But he who has abandoned greed, hatred and delusion, is no longer Māra’s prisoner; he is freed from Māra’s snares, no longer subject to the Evil One’s will and pleasure.
– The Buddha
Will good triumph over evil? Or does evil triumph over good? As we shall see, as dependent on various conditions, the answer is not so clear-cut. Good(ness) arises from the ‘Three Antidotes’ of generosity, compassion and wisdom, while evil arises from the Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. Good triumphs over evil only when the good is stronger. This is the case not just in the big picture of complex situations that involve many people collectively, but for the individual too.
For example, one knows that greed is not good (i.e. is evil), while generosity, as its opposite is good. However this person might struggle between being miserly (i.e. a way of being greedy) or being giving (generous) over a matter, such as whether to contribute to a good cause or not. This is the tug of war in his heart and mind, between good and evil.The good within triumphs only when the generosity is stronger than the miserliness. If not, the evil triumphs. This does not mean the person is downright evil, as there is still good, which happens to be weaker then.
In cases where the ‘amounts’ of good and evil are equal, good is more powerful, as goodness can be dedicated (as merits; meritorious virtues or good; positive karma) to lessen suffering, which is itself an act of generosity, compassion and wisdom, that creates more good karma, that can touch and transform the evil, while evil cannot have similar effects. (Thank goodness, or any very evil person would be able to ‘dedicate’ very great suffering to ‘curse’ the good, and to make them very evil!) In this way, good can multiply and triumph over evil eventually, even if not immediately.
When apparently good people suffer due to apparently evil people, it does not mean good is weaker than evil. What it means is that the currently evil persons happen to have enough ability at the moment, to cause others to suffer. Ironically, this ability is due to good done in this or previous lives, which created good karma that ripens as favourable conditions to do as they please. Examples include those born rich and powerful, who abuse their wealth and influence for personal gains. Their squandering of good fortune to do evil will karmically result in personal suffering later, especially when buffering good karma exhausts, leaving behind much bad karma to ripen.
Vice versa, again, when apparently good people suffer due to apparently evil people, it also means that the currently good persons happen to have enough bad karma created in this or previous lives, to experience suffering then. Thus, being fickle and unenlightened beings, we are only apparently and currently (instead of totally) good and evil, with ‘mixed bags’ of good and bad karma. Currently good people suffering due to the evil should not retaliate with evil, which will create more suffering, that ripens immediately or later (when conditions are ‘right’ for karmic seeds to bear fruits).
The true long-term triumph of good over evil would be to continue doing good, (instead of becoming evil), to create more good karma while exhausting the already ripening bad karma. However, this does not mean to let evil people trample over good people, as there should be skilful means (motivated by generosity, compassion and wisdom) to discourage the evil from creating more suffering for oneself and others, which also creates negative karma for personal suffering.
Unfortunately, the very evil tend to be very deluded, not believing in the workings of karma through delay effects of its ripening. Yet, most still somewhat believe in karma’s cause and effect – in a short-sighted way. For example, they do not create the cause of doing evil too openly which risks the direct effect of being quickly caught. They thus devise more cunning schemes. Yet, the law of karma has longer arms than limited human law, able to extend beyond this life. Even if one escapes worldly law, one cannot escape from karmic law – unless one repents and makes amends in time.
I am the owner of my [intentional] actions [karma, created by thought, word and deed], heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.
– The Buddha
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The doer of evil knows what they are doing is wrong and so are not committed as much as the doer of good who has the certainty of right and has an unswavering committment to ‘destroy’ the evil doer.