There’s a lot of unspoken tropes in culture in the U.S. (where I live), but they are apparent with even the simplest of analysis. Good vs. Evil, right vs. wrong, inclusion vs. exclusion, collective vs. the individual. Americans tend to polarize these into simplistic terms, and one must remember that we have sophisticated minds which can interpret these along a continuum. Nonetheless, so much hinges on correct understanding of the terms, or we may find our narratives lost; finding this correct understanding, we can begin to operate from Wisdom.
I’ve been binging and re-binging Buddhist lectures and trying to make sense of what I learn. One term that I wanted to linger on for this post was the concept of “wrong view.” It’s a term that is used in Buddhism to suggest that, “Hey, your perspective here is what’s going to cause problems,” and these problems include how one lives one’s life, how well one will progress in one’s practice, and the like. That word “wrong” doesn’t carry with it moral implications in the sense of a root evil. Instead, it’s simply not correct: a mistake.
I’ve been reflecting about how Christianity hinges on sin, which is so intimately connected in Christian thinking to evil. Really, I’ve come to think of this view as mistaken. Sin really means “mistake.” We all make mistakes, and usually it’s some incorrect perspective that has caused us to make mistakes. Of course, sometimes these mistakes will work against our own best interests, or against animals, or against another person, or against nature.
At the same time, it’s important to realize that mistakes are part of ourselves, part of nature, part of our orientation towards others. For this reason, mistakenness and sin are normal. We live with a steady difference between who we are and what we do in the moment compared to who we realize ourselves to be later. This difference, and the discovery of our mistakes, is part of life. I do not consider this to be evil at all. It is actually quite good, for it allows growth. I also consider this tendency to be part of the Divine; it is this Heart which is reflected out, so that the Divine may grow, also. So, we should accept and welcome our failings, while of course steadily working and probing ways to rectify, within ourselves and with each other, to allow for better growth with time.
Once this attitude shift takes place, Christianity and Buddhism will be speaking much more of the same language.