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Religion Library: Zen

Suffering and the Problem of Evil

Written by: Julia Hardy

The solution, according to the text, is to "simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.'" If one recognizes the oneness of all things, then one is able to be in harmony with the world of phenomena, in which there is "neither self nor other-than-self." This is what Sengsan realized when he had his first exchange with Huike. His suffering was not separate from himself, and it was not caused by a sin or an evil deed that needed to be, or could be, removed from his body by absolution.

According to the legend, Sengsan did indeed get better physically, and eventually was free of his illness. This could be viewed as a natural insistence on a happy ending, or, perhaps, as a way of countering potential nihilistic interpretations of Xinxin Ming. To confront doubt by saying, "not two," leads to a far more sophisticated understanding than simply passively accepting one's fate in life. It leads to the realization that, on a fundamental level, all things are one.

"Do not be attached even to this One," the text says, followed by what may be its clearest statement of relevance to suffering and the problem of evil: "When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way, nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way."

Study Questions:
1.     Who was Sengsan?
2.     What does Xinxin Ming propose as the problem of suffering?
3.     What is the solution to suffering?


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