Saturday, January 24, 2009

Where is evil?

Today I spent a really nice afternoon with friends, a little hot & sour soup at a Vietnamese Restaurant and then we watched a PBS video from a series on India.  It was interesting to be reminded that although the Buddha was born, reached enlightenment and died in India, Buddhism virtually died out in India.

But to me the most interesting part, was the story of King Ashoka who was by all reports a violent warrior responsible for the deaths of thousands.  At some point in his life he realized the error of his ways and gave up everything to go to live out the rest of his life as a holy man. There is a similarity to the of the story of Milarepa in Tibet, again someone responsible for great atrocities who then becomes a dedicated monk.

These stories reminded me that it can be the case that those capable of great atrocities can convert that evil into good.  Sometimes we humans sink down to the depths of despair or bad behaviour before we (or is it in order to) see the light and change.  It reminded me that we need to be careful not to judge what we see and to remember "what do we know?" in the grand scheme of things, that all things come into being and pass.  Now this is not condoning violence or making light of it.  What seems horrific or bad to us may have a purpose we can't possibly understand with our little minds.  It's like the question "why do bad things happen to good people?"  My teacher will often answer this with "something is working itself out."   Maybe you want to call it karma or not.  Maybe we can just say we only see a little part of the picture.  Or maybe we could say, who are we to judge what is good or bad.  And who are we to think we can understand everything with our logical minds?

It is difficult to watch atrocities, see scenes of mindless violence and not flinch or feel angry or despair.  I was reminded of this over at the Humble Yogini's blog as she talked about a film called Gommora set in the slums of Italy.  And yet....
we can't change what has happened and perhaps we can't do anything to personally alter what is going on in places of great darkness.  I guess it is always to keep working away personally in our own little patch of turf, making a difference there, working in small or larger ways as they seem appropriate.  

As we watched the India thing and chatted afterwards a friend talked about her grown son who had come home to live with her for a while.  And while she has found it difficult, she said she can see how he has been her great teacher because he has shown her where she is still angry, where she still has work to do... that she likes to think of herself as peaceful but her son shows her where she is not.   It makes me think of the Dalai Lama's comment this: "To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else."  The fact that humans have varying degrees of greed, hate and delusion create the potential for us all to act in unwholesome ways.

So I guess our work is to not loose heart, or to loose heart and find it again... to embrace our little self when we feel disheartened by the shadow of great darkness and know like everything in the world, that this too shall pass.  

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