Where do we draw the line?

I found our discussion about whether Virupa was good or bad to be incredibly interesting. At first, I thought that it would be impossible for anyone to put him in a positive light because I could not see past all of the crazy events that were included in his story. It was easier for me to see all of the negative aspects of his life and believe that he was simply a man with a god complex, who scared people and abused his power in order to get what he wanted. In every vignette, I was able to pick out something that seemed to go against everything I understood of what a “good” Buddhist should do, from his trips to prostitution houses and bars, to destroying shrines, and flooding towns.
However, the other group pointed out several things that had me questioning whether or not he was actually bad. Like the Buddha, Virupa gave up a life of comfort for a life of homelessness. He rejected vanity and although most of his actions are, in my opinion, very questionable and wrong, he is mostly doing them for the right reasons. He makes people see the error of their ways. Several incidents occurred which were overshadowed by more obvious, negative interpretations; it was much more simple to look at them on the surface level and not go deeper to understand them in such a way that something positive could be drawn from his actions, but the other group drew my attention to these positive aspects of Virupa’s story.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but question the value of Virupa’s story. While it can clearly by interpreted in both negative and positive manners, there are certain things that jump out at me and I cannot quite get past them in order to say that he is a figure worth all of the glorification he receives, although it is somewhat forced because he intimidates a lot of people into doing what he wants. It does seem to be to their ultimate benefit, but at what point should we draw the line between doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and simply doing the wrong thing? I can think of several ways in which he could have acted in the situations he is presented with that would not have resulted in people being scared in to liking him. I just cannot figure out whether or not Virupa is supposed to be a role model for anyone, or if he is supposed to be likable in general.

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1 Response to Where do we draw the line?

  1. mmw92 says:

    You bring up some interesting points that I’ve also wondered about. I think it’s important to bring up the emphasis on community in Buddhism. Throughout the course we’ve seen the importance of the relationship between monastic communities and lay communities, as well as the importance of respect within monastic traditions. I’m seems that as an enlightened being, Virupa would not only have to save people from samsara, but also exemplify these values so that others who do not come into contact with him can follow him later on. Without providing the example to others, he seems to almost be manipulating his powers, even if it is for the larger good.

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