Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Dharma Definition of Evil

If you are going to learn only one thing from your Dharma studies, it should be that every problem on Earth comes from attachment...

When people talk about evil, they always make it sound as if it comes from outside of themselves. There's no such thing as outer evil. Mahayana Buddhist art might depict horrible-looking demons but this is just symbolic. We never believe that evil is external. Evil is nothing other than the manifestation of ego and attachment. If somebody asks, "What is evil?" the answer is attachment. Attachment is evil; ego is evil. If you want to know the sords for evil, they're ego and attachment."
Lama Yeshe
Ego, Attachment and Liberation:
Overcoming Your Mental Bureaucracy

pp. 77-8

Lest this be misunderstood, here's what I think Lama Yeshe is saying. Yes, the evil is within us. All of us. But this does not mean we are evil. That sense personifies evil. Makes it external, in fact, as Lama Yeshe says. No, the evil we see and experience is an effect. A result of ego-grasping and attachment.

Attachment to outcomes. Attachment to things. Attachment to opinions. Emotions.

I see this in myself clear as day, when I have the courage to look at it. Spend a lot of time trying to force the world into my own personal view of the way things should be. Fortunately for the world, I don't have a lot of wealth or power to throw around at it. Yet, my little corner of the world can look pretty evil/unpleasant when I'm not getting my way.

But for those who do have wealth or power...Iraq. Attachment to oil. Attachment to pride. National pride. Religious pride. This is just one example, which I use because it is so current.

The ego, which we grasp at as real and solid and in fact the essence of our selves, and consequently cherish as if its loss would be the end of the universe, is simply afraid. What is it afraid of? What are we afraid of (when we identify so strongly with this conception of self)? Powerlessness, that's what. Non-existence, that's what. And we'll do anything to avoid that. With six billion people all doing whatever they can to avoid what they think is powerlessness and non-existence, what can you expect but evil results?

I don't know if even this has said what I meant it to say. But let it stand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are people afraid of the unknown? humans attach instinctively to what they know. Letting go and trust is difficult to do. No money is spared to encase the known in concrete. To block out the mystery. Hey, maybe that's why Merlin is trapped in that cave, to render his magic harmless? The more I get into this stuff with Larry, the more I see parrallels with myths and fairy tales, which afterall have grown from the human psyche.

I like your last line, Larry, "I don't know if even this has said what I meant it to say."

I feel like that all the time too. Language, words, are marvellous tools, but that is just what they are. We use what we have available to us to express what we want to say, but it always falls short, somehow. Life is so much bigger than what we can capture with language. When you say tree, you need pages and pages to describe what a tree is like, which life forms depend on it...

Using language we need to try to come as close as possible to the essence of what matters. Falling in love with beautiful words and phrases, can lead away from that what it is really about.

We need tools to help us learn what life is about. The tools are not what life is about.

wild thing

Help! I've written and I can't get up!