In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra the "icchantikas" (i.e., a are deeply evil. They don't believe that all beings have the Buddha-nature. They wish to harm others. They take pride in their twisted views, and live lives contrary to the Buddhist precepts. Especially, the icchantikas conceal the evils they have done some of which are grave in nature. Nor are they capable of repenting their sins. As far as their spiritual capacity is concerned, they have "no capacity for saddharma" (true Dharma). The Buddha refers to icchantikas as "the incurable ones." In fact, the Buddha it could be said regards them as the spiritual dead. In this respect, killing an icchantika is of no karmic consequence according to the Buddha.
"For example, such actions as digging the ground, mowing the grass, felling trees, cutting up corpses, ill-speaking, and lashing do not call forth karmic returns. Killing an icchantika comes within the same category. No karmic results ensue" (T. vol. 12, p. 460b,11.17–19).
As far as Bodhisattvas are concerned, they still have great compassion for all beings, including even the antihuman like icchantikas. In this context, the great compassion the Bodhisattvas demonstrates is intended to remove the non-beneficial character of sentient beings which prevents them from actualizing their Buddha-nature. In fact, a Bodhisattva might even resolve to be reborn in hell, where icchantikas are being tortured, perchance they should repent in which case the Bodhisattva will be there to preach various dharmas to them “so that there may arise in them a moment of good roots”! As we can see, despite the noble resolve of the Bodhisattvas to even go to hell to save them, icchantikas prove to be tough nuts to crack. By and large, they are incurable.
Turning our attention to the modern world, it is not difficult to lump the icchantika up with the psychopath who lacks any measure of conscience and empathy—a person whom we might characterize as being “cold and calculating”. One troubling aspect of a psychopath is that they seem to be quite sane. But in reality they are anything but sane. They have an insatiable appetite to be in positions of power in order to control others and psychically harm them. Virtually, every hierarchical system is riddled with psychopaths. Probably, the first recorded evidence of psychopathy came at the beginning of the 19th century.
"Pinel (1801) described the case of a young, spoiled adolescent who, in a fit of rage, threw a maid into a pit. In the subsequent court case, Pinel made the plea that although the young man had no symptoms of a mental disorder, his behavior was so purposeless that he had to be considered insane. Pinel uses two terms to describe this kind of insanity: manie sans delire and folise raisonante, which could be translated into modern English as "mental disease without symptoms of mental disease" and "sane insanity." Cleckley (1941) reached the same conclusions: the behavior of psychopaths is so maladaptive that it can only be the manifestation of a hidden insanity” (Thomas A. Widiger, Dimensional models of personality disorders: refining the research agenda for DSM-V).
Today, more and more attention is being given to the dangers of psychopathy where in the world of business and politics, CEOs and political leaders are often discovered to be psychopaths. A psychopath, in fact, can destroy a business or ruin a nation. But they can also infect others with their psychopathy leading them to perdition, so to speak. Being seduced, for example, by a rationalization for a preemptive military strike that will undoubtedly kill thousands of innocent people or the need to suspend civil liberties in the wake of a terrorist attack, is to have fallen under the spell of a psychopath or an “interspecies predator” as Dr. Robert Hare, who specializes in the study of psychopathy, defines them.
How the psychopath gains power over those with a conscience is perhaps more disturbing. One of the most troubling of modern ironies is that those who believe they have a conscience often permit themselves to be undermined and ruled by psychopaths who have no conscience. This, it could be argued, is the main cause of every form of modern injustice and abuse culminating in the holocaust during the second World War.
From a Buddhist perspective, those who believe they have a conscience might be slowly and imperceptibly transforming into icchantikas, that is, psychopaths. They are like someone driving the getaway car for a gangster who, while never actually committing the bank robbery, was nevertheless an important element in the success of the robbery. The Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra lays out how the non-icchantika becomes an icchantika.
“[O]riginally worshipped the three jewels and various gods, but has changed since then, and now worships his own desires [instead]. He loved to give alms in the past but has now become miserly. He was by nature moderate in his diet, but has now turned gluttonous. He had an ingrained aversion for evils, but now looks on them with sympathy. He was born filial and esteemed his parents, but now he has no thought of respect for his father and mother.”
Unlike the time of the Buddha, the modern age has learned diverse ways to turn the average non-icchantika into a committed icchantika/psychopath, but only because psychopaths are in positions of authority—and only because they’ve made the system that will insure the dominance of the psychopathic character.
In spite of this, it has to be kept in mind that a psychopath’s greatest fear is the fear of being found out. This especially occurs when the psychopath can no longer manipulate the information that insures his dominance; which reveals him to be an interspecies predator.
Permit me to stop there.