The Nature of Evil, Discovering Self.

buddhist evil definition

In a little book called “Quotable Nichiren: Words for Daily Life“, published by World Tribune Press for SGI, I found this little definition of Evil, which I’ve scanned for you.

It’s something I’ve been pondering for some time.

Most people have their own idea of good and evil, one being the opposite of the other, say.

Some have a notion of the horned beast, 666 etc, like some ancient all-encompassing evil that spans the whole of space and time like in the Dr Who episodes, “The Impossible Planet” & “The Satan Pit”

Others say that war is evil, or poverty.   Some say that communism is evil, or capitalism.

I don’t know who said the piece in the book. It’s not Nichiren but it’s his words as a condensate.  Here they are repeated;


Stemming from the fundemantal darkness that is inherent in all life, evil is that which obstructs people in their Buddhist practice, robbing them of life force and causing them to doubt their own Buddhahood.  Evil can be transformed into good to the extent that we use it as a stimulus to deepen our faith and practice and strengthen our inherent goodness.

In a nutshell, anything that stops your Buddhist practice, is evil.

So Arabs aren’t evil and neither is Sarah Palin.  However, if their actions (which includes words) lead to events that stop me practicing my Buddhism, they would then be termed evil.

Drinking alcohol.  It isn’t evil, but if I drink so much that it stops my practice…., then it’s still not evil.  The evil is within myself and my actions have stopped my practice.

What if I kill someone, like the killers of Ken Bigley, say?  But I still keep doing my Buddhist practice…  I can’t be evil because I’m still chanting?  A.  Well obviously I’ve done evil because I stopped (the potential for) someone else’s Buddhist practice.  And the life force has certainly been robbed.

Nichiren says this on the subject. He characterises evil as delusion, and good as enlightenment…

It is like the case of a person who in a dream sees himself performing various good and evil actions. After he wakes up and considers the matter, he realizes that it was all a dream produced by his own mind. This mind of his corresponds to the single principle of the essential nature of phenomena, the true aspect of reality, while the good and evil that appeared in the dream correspond to enlightenment and delusion. When one becomes aware of this, it is clear that one should discard the ignorance associated with evil and delusion, and take as one’s basis the awakening that is characterized by goodness and enlightenment. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – Page 418

For me, this is the true concept of “The Investigation of Self”. For instance, using the dream analogy, where do we go when we are asleep? What are dreams?
Because of the prevelance of computers in our lives, the usual answer nowadays is that dreams are your brain “sorting out” the information it’s acquired in relevancy so that it doesn’t “crash”.
But what happens when you are unconcious, say for surgery? Where do you go then? At such times, brain activity can be made to almost completely cease. And yet, we return, get well, have no memory loss.
Some people have fallen into frozen water and stopped breathing for over 20mins. They’ve escaped brain damage because the cold stops the chemical processes of degeneration.
So where have they been? Where do we go when we are unconcious or asleep?

I think that within that sentence lies the whole key to our existence.

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.