Q. Why does Buddhism say that unknowingly committing sin is worse than knowingly committing sin?

A. This idea can be very confusing since it seems to contradict our worldly concept of justice that a sin committed unconsciously, or by mistake is thought to be less serious than one committed consciously with intention. I am going to interpret this in two ways; a mundane one and a Buddhist one.

From a mundane perspective, let’s suppose that there is a red-hot iron ball from a furnace in front of a two or three-year-old child. He, attracted by its beautiful colour, is likely to grab it because he doesn’t know that this colour signifies fire. However, grown-ups would not think of touching it with their bare hands since they know it is dangerous. As a result, children get more injured than grown-ups because they act unknowingly.

From a Buddhist perspective, knowing implies the realisation that everything is empty. So, committing sin whilst knowing implies committing sin while knowing that sin is empty. To those who can see everything as empty, sin is empty as well. They don’t feel the same about committing sin as the unenlightened do. This is why Bodhidharma said that even a butcher whose job is to kill living things can escape from causation if he realises that everything is empty, that is, if he is enlightened.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

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