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Americans Find Guidance in Buddhism
By Ven. Dr. Walpola Piyananda, Chief Sangha Nayake of America

In recent years Americans have begun to read more about the Buddhist doctrine.  Buddhism can be explained as a religion, a philosophy, a way of life or an explanation to the cycle of life.  Einstein states, “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion.  It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology.  Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.  Buddhism answers this description.  ... If ever there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

In 1994, the ABC Nightly News with Peter Jennings reported in a major feature on Buddhism that it had grown to about 6 million followers, making Buddhism in America a religious movement significantly larger than many Protestant denominations.  Today, almost 10 years later, I may not be wrong to state that there are over 15 million followers of Buddhism.  This increase proves that the Western world is turning towards the Eastern religion of Buddhism to guide them in their daily lives as well as on their spiritual path.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a living icon dedicating his life to promote peace in the world.  There are many others such as Richard Gere, Steven Segal, Goldie Hawn, Tina Turner and Uma Thurman who are practicing Buddhism.  Coach Phil Jackson used the principles of Buddhism in his professional career when he led the Chicago Bulls to their many championship titles.  He is continuing to be successful as evidenced by the Los Angeles Lakers and their third championship title.

In this stressful world of uncertainty people do need guidance to carry on their daily life.  Buddhism provides the seeker with mental calm and development.  When the mind is developed, the body functions well.  When the mind is weak, the body is also weak.  Physicians agree that a pure mind cleanses the blood, and as a result the body strengthens its immune system.  Stress is recognized as a major cause of causing the body’s natural, internal chemical function to become imbalanced leaving it open to disease.  As human beings we have to face numerous problems that eventually make our existence stressful.  Nowadays there is no job security fear of losing a job is stressful.  Everything depends on one’s earnings.  There is the fear of losing one’s home due to the inability to pay the mortgage that creates a strain.  Then follows the family problems.  Rich or poor, there can be problems with addiction to any number of things: drugs, gambling, compulsive buying, eating disorders, and other sense stimuli that cause havoc with one’s life.  All these accumulate to create a very stressful condition.

However stress is caused, it has been proven that meditation helps to reduce it.  The Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center states that meditation is the only way to reduce stress.

A group of distinguished medical researchers including Thomas H. Winters, M.D. Director, Medsite Occupational Health Center in Quincy, Massachusetts and James Dalen, M.D., M.P.H. Dean at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center both positively believe that meditation is the way to eradicate stress.  Furthermore, Dr. Winters finds that meditation is a self-regulating modality that helps people improve their coping skills in their life.  That it is a necessary pressure relief valve in this era.

The popular psychologist, Ken Welber in his book “Transformation of Consciousness” states that Buddhist meditation is the only way to reduce stress.  Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, “Full Catastrophe Living” firmly states that the “Satipatthana Sutta” explains the meditation techniques to practice in order to protect one’s immune system.  Two other well-known American scholars, Mark Epstein, M.D. (“Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart” and “Thoughts Without a Thinker”) and Daniel Goleman (“Body, Mind, and Medicine” and “Emotional Intelligence”) support this statement.

A famous Australian physician, Ian Gawler M.D. developed bone cancer.  It was declared terminal by his physicians, however, under the guidance of his psychiatrist the late Ainslie Meares, M.D. he started to practice meditation and to the surprise of all doctors, he was found free of cancer.  This led Dr. Gawler to write two books titled, “You Can Conquer Cancer” and “Peace of Mind.”

Some people will definitely doubt whether a sickness like cancer can be cured by meditation alone.  Dr. Gawler states that the chemical unbalance causing cancer can be controlled by a pure, steady mind.  The defilements explained in Buddhism as anger, ill will, hatred, jealousy, and etc. pollute the mind.  A polluted mind causes stress.  This damages the immune system and sometimes even destroys it.  As a result the chemical balance in the body is lost.  This opens the door to various sicknesses.  Through the practice of Buddhist meditation the mind and body, both relax.  A calm mind can reinstate a normal chemical balance.  In its natural state of balance the body has a tremendous potential and ability to maintain and repair itself.  Although by meditation alone many illnesses can be cured, it must be stated that a physician’s advice is also indispensable.  When one practices meditation these defilements can be removed.  Once the defilements are removed there is no stress, and the immune system functions normally.

As practitioners of meditation, we should learn to control our senses.  We should have a strong discipline to control our visual desires, along with our emotional upheavals.  Our temptations must be controlled.  Our intelligence should guide our senses.

In the Majhima Nikaya, Dvedhavitakka Sutra, Buddha explains that there are two types of thoughts that arise in our mind.  There are wholesome and unwholesome thoughts.  The wholesome thoughts are non-ill will, non-hatred, and non-cruelty.  The unwholesome thoughts are ill will, hatred and cruelty.  When a thought arises, we must examine it.  If the thought is of benefit to both others, and ourselves we must develop it.  If it is harmful to others, or ourselves we must eliminate the thought.  An example of this can be shown by the life story of the famous mathematician, John Nash, Ph. D. who was a victim of schizophrenia.  Even though we can climb to the top of our professional ladder, if we cannot discipline our mind, we will be faced with many problems, as was John Nash.  He had hallucinations of unrealistic phenomena.  He spent time in mental institutions, receiving shock treatments that could not rid him of his delusions.  The medication prescribed for him caused him to lose mental clarity.  When he stopped the medications, the hallucinations reappeared.  Then with the realization that the hallucinations were in fact his own thoughts, he determined to overcome them.  With the help of his wife, he began to sort out his thoughts: what was reality and what was imagination.  His determination and will power enabled him to recognize the real world.  He worked as a professor at Princeton University and won the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics.  But most importantly he proved that the human mind is capable of overcoming any circumstance.  The movie “A Beautiful Mind” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture for 2001 was based on his life story.

The human mind has the ability to overcome and face any eventuality with the use of his or her willpower and wisdom.

“Mind is the forerunner of all actions.  All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.  If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, suffering follows, as the wheel follows the hoof of an ox pulling a cart. If one speaks or acts with a serene mind, happiness follows, as surely as one’s shadow. ”Dhammapada
Buddhist Development in North America
By Ven. Dr. Walpola Piyananda, Chief Sangha Nayake of America

The Buddha told us, “O Bhikkhus, go and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world.  Proclaim, O Bhikkhus, the Teaching glorious; preach a life of holiness, perfect and pure.”  As members of the Buddhist Sangha we have taken this directive very seriously.

The history of Buddhism in the New World is very interesting, and its study is full of many surprises – the first one being the discovery of America, which has long been accredited to Christopher Columbus.  According to some scholars, it was actually Chinese Buddhist monks who discovered America during their missionary tour in 1421 – 70 years before Columbus made his fateful voyage in 1492.

Another interesting fact is that Thomas Jefferson’s co-drafter of the US Constitution Thomas Paine, from England, was a student of Buddhism.  This may be why the constitution has the liberal, humanitarian slant that it has.

Charles Francis Adams, the son of America’s fourth president, John Quincy Adams, was a poet and also a Buddhist.  One of his little known accomplishments is that he translated the Sutta Nipata into the English language.

Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), was the attorney general of the State of Illinois.  He studied Buddhism and appreciated the Teaching.  He is called by most historians an agnostic because he criticized the Bible and the concept of God.  He also gave credit to Buddhism for its contribution to humanistic philosophy.

In 1880 Col. Henry Steel Olcott, co-founder of the Theosophical Society with Madame H. P. Blavatsky, went to Sri Lanka and helped revive Buddhism, which was then in a state of decline.  They were the first two Westerners to formally take the pancha sila and publicly declare themselves Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

Anagarika Dharmapala went to Chicago in 1883 for the World Parliament of Religions.  He was the first person to speak about Theravada Buddhism in America.  It is interesting to note that there were five American Buddhists in the audience.

The Chinese came to America in the 19th century to build the railroads, and in the process they founded their own Buddhist temples all across the country. 

The Japanese also came to America in the 19th century, and founded their Buddhist temples, mainly in Hawaii and California.  The Jodo Shinshu sect started the Institute of Buddhist Studies for training Judo Shinshu priests in Berkeley, California during the 1970’s.  In 1976 Ven. Madawala Seelawimala joined the teaching staff of this institution, and taught courses in the Theravada Buddhist tradition for the first time; he still teaches there to this day.  Ven. Seelawimala also started Theravada temples in Sacramento, California, and in Vancouver, B.C., Canada

After the Korean War in the 1950’s, many Koreans immigrated to America.  The American involvement in the war allowed Christian missionaries who worked aggressively to convert the Buddhist population.  Buddhist immigrants founded many temples throughout the US and Canada.

The Vietnamese War brought immigrants to the US and Canada from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  They brought with them their Buddhist religion, and founded Buddhist temples in their many communities.

Free-thinkers and scholars from the 1960’s like Father Thomas Merton, Alan Watts, and Robert Thurman introduced various forms of Buddhism to the West.

Scientists such as Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Fritjof Capra, J. Robert Oppenheimer and others have written about the convergence of science and Buddhism. 

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has contributed greatly to bringing Buddhism into the forefront of Western consciousness.  His charisma captured the imagination of the Hollywood film industry, and many celebrities embraced Buddhism and became his followers.  Several films, including “Seven Years in Tibet,” “Kundun,” “Siddhartha,” and “The Little Buddha” brought Buddhism into the public view.

Even though Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, isn’t the true story of Buddha’s life, many Westerners were introduced to Buddhism through its pages.

The last three decades have seen many Baby Boomers discovering Buddhism for the first time.  Authors such as Ram Dass, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sylvia Boorstein, and others introduced Buddhist principles and philosophy to this generation.

There are many Jewish people in America who have discovered Buddhism, and are now called “Jew-Bud” or “Bud-Jews.”  One such American of Jewish descent is Theravada monk, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.  He was trained in Sri Lanka and has been instrumental in the translation of great portions of the Pali Canon into present day English thus making it accessible to the English speaking population.  He is an imminent scholar to whom we are indebted for his great service to the Buddha sasana.

Today in most universities throughout North America there are many courses of study that include Buddhist literature and art – both in depth and in comparative curriculum contexts.  The first professor of Theravada Buddhism in America was Dr. Ananda Koomarassamy.  He taught Buddhism at Harvard University in the late 1930’s. 

Dr. Walpola Rahula taught Buddhist Studies at Northwestern University from 1964 to 1969, and then at UCLA as visiting lecturer.  He also taught at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.  His book “What the Buddha Taught,” is a very popular introduction to Buddhism for Americans.  This academic contact with Buddhism has enabled the development of Buddhist scholars such as Dr. George Bond of Northwestern University, author of many books and articles.  Others are Dr. James W. Boyd, who taught at Colorado State University, and Dr. Shanta Ratnayaka of the University of Georgia. 

Ven. Ariyadhamma Thera taught Buddhist Studies for over four decades in a center he founded in Los Angeles.  He arrived in America in the mid 1940’s, having been born in Burma to a Dutch family, and educated at Calcutta University.

The Bhikkhuni Order in the Chinese Mahayana tradition has a long history dating from its first ordinations in the 5th century C.E, and they continue to do great service wherever they are based.  Unfortunately in the Theravada tradition the Bhikkhuni Order died out several centuries ago, and has only been revived in the last decade.  In 1996 the first high ordination of Theravada Bhikkhunis was held at Saranath, and it was organized by the late Ven. Mapalagama Wipulasara Maha Thera, General Secretary of the Indian Maha Bodhi Society, with the help Ven. Walpola Piyananda Maha Thera of Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, and other Sangha members.  Presently in America there are many Mahayana Bhikkhunis and some Theravada Bhikkhunis scattered in various places throughout the world.  American born Bhikkhuni, Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma, has been a Mahayana Vietnamese bhikkhuni for three decades, and has dedicated her life to the propagation of Buddhism.  A few years ago two Theravada bhikkunis, formerly physicians, were ordained at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara by Ven. Walpola Piyananda, and they continue to work in the US.

Technology was perhaps the most influential motivator of the spread of Buddhism in North America.  With the advent of the Boeing 707, young people went in droves to Asia for the first time.  Prior to the 1960’s, travel of this kind was reserved for the rich and the idle – those who could afford the time and expense of long ocean voyages.  For the first time, masses of people – most of them young college students – were able to hop a plane and visit Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and other exotic lands.  These students brought Buddhism home with them to North America, and many still practice it to this day.

Some liberal churches in North America, such as the Bahai Faith, Unity, Unitarianism, and the Church of Religious Science have adopted some Buddhist Principles as part of their doctrine.

The Vedanta Society and the Self Realization Fellowship helped open the door for Indian-inspired philosophy, Buddhism, and spirituality to enter the consciousness of North Americans.  Both organizations have prominent facilities in the Greater Los Angeles area and elsewhere.

The non-violent movement, originating with Gandhi, spread to North America and was embraced by such politically-motivated individuals as Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator George McGovern, Former President Jimmy Carter and former California Governor Jerry Brown.  This movement is not specifically Buddhist because it is political, and it is also not religious.  It merely embodies the Buddhist philosophy of non-violence.

The Theravada Buddhist tradition was originally brought to America by Sri Lankan monks.  Ven. Dr. Paravahera Vajiranana Mahathera lived for some time in Los Angeles in the early 1930’s while he studied English.  He was the first Theravada Buddhist monk to come to this continent.

The Third Secretary-General of the United Nations was U Thant from Burma, and he was a Buddhist. 

 R. S. Gunawardena was the first Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Nations, and he also promoted Buddhism in the United States.

 Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN in the late 1960’s, gave lectures on Theravada Buddhism throughout his career in America.

 Washington Vihara was the first Sri Lankan temple in the US. It was founded in 1965 in Washington D.C. by the most Ven. Madehe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera of Sri Lanka.  He received support from the Government of Sri Lanka, some Sri Lankan friends, and several American devotees as well.

 The Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara was the second Sri Lanka temple in the US, and it was founded in Los Angeles in 1978 by Ven. Walpola Piyananda and Ven. Pannila Ananda.  Then in 1980, along with Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara, these same two Venerables founded Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, also in Los Angeles.

 At the present moment there are forty-seven Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in North America, all of which were established with the help of Sri Lankan expatriates.  Many of these US temples were established under the leadership of Ven. Walpola Piyananda.  Some of the monks that started these temples were trained at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, and many others were sponsored by his temple.  The purchase of the lands and buildings for seven of these temples was made possible by the generosity of Shantini Wijay.  She continues to be involved in the organization of new temples, under the guidance of Ven. Walpola Piyananda. 

 In the late 1980’s Ven. Galaboda Nanissara started the New York Buddhist Vihara and appointed Ven. Dr. Kurunagoda Piyatissa to be the abbot.  Later Ven. Henbunne Kondanna came to help the abbot with his work, and they have since opened satellite branches in New Jersey, Staten Island, Chicago, and Boston.

 In Canada there are nine Sri Lankan Theravada temples.  The first one was founded in Toronto in 1978 by Ven. Dikwala Piyananda Maha Thera who, at the time, was president of the Washington Vihara.

 The Theravada forest meditation tradition is also expanding in the North America.  The Ven. Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera, former president of the Washington Vihara, established the Bhavana Society in West Virginia.  Thailand’s Ajahn Chah’s disciples, Ven. Ajahn Amaro from London and Ven. Ajahn Passano from Canada, started a forest monastery, Abhayagiri, in Northern California.  In Southern California, American born monk Thanissano Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), started the Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego.  

 Burmese monks, especially Mahasi Sayadaw’s Vipassanna group, started many temples in America.  Lay teachers, like Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, started meditation centers that taught the Burmese tradition.  Mr. S. N. Goenka, originally from Burma, but now living in India, comes to North America often to teach Vipassanna students in several centers.

 There are currently hundreds of Buddhist temples and meditation centers in the United States and Canada. In the Thai Theravada tradition alone there are over one hundred temples.  Wat Thai in Los Angeles was the first of the Thai temples, and it was founded in 1967.  There are also approximately 200 Laotian and Cambodian Theravada temples scattered throughout the US and Canada, and a few Vietnamese Theravada temples as well.

 There are numerous Mahayana temples in North America, the Chinese tradition being the most active.  They have beautiful centers throughout America, a good example of which is Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles County.  The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas north of San Francisco is a Buddhist community for both the Sangha and the laity, and it also has schools for children.  Every state and province has active Buddhist temples from this tradition.  It is interesting to note that a Sri Lankan monk named Ven. Gunaratana converted to the Chinese tradition and became Ven. Chao Chu.  He wound up learning three dialects of the Chinese language.  He established the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, and combined the Chinese and Theravada systems into a hybrid form of Buddhism. 

 There are numerous Tibetan Buddhist centers in the U. S. and Canada, the most prominent one being Tibet House in New York City, founded by Robert Thurman, and containing one of the greatest collections of Tibetan art in the world.

 In the Japanese tradition there are many different sects, the most popular in American being Zen.  The Zen centers are now mostly run by Americans.  In California the largest representation is from the Jodo Shinshu sect, which is organized as the Buddhist Churches of America, and has its headquarters in San Francisco.  Other groups are Jodo Shu, Nichiren and Sokka Ga Kai, which has a university in Southern California.

 With regards to higher education, the Naropa Institute was founded in Boulder, Colorado, in the early 1980’s.  In the late 90’s the University of the West in Los Angeles County was founded by Master Hsing Yun of the Fo Kuang Shan temple in Taiwan, along with the imminent Buddhist scholar, Dr. Ananda Guruge, former Ambassador from Sri Lanka to the US. 

 In North America, as a result of Buddhism being primarily practiced by the immigrant population of different Asian cultures and their descendents, confusion between Buddhist Dhamma or teaching and Asian cultural traditions has come to light.  This is not the fault of the monks coming from Asia, where there is complete integration between culture and religion due to long, intertwined histories in those countries.  It is also not the fault of the students who, having been exposed to a particular form of Buddhism, believe that what they have learned is Dhamma, and not the cultural traditions that developed in the specific country of origin.  They are unaware that there are distinct differences in the customs and cultures in terms of rites and rituals, which are the ethnic “dressing” of the Dhamma.  A good example of this is the removal of shoes before entering all Theravada temples.  In a Chinese temple, however, if you remove your shoes you are not allowed to enter the temple.  The student typically thinks that the cultural custom is part of the religion, and they have no idea that they are really separate.

 As a result, I have noticed a trend in North America of the “Asian-ness” being removed from the presentation of the Buddha’s Teaching; a teaching which is for all people and for all times.  The Buddha’s Teaching can be taught to anyone, anywhere for its relevance to the human condition, no matter the time or place.

 When Buddhist monks come directly from Asian countries such as Sri Lanka or Thailand, they usually do not understand the basic customs and religious traditions of the North Americans they hope to teach.  A good example is the concept of “god,” which is introduced to the minds of Americans at a very young age.  When the monks talk to Americans about Buddhism having no god, the Americans may misunderstand such statements, and react negatively to the teaching.  The monks should be trained before leaving Asia in the ways and beliefs of the people in the New World if their activities to share the Teachings are to be successful.

 In addition, before Buddhist monks and teachers come to North America they should learn American or Canadian English – or at least learn it as soon as they can after they arrive.  This will help them avoid the inevitable misunderstandings that arise when the vernacular is not understood.  While their fellow countrymen may understand perfectly the mother tongue, the children growing up in North America will not.  They will speak American or Canadian English with only a basic understanding of the language of their parents.

 The founding monks at Dharma Vijaya were foresighted in that they initiated a Buddhist training ministry whose ordained ministers are called “Bodhicari.”  It is not easy to be a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni in Western society, and our temples in America do not have the resources to properly train monks or nuns.  These Bodhicari follow the Buddha’s teachings, keep twelve precepts, and learn the Dhamma in order to share it with others.  They are the equivalent of the ministers of Japanese Buddhist Jodo Shinshu or ministers in the Protestant Methodist church.  These Bodhicari have been practicing and working in their ministry for over two decades.

In conclusion, I feel that Buddhism has been successfully transplanted in North America, and its roots have already deeply taken hold.  In the coming decades I am quite sure that we will witness the integration of the benefits that the Buddha’s Teaching offers to everyone:  the hope for peace in one’s life, and freedom from suffering.  The most wonderful aspect of Buddha sasana is that whether or not individuals in North America choose to become Buddhists, they can still partake of the benefits of the Buddha’s Teaching, which will surely enrich their lives. 

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Buddhist Concept of Evil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       By Ven. Dr. Walpola, Chief Sangha Nayake of America                                                                                                                                                                                      

The concept of evil, actually, is an important one for only theistic religions, i.e. those in which the belief in a creator is prominent. Since Buddhism does not embrace this concept of a creation, evil, therefore, does not arise as a problem. Buddhists do not recognize suffering, (Dukkha) both physical and mental, but not as a punishment for evil from a displeased creator. Theistic religions on the other hand, consider evil arising from some external force power or influence to which people are victims and, therefore, not fully responsible. Because evil is external in origin, it has to be negated by another external force which is positive in nature. Thus, we encounter a situation with God on one side and the Devil propagating evil on the other side; manipulating human beings. Man’s only salvation, therefore, is to pray to God and to receive help from him. God is ultimately the savior, as well as the punisher indirectly, since in addition to creating humans, he also created the Devil. According to Buddhism, evil is only an incompetent action (Akusala Kamma) and is not something that has come from outside. This is succinctly expressed by the following quotations:         

"By oneself indeed is evil done and by oneself is one defiled.

 By oneself is evil left undone and by oneself indeed is one purified.

 Purity and impurity depends on oneself.

 No one can purify another."          Dhammapada  165             

According to Buddhism, “evil” means an action directed against society or others, resulting in unhappiness or harm to other people. “If one’s action leads to one’s own harm, or others harm or to the harm of both oneself and others, it is evil.” (M. Rahulovada Sutta) so evil actions are followed by evil consequences.

          “All mental states have mind as their forerunner, mind is their chief, and they are mind made.

           If one speaks or acts with a defiled mind, then suffering follows as the hoof of draught-ox”               Dhammapada 2

It is therefore seen, that evil originates from the shortcomings of the mind, leading directly to evil actions which according to the law of cause and effect, bring suffering to oneself.


Christianity, being a theist religion, has evil as a subject of great concern in that one is almost helpless without the intervention of God. While, for Buddhism it is suffering, (Dukkha), which we can end by our own personal efforts. If we consider the opposite word “good,” then we may best speak of “good and bad,” not “good and evil.” Evil is not exactly what we call bad. “Because the English tern “bad” embraces both (connotative) levels more readily then does the more forceful term “evil,” it appears to be a more appropriate general rendering of the Buddhist meaning of papa.” (Satan and Mara, J.W. Boyd-P. 159)


The whole practice of Buddhism can be summarized as Samappadana, or harmonious efforts. This practice is a four-fold nature. The first is the effort to prevent unwholesome or evil states of mind from arising. The second effort is to get ride of such evil and unwholesome states that may have already arisen within man. The third effort is to produce or cause to arise good and wholesome states of mind not yet arisen, and the fourth effort is to develop and being to perfection the good and wholesome states of mind already present, though not manifested. (S.V.P. 79) the Buddha pointed out, “When you know fro yourself that certain things are unwholesome, wrong, and evil, you then give them up. And when you know for yourself that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.” (A-P. 115)


The Buddha also spoke of three other points of views. “There are certain recluses and Brahmins who teach thus: Who hold this view whatsoever weal or woe or neutral feeling is experienced, all that is due to some previous action. There are others who teach: Whatsoever weal or woe or neutral feeling is experienced, all that is due to the creation of a Supreme Deity. Others teach that all such are uncaused and unconditional.” (Gradual Saying-159)


The first point of view is that there are some who believe that present state is a result only of past actions in past lives. This is called pubbe plus kataketuwada. If a person believes that everything happening to him or her is due to karma or action done in the past, that individual is likely to believe that freedom is not possible and he or she must resign to his destiny. Consequently, man cannot develop morally and spiritually without suffering all the consequences of his previous thoughts and actions, both good and bad. So, man is at the mercy of his own fatalist belief and runs the risk of becoming entirely pessimistic.


The second point of view is that the good or the evil, pleasant or unpleasant things that people experience in this life have been created by a creator or God. The Buddha pointed out that if that was true, the creator is responsible for this good and evil in some way. (J. V1-208) if anyone believes that God created the world, then it follows that the Devil was also created by God, and man being relatively insignificant, may not make any effort to get ride of evil.


The third point of view is that good and bad really do not come from anything, but rather by mere accident. (Savabhawa-Veda) Such a person may not really make the effort to purity himself, reasoning that accidents can occur repeatedly and bring him sorrow. Then the Buddha explained that every state of mind arises from sense experience and our reactions to such experienced. This is a conditioning process which occurs from childhood, and prevents us from seeing things as they really are such as what we are and what the world around us is. (Yathabutam) “Evil is simply the negative response of the organism to stimuli in the environment, and not some force which has come from outside.


Buddhism explains that no one is innately evil. If we can just observe vents and processes, both within and without, and learn to stop reacting as our conditional minds prompt us to do, we can become very calm and peaceful. Suffering will, therefore, be greatly diminished. So we see, tensed, angry people who may be conventionally thought of as evil, being transformed to kind.


Composed individuals should think, act, and speak with due consideration for others. Such a state of affairs can bring harmony among people and so improve the human condition, a consideration very dear to the Buddha and his disciples.


The Buddha explained that the concept of the “self” or “ego” is actually a delusion and this must be seen in wisdom rather than just intellectually. The “self” is analyzed into five aggregates: form, consciousness, sensation, perception, and conception.  These five aggregates are common to all human beings. The “self” or “ego” can be considered as a product of the mind and when scrutinized carefully, thus seemingly innocent “ego,” has been responsible from social agitations to world wars. Associated with the “I” are selfish desire, attachment, hatred, egotism, and many other defiled states of mind. What we need is the growth or expansion of awareness. We should notice the idea of “I” when we see it arising and disappearing in out minds. When we grow dispassionate towards the components of the “self,” through increased awareness, we begin to understand the “I” and the evil and suffering that arise from the conflict of the “I” with reality.


From a Buddhistic point of view, the solution of social problems could be brought about only by changing individuals rather than by changing society through a social revolution. So to get ride of evil, each person has to cultivate calm and an insight to the delusion of “self.” The Buddha always encourages us to look at our own problems, not others.


          “Let not one seek others faults, things left done and undone by others,

                 but one’s own deeds done and undone.”       Dhammapada 50


          “Oneself indeed, is one’s saviors, for what other savior can there be?

           With oneself well controlled, one obtains a savior, what for others is difficult to find?”         Dhammapada 160


Before the Buddha passed away, he advised Ananda, “Therefore, Ananada, dwell on making yourself you’re island (support), making yourself, not anyone else, your refuge” (Dighanikaya Maha Parinibbana P.61)


One of the aims of Buddhism is to produce individuals who are completely free from states of mind that lead to sorrow. The individual who is completely free from evil is called an Arahat. (Ari-Evil, Han-Destroy) The Arahat is the destroyer of evil and suffering. He is free from the false idea of self, and free from the thirds for self-continuity. In the final analysis, he attains complete emancipation form all attachments.


From the Buddhist point of view, God and Devil are symbolic expressions of good and bad. The good nature is personified as God, and the evil nature is personified as the Devil. Even when reading the Gospel of Christ, a Buddhist could understand his words in that way and see Jesus as a Buddhist. When he spoke of himself as the son of God, he could be understood as meaning ultimately, the son of goodness.


They took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father, for which of these do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you, but for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, “I said you are gods?” If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken) do you say of him who the Father consecrated and sent in to the world, you are blaspheming, because I said, “I am the son of God.” If I am not doing the works of my father, then do not believe me, but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:31-39.


To the Buddhist, it is very clear that what Jesus meant by God is the good nature within himself. There is another instance where Jesus was pointing out to some people that they were the children of the Devil.


          “You are of your Father the Devil, and your will is to do your Father’s desires. He was a murderer from

          the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.”                John 8:44


This makes it quite clear to the Buddhist that the God the Devil of Jesus were nothing but personified forms of goodness and evil. This is quite in accordance with Buddhist view.

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