Sew damn it!”, but one’s hands are now not entirely clean. One has unwittingly participated in the evil game. Ignorance is not a good enough excuse to allow one to continue evil.

Also, what if one perceives the evil he/she does as ‘a good thing’. The road to hell is paved with good intention . . . for a cliché understanding. One poisons the river because this will bring about the race war that will lead to the second coming of Christ which will create the birth of the new world which is a wonderful thing for all. One with this thought process thinks one is doing good for all by killing many. . . because he/she is an idiot. (See . . . I judge . . . and I don’t feel bad about it.)

So who is evil, the act or the person?

The act cannot occur without the person. . . These are not mutually exclusive concepts. They are inevitably linked. So chopping heads off puppies is evil and when Bob chops heads off puppies he is being evil. Now later puppy-killer might donate money to the Red Cross and that is good and he is being good at that moment, but he’s still an evil puppy-head-collector.

Kate said...

I had thought Buddhism was about moving beyond good and evil --- Mr. Car Jerome

I wonder about this ‘moving beyond good and evil’ often. It does seem to me like a morality beyond morality, which doesn’t make sense really. I question what really means. I can’t help notice you use the verb tense ‘had though’ as if you don’t think this now. . . What do you feel Buddhism means to you now?

Only when we move beyond definitions and labeling, my experience on the cushion tells me, can we find peace and tranquility. "Or not" as my frist Teacher would say. --- Mr. Car Jerome

I wonder if ‘peace and tranquility’ ought be the goal of meditation . . . or why we (some in society) talk about ‘inner peace’ as an outcome of meditation.