A Buddhist view of evil

“Good and evil have often been looked upon as diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. But in a real, practical sense, such a simplistic way of thinking is unsatisfactory. Even the cruelest of criminals may possess a strong sense of love or compassion toward his parents and children. Is such a person fundamentally good or evil?

The Buddhist understanding is that good and evil are innate, inseparable aspects of life. This view makes it impossible to label a particular individual or group as “good” or “evil.” Every single human being is capable of acts of the most noble good, or the basest evil.

Moreover, good and evil in Buddhism are seen not as absolute but relative or “relational.” The good or evil of an act is understood in terms of its actual impact on our own lives and the lives of others, not on abstract rules of conduct.

Evil actions are those which are based on a narrow selfishness, the delusion that our lives are fundamentally disconnected from those of others and that we can benefit at their expense. Evil views life as a means to be expended, not an end in itself. Good is that which generates connection between ourselves and others, healing and restoring the bonds among human societies.”

(The above extracts were taken from the article on the Internet titled ‘Good and Evil’ by Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist movement.)

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