Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bikkhu's Blog

This is from the website of one of the runner ups in the best celebrity blog catergory. He's got some really good articles on his website. You can read them here http://www.arrowriver.ca/torStar/probevil.html I pasted one below.

"Evil" is a word which has featured prominently in public discourse after September 11th. It is a term with strong religious connotations, but not all religious systems share the idea. Buddhism, for one, does not find the concept of evil a useful one. Buddhism is primarily concerned with suffering and the ending of suffering. An action is considered unskilful if it increases suffering, either of one's self or of others. It is considered skilful if it leads to a lessening or elimination of suffering.
This puts an entirely different perspective on problems of ethics. Things become less absolute, and more importantly, less personal. In Buddhist thought, there are no evil persons. There are only persons behaving in an unskilful way. There is no final damnation, and the possibility of change is always recognized. Unskilful actions, i.e. those which increase suffering, are always motivated by greed, hatred or ignorance. Skilful actions are those based on generosity, good-will and wisdom.
When the two sides in a situation of conflict are viewed in terms of good vs. evil, the possibility of reconciliation is removed. The only acceptable outcome is the elimination by force of the "evil" opponent. Analysis and investigation of underlying issues is made superfluous. Violence and counter-violence becomes inescapable. The tragic results of this way of thinking are all too evident in the world today. Ironically, the concept of "evil" which seems so absolute and clear, is really a relative one. Both Osama Bin Ladin and George Bush can claim to be fighting evil and defending the good. Both are probably sincere.
The Buddhist way of thinking allows much more hope for peaceful resolution. Analysis begins with considering whether a proposed action increases or decreases the suffering of sentient beings. If other beings commit actions which increase suffering, analysis turns to consideration of the underlying defilements. Were they driven by ill-will? Have we on our side done anything hateful to which they are responding unskilfully? Were they motivated by greed? Are they responding to our own greedy appropriation of resources? These kinds of considerations do not excuse the harmful acts of wrong-doers, but they do help in the formulation of useful long-term solutions.
We should add a caveat here. It would be a mistake to think that Buddhism advocates a loose moral relativism. To say that the concept of an evil person is not a useful one, is not to say that there are no right or wrong actions. Buddhism does have definite moral precepts. Killing is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Committing adultery is wrong. Telling a falsehood is wrong and bewildering the mind with intoxicants is wrong. In its own way, the Buddhist tradition can be quite absolute about these precepts. But the person who transgresses them is not "evil", he is behaving unskilfully and the result will be suffering for himself and others.
Thinking in this way has a great practical effect at all levels of human relations. We have already touched on international conflicts. On the social level there is an obvious application in how we deal with criminals. The focus shifts from retribution to rehabilitation and restitution, and even more fundamentally to prevention. In our personal relationships with friends and family, conflicts are more easily resolved if we don't categorise the other person but deal with their skilful and unskilful actions instead. A final point to consider, that applies to all these levels of discourse, whenever we label someone else as "evil" we are allowing ill-will to enter our own mind, and are behaving unskilfully ourselves. The result is bound to be more suffering.

14 Comments:

At March 08, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Don't explore the site, the popups and (possibly) spyware installers are noxious, pernicious, evil, unwholesome, baneful, and bad.

 
At March 08, 2006, Blogger DA said...

What if I very skillfully go Kung Fu on someone's ass for unskillful reasons? :-P Does that cancel itself out?

 
At March 08, 2006, Blogger flux said...

Firefox
NoScript
Adblock Plus

No more evil.

 
At March 08, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

jules are you saying that this canadian monk knows he has spyware on his website? if not, i 'm confused. i didnt know websites could get infected.

 
At March 08, 2006, Blogger karen said...

Hello all, First I want to know is that true, that if you go to that site you could get some kind of computer problems? I really wanted to read all those sites. Or is it just a funny remark? Second, I promised Ryunin that I would write regarding my chastising him for what he wrote on a previous post. This could be pertinent to any of the entries though. I have been at this for a long time. So long that I can't believe how long. And I think I'm coming to a point of change in or departure from the buddhist path. I read things like the Bikkhu's Blog and many other teachers, masters etc and I wonder and even agonize over whether or not this is a waste of time. Or rather is all the talk, writing, etc a way of avoiding really living? I am beginning to have a feeling in my gut that it is and that I am turning a corner in what I consider to be my practice. Hence the reason that I wrote I was going through a very dry period. I still sit, I think for me, quiet time is very important and I wouldn't be where I'm at now if I hadn't sat for so many years. I don't like to think that over involvement in this way of life is just another way to feed the ego, but I can't get away from this nagging little voice that tells me that it is. I have met buddhist priests who have left me with the impression that they are so, so good, they wouldn't think of accepting a new shirt from you or a box of candy. They were too good to be ordinary people. I have met other priests who were open, honest and not tied to the forms of the practice that made me feel like they were real people. That I could really relate to them. But I'm still left wondering. Why would you live in the U.S. and wear robes of people a world and 2000 years away? I have always felt this way about the catholic church which I was raised in. It seems to be a way of wearing your religion on your sleeve. That is why Ryunin, I reacted as I did. If we are truly being skilfull, humble, sincere, do we really care what other people think, say or do? How much control do we want to have over other people both in terms of what they think of us and in how much we influence them? I don't know if anyone can relate, but I promised that I would post this.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

karen:
You make a lot of good points.

Some people will wear robes (esp. Kesa) to give themselves a sense of identity and self-worth. Others will do the same in order to give up those same things.

I have met monks and nuns who wear robes full time and I have met others who wear them only for zazen and/or special occaisions.

Or rather is all the talk, writing, etc a way of avoiding really living?
For some it may be for some it isn't.

"I don't like to think that over involvement in this way of life is just another way to feed the ego, but I can't get away from this nagging little voice that tells me that it is"
It can be if that is what a person wants.

"And I think I'm coming to a point of change in or departure from the buddhist path"
In some ways I am playing with similar ideas, the only difference is that I don't really think that I am on this or any other path at all, merely that this one at the moment seems to be going in the same direction as me. A subtle distinction.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Don't explore the site, the popups and (possibly) spyware installers are noxious, pernicious, evil, unwholesome, baneful, and bad

Download Firefox, which allows you to block popups and is more secure and standards compliant than IE.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

I was using Firefox, but it doesn't block these popups. Dan, yes, it's possible for web sites to get infected or hacked, though I suspect it might be because Bikkhu's using a third party web-stats tracking package, which might be run by some shady folks.

I didn't get them by following the link above, but I from his main page (http://www.arrowriver.ca/) and at least two other pages on his web site.

So, Karen, you're probably safe if you just click the link in the original post, but if you're running Windows and you haven't yet installed all the latest security updates, I wouldn't click any links on that page.

Now, I also have no real evidence that there WAS spyware. But one of the several popups said something like "Continue scanning your Windows Registry? [yes][no]" so it looked like a spyware installer to me.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I am getting the same popup Jules refers to. It *looks* like a decision box, but if you click anywhere on it it installs spyware.

It is amazing to me that a Blogger-software blog could get infected, but what Jules says makes sense: If you allow a web-stats site to update your template, something like that could occur.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Karen,
Your concerns strike pretty close to home for me. I've never met Thich Nhat Hanh, but I feel the same way about him sometimes. I'll write more later, gotta go now.

 
At March 09, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

(continued from above post)
I sometimes feel like Thich Nhat Hanh is idealistic, some of his writings seem naive. He has this vision of world peace and universal love that, while beautiful, seems so far removed from my own experience of life...

But I still feel like a beginner on this path, so I reserve judgement. I've never met the man, and I suspect if I did he would be very genuine, very real. Someone who has seen terrible things, and doesn't repress or deny them, but finds a way to see great beauty in the world the way it really is...

I have met others who are putting on an act, whether they realize it or not. Peace and loving-kindness, fluffy bunnies and dandelions, "let's just ignore or deny what doesn't fit our ideals".

And the rest of what I have to say, I'll put in a new post on the front page.

 
At March 10, 2006, Blogger Gareth said...

Regarding Thich Nhat Hanh, I know many people who feel the same when reading his words for the first time. In fact I was just talking about this yesterday with a friend of mine.

His words do seem naive, childish almost. And yet the more I study his texts, the more truth I find there. His Gathas also seem simple and naive, until you try them.

As my friend said, anyone who can maintain such a heart of peace and a mind of happiness having experienced all that he has, must have something to say.

I read an article recently in which the author described been really annoyed by Thich Nhat Hanh 's words, because she wanted a complex answer and couldn’t believe that the way to end suffering could be just that. It annoyed her more as she came to realise that there was and is a truth in his words.

'The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.' Thich Nhat Hanh


Why the robe? Maybe it's a representation of belief, and a form of legitimacy. The blad head and robe offer a pointer for those looking for a teacher.

 
At March 10, 2006, Blogger earDRUM said...

I love this post. It describes my feelings about good and evil, pretty much exactly.

Karen, maybe it is time to take a break from the robes and temples? Sounds like you need some balance.

I feel similar thoughts about "religious" trappings because they affect me. I think they have a subconscious pull... that automatically puts me in a frame of mind that is similar to how I felt as a child in church. I start transforming the robes and bowls into "sacred" objects. So I tend to avoid them.

There is nothing sacred about zen. Zen is very ordinary.

To me, nature has always been the only real teacher. As a young kid, I spent a lot of time in the woods, by streams, or by the ocean. Going for a walk alone seems to clean the slate. I walk until my mind quiets down. Then I am ready for the world again.

The sky outside my window is full of snow right now.

 
At March 10, 2006, Blogger DB said...

Karen said "Why would you live in the U.S. and wear robes of people a world and 2000 years away? "

Some of that is, I think, an affectation. But some of it is sincere veneration of traditions. It's like martial arts. Do you really need to wear a dobok and practice barefooted? Not really, but it helps put you in the right frame of mind possibly.

If the trappings help, I think they're harmless. But if the dress becomes the point, then you're play-acting. It's the difference between a costume and a uniform. A costume is clothing I wear when I pretend to be something; a uniform is clothing I wear when I AM that something. You seem to be asking if what you see is a uniform or a costume, and that's a good question.

 

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