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Lions Roar : May 2015
There may be no good or evil in absolute reality, but in the relative world there certainly is. When people do such terrible things, can we really believe in human goodness? ZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER tackles B EHEADINGS. DRONE ATTACKS. SUICIDE BOMBERS. Mass shootings in malls, movie theaters, and office build- ings. Religious fanatics slaughtering innocents, sometimes by the thousands, in an effort to purify the world according to their lights. The world today seems more filled with evil than ever. But no doubt people felt this in 1918, 1946, and afterward, as they reeled with the shock of then-contemporary events. How could our reasonable, scien- tific, enlightened, and progressive culture, in its most promising cen- tury, have produced two world wars, the Holocaust, mass starvations, and the long, terrifying shadow of nuclear weapons? We have been trying to digest this crisis of culture for a hundred years, to understand the perceived failure of modern Western civiliza- tion, and the horrors, confusion, and despair it has left in its wake. Meantime, the planet is heating up every day—with as-yet-unknown but certainly dire consequences—and humanity can’t seem to find the political will to do anything about it. And all of this is perpetrated by people, ordinary human beings like you and me. How do we understand human nature in the light of these sobering realities? How do we reconcile our hope that people are basically good with all the evil in the world? ZEN BUDDHISM is usually characterized as a nondualistic tradition. In the realm of the absolute—of oneness, self-nature, true nature, bud- dhanature, etc.—good and evil are aspects of the one reality. There is no fundamental difference between them. As the Sixth Zen Ancestor challenges: “Without thinking good or bad, what is your Original Face?” All things, no matter what they are, are as they are; they can’t be some other way. And what they are is buddha, the absolute reality beyond good and evil (and every other dualism). The Problem of Evil SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 54