This trope involves the circumstance where an enlightened being or entity happens to be an antagonist or antagonistic force. The forms of enlightenment can include a form of cosmic clarity, universal meaning, a release of physical tethers, or physical harmony with the world. The character in question happens to have a form of universal knowledge that allows him/her to observe the greater truths of reality but still maintains malevolent qualities.
This type of villain can be viewed as an Anti-Hero, Anti-Villain, Well-Intentioned Extremist, or carrying an Omniscient Morality License if the character commits to villainy or villainous acts to fulfill a grand purpose that can be seen as beneficial. Such villains will often demonstrate Knight Templar behavior due to being so absorbed by their ideals that they end up causing trouble despite having supposedly beneficial intentions at heart. However, in other stories, enlightenment generally has the effect of causing a Heel–Face Turn or at least making a villain Affably Evil in the eyes of others.
On the other hand, such an antagonist is possible in a story with a Villain Protagonist or, at least, a considerably morally flawed protagonist. For instance, if the main character is a greedy capitalist, an arrogant social climber or a transhumanist who seeks to overcome death, he would naturally be antagonistic to someone who is in touch with God and in harmony with the Universe. And the Aesop in such a story may be that the enlightened antagonist was right after all.
In Western culture, the trope largely originates from colonial fiction, and many such characters have a non-Western (Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Native American, etc.) origin. The reason is that, while "Western" villains are usually depicted as having rejected the moral values of their culture in favor of baser instincts like greed and lust (and, therefore, as more simplistic and unambiguously evil), the seeming "villainy" of these characters may be just due to the fact that they come from a foreign culture with a different understanding of the world (based more on spirituality than on science and logic), and, therefore, a different concept of right and wrong. For this reason, they often tend to be depicted more sympathetically, and it may even turn out that their idea of good and evil is closer to the truth than the one of the Western protagonist.
This trope tends to overlap with Light Is Not Good, God Is Evil, Sinister Minister, and Pure Is Not Good due to the mixing of the theme of enlightenment and malevolence. Compare and contrast Hero Antagonist and Politically Correct Villain, which can be considered mundane versions.
- In Butsu Zone, the main antagonist, Ashura, is a Bodhisattva who diverged from the general Bodhisattva rule of Thou Shalt Not Kill through callous slayings of others. He is also a Misanthrope Supreme who desires the extinction of humanity itself due to the sinful actions that have been committed by humans over time.
- In Inuyasha, an undead Buddhist priest named Hakushin is able to create a holy purification barrier so powerful that no demon can pass it. However, he is doing so in service to Naraku, the Big Bad, who manipulated him due to his fear of death and his resentment over having to sacrifice his life for others.
- In One Piece, the former fleet admiral Sengoku managed to consume a devil fruit that not only turns him into a giant Buddha at will but also grants a form of enlightenment. However, the enlightenment does not prevent him from decimating any pirates that come his way whom he holds no respect for, those he feels should be destroyed in the name of Justice, or whoever is targeted under orders of the World Government.
- In Saint Seiya, Virgo Shaka fits. Whilst he's more of an Anti-Hero, he's very deceptive. He's an incarnation of Buddha, but in the first series, he has aligned himself with the very evil Pope and is only too willing to Mind Rape and maim the main characters.
- In Shaman King, Hao, despite being the most enlightened and powerful of all the shamans, decided that to create utopia all the ignorant humans have to die, leaving only shamans to populate the world.
- In Soul Eater, the main antagonist, Asura, is shown as a demonic god with an understanding of the nature of human fears, insanity, and the flaws of order. He also possesses a desire to administer true peace by spreading his influence across the globe. However, his version of peace involves plunging the world into insanity and chaos, not to mention the fact he is a psychopathic agoraphobe with a lust for power.
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: The one bringing Kaguya back to the moon (forgetting all about her adoptive parents in the process) is apparently the Buddha.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the Anti-Spiral race enlightened themselves by understanding the truth of the universe and Spiral Energy in relation to the Spiral Nemesis Event that would annihilate all existence. In response to the knowledge, they made a vow to never use Spiral Energy again to prevent such an event and turned into a Hive Mind entity as a way to express that vow. However, the Anti-Spiral race has also tried to destroy humanity because they can potentially amass high amounts of Spiral Energy and have subjugated/exterminated many different civilizations across time and space to prevent the occurrence of the Spiral Nemesis.
- In YuYu Hakusho, Sensui utilizes Sacred Energy/Holy Chi, a form of energy so great that it requires not only years of discipline and training but an understanding of the world to operate on a higher plane and transcend the physical realm. Despite this achievement, he planned to initiate a complete genocide of all humanity and is not above slaughtering whoever gets in his way.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Yūkyūzan Anji is a fallen monk whose goal is to cleanse the world of evil and deliver salvation, by any means necessary.
- In The Authority, we have the case of the Doctor. The Doctor is actually a title given to a human chosen as a form of shaman whose role is to protect the Earth. This position has existed since the beginning of human thought and grants the chosen one god-like mystical abilities, knowledge passed down from previous Doctors, and the ability to instantly empathize with every creature on Earth (human or otherwise). A Doctor is even given endless access to the Garden of Ancestral Memory, a dimension that is made up of everything good and bad about the human race. However, humans chosen to be the new Doctor are not necessarily benevolent despite their empathy nor do they have to be. This is clearly shown in the case of the first shown Doctor being a violent anarchist and the succeeding protagonist Doctors being violent antiheroes at various times. To put things into perspective, a previous Doctor and late antagonist slaughtered the entire population of three countries in alphabetical order after receiving his power. Humorous considering previous Doctors included Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and famously known humanitarian figureheads.
- Batman: Invoked but ultimately Subverted in Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison; during the outbreak of the Black Plague in 16th century Austria, a monk named Manfred had a religious epiphany revolving around the idea that men could become more humble in the light of God's perfection by indulging in the blackest sins they could imagine, and corrupted his fellow monks into embracing this blasphemous ideology, which culminated in the brutal murders of a group of nuns seeking shelter from the Plague, before gang-raping the youngest and burning her at the stake as a tribute for their monstrous God. The shine quickly came off Manfred's new philosophy shortly afterwards when he discovered he'd caught the Plague, and just outright sold his soul to the Devil in return for health and 300 years of life. He got it, and has spent the centuries since murdering children as part of a plan to avoid being Dragged Off to Hell, including one of Bruce Wayne's childhood friends.
- During the Blackest Night event, Sinestro fused with the White Entity, the living embodiment of the White Light of Creation that gave birth to all living things in the universe, and became the first White Lantern. Despite being connected to all living things and gaining universal knowledge, Sinestro was still as vicious as he ever was and determined to prove his superiority as the greatest Lantern. While he was focused on defeating the even more evil Nekron at the time, Sinestro fully intended on resuming his usual antagonism afterward. However, he's quickly bested by Nekron because his ego caused him to be unable to fully utilize the White Entity's power.
- In Casanova, we have David X. David X is a magician/performance artist who had meditated for twelve years straight in the hopes that when he awakened he would become a god by achieving a form of "double-nirvana". Once he awakened, it would spell doom for many portions of world and it was implied he would be working under a terrorist organization if allowed to roam free.
- The Bleeding Monk in Harbinger is a considerably ageless grandmaster monk whose students were slaughtered by the soldiers of a past Chinese Emperor due to being feared and hated for their mysterious psychic abilities. During the attack, the Bleeding Monk was impaled by a spear and at the moment near his death, he gained the ability to see all possibilities and live every moment of his life simultaneously. He eventually became the right-hand man and advisor to Toyo Harada in a bid to make the world a better place by having Harada secretly conquer it.
- In Karma Police, the tale of Drakpa Chugne, the Blood Hat Lama, presented him as this in abundance. He was once a grandmaster monk and lama of great stature that created the Grove who felt that the Karma Grove School he headed was not doing enough to relieve suffering in the world since extinguishing tormented spirits as his students were taught to do only cast about an endless cycle of rebirth that rendered all efforts pointless. Chugne decided to fashion a dagger that would send evil spirits to the Grove since it was a place outside the endless wheel of rebirth, once slain by the dagger where they could achieve Nirvana, but went crazy when his attempt to rid the world of evil turned into fanaticism. He started to preemptively murder anyone with bad karma, especially innocents, to the point where he killed any one sight and forced the monks of the Grove to kill him with his own dagger to have his spirit healed of its insanity.
- Element Lad becomes one of these in the Legion of Super-Heroes arc "Legion Lost". After saving his teammates from being trapped in a space-time rift, Element Lad is accidentally left behind within the rift and stays trapped there for billions of years. During that time, he manages to watch the stellar life cycles of stars, improves his powers to the point that he can create entire worlds, and gains an understanding of life that allows him to create entirely new sentient species and observe abnormalities that even super-geniuses can't detect. It progresses to the point that he becomes known as the Progenitor of his new respective cosmos. Unfortunately, his time spent in isolation drives him to become considerably callous to all mortal life due to his immeasurable lifespan and he begins purging any creature that he sees as a "variant" to his designs. After seeing him, Brainiac Five admits that Element Lad is not evil as the Legion understands, but he's working at a level so far removed from conventional life that his view of life is callous by default.
- During the Death of the New Gods storyline, there was a mysterious being slaughtering notable residents of Apokolips and New Genesis. After extensive searching by Metron and Superman, it was discovered that the Source, the actual consciousness of the DC Comics Universe and the "source" of all that exists, was the true culprit behind the assassinations in its plan to build a new "Fifth World." Using its agent, the Infinity Man, to kill the New Gods and store their souls in a second Source Wall and Mister Miracle as the user of the Anti-Life Equation, the Source planned to breach the primary Source Wall and reunite with its Anti-Life other half in order to become a perfect God to build its new creation. When this was over, the Source told Superman that his work was done and later left for a higher plane of existence.
- Scooby-Doo: Parodied with the Guru from Almost Live from Big Puce. He is a corrupt mystic with supernatural powers who can create astral projections (basically hologram-like images) when he meditates. He was paid to use his power to create the image of a ghost, which is why the gang initially believed that the ghost was real (since it was neither a man in a costume nor a hologram).
- In The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski), Ezekiel Sims is a sort of a spiritual mentor to Spider-Man who teaches him that his superhero powers have a mystical rather than a sci-fi origin, coming from a totemic spider deity called the Great Weaver and a mystic force called the Web of Life (he has similar powers himself). However, it turns out that he also has a dark secret: he acquired these powers through an illegitimate magic ritual because he just wanted to be superhuman, and when an otherworldy being known as the Gatekeeper comes to kill him for that, he tries to sacrifice Peter to the Gatekeeper instead in order to survive. Nonetheless, he has a last-moment change of heart and gives up his own life to let Peter live.
- Enigma a.k.a. Tara Virango from Peter Parker: Spider-Man is a woman from Bangladesh who gained supernatural powers and a mystical connection to the Buddhist goddess Tara after being infected with a nano-virus (she is a survivor of an environmental disaster during which her native village was exposed to the viral outbreak). She starts out as a semi-antagonist to Spider-Man, having stolen the precious Star of Persia diamond and even physically attacking Peter on one occasion. However, he soon learns that her motives are noble: she seeks to prove that the outbreak was not an accident, but a deliberate release of a biological agent ordered by the Corrupt Corporate Executives of the company that developed the virus (and the reason why she stole the diamond was that she wanted to demand a large compensation to the survivors to be paid as ransom for it). Once Spider-Man realizes the truth, he assumes Enigma's side and helps her defeat the corporate executives.
- Tintin has Fakir, a Muslim Sufi ascetic with magical powers who is also a key member of an international drug cartel and one of Tintin's most dangerous enemies.
- Overwhelmingly common in Hong Kong produced Kung Fu flicks due to the spiritual underpinnings of Kung Fu in general and its relationship with Taoism in particular, both being systems in which enlightenment and violence are not necessarily mutually exclusive. On a more practical level, the villain also needs to be good enough at fighting to give the hero a compelling struggle and making him an Old Master is one of the easiest ways to write this into the story. In keeping with his role in folklore, Bak Mei is almost guaranteed to get this treatment whenever he shows up.
- In Everything Everywhere All at Once, Jobu Tupaki's mind was forcibly opened to the multiverse, turning her into a Reality Warper capable of effortlessly jumping into any one of her alternates. However, the sheer enormity of the multiverse caused her to see the entirety of human existence as meaningless. She created the Everything Bagel in an attempt to find some meaning or at least destroy herself, uncaring of the devastation it caused throughout the multiverse.
- Star Wars:
- In Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine mentioned his master, Darth Plagueis, as a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying. However, he was still a Sith Lord and therefore a powerfully malignant force. In the semi-canon novel Darth Plagueis, this is subverted, as while the title character is indeed incredibly wise and powerful even by Sith Lord standards, Palpatine makes it clear at the end that he was manipulating him the whole time, and Plagueis himself naively believed that Palpatine would not kill him as per Sith tradition because he failed to grasp the true nature of their relationship. It is further made clear that while Plagueis is The Chessmaster par excellence and plays the galaxy like a violin, his own birth and breeding were engineered by another Sith Lord, Darth Tenebrous, who created him to be his apprentice, and he spends the vast majority of his life either serving his master or being used by his student, all the while believing he was much more in control than he ever truly was.
- In the sequel trilogy beginning with The Force Awakens, Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order is portrayed this way. In contrast to Palpatine, he is calm, collected, and wise. While he heads the First Order, The Remnant of The Empire, he does not think that the ideal is pure focus on The Dark Side. In fact, he considers his disciple Kylo Ren to be the "ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point of both light and dark side ability," showing that he sees the Balance of Good and Evil as the best course to power, rather than abandoning one for the other altogether. These traits, combined with his position as the Big Bad, paint him not only as a successor to Palpatine but also as an Evil Counterpart to Yoda.
- The works of C. S. Lewis generally tend to depict God with a shade of this, even those in which God and the protagonists are on the same side (such as The Chronicles of Narnia). The reason for this is that, in Lewis' view, the humans' fallen nature makes them inherently antagonistic to God, and to overcome that antagonism, humans must return to their primordial sinless state.
Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our "hole". This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.
- Erast Fandorin: The Diamond Chariot has the Stealthy Ones, a Buddhist sect headed by the ninja Momochi Tamba. Its members adhere to a Blue-and-Orange Morality, which is actually called the Way of the Diamond Chariot. Namely, they believe they can achieve enlightenment without conforming to any moral restrictions (i. e. they allow themselves to kill, steal, etc.), but they have their own set of rules, the most important of which is that any adept of the cult should follow the request of any other adept, no matter what the request is (for instance, if a fellow adept tells you to kill yourself, you are obliged to do it).
- The Moonstone: The three Hindu Brahmin priests, who seemingly possess supernatural powers, and who are after the titular stone. However, they simply want to return it to India from where it was originally stolen by the British, so this is an example of the antagonist being right.
- Likewise, in The Mystery of Cloomber by Arthur Conan Doyle, three Buddhist priests use their supernatural abilities to murder the British General Heatherstone and Colonel Rufus as payback for Heatherstone and Rufus killing their mentor during the First Afghan War.
- The snake in The Little Prince offers sage advice to the Prince, and finally bites him so he can 'return home' to his home planet. Maybe.
- The Three Investigators:
- The Mystery of the Fiery Eye is yet another example when the antagonist is on the right side. Rama Sidri Rhandur aka Three-Dots is the emissary of the Indian Temple of Justice who seeks to return the titular stone to the Temple where it serves a mystical purpose. He resorts to some morally questionable methods (such as hiring a bunch of crooks to find the stone or trying to threaten the Three Investigators into giving it to him), but eventually he agrees to buy it, and the protagonists sell it to him because they understand that returning the stone to India would be the right thing to do.
- Mr. Won from The Mystery of the Green Ghost also has shades of this. He is a mysterious 107-year-old Chinese man who lives the ancient way and is skilled in hypnotism and other arcane knowledge that borders on the supernatural (such as extending his lifespan with the use of the Ghost Pearls). Also, while undoubtedly antagonistic, he is shown to be more honorable than the other villains of the story and upholding a moral code of sorts: he intends to stay true to his word and let the protagonists go free once they bring him the Ghost Pearls he was after, and eventually returns the deed to Verdant Valley despite the Ghost Pearls being destroyed.
- In The Mystery of the Invisible Dog, Sonny Elmquist is a more mundane version of the trope. He is a young man who is fascinated with meditation and Hindu spirituality, and who has genuine paranormal powers (namely, he is an astral wanderer: while he is asleep, he can see what happens in different places through his astral body). And though he is not the main villain of the story, he is unscrupulous enough to use his powers to locate and try to steal the titular dog statue in order to fulfill his dream of collecting enough money for a trip to India.
- Subverted in The Wheel of Time with Moridin, the Dark One's Dragon. Once a famous philosopher and theologian, his studies lead him to become aware of the true nature of the world he inhabited and what he considered the inevitability of the Dark One's victory, and he went mad from the revelation and dedicated himself to hasting that inevitable apocalypse. He frequently monologues about his elevated understanding of reality which he believes places him above other characters, including Rand and his fellow Forsaken. In the end, however, it's proven that rather than being enlightened, Moridin's nihilism has in fact blinded him to the true value of life, and even the Dark One admits that HIS EYES ARE SMALL.
- In last few episodes of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., John Garrett is given the same serum that brought Coulson and Skye back to life. He starts claiming he is "one with the universe" (a lot of the cast think he's gone crazy, but Raina at least seems to think he's genuinely enlightened) while remaining no less malevolent.
- In the first season of Angel, the title character battles an assassin with the power to "see" movements anywhere near herself, which Wesley's research attributes to her studying with monks in Pajaura and blinding herself deliberately to help awaken this "inner sight."
Cordelia: Are you telling me self-mutilating psycho assassin chick reached "enlightenment"?
Wesley: Of a sort, yes.
- In Engine Sentai Go-onger, we have Kama Banki. After standing and concentrating under a waterfall for a period of time, Kama Banki reached a state of enlightenment that increased his illusionary abilities to their zenith. His achievement made him no less malevolent and he nearly trapped the Sentai team in a permanent Illusion world.
- The Good Place revolves around this trope, as the morally impoverished but well-meaning Eleanor is constantly in danger of some semi-omniscient cosmic being or another determining that she deserves eternal suffering. One of them sums it up nicely: "I know everything that happened in your life, and it was all stupid."
- Mr. Robot: Fernando Vera is a philosophising, murdering, manipulating, rapist drug dealer. He uses his pain as his power to understand the Cosmos and has no problem destroying anyone in his way. He advises Elliot with his viewpoint: "Once you have weathered a storm like yours, you become the storm. And it's the rest of the world that needs to run for cover."
- In Feng Shen Ji, Zhen Chan is a modest and humble enlightened deity who only wishes to unravel the truths of the universe. However, he abides by a core belief that beautiful and good should not be replaced by barbaric and ugly and mercilessly slaughters those he considers evil and vicious as to him they had no place living to begin with. He also conceals a psychotic inner dark self named Er Chan that manifests when faced with others who will not heed his words and fanatically kills them whether they are fellow gods or not.
- In Buddhism, Virochana is the greatest of the "Dhyanibuddhas", the Five Great Buddhas of Wisdom. He encompasses the principle of "Absolute". In Tibet, he is said to ride a snow leopard as his mount and had introduced the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism to humans. He is called Dainichi Nyorai in Japan. However, Virochana also possesses a wrathful emanation named Acala or Fudou Myouou (Japan) who generally frightens people into either accepting his teachings or risk facing lethal consequences.
- In The Ramayana, the antagonist is the demon king Ravana, a devotee of the god Shiva who, through years of prayer, meditation, and asceticism, gained invincibility from gods, demons, and spirits. However, his greed, arrogance, and lust lead him to try to overthrow the gods and conquer the world.
- Bheeshma in The Mahabharata is a wise elder statesman, and one of the strongest warriors in the kingdom. He is also part of the rival faction, and once kidnapped three princesses for his nephew to marry.
- Against the Dark Yogi: Tamapara, the resident Evil Overlord, is an extremely powerful yogi and ascetic who has turned his spiritual abilities against the cosmic order and is trying to hasten the end of the current cycle of the universe.
- Call of Cthulhu: The supplement "Secrets of Japan" outright says that the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos and its human cultists are actually this trope — including the Buddha himself! Buddha may or may not be the historical human Siddharta Gautama ascended to become an outer god. If it is Gautama, then his newfound Blue-and-Orange Morality may be explained by the fact that, through enlightenment, he gained perfect knowledge of the universe. Considering that we're talking about Lovecraft's universe...
- Champions: The Archmage is a threatened example. The criteria to become Archmage, leader of earth's wizards and master of magic, include having a deep knowledge of the arcane truths, being unswayed by the temptations of the Gods and being willing to stand for humanity rather then any earthly cause. It in no way requires being a good person. Takofanes, an immensely evil lich, was the Archmage in life, and a lot of wizards are genuinely terrified he might take the role again.
- In Nomine: Kronos, the Prince of Fate, is some kind of higher being, either a higher order of celestial or an aspect of God, that was broken off and Fell during the War in Heaven. He retains an understanding of the Symphony and of the universe's Destiny and Fate that surpasses any demon's and almost any angel's. While the rest of Hell divides itself through squabbles, power plays and petty self-interest, Kronos is focused entirely on the perfect darkness of Fate. In every way he gives off the sense of a higher being that transcends even the Celestial realm... and looks on everything beneath it with unending hatred.
- KULT: This is a recurring trope. Humans who are close to awakening know great cosmic secrets, grow detached from the mundane world and have unlocked aspects of themselves that leave them greater and wiser then any normal human. They're also increasingly alien monsters with immense power and no grasp of conventional morality. That is, after all, why we were put to sleep in the first place...
- Pathfinder has the asuras, a race of evil outsiders inspired by Indian mythology. Being Always Lawful Evil fiends with a grudge against the gods and all their creations, asuras are generally antagonistic to player characters. Despite their hatefulness, asuras are wise, mystical beings with expert knowledge of philosophy, the workings of the universe, Supernatural Martial Arts, and other esoteric subjects.
- Warhammer: The Lizardmen are the faction most devoted to fighting against Chaos, being nearly immune to its effects and devoted to destroying wherever they find it. Unfortunately, because they're simply not concerned about what other species do, this causes a lot of entirely avoidable conflict such as completely ravaging the dwarfs' subterranean empire because they thought the continents were in the wrong place and "corrected" several millennia's worth of continental drift or killing elf ambassadors because "they should not be here" as the elves were originally a single race living on Ulthuan and were thus not supposed to be found in the Lizardmen's own lands.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Eldar are an ancient race devoted to removing Chaos and the Necrons from the galaxy. Unfortunately, their insufferable Can't Argue with Elves attitude causes a lot of conflict with the Imperium of Man that could have been avoided if they'd simply not assumed that being Eldar, they could handle it better than Puny Humans.
- The Tau are a (relatively) new species promoting a utilitarian philosophy (the Greater Good) that promotes equality for all and unity across races, having already recruited several alien species. As the Imperium is a heavily stratified and insanely theocratic society, this causes irreconcilable differences (at least, on worlds where the Imperium has a strong presence, on fringe worlds the Tau have succeeded in incorporating humans into the fold).
- World of Darkness:
- Thaumaturges potentially (it's complicated) derive the ability to use magic not from innate supernatural connections, but from intense and prolonged spiritual and occult study. This spiritual enlightenment doesn't necessarily require morality and does not prevent the occurrence of evil members.
- More generally, any character from Mage: The Awakening with high Gnosis and low Wisdom is someone who understands great magical secrets and wields powerful Arcana with very few scruples about using them.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has Kerghan the Terrible, who, courtesy of spending nearly two thousand years in contemplation (and necromantic experimentation), has concluded that death is preferable to life, and makes a reasonably fair point when confronted about this belief. He consequently wishes to enforce this, which turns him into the game's Big Bad. The real kicker is he's right.
- Asura's Wrath: Chakravartin certainly qualifies for this trope. He strongly resembles a Buddha until he takes on his One-Winged Angel form, proclaims an understanding of the Wheel of Life and Mantra, and speaks of bringing enlightenment to the world. However, when Asura doesn't pass one of his "trials" and defies his will, he decides to destroy the world so he can remake it and try again.
- In Destroy All Humans!, we have the Master. The Master was a Furon who fled to Earth where he crash-landed off the coast of China. While there, the Master realized that the beliefs of enlightenment and philosophy in the East could help him improve his mental abilities and his years of meditation allowed him to unlock the Temporal Fist, a long-forgotten Furon ability to control time. However, he is revealed to be one of the main antagonists of the game and was the main conspirator in a plan to become the New Emperor of the Furons.
- Fate/EXTRA: The Final Boss, the Big Bad's Dragon, is an aspect of the Buddha. Though he does not agree with his master's plans, the Servant chooses to serve him and hopes he'll find enlightenment. He's still a formidable combatant.
- Ingress: The Enlightened can be perceived as a literal example, they are empowered by the Exotic Matter and believed that the Exotic Matter can ascend humanity. Of course, they only qualify if you're part of La Résistance; their true villainy is undetermined, as they may yet be right.
- Nin²-Jump: The Big Bad, Namakura, is a Buddha.
- Overwatch features Ramattra, the leader of global Killer Robot horde Null Sector and one of the Big Bads of the lore. Ramattra was a former member of the Shambali, a sect of Religious Robots who sought peace, enlightenment, and redemption following their involvement in the Omnic Crisis, and Ramattra sincerely believes in their core tenets, namely that all life — including omnic life — exists as one within "The Iris". He ended up leaving and spiraled into villainy following mankind's continued cruelty towards omnics, determining that the only way to protect the fragile sanctity of omnic life was by force. His Evil Plan involves not merely purging humanity, but also using bizarre devices to forcibly extract omnic souls from their bodies — he believes he's ascending his brethren to safety through becoming one with The Iris, but to everyone else, it simply looks like mass murder.
- In the first Shadow Hearts, we have the Big Bad, Albert Simon - who has come to understand both the true nature of humanity and God. He is so disappointed with the former that he seeks to use the latter to wipe us all out.
- Shin Megami Tensei:
- YHVH fits this trope in the series. Despite his transcendent status, his ultimate goal is for all creation to do nothing but pray to him and praise him. Unfortunately, the demons (also known as Chaos) are no better. Trying to Take a Third Option by siding with humanity demonstrates that Humans Are Bastards. Having to choose between several equally unappealing resolutions is a big theme in the series.
- In a more limited sense, Daisojou, a member of the Fiend race (filled with different embodiments of death), is a Buddhist monk that underwent a horrid ritual of self-mummification and received demonic power over light. His Signature Move is Samsara, the Buddhist word for the cycle of death and rebirth.
- SPY Fox: Parodied with Dr. Fu Manch Hugh who appears in the game promo materials. He is a Chinese esotericist who speaks in Ice Cream Koans (such as "Like the lotus on a blistering summer day, my heart turns to jade") and haiku, and desires to be accepted by the priests of the Scratching Post as the Chosen One who can blow the mystical Pinwheel of Eternity... For this reason, he hatches a scheme to change the Earth's orbit, which would obviously have catastrophic consequences.
- Touhou Project:
- Byakuren is a heretical Buddhist nun who, following her little brother's demise, was driven by her fear of her own death to achieve eternal youth through the use of dark arts, a process that made her lose her own humanity. However, she's only an "antagonist" by the loosest possible definition, being an All-Loving Hero who treats everyone, regardless of whether they're human or youkai, with kindness, and only wants for mankind and youkaikind to live in peace and harmony with each other. The primary reason why she and the protagonists ever fought in the first place was that Reimu was being a Jerkass and Marisa was being, well, Marisa.
- The entire Taoist faction qualifies as well, being a group of people who seek enlightenment specifically in order to gain the superpowers that come with Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- Special mention goes to Seiga Kaku, who ascended and became an immortal Hermit Guru by faking her death in a way that fooled the Afterlife Bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the oneness with the universe that she got from this apparently made her realize that the laws of the universe contain no moral guidelines, making her completely unconcerned with stuff like raising the dead and qualifying her as one of the few truly "evil" characters in Touhou, a role she has wholeheartedly embraced.
- In Fate/stay night, the teacher Kuzuki reached a form of physical enlightenment - his perfect balance within himself and the world (even Saber expresses her surprise at his "perfect breathing") combined with an extremely esoteric martial arts style to enable him to hold his own even with a Servant in hand to hand combat. He is also not particularly concerned with the traditional trappings of enlightenment.
- Axel in Ansem Retort attains a state of "Reverse Nirvana", in which his hatred and bloodlust grew so strong that he attained enlightenment thereby. Although because it's Ansem Retort he isn't an antagonist, despite murder being one of his favourite hobbies; he's one of the protagonists.
Zexion: AXEL IS AN EVIL BUDDHIST GOD WITH MIND BULLETS! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
- Kill Six Billion Demons: Due to the amount of Enlightenment Superpowers, there are several of these.
- 6 Juggernaut Star Scours the Universe, leader of the Holy Thorn Knights, and the Demiurge Jagganoth are both said by Word of God to know much more about the multiverse than most other characters, and they both want to destroy it. This carries some uncomfortable implications about the nature of the setting.
- Demiurge Jadis perceived the true shape of the universe and went mad from the revelation — which manifests as complete omniscience of past, present, and future and concomitant utter nihilism, as she knows firsthand that the universe is deterministic and therefore that free will is an illusion. Except her perfect knowledge of all that was and will be doesn't drive her to wish to destroy it all. She simply wants to die.
Abaddon: Jadis knows the most, in fact. Of anyone. Ever.
- Ben 10: Omniverse. Albedo managed to obtain enlightenment after evolving his own form and absorbing Azmuth’s own intellect into his mind. However, this situation subverts this trope as the combined brainpower led to Albedo having an epiphany, realizing that destroying his enemies was worthless as they would still exist somewhere in the omniverse, nearly causing him to relinquish his antagonism.
- Jackie Chan Adventures:
- Parodied with the Old Monk from "The Lotus Temple" episode. He is a Buddhist monk with supernatural powers (including levitating in the lotus position) who speaks in cryptic proverbs, and nonetheless, he turns out to be the villain of the episode and a dark Chi sorcerer who is after the magical Scroll of Hung Chao.
- In "Into the Mouth of Evil", Jackie is pursued by Mohajah, a menacing Indian mystic with mind-reading powers. Subverted: it turns out that Mohajah was Good All Along, and simply wanted to foil the real villains' plans by removing a dangerous artifact that they had planted in Jackie's tooth in order to smuggle it to India.
- Justice League. After traveling throughout the universe and assimilating untold knowledge, Amazo gained cosmic clarity and virtual godhood. Disillusioned by feelings of existential purposelessness after obtaining his godly status, Amazo traveled back to Earth to destroy Lex Luthor for manipulating him in the past, taking down the entire Justice League along the way. Amazo relented after Luthor convinced him to find his own purpose in life by continuously evolving.
- From Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, there is Master Zan. Master Zan was the high mystic of a group of spiritual monks who protected the cosmos from evil and sealed away a group of creatures called the Dark Ones. He was also once Antauri's master in the mystic arts and taught him the ways of mystical energy and the Power Primate. He was later revealed to be corrupted by the Skeleton King and considered serving him and the Dark Ones as the true fate of the cosmos.
- In The Batman, we have Spellbinder. Spellbinder was a mystic who acquired a Third Eye after years of an intense form of meditation in the Far East. The power of the Third Eye was said to be a state of awareness so pure and potent that the achiever could project visions into reality and allow the user to levitate. Spellbinder uses his power to brainwash butlers into stealing valuables from their rich employers for him to collect. In Alfred Pennyworth's own words: "[Spellbinder] possesses an enlightened mind and a corrupted soul."
- The Legend of Korra. Book 3's main antagonist, Zaheer, is capable of meditating into the Spirit World long before he gained Airbending, managed to sever all his physical ties to the world after the death of his beloved and mastered the Airbending secret of weightlessness that was long believed to be fictional even by current Air Nomads. He also tried to create worldwide anarchy and destroy all governmental systems due to his belief of their creation being the main cause behind planetary imbalance, though by the end all he really achieved was to open the path for a fascist dictator to seize power. In the fourth book, he acknowledges this when Korra throws it in his face and ends up temporarily becoming an Evil Mentor to her on the grounds that said dictator is everything he despises. In the process, he successfully helps her to push past the spiritual block caused by the trauma she underwent at the hands of him and the rest of the Red Lotus, thanks to his sincere speech telling her that she is stronger than she thinks (having seen the evidence).
- Totally Spies!: Parodied with one of the episodic villains, Yin-Yang. He is a Feng Shui guru who intends to rearrange the continents into a yin-yang image, which would obviously have catastrophic consequences for the world. Lampshaded when he captures the protagonists and tells them that his Chinese tea "will remove their fears of a new natural world order", and Alex points out that he's pretty nice for a villain... and then it turns out that he LITERALLY intends to drown them in a large cauldron of hot tea.
- What's New, Scooby-Doo?: The Ancient One from Big Appetite in Little Tokyo is a ghost who looks like an old wizard, and who demands that the scientists at a Tokyo factory abandon their plans for a new wharf because it would be a threat to the simple traditional Japanese way of life. The ending implies that he might be Real After All, and the scientists eventually decide to respect his wish.
- Xiaolin Showdown: Chase Young, a Magnificent Bastard Knight of Cerebus who is contrasted with Jack Spicer and generally helpless witch Wuya is a martial artist and sorcerer on a level with the series' greatest masters. What makes him this trope rather than a simple Kung-Fu Wizard is that he is not only a master of the physical badassery, he fully understands (and is able to instruct others on) the spiritual and philosophical aspects of it too. He is by no means invincible, and most of his appearances end with a loss of some kind (though he is never a pushover and the defeat is never devastating,) but his complete lack of concern in any situation (no matter how ridiculous, dangerous, or world-ending) is not only his total confidence that he can turn the situation to his advantage in the long run but also a zen-like acceptance of the things it would be impossible or not worth it to change.