“If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.” Herman Hesse
“All human beings are commingled out of good and evil.” Robert Louis Stevenson
I’m Evil. Not Hitler evil, but definitely somewhat evil.
Let me explain. When another Simon passes through a particular social circle of mine, my friend distinguishes us as ‘Good Simon’ and ‘Evil Simon’.
I’m always Evil Simon.
I don’t think i’m the devil’s spawn, yet whenever i meet the aforementioned ‘Good Simons’, my place on the light/dark spectrum quickly becomes apparent. They’re just so….nice!
Yet was I truly an evil person? It was with my accuser, my American friend Kevin that I ventured with to the Buddhist hilltops of Koyasan in Wakayama, Japan, where meditations on good and evil were to be examined, as they had been for over a millennia.
We headed straight to the epic Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan which boasts over 200,000 giant tombstones and mausoleums enclosed within a forest of towering cedarwood trees.
The monk that founded the area as a religious site in 816 is now considered to be resting here in eternal meditation, awaiting the ‘Buddha of the Future’, as he meanwhile purifies visitors spirits.
Perhaps he could iron out my jagged little soul.
Coming from a relatively warm winter climate in Osaka, the surprise of snow cover made Okunoin even more scenic than I had anticipated. Kevin even made me check myself when I mentioned that the constant thump and sprinkle of falling powder was like “nature’s heartbeat”. Who did I think I was? Wordsworth?
I quickly shook off my dreamy reverence for nature to take a selfie.
Even Wordsworth would have taken a selfie here.
The scale of everything here is humbling. The atmosphere is calm, refreshing, invigorating.
Regardless of the sins we were guilty of up unto this point in our lives, walking through this forest felt like a carwash for the soul.
Along the way, there were various tests of one’s goodness, the most intriguing of which being a heavy rock inside a wooden cage. If you could pick it up, you were pure of heart.
I couldn’t pick it up. No surprise there.
A truer test, however, came after Kevin and I passed by a monk in deep meditation. A classic travel photograph for many, yet I withheld my urge to take it as there was a no photo sign.
“That was very restrained of you.” Kevin noted.
The more I thought about the shot, the more tempted I was to go back and take it. “No”, Kevin gestured with a single shake of his head. He was right. Breaking the concentration of a monk in meditation in one of the holiest sites of Japan would be bad, bad thing to do.
The biggest structure here is the beastly Danjo Garan, a massive two-tiered orange temple planned by the founder, Kobo Daishi in the 9th century. It was completed after his death.
It was here that I saw the Notorious B.I.G of monks. I immediately approached him for a portrait.
I talked to him a little, took some shots, and he was on his way.
But after reviewing the shots, I wasn’t happy. I wanted a better one. So I went to fetch him and took as many shots as I needed until I was happy.
The Good Simons of the world wouldn’t have pushed their luck like this.
It was stubborn, perhaps selfish of me to make him come back and pose for a second time, but I got the shot I wanted. Sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish to get what you want. Not disrespectful, not like Hitler evil like I said earlier, just a little bit single minded in order to accomplish your goal.
It’s not a case of good or evil – it’s about following your instinct and seizing the opportunity in order to make something happen. If that brings out the devil in you, then you should bring it out to play more often.