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A question of Good and Evil (Mostly Evil) [Nov. 4th, 2006|10:39 am]
Asian Religions and Philosophy



I was wondering what people thought of Evil. Is evil in the act, or is evil in the person, which (asian) philosophy feels which way about evil, or is evil merely imblalance of the person?

From: drok_vox
2006-11-04 08:08 pm (UTC)
well, in hinduism, there are some pretty cut and dry rules; don't mess with your Dharma. The gods, no matter how destructive and scary, are always good. It's the demons who are evil, and men who either fall under there influence, or choose to stray from there Dharma.
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[User Picture]From: ananda_ren
2006-11-05 05:14 am (UTC)
I never got the impression that "evil" as an ontological category was given much thought in asian religions, unlike western religions.

Zoroastrianism is about the closest I can think of (and that isn't really an "asian" religion, although influenced by Vedism a bit), with the part about the universe being a cosmic battleground between good and evil, and humans choosing sides in the conflict between the ahuras and the daevas</>.

But Hinduism and Buddhism seem to focus more and actions and their karmic consequences, but not for good and evil, it's more a dialectic between spiritual knowledge and ignorance. Although there are asuras (usually translated as "demons") they are more a different class of birth than they are "evil" and even the hells function more as purgatory where souls go to work off their bad karma.

I remember in Confucianism, classes always mentioned 2 of the neo-Confucian philosophers, Mencius and I don't remember who, and their thoughts about human nature - inherently good or not? was badness due to nature or nurture, basically. But I suspect even then it was not "evil" in the Western sense but more a matter of how well people could live up to the Confucian ideal of the "perfect gentleman" and act with the idea of ren, benevolence. But failure to do so wasn't really evil, just prone to lose respect and, for rulers, lose the "Mandate of Heaven" and become likely to be overthrown.

Personally, I always find the concept of "evil" curious and wonder how it came about in some traditions, and not in others. It's a word I use, but generally in reference to a person's choices and actions that are particularly self-serving or harm others, but with the idea that it is rooted in ignorance - sort of the idea that it is human responsibility to exercise self-reflection and conscientious action, and that consistent failure to do so does eventually equate to moral failure and an ontological condition. Sort of an amalgam of western ethics onto eastern ideas of karma and spiritual knowledge.

The tricky thing, in my mind, is that "evil" is difficult to work out in the context of reincarnation or other sort of non-linear existence. The idea of Evil works best when there's an ultimate punishment coming; but when it's only temporary and you can work it out in purgatory or another life, is it really Evil? Doesn't the ability to expunge it sort of weaken Evil and make it just "really bad"?

This is a great question. I think a lot of times we just take for granted what "good" and "evil" is and use them in conversation, but rarely ever try to define them and see how the concepts work or don't work in our everyday life. I have an aunt I routinely call "the evil aunt" but certainly don't think she's actually Evil evil...but then there's the whole "banality of Evil" school of thought in western philosophy as well, which makes evil much more commonplace.
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[User Picture]From: ananda_ren
2006-11-05 05:15 am (UTC)
DRAT! I missed closing a tag. Sorry about that.
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[User Picture]From: jinxalexander
2006-11-05 03:46 pm (UTC)
I just chose what was on my mind, I wanted to get some fun conversation started. I do remember either it was zen or dao that said that evil was only unbalance. Are there only three of us right now? Should we post on craigslist again. At some point it would be cool to actualy intereact with live people about this. Woot for philosophy and tea or whatever.
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[User Picture]From: ananda_ren
2006-11-05 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think only 3. Several people expressed interest but didn't seem to make it through the "join LJ" stage and I never heard any questions from them....

I've been considering pimping the group on some community or other, but I always feel rather shy and self-conscious about that. I'll put out another Craigslist thing with a link to the group, I just don't want us getting spammed with the usual CL drek.
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