"There is no bad person, just bad action"

Well, I see a lot of this mindset lurking around here. On the surface, it sounds very lofty and compassionate. But personally I only see criminals and evil doers using this view to detach themselves from their horrific action. This is certainly why the view has no basis in the suttas and vinaya.

What about SN 12.17 & SN 12.18?? :saluting_face:

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(Caution - my opinion only. Not based on specific shastra)

A lot depends on what we call ‘bad’ and if it is a permanent situation.

Are there people who are intrinsically bad? No. Are there people who by their wrong actions, reactions, and choices do bad things? Yes. Can this make them a bad person? In the short term I would say yes, but it is not permanent.

To use an extreme example - hitler. His bad choices and bad actions, I feel, did in fact make him a bad person. Could he have been a good person? Yes, but he chose not to be.

Most of us are not ‘that’ bad, but it is our choice how to react or not. If you just let yourself get pulled along in the currents of this material ocean, fighting to swim, and get knocked around by waves and flotsam - you will face a lot of suffering - that is your choice. Lifetimes of bad choices lead to worse situations. You can rise above them, but many do not know how, or do not care to learn how. I used to work in the jails. I have met people that would just as soon kill you as look at you. They were, at that point, bad people. By their own choices. Not a permanent situation if they chose to change it.

This does not make them intrinsically bad, but some people are not ready to choose another way.

A person is basically their beliefs and habits. I suppose genetics can influence that to a degree, but there are people with poor genetic diseases with extreme daily pain, like the Canadian butterfly child, and this has humbled them and made them better people.

There’s a lot of factors that can influence what makes a person good or bad. They can be born in an affluent family in a rich country but get mixed with the wrong crowd, fall into drug abuse, and end up with a life prison sentence for murder. The opposite could be true as well, someone could be born in a gang slum area like those Brazilian or Hondurian favelas, where people are constantly killing eachother, and manage to escape it and become a leader of a humanitarian organization.

Also people can flip back and forth, Bill Gates went from stealing code from competitors to donating millions, so it’s unfair to judge someone entirely from one snapshot frame of their life.

From the dhamma perspective, either a greedy person fulfils their cravings wholesomely (5 precepts) or unwholesomely, and a supernormal person doesn’t chase their cravings in the first place. This is still led by their view (beliefs) and conditioning/habits.

Is the thing (what you refer to as ‘our’ and ‘you’ above) that does the choosing - is that itself conditioned? Is that ‘process of choosing’ actually also knocked around by waves and flotsam? I suggest that because a Buddha has arisen in the world that is ‘good waves and flotsam’ which conditions the process of choosing (‘you’) to act in a wholesome way. It’s the training that leads to a tame person who makes good choices.

This is interesting. What makes someone ready to choose another way? What can we do to help them to get there?

Not sure. I would say just try and be a good example & be a friend. Be available if they have questions or ask for help. Personally, I am not one to proselytize, but I am happy to talk to anyone that asks. I won’t be knocking on anyone’s door, but I hope I would not turn away someone that asks for help. Some people are just at different parts of the journey…


There are bad people, in fact one of the main challenges to western lay practitioners is dealing skilfully with the uninstructed ordinary person who attempts to impose their ignorance-based view:

"Then Mara the Evil One, taking on the form of a farmer with a large plowshare over his shoulder, carrying a long goad stick — his hair disheveled, his clothes made of coarse hemp, his feet splattered with mud — went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, said, “Hey, contemplative. Have you seen my oxen?”—Samyutta Nikaya 4.19

Verse is used indicating heightened dramatic tension, distinguishing those from the philosophical approach of the sutta majority.

Difference between ultimate and conventional reality observed:

"He, beyond any concept, wise,
would say, ‘I speak’;
would say, ‘They speak to me.’

knowing harmonious gnosis
with regard to the world,
he uses expressions
just as expressions.”—Samyutta Nikaya 1.25

TBH I agree. Actually the suttas don’t really make an issue out of this, they constantly talk about a “good person” and a “bad person” in many ways. Obviously this is in the context of the broader teachings on conditionality and impermanence. A bad person is simply someone who does bad things, especially if they do them regularly. The thing is, though, patterns of behavior, while certainly not permanent, are pretty damn sticky. They’re informed by deeply-held views and values, which often may change little over the course of a lifetime.

I kind of think that the “no bad people” approach stems from a kind of complacent, middle-class experience. Many of us haven’t really encountered evil, and we want to look upon others with kindness and forgiveness. Which is laudable, but it tends to blind us to the presence of real evil.

I can’t help thinking of this in the context of modern political culture. In many countries around the world, the culture has shifted from a debate between groups of basically well-intentioned people with different values and ideas, to a fight between good and evil. It seems to me that those on the side of good are often slow to really acknowledge the true evil that has grown up around them. To recognize, when looking around the family dinner-table at Christmas, that many of these people, had they lived in Germany in 1932, would absolutely have been among the 35% of people who voted for the Nazis.

Perhaps it has always been this way, and we have just been blind. But of one thing I am sure. When people have gone over to evil, the path back is long, slow, and uncertain. Yes, individuals can find redemption, and we should always keep the door open and support them. But for most this will come in a far distant future. In this life, here and now, we have to accept the limitations of redemption.

If we want to stop evil from triumphing, we cannot save every individual who has chosen evil. We must beat them. We must beat them in the elections, beat them in the media, beat them in the corporations, beat them in the schools, beat them on socials, and yes, even beat them on the battlefield. When it has become clear to them that they have been beaten, maybe some of them will start to seek their redemption.


Indeed. This was the thing that most shocked me after ordaining. Most of the people I knew before were alright: decent people with some blind spots. Here in Thailand there are actual saints … and real villains.


I think we can see for ourselves that we also are often beaten by defilements. Or maybe in our younger years? Not only other persons/beings have defilements and are beaten by defilements, right?

I personally have no difficulty to see a Trump in myself. I can also see a racist too, a religious extremist, a corrupt person, a pervert, an animal, a terrorist, a sadist, a hedonist, etc. in myself.

One can make a big issue or problem of this, and raising the moral finger, but i think it is only good to see this shadowside of oneself, this darkness, this lack of wisdom, this lack of sensitivity and compassion and be honest about it. The heart can be really cold.

I personally believe it is not good to denie the presence of this shadow (Jung). I think al lot of problems start there. One starts to feel superior to others. Unfortunately a lot of cultures and persons are so judgemental that people never feel free to admit what is really going on in their minds. Just see their own racist tendencies, perversion, hate, corruption, extremism, seksism etc. It is always of the other person…sure…madness it is.

I have noticed that if i project some bad-self into others who are disrespectul, hurting, violent, immorally behaving, all wisdom, love and compassion disappears from the heart. The mind becomes really anxious and cannot let go the thoughts how intrinsically bad that person really is.
It is just foolishness. There is no bad or good self in someone. There are dependendly arising and grasped phenomena. There is PS. But if one sees a atta, that is a real katalyst to become oneself a madman too.

I also think that the consequences of Buddha’s teachings is that the world will always be inhabited by beings ruled by defilements. Because when only wisdom rules, one is not born and reborn in this or another world. In that sense we cannot expact that we ourselves or others are wise and holy from birth. It is the opposite. From birth we all tend to madness, foolishness, unskillfull, immoral, unwholesomeness. Or like the Buddha in Dhammapada says: it does not take much effort to do something immoral but to do something good, does.