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I am looking for discussions about good and evil in non-Abrahamic philosophies (meaning traditionally Eastern schools of thought, such as those from India and China). The reason being, good and evil are quite central topics in both the Bible and the Quran and have consequently been a great influence upon philosophers in the region where they are prevalent. So, I am interested in examining discussions of such concepts that lie outside such influences.

To phrase my question more succinctly: Did Eastern, non-Abrahamic philosophers come up with analogous concepts for good and evil?

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Interesting. I think this would be best restricted to one region, though. I'll have to dig out my Confucius when I get home. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 8 '11 at 12:52
And the question is...? – Lennart Regebro Jun 8 '11 at 12:55
I'd recommending rephrasing to: "What actions are considered [evil || good] in [Indian || Chinese] moral philosophies, and how have they influenced philosophers in that region?" – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 8 '11 at 13:00
I know less than nothing about Eastern philosophy, but does the Yin and the Yang embody the struggle between good and evil (among other concepts)? There certainly doesn't have to be a Judeo-Christian basis for notions of good and evil. Lots of traditionally Eastern religious (for example, Sikh) have pronounced notions of good and evil. – Cody Gray Jun 8 '11 at 13:49
@Cody Gray: IMO, yin/yang:good/evil::animal:dog - i.e., good and evil could be considered to embody yin and yang, but yin and yang does not require good and evil, and as far as I know does not typically employ morality but rather balance. – Ben Hocking Jun 8 '11 at 17:39

An alternate manner of approaching this question is to drill into the idiosyncratic manner that Abrahamic religions, and subsequently Occidental thought, has dealt with the purported problem of "Good and Evil(g/e)"

The commonly understood conception of g/e, and the conception that is embedded in the texts of each religion has brought to bear a mentality that views g/e as independent entities. The Occident has a concept of g/e whereby persons embody one or the other. For instance, if one were to try to attempt an argument with a Westerner that Hitler was not, in fact evil (embodied, incarnate, etc), and rather that his actions were evil, then the argument would likely be met with hostility. The repulsion any sane person has for any genocide turns for explanation not first to mental stability, psychopathy, or any other empirical basis; sane people frequently turn first to evil. Evil, in particular, seems to have a sense of being simulataneously some possessing substance and an inexhaustible repository for actions. It is not precisely (in the g/e spectrum) an eleven or fifteen on some scale of 1-10 where 10 is bad; it has an unquantifiable measure to it.

The point here being, good and evil are not merits of a person when thinking of the "Good and Evil" in your question. The problem of evil is a metaphysical one for many Westerners. As much as a person I know angers me, I personally know no one who is evil. There are always exigencies to explain their behavior. When we reach out to affect a trend and understand something beyond our scope of experience (these are always harder to find out; i.e. you didn't know that your boss was a psychopath, but it sure does explain a lot), we are less prone to seek out the actual exigencies and more apt to generalize and appeal to some Deus Ex Machina... like evil.

  • THE TAKEAWAY, Buddhism does not particularly have some corporeal concept for "Evil"; neither does Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, Bon, Shintoism, nor does fetishism, totemism, or animism facilitate such a concept. They explanations for why bad things happen, and what isn't particularly ideal, but not in the Occidental formulation of "Good and Evil."
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As a note, I refer to the Abrahamics as "idiosyncratic" because, in terms of religious innovation the represent one tree with three sub-trees and, in terms of religious innovation, represent a small subset – mfg Jun 8 '11 at 15:20
Although one also shared by the non-Abrahamic Zoroastrianism. It's rather a middle-eastern thing. – Lennart Regebro Jun 8 '11 at 18:47
Indian Philosophy 'advaita vedanta' is all about non dualism. – Kiran Ravindranathan Aug 2 '11 at 17:45
I agree with @LennartRegebro, we got Manicheanism from the East. It seems to go more with monotheism than with Western thought. The Greeks and Romans were not as much about evil when they had active pantheons, but when you chose one main God, e.g. Plato's Pan or the Heraclean Zeus, we got dualism, with or without Abrahamic religion. Where monotheism took root in the East, e.g. Mani in Persia, it was as evident. – jobermark Oct 22 '14 at 20:53

There is no ultimate good or evil in Eastern philosophy. There is only relative good and evil. "All undertakings are beset with imperfections, as fire with smoke" (Gita 18.48). In the symbol Yin and Yang, you will notice that there is the element of each in the other. Fire burns, when it is used for cooking we think it is good, when it burns our hand, we think it is bad, but fire is neither good or evil. Light shines on both the thief and the policeman, but the light is neither good or evil. Different societies in different places and times have considered different things good or evil. In one society to marry your first cousin is considered good, in another evil. God is neither good or evil. Good and evil exist only in the relative world of our perception. We can, however, use good to go be rid if evil and then to go beyond good. The early Persians were the original instigators of the concept of ultimate good God and evil God that developed more fully in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The evil god became the Devil. There is no devil in the eastern tradition, there is a minor mention in a early Hindu scripture, but was later rejected as the concept waas never developed further in any subsequent Hindu scriptures.

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