What Is Evil?

When a question arises, there is always an answer, but it may a little time to find a way to express this, illustrating how deep we can go in our understanding.

We normally think of ‘evil’ as something others do, but evil is at the very heart of our troubled existence. Evil intent is anything that causes harm to the body, speech or mind. This ‘harm’ distracts and obscures pure consciousness. That is what we are – pure consciousness – and so, evil is anything that obscures our true nature of inner peace. Even spiritual teachings can obscure our true nature if we don’t practise them! That is why the Buddha said, “Do not take my word for it.”

Our true nature is purity itself – pure consciousness/uncontaminated emptiness. Now, here is the thing; evil and purity are synonymous: by virtue of one, the other can be known.

This is the ultimate realisation of the two truths of relative truth and ultimate truth. Ultimate truth is pure consciousness. When ordinary consciousness forgets its pure, empty state, then consciousness relates to whatever it sees as being the truth. But this is only relative, conventional truth. This relative truth is ignorant of its ultimate nature.

For most of us, both evil and purity suggest something going on ‘over there’ which is nothing to do with us – but they are right here, right now. Evil is anything that obscures our pure consciousness. Evil contaminates the atmosphere to allow bad thoughts and actions to take place.

To ordinary people, thoughts are a way of life; thoughts create emotions and we just live with them, going up and down throughout life. It is our lot. This is our norm so, in this case, evil is anything immoral; horrific acts done by evil doers. This is, however, merely an extreme of our own mental afflictions of likes and dislikes, and we fail to see the causes and conditions that allowed this evil to arise. This evil was created by the idea of ‘me’ and ‘mine’– an image of self that forgot its true nature and allowed selfishness to arise.

Selfishness obscures our inner peace. This clinging to a self is the cause of suffering; it is being self-centred. Evil is simply the selfishness of likes and dislikes. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s poem states:

“…Mara (evil) lies in ambush;
Mara is our own likes and dislikes…”

To a spiritual practitioner, however, evil is synonymous with wisdom! This evil (devil) is our final helper. Just before the moment of enlightenment, the Buddha was attacked by Mara-demons – it was they who pushed him over the edge! The very moment in which evil obscurations are recognised, that recognition is realised by pure consciousness! We are “free in the moment of seeing”. This is the meaning of the unity of the two truths of ultimate truth and relative truth.

When we rest in ultimate truth – pure consciousness – then, when anything harmful arises as an obstacle, it is clearly seen, and pure consciousness remains unaffected. That is wisdom “free in the moment of seeing”.

Evil is banal.
It is lacking originality,
and relies on our clinging to likes and dislikes.

We have to be always mindful in body, speech and mind.

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