6 years, 4 months ago Posted in: Blog Comments Off on Hitler/Buddha

Hitler:Buddha low res

Oil on canvas – 13.5″ x 17.5″

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’*. That was about 3 years ago and my first version was a photo-montage however I knew I would have to produce a painted version.

In Taoism the yin and yang symbols represent opposite forces that are interconnected. It is noted that there are many dualities such as light and dark, male and female, fire and water and so on.

Monotheistic religion 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.

Coming to Buddhism the Lotus Sutra is considered by many to represent Shakymuni’s highest 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’.

The 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra is called Devadatta. In this chapter the Buddha explains his past relationship to Devadatta in a previous lifetime and makes the prediction that in the future Devadatta will attain Buddhahood.

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 possibility that we are part of an unending rhythm of birth and death. Buddhism states that all phenomena go through the phases of life and death continuously.

Devadatta was the arch-enemy of Shakymuni, he plotted to kill the Buddha and tried to disrupt the Buddhist order. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of members of the Shakya clan. Yet Shakymuni makes the prediction that after countless lifetimes Devadatta would eventually attain Buddhahood and be known as ‘Heavenly King Buddha’.

Adolf Hitler is considered to be the personification of evil fighting off competition from some big names who may well have been responsible for more deaths that he was. Poisoned by hatred especially of the Jews, the organization of death camps leaves a deep stain on the history of the human race. 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 had an interest 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. This is what happens to some individuals when they gain a position of responsibility, especially in politics. 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 good causes reducing the balance of negative karma and bringing forth the enlightened life state of Buddhahood.

*In Buddhism there are a number on ‘oneness’ concepts such as ‘the oneness of mind and body’, ‘the oneness of living beings and their environment’ and ‘the oneness of master and disciple’. These philosophical constructs help to explain the inter-connectedness of all things.


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