Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All Relative?

Nichiren Buddhism teaches that good and evil all coexist within one human being, or the "oneness of good and evil". Becoming a Buddha, then, is really just conquering that evil.  

But isn't evil relative?  A skinhead doesn't believe he's evil.  Nor does a doctor who performs abortions or euthanasia.  But some people do believe these individuals are indeed evil.

And what is considered evil is often influenced by society's morality which, in turn, is influenced by tradition and culture.  Forcing circumcision is sometimes thought of as evil.  When it's done on girls.  When it's done on boys, it's just a procedure.   In ancient Igbo culture, it was not considered evil to throw twins into the "Evil Forest"  . . . rather, it was wrong to keep twin babies as part of society.  This practice was stopped because of the arrival of Christianity and the European which some view as good.  Others view as evil.  

So how can we go about conquering evil when there's no definitive, universal truth on what evil is?  

In the context of the Daishonin's teaching, good means the "fundamental nature of enlightenment," or absolute freedom and happiness resulting from profound self-knowledge. Evil indicates the "fundamental darkness," or life's innate delusion negating the potential of enlightenment and causing suffering for oneself and others.

It's not about figuring out if this is evil or that is evil.  It's not about pointing to some morality guide that says, "Yup, this is definitely evil" or "Nope, this is definitely not evil."  It's looking inward.   It's working on oneself to really know oneself.  To do so, the mind must be stilled.  One must focus.  This takes practice and with so many distractions, it's not an easy task.  It's actually a herculean task.  But a noble one.   

When we pray for peace in the world, if we still pray for that despite all that we see and hear, what we are really praying for is that we all can find absolute freedom and happiness not because of the things we have or where we are but because we truly and profoundly know ourselves--the good, the bad and the ugly.

After all, you have to be the change you want to see in the world.  

Thoughts?

3 comments:

Miriam said...

That's really interesting.

A funny, but not really funny anecdote. In Hebrew the word "hamas" means "violence" and true enough, to the Jew's face Hamas does seem to fit that description.

However, I suppose to the Arabs "hamas" could mean something else and probably something positive?

But in the end I think it helps to have a belief in God, then the "good" is no longer relative. Its more absolute from someone else, a Higher Being.

(nevertheless, evil is a part of good. Like the peel of an orange)

Carolina said...

The way to be truly capable of loving those around you is to know yourself completely love yourself for who you are, flaws and all. It's hard to expect "perfection" from others when you not only see the imperfections in yourself but are able to conquer them and still love.

tifi said...

Are you Buddhist? I was just drawn to this post b/c DH is a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist (has been since childhood).

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