Few schools of Buddhism dared take non-duality to its logical conclusion. Zen teachers often dare, yet none were as radical as the Taintai school, and Siming Zhili (960–1028) went to the very end and concluded: 

“Other than the devil, there is no Buddha;..other than the Buddha, there is no devil.”

Likewise, many Zen masters said simular things, such as Lin-chi who said, “Followers of the Way” not to “take the Buddha to be some sort of ultimate goal. In my view he’s more like the hole in a privy.” [ZT 76] “Bodhisattvas and arhats are all so many cangues and chains, things for fettering people.” [ZT 76] “If you seek the Buddha, you’ll be seized by the Buddha devil. If you seek the patriarchs, you’ll be fettered by the patriarch devil.

As long as you seek something it can only lead to suffering. Better to do nothing.” [ZT 47] “things like the Three Vehicles and the twelve divisions of the scriptural teachings — they’re all so much old toilet paper to wipe away filth.”The problem of evil is often concerned the killer blow for monotheism for how could a good God create and/or tolerate evil. What is not often recognised is that Zen Buddhism has a similar problem since Buddha-nature must contain evil if it contains good which is something most people don’t want to accept.All Mahayana Buddhist thought accepts that our Buddha-nature is the original state of our existence, and we need to clear away our delusions and mistaken views to regain access to this original Buddha-nature. This is the theory of ‘inherent containment’ (xing-ju). This, however, raises its own ‘problem of evil’ since how can Buddhists explain away or to deal with the existence of this evil?

THE PROBLEMS:* Buddhism preaches nondiscrimination, then why discriminate against evil people and evil actions?* If the world is the result of, the transformation of pure consciousness, or the transformation of the Buddha-nature, then where did evil come from?* If the essence of existence is fundamentally empty (sunyata), then where do defilement’s and contamination attach themselves?* If, from the highest point of view, good and evil are equally empty, then why should discriminate and choose between them?* If without evil as a contrast there would be no good, then should we actually be grateful for the presence of the wicked and the malevolent people in our world?

Zen teachings are quite clear on the position of nondiscrimination insisting that “[Bodhisattva’s] will not discriminate between good and evil” and “the discrimination of virtuous or non-virtuous conduct must be used as one uses a raft and abandoned once one reaches the other side” [1]. Despite general recognition, this nonduality implies ‘inherent evil’ (xing-er) in Buddha-nature which is why the Tiantai School taught that our nature contains the realm of Buddha as well as the realms of hell, gods and hungry ghosts. Therefore both the pure, impure, good and evil are inherently entailed in human nature.

Zen proposes that all suffering and unhappiness are caused by dualistic thinking. The Xinxin Ming begins, “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.” Over and over again Zen insists things are neither real nor not real, neither empty nor not empty and to see things in an either-or fashion is to be deceived by delusion which is what Huineng meant when he instructed: “do not think about any good or evil”. This is what Seung Sahn kunsunim meant when he said,

“Good and evil have no self-nature; Holy and unholy are empty names; In front of the door is the land of stillness and quiet;Spring comes, grass grows by itself.”There is a paradox here because as a Buddhist we must aim to do good, while knowing that no such thing is possible and speak the truth while accepting that even suggesting there is ‘spiritual truth’ to speak is to slander the Buddha (cf, Diamond sutra [2]). In practice, this is to follow the advice of Suziki that “when the Buddha comes welcome him, and when the Devil comes welcome him also” [3]. It’s the same advise looked at from the other side given by Linji Yixuan (臨濟義玄) who said “if you meet the Buddha, kill him” and that “Buddha is [not] some sort of ultimate goal but more like the hole in a privy.

”To make Buddha into something pure and wonderful to be contrasted with something else impure and despicable is to fall into a dualistic trap but “when we no longer see good and evil as opposites, when we syncretize them into one, we come to see a world filled with blossoming lotuses. When we see the true noble nature of Satan, we then realise that each lotus is a Buddha and every place is a Buddhafield!” [4] This is why it’s so important to realise that, “other than the Buddha, there is no devil and other than the devil there is no Buddha” [5].

REFERENCES [1] 何以故?是诸众生,无复我相、人相、众生相、寿者相,无法相,亦无非法相。何以故?是诸众生若心取相,即为着我、人、众生、寿者。若取法相,即着我、人、众生、寿者。何以故?若取非法相,即着我、人、众生、寿者。是故不应取法,不应取非法。以是义故,如来常说:汝等比丘!知我说法,如筏喻者;法尚应舍,何况非法?」

[2] My own translation:”No spiritual truths,saying so slanders the Buddha,and as to speaking the truth,then there is no truth,and no truth can be spoken,that’s what we call speaking truth!”Original sutra:”非說所說分第二十一「須菩提,汝勿謂如來作是念:『我當有所諡法舅 ;莫作是念。何以故?若人言:『如來有所說法』,即爲謗佛,不能解我所說故。須菩提,說法者,無法可說,是名說法。”[

3] Shunryu Suzuki, (1970), Zen Mind Beginners Mind, Weatherhill, New York, p. 43

[4] Seongcheol kunsunim, (1987), Vesak speech, Searching for Water Within Water,, accessed 26/11/2016

[5] Taintai Master Siming Zhili (960–1028) REFERENCES1993, Lin-chi, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi: A Translation of the Lin-Chi Lu, Boston and London: Shambhala. [ZT]

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