Evil: a Buddhist perspective

This Sunday, Jeffrey provided an overview of Stephen Batchelor’s key ideas in his book, Living with the Devil, followed by a talk by Batchelor. He rejects the dualistic conception of Mara or Satan or The Devil as embodiments of pure evil; and of Buddha as pure good, to instead tease out the subtle nature of the devil as “the adversary”, the one who blocks our paths.

Mara stands for those patterns of behavior that long for the security of clinging to something real and permanent rather than facing the question posed by being a transient and contingent creature. “It makes no difference what you grasp,” said Buddha, “When someone grasps, Mara stands behind them.” 

Even after their awakening, Mara approaches Buddha and his followers. Mara never is defeated, always close at hand. Why “always”? Evolution produced our capacity for greed, hatred, delusion as survival mechanisms. As long as we are in a body, these will be our faithful companions. 

Theme: If we let go of the personifications, then Buddha stands for a capacity of openness, awareness, freedom, and Mara represents confusion, closure, restriction. To live with the Devil is to live with the perpetual conflict between one’s Buddha-nature and one’s Mara-nature.

The video was excerpted from a long playlist of videos available here.