In the aftermath of the tragedy this week in Aurora, Colorado, the word "evil" is appearing a lot in the news. Hearing of such horror and suffering, it is indeed hard to articulate the depths of one's feelings when such tragedies occur and to accept that such things can happen.
What is troubling is that "evil" seems to be viewed as an action done by another person in another place.
And it is confusing in light of such poll results, which continue to find that 70% of Americans believe in Hell but barely 1% think they'll go there. I don't have statistics for other countries, but it seems reasonable to believe that Americans are not alone in these thoughts.
So a lot of people think "others do evil, but not me."
As Buddhists, we believe that all beings are by nature good. We often don't do what is good for uncountable reasons. And in not doing good, we all too often stray into doing evil as our thoughts go unnoticed, our speech is careless, and actions remain unchecked.
We're surprised and don't think before we react.
We're lazy and fall into bad habits.
We're proud and can't bring ourselves to apologize.
We're frustrated and don't think, or care, about what we're doing to others.
We're selfish and ignore the needs and wishes of others.
We're intolerant and don't care about those whom we deem inferior.
We're angry and cannot forgive others.
We're envious. We're afraid. We're deluded. We're ignorant.
But we are not evil. We do evil. Each one of us under the right conditions. And sadly for us there are too many of those "right conditions."
So, with awareness of this, do not focus on what others do, do not be angry at the actions of others. Focus on what you yourself are thinking . . . saying . . . doing.
This is where it all begins. The evil. The goodness.