Great Construction

Good and Evil (Essays on Faith)

     That good and evil are inextricably intertwined throughout society appears in various aspects. Whether tragedy or comedy, unhappiness or happiness, or war or peace, the motivation is either good or evil. Why is it that there are people who are evil as well as others who are virtuous? Everyone probably thinks that there has to be some fundamental cause either due to good or to evil for all that happens.
     What I am going to explain here are the causes of good and evil, and this is something that should be known and understood. Of course, it is natural that in the case of ordinary human beings, there will be the good who desire virtuous matters and dislike what evil people may do. Whether in government, society, or in the household, apart from one section of human beings, it is a matter of course that the good is loved. That is because it is understood that peace and happiness are not born from evil.
     For ease of understanding, I divide the definition of good and evil into two parts. To begin with good, the good person is one who believes what is invisible, and the evil is one who does not believe what is invisible. So, those who believe without seeing are those who believe in the actuality of the gods and the buddhas, which is to say they are theisists. Those who do not believe what they do not see are materialists, atheists. Let me illustrate.
     When human beings perform acts of good, of virtue, that motivation, volition comes from love, from mercy, and also from social justice. In broad terms, the deeds come from a love of humanity. There are those who perform acts of good believing in the principle that good begets good and evil begets evil. Then again, there are those who, out of feelings of pity, cannot but help others, a sentiment of repaying debts of gratitude, as embodied in the Buddhist concept of repaying the four debts of gratitude, the idea that all which is available is made for the use of good. Consideration of frugality and thriftiness are also signs of good. When trying to impart good feelings to others, desiring their happiness, being kind, is to be true to one’s calling as a human being. For believers to show appreciation and perform acts of gratitude to their gods or buddhas, to strive to be in accord with the spirit of gods and buddhas, are all signs of good. There are other varieties, but the situation is generally as described above.
     As for the mentality of those who perform evil acts, they do not believe in the existence of gods and buddhas. They will deceive others nor do they concern themselves about the kinds of crime and evil that are perpetrated as long as their own desires are satisfied—a vacuous attitude. Fraud, deception, and deceit are carried out as if normal activities, others are made to suffer, no consideration is given to the turmoil caused in society and the world, and in extreme cases murder is even committed. War is collective murder. Since antiquity, so-called heroes for their own power, for their own limitless ambition have fought wars under the principle that might makes right. As is shown in the saying “with a large force one can win over Heaven, but who will win is decided by Heaven,” one’s victory may look glorious at first, but in the end, to the extent that could be said to be almost a certainty, history shows that all fall to tragic fate. The motivation is of course evil.
     Thus, if the eyes of others can be deceived and anything imaginable is permissible, then it would be profitable, even clever, to do as much evil as possible and obtain wealth and power. Evil is undertaken when perpetrators believe that after death the self becomes nothing and that that such as life in the spiritual world does not exist. Consequently, it is a fact without exception that no matter how strong one’s luck may hold while doing evil and temporarily becoming successful, that in the long run, one will face ruin. After committing their first evil acts, individuals start to live anxious lives, feeling threatened with the fear of not knowing when they might be caught, and in the end driven by conscience, inevitably come to the point where they cannot help but regret their lives. We often see those who have done much evil come forward and admit to their evil, or who after being caught, seem relieved and meet their judgment joyfully. What has happened is that their souls, which God has bestowed upon them, have been reprimanded by God. This occurs because the human soul is linked to God through the spiritual cord. Therefore when evil is committed, even though the eyes of others may be deceived completely, the perpetrators own eyes cannot be deceived, so as the human being is connected to God by the spiritual cord, whatever act may be performed will immediately be known to God. All things are recorded in the book of accounts. In that respect, there is nothing as worthless as the commission of evil acts.
     However, in our world, there are also other kinds of individuals. That is, one kind who think that even though they were to attempt an evil act, if they botched it and the act became known, it would be terrible, that they would lose the trust of others and that their evil act would be quite a liability. So, with an instinct for preservation, even if they know that there could be great advantage in committing evil, they do not attempt to do so because they are timid. Then, there are utilitarian good people who have gained the trust of society at large and do good because it is advantageous for them. And finally, there are the type of persons who, when they perform kind deeds, do them in the expectation that the performance of their acts will get them something in return, but these kinds of kindness are a form of business transaction, using goodwill to buy favors. The types of good enumerated above do not necessarily make others suffer or harm society and are better than the acts of the evildoer, but such conduct cannot be said to be true good. Such persons could be called negatively or passively good persons. Therefore, passively good individuals, when seen from the eyes of the gods or the buddhas, are not truly good persons because the gods and the buddhas are able to see to the very depths of a person’s being.
     In the course of our daily lives we often hear those who wonder why some such seemingly good persons are so unfortunate and that is because the questioners are looking at the situation through human eyes. Human eyes see only the surface and cannot penetrate human depths. When we examine such unfortunate people, we find that they have the state of mind that they do not believe what they cannot see. They are pitiful enough, may even be called dangerous individuals because if the opportunity presented itself, they think that can get away with a little evil since it will not be discovered. The opposite of such individuals are those who believe in the invisible gods and buddhas, and with the conviction that even if they are able to deceive other human beings, they cannot deceive the eyes of the gods or the buddhas, so they do not fall for sweet propositions, no matter how good they may sound. Thus, even those who are presently seen on the surface to be good people, if they do not believe in gods or buddhas, are dangerous because it cannot be known when they might become evildoers, which means that these people may be said to be on the side of evil.
     From the preceding, it should be said that the truly good persons are those who have faith, that is, they are so qualified to be true good persons because they believe in the invisible. Therefore, apart from faith, I do not believe there is any way to save the decadence of the simple moral-minded viewpoint that exists today.
     Until now, police, courts, prisons, and such have been established based on the necessity to prevent crime, but such efforts have only been akin to building cages to prevent the harm from ferocious beasts, just like enclosures with iron fences. As such, criminals are not treated as human beings but are put at the same level as animals. It is truly pathetic that those born as precious human beings should end their lives as beasts. It is a universal truth that human beings can fall to the level of the beasts or rise to the level of a divine being, so the human being is certainly a living creature intermediate between God and beasts. In this sense, the truly cultured person is the human being who has shed all animalistic characteristics. I believe the progress of culture is where animalistic human beings have improved to the level of divine human beings. Thus, the place where divine human beings gather is none other than paradise on earth. 

Essays on Faith, page 90, September 5, 1948
translated by cynndd

                *        *        *

“Zen to Aku,” originally published as the thirty-ninth chapter of the Japan Kannon Kyōdan publication Shinkō Zatsuwa (Essays on Faith), page 90, September 5, 1948, and reprinted, while Meishu-sama still alive, in the essays anthology for ministers Goshinsho: Shūkyōhen (Divine Writings: Volume on Religion), page 26, March 25, 1954, has appeared in translation. Citation is given below for reference.

Good and Evil,Foundation of Paradise, 1984, page 149.

“Good and Evil” / “Good and Evil,” Daily Inspirations, 2002, page 70 (excerpt, last paragraph).

“Good and Evil” / “Good and Evil,” Daily Inspirations, 2002, page 72 (excerpt, last half of sixth paragraph).

“Good and Evil,” Teachings of Meishu-sama, Volume Four, 2007, page 68.

“Good and Evil,” A Hundred Teachings of Meishusama, no date, page 41.

“Good and Evil,” Meishu and His Teachings, no date, page 62.