Three Monkeys and the Question of Evil

When we were in Bali in February we purchased a set of “Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil” figurines.  When we got home we realized we had been given two “Speak’s” and no “See’s”.

Speak no evil times 2

This led me to ponder – should we really endeavor to see no evil?  I suppose in the Buddhist tradition one would try to see a person in pain rather than someone who is evil.  In the West we are more likely to accuse a person who sees no evil of being a Pollyanna or worse, someone who just callously turns a blind eye.

Why do I bring up this topic in a business blog?  The answer is that most of us see our fair share of bad behavior during our careers.

To me, the hear and speak no evil monkeys admonish us to avoid gossip and whining.  While we may inadvertently hear gossip, we must redouble our efforts to not speak it ourselves.  Speaking no evil also means we must not disrespect others, especially those we are supposed to be serving.

To aspire to see no evil, though, remains a problem for me. If a school principal ignores warning signs that a bookkeeper is stealing, or a teacher turns a blind eye to possible child abuse we are justifiably outraged.

When we admit to ourselves the possible implications of what we are seeing, we now have to do something about it. That can take real courage. It does not always turn out well for the person who acts to address a possible wrong.

Upon reflection I think my three figurines are just right.



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