What is a good philosophical book on the topic of evil in Buddhism?

  • I take it you are coming from a Western philosophy background just wanting a sense of the Buddhist approach? It may make more sense to post this on Buddhism SE, though that is geared toward practicioners. Evil is a problematic term, with a lot of specific baggage in Christian theology. Taking evil as why ageing sickness and death, suffering, seem to be inextricable from our lives, and how to make sense of a reality like that, all of Buddhism can be said to be about the problem of evil.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 19:29
  • Buddhism mainly talks about "suffering" (Sanskrit:दुःख; Pāli: dukkha) and the ways to end it (four noble truths, noble eightfold path), evil (being evil or a victim of evil) is of course one kind of suffering, and the root cause of all suffering is the same "three unwholesome roots". I once came across an educational website of following mahayana buddhism school, there're lots of English translations of texts and discussions of related philosophies.(cttbusa.org/buddhadharma_tableofcontents.asp.html) Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 20:31
  • Gäb, Why do we Suffer? Buddhism and the Problem of Evil is a brief introduction:"Although there is no problem of evil in Buddhism, the Buddhist understanding of the origin and causes of suffering will help us to find new approaches to the problem of evil." Some relevant books are Ziporyn, Evil and/or/as the Good and Ling, Buddhism & the Mythology of Evil.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 23:54
  • there is no inherent 'evil' as understood in a Western context. There are actions and its consequent reactions that lead towards enlightenment or lead away from enlightenment - toward suffering. Actions that lead away from enlightenment are regarded as ignorance. You might like D.T. Suzuki's translation 'Asvaghosha's Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana' Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


Here is an example of usage in context:

Protection Through Satipatthana (Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism)

"Protecting oneself, one protects others" — the truth of this statement begins at a very simple and practical level. ... Moral self-protection will safeguard others, individuals and society, against our own unrestrained passions and selfish impulses. If we permit the "three roots" of evil — greed, hate and delusion — to take a firm hold in our hearts, then their outgrowths will spread far and wide like a jungle creeper, suffocating much healthy and noble growth all around. But if we protect ourselves against these three roots, our fellow beings too will be safe.

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