by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

If it is Good

To think of neither good nor evil will help us to still our bustling liveliness.

The Opposites of Good and Evil

In How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master emphasizes the if it is good that is "beyond" right and wrong and good and evil.

Some people who have claimed to find a way "beyond" good and evil are really just glorifying a particularly foolish brand of selfishness. The philosopher Nietzche comes to mind as an advocate of this kind of delusion. Such philosophies are characterized by utter ignorance of the law of karma. Clearly, Rev. Master did not advocate amorality. She well knew, and strongly emphasized in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, that the law of karma is inexorable and universal: all beings reap what they sow. There are no "supermen" who live a karma-free existence. Yet if Rev. Master did not advocate amorality, neither was she content to live in the spiritual prison of the opposites--including the opposites of good and evil. So how are we to understand the if it is good that is beyond good and evil?

Perhaps we can start by looking at the opposites of good and evil. All the opposites are generated from a mistaken point of view. They all originate in the illusion of a separate self--a personal identity, or ego, separate from the Eternal. This is as true of the opposites of good and evil as of all other opposites.

When self is the reference-point, we view as "good" actions and conditions that support and preserve the self, and as "evil" actions and conditions that undermine and destroy the self. In other words, that which keeps me and mine afloat in the sea of impermanence and suffering is good, and that which threatens to sink me and mine is evil.

My health, my possessions, my family, my friends, my life, my happiness, my nation, my wealth, my knowledge, my reputation, my compassion, my honor, my religion--this is "good"; anything that threatens the "me" and "mine"--this is evil. We can expand the "me" and "mine" into "us" and "ours": our health, our possessions, our family, our friends, and so on. This expansion does not change the basic reference-point, which is still that of an illusory self.

Further expansion of the "me" and "mine" does not release us from the prison of the opposites. We can love justice and hate injustice, love kindness and hate cruelty, love fairness and hate unfairness, love liberty and hate tyranny, love virtue and hate vice, love our planet and hate that which damages our planet, and so on. If love is paired with hate, it is still imbued with self. Together, saddened love (for such it is) and hate keep the wheel of suffering rolling.

Living at the level of the opposites is an endless merry-go-round of opinions, likes, dislikes, loves and hates. And always there is the flow of changing conditions and circumstances that keeps exposing our attachments and aversions for the shadow-realities that they are. There is no enduring refuge within the opposites. There is no cessation of suffering while we remain imprisoned in good and evil.


If we are to break out of the prison of the opposites, we must have a reference-point other than the illusory separate self, or ego. All beings possess the Buddha Nature. It is our true and enduring Refuge, and It (and It alone) can replace the illusory self as our reference-point.

That which is not made and which cannot be unmade; That which knows neither gain nor loss, neither self nor other; That to which saint and sinner, sage and fool, are the same; That which loves with a Love that cannot turn to hate because everything is equally part of Itself--this is the reference-point toward which we can orient through meditation and the practice of the true spirit of the Precepts. Our own Buddha Nature, not some external person, agency or power, holds the key to our spiritual liberation.

If we are to act in harmony with our own True Self, we must, insofar as we are able, view ourselves and others as our Buddha Nature views us, and act in relation to ourselves and others as the Buddha Nature acts. This is what we seek when we meditatively consider "if it is good".

Panning for Gold

In panning for gold, a miner swirls a mixture of sand and pebbles and water in a wide, shallow pan, periodically pouring off some of the water and lighter material. This swirling and pouring off process is repeated again and again. The heaviest material stays in the pan. If the miner is lucky, some bits of gold--a very heavy substance--will remain in the pan when all the other material has been washed away

When we are meditatively considering what is good to do, we usually have a number of options. Somewhere among the options is one that is most in harmony with our True Nature. By meditating with the question of what is good to do in a given situation--asking, offering, waiting and listening--we allow the Water of the Eternal's Love and Wisdom to move through the options and carry all away except the one that is spiritual gold.

The spiritual gold that remains is the good that transcends good and evil. Of all the options, it is the one that will best serve the genuine spiritual welfare of everyone involved in a particular situation. In Rev. Master's wonderful expression, it will do that which "helps everyone be a success in his own way." Since all are of the Eternal, how could it be otherwise?

Recognizing and Using the Gold

Imagine that a gold miner wears glasses that filter light in such a way that he sees only in shades of grey. He could have a pan full of gold and not know it. If at any point in our spiritual panning for gold we put the glasses of the opposites back on, we will not recognize spiritual gold even when we have found it.

Again, imagine that our gold miner has found the gold and recognizes it. But imagine that he then balks at using it. The gold that he has put all that effort into isolating is of no use to him or anyone else until he does something with it. Even so, when we have identified that which is good to do, we can balk at doing it.

More than once when I have found the good that is beyond good and evil in a particular situation I have wished that there was an easier way. More than once I have struggled to find the willingness to do that which is truly good to do. More than once I have been unwilling to do it and backed away, always to regret my choice later. More than once I have found the willingness to do that which is good, but hard, to do, always to find later that, however messy and painful the short-term consequences of such action might be, the long-term consequences did indeed do the best for everyone.

The True Spirit of the Precepts

The true spirit of the Precepts is found in and through the "if it is good." All the Precepts, as Rev. Master often reminded us, telescope into the One Precept--"Take refuge in the Buddha." And at the deepest level, the term "the Buddha" refers to our own Buddha Nature. Action that comes out of taking refuge in the Buddha Nature will express the true spirit of the Precepts even when, as sometimes happens, the more literal meaning of one or more Precepts is violated.

Because the Precepts all telescope back into the One Precept, the Precepts are not a code of ethics or set of rules. They are reminders to take refuge in the Eternal when we begin to wander back into the confusion of the opposites. They are reminders that there is a good beyond good and evil.

Whether we make wilfull choices and perpetuate suffering or willingly follow the Eternal, we get the consequences of our actions. The irony of action that derives from the illusion of self is that the person we most hurt is ourself. The wonder of action that derives from our True Nature is that it always does the best for everyone and everything, even if there are messy and painful short-term consequences, and regardless of whether anyone--even the person who does the action--recognizes the benefits.


Click here to go to Part XVIII, "The Spirit of the Precepts"

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