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The Subjugation of Evil

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I came across this article today in Tricycle and thought it was interesting...

https://tricycle.org/magazine/evil-in-esoteric-japanese-buddhism/

It is an essay on how a certain form of Buddhism in Japan focuses on the subjugation of evil, that is, those things that hinder the dharma. It appears at first glance a little counter to how Buddhism is usually perceived, the closest thing I have found to evil in conventional Buddhism are the klesha’s and they are wholly internal. Anyway, if it piques your interest have a look and we can discuss.

personkando

Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I don't have time right now to read the whole article. But just from the first bit I was able to get through, I notice many similarities with Tibetan practice. They talk often about conquering and overcoming harmful impressions in the mind and spirits in the world. Japan has a strong martial tradition so its not so surprising that the language of Buddhism there took on some aspect of that.

    I can imagine that with this sort of rhetoric it would be vital to keep a wholesome intention and maintain a solid tradition or it could easily pervert into a justification for all sorts of harmful actions. For example was any of this sort of thinking used to justify Japan's military actions in WWII?

    Keromekando
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @person said:
    I don't have time right now to read the whole article. But just from the first bit I was able to get through, I notice many similarities with Tibetan practice. They talk often about conquering and overcoming harmful impressions in the mind and spirits in the world.

    Yes, I noticed that as well, and the Tibetan traditions also sometimes talk about wrathful deities, for example in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which bear somewhat of a resemblance to what’s discussed for the Japanese tradition.

    Japan has a strong martial tradition so its not so surprising that the language of Buddhism there took on some aspect of that.

    That’s right especially since this esoteric tradition was popular around the time when Chinese Buddhism was first brought to Japan. There is the whole idea of using a ritual to subdue the spirit of the enemy and thus assure success in battle, in return for which a ruler would sponsor a temple. To our modern minds this looks like ‘magic’ and is quickly discredited, but back then it was significant as an influence.

    I can imagine that with this sort of rhetoric it would be vital to keep a wholesome intention and maintain a solid tradition or it could easily pervert into a justification for all sorts of harmful actions. For example was any of this sort of thinking used to justify Japan's military actions in WWII?

    About WWII I don’t actually know, though it wouldn’t surprise me. But the wholesome intention would certainly need to be a focal point...

    person
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    Japanese Buddhists love saying complicated things like "the Buddha and the Devil are one and the same" and "evil is bodhi". >:)

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited October 24

    I'm not altogether sure how to respond when I encounter these discourses in Tendai-shū, so I usually just figure that X or Y philosopher was simply too clever for me.

    The answer usually is: "... because of emptiness."

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    Another one is "Who was the Buddha's greatest teacher?"

    "Māra."

    lobsterFosdickkando
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Struck by the phrase 'we live in a time of great ambiguity' - only too true! great article @kerome. Needs pondering.

  • Only Jesus/Osho/Buddha/Trump/Socialism etc can save us ...
    http://jesus-is-savior.com/False Religions/Buddhism/satanic.htm

    Hell yeah!

    There I was (and this is a true story) talking to myself ... and the devil/mara/speghetti monster/baby Jesus/👺/big nose/clown/balloon came and burst ...

    And now back to the meditation ...
    Hail Satin!

    kando
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 26

    @Kerome said:
    I came across this article today in Tricycle and thought it was interesting...

    https://tricycle.org/magazine/evil-in-esoteric-japanese-buddhism/

    It is an essay on how a certain form of Buddhism in Japan focuses on the subjugation of evil, that is, those things that hinder the dharma. It appears at first glance a little counter to how Buddhism is usually perceived, the closest thing I have found to evil in conventional Buddhism are the klesha’s and they are wholly internal. Anyway, if it piques your interest have a look and we can discuss.

    Interesting article. I honestly wasn't very familiar with Shingon, but it sounds a lot like a combination of mantra, mudra, and visualization practices that are utilized to develop compassion, wisdom, and ultimately, an awakened mind, very similar to many Vajrayana techniques. I can see the appeal of such a practice, and how the effects might reverberate out into the external world. (It also explains all of the priest characters in half the animes I've ever watched.) That said, I can also see how people might fall into a kind of magical thinking and misuse these techniques. I'm sure having a good teacher is key to not wandering of the path and into a thicket of clinging to rites and rituals.

    As for the existence of evil itself, I agree that it's ultimately an internal phenomenon. For example, here's something I wrote a while back on it:

    Many people new to Buddhism often ask about evil, especially whether it 'exists' in some objective sense. In most cases, this is usually the result of a Christian upbringing and familiarity with Christian theology, which presents evil as an objectively existent entity or force, personified by the most infamous scapegoat the world has ever known, the Devil.

    Buddhism, on the other hand, is, philosophically speaking, more or less empirical and pragmatic in nature. Things like 'good' and 'evil' aren't really given any sort of ontological status in the suttas.

    For example, in regard to actions, bad actions are deemed 'bad' or 'unskillful' if they lead to to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both. Good actions, on the other hand, are deemed 'good' or 'skillful' if they don't lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both (MN 61). In other words, these are descriptive labels that are limited to observable qualities and experiences (adjectives), not self-existent entities (nouns).

    In the context of actions (kamma), the Pali term kusala, often translated as 'skillful' or 'wholesome,' basically means that which is not conducive to harm and pain, but to benefit and pleasure (AN 2.19). It denotes doing something well, such as in the case of playing a lute (see AN 6.55). The Pali term akusala (composed of the negative prefix a- + kusala), often translated as 'unskillful' or 'unwholesome,' basically means the opposite, or that which is not conducive to benefit and pleasure, but to harm and pain.

    The Pali word that's usually translated as 'evil' is papa, which can also be translated as 'bad,' 'demerit' or 'wrong action' depending on the context. It seems to me that papa has a stronger, more negative connotation than akusala, but they're more or less synonymous.

    So when looking at the question of evil in Buddhism from this perspective, it can certainly be said to exist in a subjective sense, and I'd say it's an appropriate descriptor for qualities that most people would agree to be extremely shocking and harmful. But as far as I can tell, Buddhism refrains from presenting evil as something which exists independently of us, something 'out there' as it were. And while Buddhism has its own scapegoat in the form of Mara, he's generally used as a metaphor for the psychological clinging to the aggregates that gives rise to suffering, not to an independent being.

    lobsterkando
  • Intentional bad, hurtful, exploitative, malicious behaviour exists. It somtimes exists in religious people to a terrible degree.

    Yikes!

    The deeper and skilful use of the confrontation, exploitation of wrathful/demon tantra yidams is not to protect evil but to root it out and dissolve its ignorance.

    Roast the Turkey! :3
    https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/10/2/16394320/mindful-resistance-key-defeating-trump-mindfulness

  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @Vimalajāti said:
    Japanese Buddhists love saying complicated things like "the Buddha and the Devil are one and the same" and "evil is bodhi". >:)

    Yes, but do they say it with a twinkle in the eye and that kind of quarter smile Japanese women especially are so good at? :) the article is well argued but I find the idea of enforced enlightenment more than a little peculiar. It's worth noting that Kukai started out as a civil servant. I bet there's a really long complicated form attached to the ritual processes somewhere. In triplicate.

    person
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Done a bit more digging on this and Akshobhya, of the Eastern Pure Land, lis an important figure in Shingon, and this quote from the online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia may shed some light, I found it helpful.

    'the path of Enlightenment through the Vajra family (Akshobhya is one of the family!) is seen as breaking free of constraints and obstacles, transmuting negativity, and is generally more dynamic'

    Transmutation is a more acceptable word as far as I'm concerned than subjugation.

    lobster
  • Transmutation is a more acceptable word as far as I'm concerned than subjugation.

    Indeed. Wait till you have Nothing to transform. Evil
    https://www.taoistic.com/taoquotes/taoquotes-05-non-action.htm

    kando
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    The transformation of Samhain to Halloween?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said: The transformation of Samhain to Halloween?

    The same, but different....

  • @Vimalajāti said:
    Japanese Buddhists love saying complicated things like "the Buddha and the Devil are one and the same" and "evil is bodhi". >:)

    They are complex teachings AND unfortunately without guidance and depth open to abuse by Westerners or the shallow minded, immature, mad, those justifying bad/unskilful behavour ...

    Our reaction and usage of such material must be tempered. Just as the capacity to see existence as a Pureland (Heavenly Field or Realm) is a skilful usage of Dharma Faith for those so disposed ...
    https://purelandbuddhism.info/how-to-chant/

    kandopersonVimalajāti
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    The transformation of Samhain to Halloween?

    And Astara to Easter, and Yule to Christmas...... Darn those monkish spin doctors! :)

  • The Pali word that's usually translated as 'evil' is papa, which can also be translated as 'bad,' 'demerit' or 'wrong action' depending on the context. It seems to me that papa has a stronger, more negative connotation than akusala, but they're more or less synonymous.

    My Papa was evil? Explains a lot ... ;)

    Here are the numbers ...

    On the whole focus on right action, right being (not being right) and overcoming our tendencies is quite a work ...

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    My favourite Papa (Emeritus III):

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