Oil on canvas board – 34 x 45 cm
The idea for this painting came after I was asked to produce an image to illustrate the Buddhist concept of ‘the oneness of good and evil’. Monotheistic religions tends to separate this duality – the good will go to heaven and the bad will rot in hell. In these philosophies there is only one existence and if you mess it up the consequences are dire.
In Taoism the yin and yang symbols represent opposite forces that are interconnected. In eastern philosophies there are many dualities such as light and dark, male and female, fire and water and so on.
Coming back to Buddhism the Lotus Sutra is considered by many to represent the pinnacle of Shakymuni’s teaching. This is the sutra that proclaims the universality of the Buddha Nature. In other words the Buddha Nature exists in everything and every human being has the potential to manifest this state of life described by Shakymuni as being the ‘unsurpassed way’.
Adolf Hitler is considered to be the personification of evil because he was poisoned by hatred, especially of the Jews. Hitler’s Nazi Party created an organization of death camps unlike anything that had been seen before. Yet Hitler dreamed of ruling a utopian world dominated by a master race. He had an interest in spiritual matters and the swastika he designed was based on an ancient auspicious symbol used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Although some leading Nazis were interested in the occult it is unclear to what extent Hitler was influenced by such ideas. His opinions on art seem to have been traditional, we know he liked Wagner and he certainly had an interest in Norse mythology. Some say he believed in God, unfortunately he certainly did not see the Buddha nature existing in all living beings.
If we consider that the potential for good and evil or positive and negative is inherent in every moment of life then it becomes apparent that we can manifest either condition. So a good person could become corrupted and turn evil and by the same token a powerful evil person could have a change of heart. A good example of this is King Ashoka. This warlike monarch lived in the third century BC and ruled most of present day India.
Becoming gradually converted to Buddhism he sent emissaries to neighbouring countries declaring his peaceful intentions and he encouraged the spread of Buddhist philosophy believing it could create peace in society. For a time India was peaceful but sadly after Ashoka’s death various factions vied for power and war and misery returned to the sub continent.
It seems that throughout history whatever system of society humans establish there is no end to misery in one form or another and now our human activities have come to threaten the very life of our planet. In view of this sobering reality everybody needs to be aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions. It’s difficult to change or influence others but we can change ourselves and by doing that we will start to change our environment. Buddhist chants, prayers and meditations are intended to draw out the Buddha nature within the individual and his or her surroundings.
In my picture I am saying that no matter how evil a person may be a change of heart is always possible, so, instead of making the causes that lead to the life state of hell one could do the opposite and start making causes that reduce the balance of negative karma and hopefully bring forth the enlightened life state of Buddhahood. So even Hitler has the Buddha Nature and perhaps in a future lifetime when the balance of his karma has been corrected he could be become a Buddha himself. This possibility is suggested in the 12thchapter of the Lotus Sutra when Shakymuni predicts that the treacherous Devadatta will be become a Buddha called Heavenly King Thus Come One. But this is many lifetimes into the future.
The idea of karma is very important in Buddhism. Karma can only be understood if one tries to suspend disbelief and take on board the reality that we and everything else in the universe are part of an unending rhythm of birth and death.