Shizaru – Do No Evil

“Within two weeks I heard about ‘Three Monkeys’ two times.” said Polin to Radot. “It was spoken sincerely by the CEO of a company I work for. Firstly, he said it in front of about 50 people that participated on 2008 Work Plan Meeting in Cipanas, about 80 km from Jakarta. Secondly, he said it in front of Jakarta office’s employees.  ‘’It was shown with picture of three monkeys in different mode.” Polin continued. “The first monkey closed her eyes, the second one closed her ears and the third one closed her mouth. In brief, the three monkeys are presentation of proverb ‘see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil. Its meaning seems questionable to me. What do you think?” asked Polin. 

“The original proverb is ‘Three Wise Monkeys.’ But the question is ‘could we apply the word ‘wise’ to monkey?’ Even though we could learn from nature, the word ‘wise’ is only applied to man and God. We may also apply it to angle. We do no apply that word to animal such as monkey.” said Radot. 

“So, we should not say ‘wise monkeys, shouldn’t we?” asked Polin. 

“Let’s back to the proverb. And before we talk about the meaning of the proverb, I would give its background in brief.” said Radot. “According to legend, the original concept came from China, probably from the Analects of Confucius, a philosopher from China. In his Analects, there is a phrase “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety”. 

“There are similar words: look, listen, and speak.” said Polin.  

“The proverb was possibly brought to Japan and then probably rephrased into “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” In Japanese language, it is called, Mizaru, Kikazaru, and Iwazaru picturing monkeys in three different modes: closing her eyes, closing her ears, and closing her mouth. In English, the monkeys’ names are often given as Mizaru, Mikazaru, and Mazaru.” 

“So, the proverb was rephrased into ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’, wasn’t it?” asked Polin. 

“Probably. In Japan the proverb is simply regarded as a Japanese Golden Rule. Some simply take the proverb as a reminder not to be snoopy, nosy and gossipy. Some think that if we do not hear, see or talk evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil. Others believe the message that a person who is not exposed to evil (through sight or sound) will not reflect that evil in their own speech and actions.” 

“If we do not entertain our mind with evil thought, we will possibly not reflect evil in our speech and actions, will we?” asked Polin. 

“Thought is the root of our actions.” said Radot. “Today “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil “is commonly used to describe someone who doesn’t want to be involved in a situation. In other words, some one does not care if it does not matter to him.” said Radot. 

“It is not a good attitude, isn’t it? We need to care our surrounding. We can not be ignorant to anything.” said Polin. 

“The meaning of the proverb is partly right. To some respect, the meaning is true. If we see evil, possibly we will accumulate evil thought in our mind; we will have tendency to do evil actions. An example of this is watching television. If our children often watch evil actions on TV, they will tend to do evil things. What is seen on the television will possibly be done to others. That is what happens to our teenagers on sex problem. So, it is true that if we see evil thing, there is a tendency for us to do evil actions. So, not to see evil will reduce tendency of evil actions.”   

“The same thing with hearing.’ said Radot to continue. “If we hear no evil, we will not entertain our mind with evil thought. But, if we hear evil, there is possibility that we will do evil action to others even to our selves. What we see and hear could generate a thought; depending on what thought coming in to our mind. If the incoming information is evil thought, we will generate evil thought and action; if the incoming information is good thought, we will possibly generate good thought and action.”  

“So, it is important to control information we receive through seeing and hearing.” said Polin. 

“Yes. The issue is that we can not always control what we see and hear. Many times event or information is just entertained to us without request. For example is the information on the television. We heard a lot of dirty words in the movies. So, many times we can not control what we see and hear.” 

“But, we could avoid it, couldn’t we?” Polin asked.  

“We could avoid it, but the act to avoid it does not always mean right. I mean if we close our eyes on evil action and we do not do anything, we are wrong. If we see evil actions bringing danger to many people and if we do not try to stop it, we are guilty. So, it is not always a good act to close our eyes to evil action. Our act to avoid it could even be said as an evil act.” 

“Many people avoid thing when they see danger.” said Polin. 

“The only true phrase from the proverb is ‘speak no evil.’ We are commanded not to say evil to others. This is what we could possibly control. To some degree we could control our mouth even though our tongue is the most difficult part of our body to control. To speak no evil is a command and this command is absolutely right.” 

“I think we need the fourth phrase – do no evil. It covers all. When we say ‘do no evil’, it means we are not permitted to speak evil thought and do evil action to others; we can not say bad words; we can not steal someone’s belonging; we can not apply partiality to others; we can not ignore someone’s right; we could not sleep with other women beside our spouse. To borrow term from Japan, we need ‘Shizaru’; it means  ‘do no evil’.”  (Judika Malau) 


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