Beliefs

In Buddhism, while life may be full of suffering, it is not evil, nor are there evil entities in the world tempting people to sin and self-destruction. This is not to say that there are no demonic forces in the Buddhist world. There are demons that can cause disease or other misfortunes, and demons to punish wrongdoers in the Buddhist hells, but an angry deceased relative can be equally dangerous.

Often Buddhists enlist demons into the service of the good. For example, before beginning to make a sand mandala, Tibetan monks will capture demons and install them at the four corners of the mandala to protect it. In Japan one can obtain a "traffic demon" amulet as protection from automobile accidents. Buddhists have long been regarded as specialists who can be counted on to defeat or convert demons, which they do through spells, rituals, or dialogue. They may also transfer merit or otherwise meet the spiritual need of the demon, and thus convert it.

If there is "evil" in Buddhism, it is the greed, anger, and delusion that give rise to samsara. Human nature is not evil, per se, but it can give rise to suffering. The goal of the Buddha's dharma is not to eliminate all suffering or to create a perfect life or world, but to learn how best to deal with the suffering that is a normal part of human life.


Study Questions:
1.     How has western translation contributed to a misunderstanding of Buddhism's teachings?
2.     How can one break the cycle of samsara?
3.     How do the four noble truths contrast to western medicine's methodology of treating disease?

Back to Religion Library