Our "evilness"

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Monlam Tharchin
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Our "evilness"

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sat May 10, 2014 4:38 pm

One thing I've come across with a few Pure Land authors is the idea of our karmic negativity being so profound for such a long time that we're utterly incapable of any good, bad to the bone, just plain evil. Every goodness is an illusion, and only our badness is to be taken into account. I can find some quotes if need be.

I wanted to know what everyone's thoughts are on this, if this kind of view informs your practice and how.

My personal view is that humility is vital. This means realizing that none of us has the distinction of being eternally or purely anything, bad or good. We're just too small in scope, too fleeting, too utterly dependent on everything around us. It strikes me as a "world's worst dewdrop" award, or "my most hated cloud", a category mistake.

Turning to Amida at a time of seeing one's own futility is something I think many Pure Landers experience, I certainly do. However, once Amida has steadied us again, how can we say his name in honest gratitude if we feel our worldly selves aren't also gifts but terrible things to be cast aside? Please correct me anyone if you disagree, but it seems to me that this bad, helpless self still has a marvelous use: our lust and hatred can take refuge in Amida's name, after which Amida invariably reveals our calling as a play of Other-Power calling out to Other-Power, a trick of the light. The display of the self as another ghostly phenomena in Amida's generosity is, to me, striking, and not something to try to crush underfoot with self-loathing, nor praise above anything else. Why waste time despising or adoring your fingertip?
With some authors, I think the evilness of the ego is overemphasized. It can be summed up in one of the names for Amida, "inexpressible Light". We can't adequately express Amida, yet we do our best, aware of our shortcomings. We don't stay silent in shame.

I'd very much like to hear what everyone else has to say.

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by Admin_PC » Sat May 10, 2014 5:36 pm

I think it's part of the 3 hearts of entrusting that show up in the Visualization Sutra. This idea was fleshed out by Shan Tao, openly expounded by Honen, and still shows up in the writings of Shin teachers like Shinran & Rennyo. The first heart is the genuine heart and it means honestly looking at oneself, speaking honestly about one's practice, and being earnest in one's efforts to escape samsara via Pure Land birth. Funny enough, I'm finding huge parallels between this concept of the genuine heart and Bhante G's book "Mindfulness in Plain English". The second heart is the profound heart and it means the realization that one is flawed (bonbu nature), that one can't escape samsara by one's own efforts, and a reliance on the 18th vow. The third heart is the heart that dedicates merits to achieving birth in the Pure Land. These 3 hearts are not separate and they come about naturally through the practice.

ShanTao and Honen were pretty adamant that one needed a healthy disdain of the world of suffering in order to genuinely engage in the practice; lamenting those poor beings that didn't want to be born in the Pure Land. Shinran was honest (at least in the Tannisho) in saying that he sometimes he wasn't sure if he really wanted to go there.

The thing is that none of the 3 really recommended leaving the world to hide in the Pure Land for all of eternity. The idea was to attain Pure Land birth and then work to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings. The assurance of this birth (ojo, anshin, shinjin) was something that could be realized in this lifetime; and (at least in Shin teachings) it's after realizing this assurance that one really feels the gratitude. The main Shin practice then becomes "deep listening" for the workings of infinite compassion in one's life. These are specific instances that one makes a habit of recognizing and feeling grateful for; not really so much just a general sense of gratitude.

As mentioned above, all 3 schools of thought recommended realizing one's bonbu nature in order to cultivate this true reliance on the vow and the settlement of the confidence in one's Pure Land birth. The point of realizing one's bonbu nature is not to engage in any sort of self-hatred; it's to establish that reliance. Once that reliance is established, we realize that any good we perform is through the workings of infinite compassion and not our own calculated, self-interested doing.

At the same time, it's important to realize that we are accepted just as we are. It's the world of the 3-poisons that we wish to cast aside; the suffering. To achieve a Pure Land birth means to embody (ie take on the adornments) of the 37 limbs of enlightenment and work to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings. We don't cast aside our limited selves, so much as realize our limitations and drop the thinking that we have the control to be able to dictate our enlightenment.
[b]Gatha in Praise of Amida Buddha[/b] by Master T'an Luan (Jp. Donran) wrote:Immeasurable is the Light of Wisdom (sic: of non-descrimination);
So the Buddha is called 'Immeasurable Light'.
All limited beings are blessed by the Light.
Hence, I bow my head to the Truly Luminant One.

Boundless is the Light-wheel of Deliverance:
So the Buddha is called 'Boundless Light'.
Those touched by the Light are freed of being and non-being.
Hence, I bow my head to the Equal Enlightenment

The Light-cloud is unhindered like open space;
So the Buddha is called 'Unhindered Light'.
All those with hindrances are blessed by the Light.
Hence, I prostrate myself and worship the Inconceivable One.
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by Arjan Dirkse » Sun May 11, 2014 10:29 pm

Evil no, I would say it's an exaggeration to call oneself evil, and it could be counterproductive to view oneself in that light. Most people are drawn towards wanting to do good. I feel compassion towards myself because I recognize that ultimately I want to do good, even if I fail to do so at times.

Other people are the no different, if you look you can see that same struggle in most other people, people just trying to get through the day, with all their worries and grief and other imperfections.

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by steveb1 » Mon May 12, 2014 1:25 am

The spiritual meaning of being evil is that it wholly illuminates the ground fact that we simply cannot save ourselves. It is not that we cannot do good; it is that our good deeds are tainted with our evil nature; again, it is not that we cannot do good - it is that our badness is irremedial in this age of Dharma decline.

It is our very badness that makes us realize that Other Power is essential for our salvation and fulfilment in Buddhahood. As the Christians say, "O felix culpa!" - Oh, holy failing, that brought salvation to us. Oh, happy state of bombu, which provokes Amida's unearned salvific grace and the gift of Shinjin.

As many Shin writers say: "The first step is failure". That is, the first step is the realization that we cannot save ourselves because our blind passions prevent us from perceiving Buddhism's transcendent truths.

The second step is Amida's embrace. Our badness is not decisive for Amida. On the contrary - again to cite Christian sentiment - Amida accepts me "just as I am, without one plea".

Amida's total acceptance means that we do not need to fret over the badness in our natures. Just as Amida overlooks it, so to should we forgive ourselves, and others, then move on.

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by steveb1 » Mon May 12, 2014 3:00 am

A poster said that it "seems Augustinian to me". I can't find that post even though I just rec'd email notification. Anyway, this is what I would ask the poster or anyone else who is following this thread:

I don't know Augustine except from memorable citations from his works, his Mom's involvement in his piety, the Donatists - etc.

I think I know "Saint" Paul a little better. Unlike that standard Protestant claim, Paul did not really proclaim salvation as a free gift. After all, even if there is only one requirement for salvation, then you have a type of "works" religion that Paul and Luther supposedly opposed. Paul's "have to's" include belief in Israel's deity, the invalidation of Torah/and acceptance of Christ's "new" covenant, acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior, the priority of Jesus' Spirit/the Holy Spirit, the efficacy of Pauline Baptism and Eucharist - etc.

Can you please tell me if Augustine "filtered down" Paul's salvation theology - that is, refined its requirements into a truly works-free redemption of grace? Is this what you mean when you see Amida's free gift - a system of no works/no requirements that resembles Augustine's system (presuming I guessed right about what you see as Augustinian in Shin)?

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by Wayfarer » Mon May 12, 2014 8:48 am

That was me. I was debating with myself whether to post it. But read this paragraph from Wikipedia on the Augustinian 'doctrine of total depravity':
Wikipedia wrote:Total depravity (also called radical corruption, or pervasive depravity), is a theological doctrine derived from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.
In Christian thinking, of course, the point is that you are loved regardless, even though you don't deserve it, and what is required is that you accept that, this acceptance being the essence of faith.

So this is undeniably similar to the sentiments expressed in the OP. I think it comes from the same 'place' in some way, even if the tradition is a different one.

The reason I deleted it, is because I know this is a site dedicated to Buddhism - according to 'Terms of Use' - 'This is not a "comparative religion site", it is a site to learn and discuss the Buddha's teachings without animosity.' So I had deleted it in case it violated that.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Our "evilness"

Post by steveb1 » Mon May 12, 2014 8:58 am

I getcha - thanks for the explanations :)

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