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Tuesday, May 02, 2023


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Yes, evil cannot be eliminated. But then there's this, and it is true if you ask me:

“In the Louvre there is a picture, by Guido Reni, of St. Michael with his foot on Satan's neck. The richness of the picture is in large part due to the fiend's figure being there. The richness of its allegorical meaning also is due to his being there—that is, the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.”

― William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902.

(But we aren't keeping our foot there very well right now.)

The root of evil, its eradication, and the link to the misuse of human free will are, for the Buddhist, to be found in the concept of Taṇhā. This is loosely translated as "craving", and is cognate with our English word "thirst". All of the blameworthy mental states (like jealousy, envy, anger, lust, presumptuousness, etc.) are variants; and - depending on the degree of insight one has attained, or the amount of faith one is prepared to entertain - it can also function as the explanation of "natural evils" like the pains of sickness and ageing.

It is different from chanda, which is the properly-directed will. In sutta-based Buddhism, one has every right and encouragement to cultivate skilful desires and act so as to free oneself from all types of evil.

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