‘Se7en’ can be seen as a contemporary fable on the dangers of the Seven Deadly Sins, which according to Christian teachings, are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. (They are contrary, respectively, to the Seven Cardinal Virtues of humility, charity [or generosity], chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, diligence.) In this murder mystery thriller, a serial killer picked and punished persons seemingly representative of each sin, while highlighting how it led to their downfall. The sins proved to be literally ‘deadly’ for almost all overwhelmed by them. Even a less mindful one, who was rash in taking down the story’s biggest ‘sinner’ ended up ‘sinning’.
In the Buddhist teachings, the concept of ‘sin’, as a misgiving that displeases a deity, who thus condemns one to hell is not known. However, they do agree with any ‘sin’ that harms oneself and/or others being a misgiving. In Buddhism, there is instead speak of the Five Poisons, of greed (or attachment), hatred (or aversion), delusion (or ignorance), arrogance (or pridefulness) and doubt (of the Buddha’s teachings due to incomplete learning and practice). The ‘Five Antidotes’ respectively, are generosity, loving-kindness (and compassion), wisdom, humility and faith.
The Five Poisons are often condensed as the Three Poisons, since arrogance and doubt are forms of the third poison of delusion – by deludedly having self-importance, and deludedly missing clear views of the Dharma. All Five Poisons stem from the root poison of delusion, as it is impossible to have any active poison if not deluded at all. Without the uprooting of delusion, the other poisons will only branch out to grow. Theology aside, to basically compare the sins with the poisons… Pride is equivalent to arrogance. Lust, envy and gluttony are forms of greed. Wrath is equivalent to hatred. Sloth that results in non-diligence is a form of delusion. There we have it… 7-in-3-in-1.
Was any deity working in mysterious ways via the killings? No. Just a self-righteous godless killer playing god in delusional ways. Forced attrition is not true contrition anyway, just as mere retribution brings no repentance for reformation. More skilful means with empathy and patience are needed for ‘rehabilitation’ of all ‘sinners’. The killer might had been trying to twistedly ‘preach’, but he himself needed straightening. While ‘exacting the negative karma’ of others, he created ‘sinful’ negative karma for himself – with his lustful envy leading to another murder, along with his greed for wrathful vengeance upon himself, by getting himself murdered.
Methodical ‘madness’ is still madness, even if with complex methodology. Can the insane who are sane enough to plead insanity be insane? Do the insane know they are insane? If they do, they are to that extent not so insane, surely still culpable for what they do and not do. Well, many of those thought to be insane can still cross roads in sanely manners. Surely, they are not totally insane. Even if one who is ruled criminally insane ‘gets away’, who was actually sane enough to willingly harm, there will be no getting away from the impartial law of karma. No one can play god before the impartial face of karma.
Detective Somerset reflects at the end – ‘Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.’ Having witnessed many ‘sinful’ atrocities, and having planned for retirement away from the big bad city, he reconsiders his resignation. Like vigilant Bodhisattvas who continue to look out for all, he says he will ‘be around’. John Milton in ‘Paradise Lost’ wrote – ‘Long is the way. And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.’ Yet, the Bodhisattvas strive on to show the way to avoid and exit from the hells, even if it takes a long time. Hell! Even Buddhas remanifest as Bodhisattvas to do so!