In the Eyes of the Buddha, Iniquitous Beings are Ignorant, Not Evil
When a person believes in cause and effect, does virtuous deeds, and cultivates for liberation, the Buddha praises him as a ‘wise person’ who is of great sagacity. However, if someone does not believe in cause and effect, does not perform good deeds to accumulate merits, but instead utilises his cleverness and talent for nefarious purposes, the Buddha calls him an ‘ignorant being’
In the Contemplation Sutra, there is a passage on the rebirth of those in the lowest level of the lowest grade – the most iniquitous beings committing grave offences. The Buddha refers to them as "ignorant beings" rather than "evil people." This word choice is significant. People generally have notions of right and wrong. When faced with evil, most would reasonably argue against it and criticise it righteously. They would look down on criminals and even condemn them to hell.
This attitude has its pros and cons. Positively speaking, it reflects a person’s upright character. He will undoubtedly perform virtuous deeds and conduct himself with integrity. However, from another perspective, it also indicates a lack of tolerance, understanding, acceptance, and compassion.
The Buddha describes those who commit offences as "ignorant beings" rather than "evil people," demonstrating his compassion, tolerance, and understanding. To the Buddha, these people don’t understand the Dharma and are deluded by ignorance and afflictions. They aren’t intentionally acting in this way. They are obstructed by the ignorance and afflictions of their karmic obstacles. Without those obstacles, they might have performed virtuous deeds or even practised for Buddhahood.
It’s similar to when someone unreasonably assaults and slanders us. We would generally get angry, thinking the other person is acting unreasonably and behaving badly.
However, if we knew the person was mentally ill, would we still feel angry? No, we would instead feel compassion for them because their actions aren’t intentional but due to their illness. The Buddha sees sentient beings the same way. Beings are deluded by ignorance, bound by afflictions and karmic obstacles, and thus create evil karma.
In the Buddha’s eyes, there are only ignorant beings. Unlike ordinary beings, the Buddha doesn’t distinguish between good and evil, preferring one to the other. He embodies boundless loving-kindness for all without discrimination. He exercises profound compassion for all, treating them as one with himself. He alleviates suffering and brings happiness, universally saving all beings equally.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings