Buddha and Evil

2000-12-20 10:44:00

Melva writes:

"JJ hit the nail on the head. I call Evil by the name of Dark Forces. Also thank you for the Buddhist passages. Dark Forces seem to try to prevent the evolution of the soul. Ultimately they cannot thanks to reincarnation. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger and that seems to apply to the soul. I firmly believe in the triumph of light over dark."


Thank you for your gracious comment. I think we agree with each other here. Seekers usually do when there is effective communication.

I hope you come out of lurking more often.

Chris writes:

"There is no Sanskrit word for which the direct transliteration into the English language is Evil.

"Therefore, the translation of the Buddha teachings you quoted is misleading.

"This is the common result of people translating the scriptures from one language to another through the filters of preconception and prejudice.

"Nowhere in the Sutras attributable to Buddha is the terminology of 'Evil' used as this is directly contrary to the philosophy of 'The Compassionate One.'"


Unfortunately, I do not have the original Sanskrit available to check this out, but I will give you this. The concept of the religious ones today toward the word evil and numerous other Biblical words is quite a bit different from the original people who used them. I'm sure this is also true of Buddha's words.

Even so, when you examine the teachings of Buddha it becomes quite obvious that he often spoke of the dualities of good and evil quite consistent with the other world teachers. All the translations I have seen of Buddha's teachings have him speaking of both good and evil with about the same fervor as the early Christians.

The quotes I posted the other day had numerous references to the concept and these were translated by Dr. Harischandra Kaviratna for the Theosophical Society.

This was in the introduction:

"Dr. Kaviratna, a native of Sri Lanka, is equally versed in Sinhalese, Pali, and Sanskrit, and since youth has been a dedicated researcher into the esoteric implications behind the Vedas, Vedanta, and Buddhist canonical and noncanonical literatures of both Northern and Southern Schools."

This quote from his translation gives a pretty standard view of good and evil:

"Make haste in doing good and restrain the mind from evil; if one is slow in doing good, the mind finds delight in evil."

But here is one I find quite interesting:

"It is quite easy to perform evil deeds which are not beneficial to oneself. But it is extremely difficult to perform a deed which is righteous and beneficial.

"If an evil-minded one, by reason of his false views, reviles the teaching of the Arhats, the Noble Ones, and the virtuous, verily he brings forth the fruit of his own destruction, even as does the katthaka reed."

The interesting thing is that Buddha talks of evil here as a negativity which can bring "destruction." This is a very close harmony with RA, the biblical Hebrew word for evil which means "to break into pieces," or to destroy.

Another translator, Paul Carus, used the word evil regularly in translating his words. Here is an example:

"Avoiding the Ten Evils"

"The Buddha said:

"All acts of living creatures become bad by ten things, and by avoiding the ten things they become good.

"There are three evils of the body, four evils of the tongue, and three evils of the mind.

"[1] 'The evils of the body are, murder, theft, and adultery; of the tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and idle talk; of the mind, covetousness, hatred, and error.

"[2] 'I exhort you to avoid the ten evils:

"[3] '(1) Kill not, but have regard for life.

"[4] '(2) Steal not, neither do ye rob; but help everybody to be master of the fruits of his labour.

"[5] '(3) Abstain from impurity, and lead a life of chastity.

"[6] '(4) Lie not, but be truthful. Speak the truth with discretion, fearlessly and in a loving heart.

"[7] '(5) Invent not evil reports, neither do ye repeat them. Carp not, but look for the good sides of your fellowbeings, so that ye may with sincerity defend them against their enemies.

"[8] '(6) Swear not, but speak decently and with dignity.

"[9] '(7) Waste not the time with gossip, but speak to the purpose or keep silence.

"[10] '(8) Covet not, nor envy, but rejoice at the fortunes of other people.

"[11] '(9) Cleanse your heart of malice and cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all living beings with kindness.

"[12] '(10) Free your mind of ignorance and be anxious to learn the truth, especially in the one thing that is needful, lest you fall a prey either to skepticism or to errors. Skepticism will make you indifferent and errors will lead you astray, so that you shall not find the noble path that leads to life eternal."


Now it may be true that the original Sanskrit word may have a deeper meaning than the modern English -- evil -- but the opposite of that which is good is certainly implied by the context.

I'm short on time tonight. Hope to finish the series on "The Four Evils" tomorrow.