Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

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Wizard in the Forest
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Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Wizard in the Forest »

I remember there being a Sutta about how Ignorance of an action being immoral is more dangerous than knowing it is immoral, because it increases the frequency of offending, and another Sutta that talks about how knowing about evil and doing it anyway without shame can cause a greater impact on your karma. Does anyone have any idea where they might be or if I am plain out misremembering?
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

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There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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robertk
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by robertk »

There is a Commentary about this but I can't remember where it is .

In the commentary there is the question of one who does akusala such as killing. One who thinks it is harmless, and the other one who knows it is wrong but kills anyway: which one is worse?
The one who is ignorant of the evil of killing makes more serious kamma.

The example is given of the pot on a stove. The baby , who doesn’t know it is hot, grabs hold recklessly and gets seriously burned.

The adult juggles it carefully and only gets hot hands – less damage, or none at all.


We can see how this works in daily life: one who believes killing is desirable or has no result will kill insects over and over. Or support abortion or whatever. He might feel satisfied doing such deeds.

The Buddhist, knowing the kamma of killing, will carefully remove cockroaches and mosquitos and rats- although if he is not fully wise may kill some to protect family etc. But after that he takes special care not to allow the rats/mosquitos back: he spends extra money on window covers for example.
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by confusedlayman »

Wizard in the Forest wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:41 am I remember there being a Sutta about how Ignorance of an action being immoral is more dangerous than knowing it is immoral, because it increases the frequency of offending, and another Sutta that talks about how knowing about evil and doing it anyway without shame can cause a greater impact on your karma. Does anyone have any idea where they might be or if I am plain out misremembering?
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Dhammanando »

Wizard in the Forest wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:41 am I remember there being a Sutta about how Ignorance of an action being immoral is more dangerous than knowing it is immoral, because it increases the frequency of offending,
It's from the Milindapañha, but the translation at Sutta Central isn't very good. This is I.B. Horner's:
The King said: "Revered Nagasena, for whom is the greater demerit: he who does an evil deed knowingly, or he who does an evil deed unknowingly?"

The Elder said: "His is the greater demerit, sire, who does an evil deed unknowingly."

"Well then, revered Nagasena, do we doubly punish that royal son of ours or the chief minister who does an evil deed unknowingly?"

"What do you think about this, sire? If one (man) should unknowingly take hold of a red-hot ball of iron, aglow, aflame, ablaze, and another should take hold of it knowingly, which would be the more severely burnt?"

"He who took hold of it unknowingly, revered sir, would be the more severely burnt."

"Even so, sire, the greater demerit is his who does an evil deed unknowingly."

"You are dexterous, revered Nagasena."

(Mil. 84)
Wizard in the Forest wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:41 amand another Sutta that talks about how knowing about evil and doing it anyway without shame can cause a greater impact on your karma.
I don't know of a teaching about kamma like that, but in Vinaya the distinction between an offence and a non-offence often hinges on what the bhikkhu knew or didn't know before he performed the action.
Svākkhātaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, sandiṭṭhikam’akālikaṃ,
Yattha amoghā pabbajjā, appamattassa sikkhato.


“The holy life is well proclaimed,
directly visible, immediate,
Where not in vain is the going forth
of one who trains heedfully.”
— Sela Sutta
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

I do not get Nagasena's response, he seems to ignore motive or intent.

There is less demerit from stepping on a bug accidentally, thus lacking any cetana or intention (which is karma), but more demerit from intentionally squashing that bug - yes?

Granted frequency or repetition of an evil thought, word or deed is a multiplier of evil results, but there also is the factor of strength of motive in the mix, plus the size or status the being killed. Killing eagerly a person is much worse than eagerly killing a bug.
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by coconut »

Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:43 pm I do not get Nagasena's response, he seems to ignore motive or intent.

There is less demerit from stepping on a bug accidentally, thus lacking any cetana or intention (which is karma), but more demerit from intentionally squashing that bug - yes?

Granted frequency or repetition of an evil thought, word or deed is a multiplier of evil results, but there also is the factor of strength of motive in the mix, plus the size or status the being killed. Killing eagerly a person is much worse than eagerly killing a bug.
There's a difference between intention and ignorance.

Take for example ignorance of the law. You can break the law even though you're ignorant of the law, you will still be arrested and punished. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Being ignorant of karma does not excuse/protect you from the effects of karma. So just because someone doesn't believe in karma doesn't mean they won't be affected by karma. I.e. their mundane wrong view will not protect them from the consequences of their bad deeds.
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

coconut wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:54 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:43 pm I do not get Nagasena's response, he seems to ignore motive or intent.

There is less demerit from stepping on a bug accidentally, thus lacking any cetana or intention (which is karma), but more demerit from intentionally squashing that bug - yes?

Granted frequency or repetition of an evil thought, word or deed is a multiplier of evil results, but there also is the factor of strength of motive in the mix, plus the size or status the being killed. Killing eagerly a person is much worse than eagerly killing a bug.
There's a difference between intention and ignorance.

Take for example ignorance of the law. You can break the law even though you're ignorant of the law, you will still be arrested and punished. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Being ignorant of karma does not excuse/protect you from the effects of karma. So just because someone doesn't believe in karma doesn't mean they won't be affected by karma. I.e. their mundane wrong view will not protect them from the consequences of their bad deeds.
True enough as you write, but the question is severity of vipaka or result of a bad karma/action - not knowledge of or lack of knowledge of karma-vipaka. It looks clear to me that more demerit comes forth from knowing (& thus intending) an act is unwholesome than not knowing.

Nyanaponika's Roots of Good & Evil compilation clarifies well.
Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled. Dhammapada
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

This clarifies to me - the previous response by Nagasena:
(vii) The King said: " Revered Nagasena, which is the
greater, merit or demerit ?"
" Merit, sire, is the greater, demerit is a trifle."
" In what way ?"
" Sire, (someone) doing demerit is remorseful and says,
' An evil deed was done by me '—therefore evil does not
increase. But (someone), sire, doing merit, is not
remorseful. Rapture is born of the absence of remorse,
joy is born of rapture, the body of one who is joyful is
impassible, when the body is impassible, he experiences
happiness, the mind of one who is happy is concentrated,
and he who is concentrated comprehends as it
really is—in this way merit increases. If a man who
has had his hands and feet cut off, sire, had given
(merely) one handful of lotuses to the Lord, he will not
go to the Downfall for ninety-one eons. It is for this
reason that I say merit is the greater, demerit a trifle."
" You are dexterous, revered Nagasena."
So Nagasena was focused on the stream of karma-vipaka, not just the effect of a single action or intention. It turns on remorse, which merely corrects the attitude versus joy over the good intentional action which uplifts one.

Or as Bhikkhu Pesala remarks on Nagasena's section viii:
All wrong-doing is rooted in ignorance, so one who does wrong knowingly will feel remorse and correct himself sooner than one who is deluded.
Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled. Dhammapada
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Dhammanando »

Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:43 pm I do not get Nagasena's response, he seems to ignore motive or intent.

There is less demerit from stepping on a bug accidentally, thus lacking any cetana or intention (which is karma), but more demerit from intentionally squashing that bug - yes?
Stepping on a bug accidentally is no kamma at all. But that isn't what Milinda meant by "unknowing", for his question posits a case where both persons have performed an evil kamma, and so it's a given that both of them have intentionally done something unskilful, like killing a bug. But one killed the bug knowing it to be a bad action, the other not knowing this. And so in the latter case the action is aggravated either by wrong view (if he thought that killing bugs was a skilful thing to do) or by ignorance (if he was merely not aware of the unskilfulness of it).
Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:43 pmGranted frequency or repetition of an evil thought, word or deed is a multiplier of evil results, but there also is the factor of strength of motive in the mix, plus the size or status the being killed. Killing eagerly a person is much worse than eagerly killing a bug.
That's true, but Milinda didn't bring up those factors. He was solely concerned with the question of the agent's knowledge or non-knowledge.
Svākkhātaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, sandiṭṭhikam’akālikaṃ,
Yattha amoghā pabbajjā, appamattassa sikkhato.


“The holy life is well proclaimed,
directly visible, immediate,
Where not in vain is the going forth
of one who trains heedfully.”
— Sela Sutta
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Dhammanando wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 3:48 pm
Stepping on a bug accidentally is no kamma at all.[...]
And so in the latter case the action is aggravated [...] by ignorance (if he was merely not aware of the unskilfulness of it).
The two clauses seem to conflict. The first has 'no kamma' & second says it aggravates the bad kamma. Yet accidental = ignorance of the act, which means ignorance of any effect also, right?
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by coconut »

Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:59 pm
Dhammanando wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 3:48 pm
Stepping on a bug accidentally is no kamma at all.[...]
And so in the latter case the action is aggravated [...] by ignorance (if he was merely not aware of the unskilfulness of it).
The two clauses seem to conflict. The first has 'no kamma' & second says it aggravates the bad kamma. Yet accidental = ignorance of the act, which means ignorance of any effect also, right?
No. One can intentionally kill a bug and be ignorant of the consequences (bad karma). Just like one can intentionally break the law (driving 100 km/h) but not know the law/speed limit (80km/h), and thus still face the consequences (speeding ticket). They still intended to drive 100km/h. An accident would be something like the gas pedal got stuck to the floor and they couldn't slow down, thus it was unintentional.

You're confusing ignorance with intention. The two are not mutually exclusive.
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

From the Chinese version:
“Like this, ignorant people who do evils
without knowing it will not repent it. Therefore
their demerit is greater. But the wise people who
do evil know that it should not be done, so they
repent their offence daily. Therefore their demerit becomes less.”

“Excellent, Nagasena.”
Thus repentance done or not done is the main factor, not the act or intent alone. This also suggests that the full blown secular atheist who ignores or rejects theistic warnings and also scoffs at karma is really hell-bound. On the other hand any non-Buddhist who feels remorse & sincerely repents is in better shape spiritually.
Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled. Dhammapada
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Re: Looking for a Sutta... Knowledge of Evil

Post by coconut »

Nicholas Weeks wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:23 pm From the Chinese version:
“Like this, ignorant people who do evils
without knowing it will not repent it. Therefore
their demerit is greater. But the wise people who
do evil know that it should not be done, so they
repent their offence daily. Therefore their demerit becomes less.”

“Excellent, Nagasena.”
Thus repentance done or not done is the main factor, not the act or intent alone. This also suggests that the full blown secular atheist who ignores or rejects theistic warnings and also scoffs at karma is really hell-bound. On the other hand any non-Buddhist who feels remorse & sincerely repents is in better shape spiritually.
Well yeah, if someone is ignorant of the law and never learns the law, then they will continue repeating the offenses. It reminds me of the case of the Austrian baker driving in an area without a speed limit sign every day back and forth and kept speeding past a Speed Camera, not knowing the actual speed limit, and received multiple tickets in the mail, because he was ignorant of the law until he learned otherwise.

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