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Tuesday, January 1

A sign of evil is complexity designed to cause great confusion

Then there was the time one of the Buddha's cousins, Devadatta, decided with a king, whose name I don't remember offhand, to murder the Buddha. Their problem was that they were such well-known enemies of the Buddha that suspicion would automatically fall on them if he was murdered in obvious fashion or died under suspicious circumstances. So the two of them cooked up a plan to create so much confusion about the murder that nobody would be able to figure out just what happened, much less who did it.

The plan was to have several of the king's soldiers individually hide along a circuitous route. The first solider was privately instructed to kill the Buddha, who routinely walked along a particular path in the evening. The soldier was ordered to then return to his barracks by a designated route after murdering the Buddha.  

The second soldier was instructed to lay in wait along a designated route then leap out of hiding and kill the soldier he saw approaching, then return to barracks along a designated route. This soldier to be murdered would be the one who'd murdered the Buddha. 

The third soldier was given the same instruction as the second: leap out of hiding and kill the soldier he saw approaching, then return to barracks by a designated route.

And so it went, with each soldier ordered to murder another soldier and unaware that he would be murdered in turn.

The complicated scheme fell apart when the soldier who was sent to assassinate the Buddha was so impressed by the Buddha's demeanor that he blurted he'd been sent to kill him but couldn't do it. 

After questioning the solider about the orders he'd been given, the Buddha advised him to return to the barracks but to completely avoid the return route he'd been ordered to take. The soldier agreed, and the Buddha then returned to his quarters.

As night turned into day, all the soldiers hiding along the designated routes waited in vain for their target soldier to show up, and finally drifted back to the barracks by the most direct routes. As they poured out explanations to the commanding officer about why they'd all seemingly gone AWOL, the first soldier -- the one who'd taken the Buddha's advice -- put two and two together and explained his part in what by then was obviously a devilish scheme to create a bloodbath. 

The story quickly got outside the barracks and within hours everyone figured that the king had tried to murder the Buddha and cover up his deed by murdering his own troops. The king turned around and blamed Devadatta for the plot and so the whole story came out, although by the time all the back and forth finger-pointing was done charges weren't brought against Devadatta, and of course the king wasn't charged.

Someday, perhaps, investigators paid to do such things will get to the bottom of Benghazi-gate and Russia-gate and other situations involving suspected wrongdoing that are so hideously complicated nobody has been able to get the story straight after years of trying. The sowing of mind-numbing confusion can spring from people simply trying to cover up their part in actions that they knew or suspected at the time were wrong. Some of it can be the result of real evil: intent on the part of plotters to hide their roles in doing deliberate harm by creating as much confusion as possible about a situation.

Either way, the Buddha's advice to the solider to 'go around' is a good guide for the public when exhorted to judge on incidents that are so complicated it's a fool's errand to attempt to learn what really happened. 

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you. The simile is something to think about.