Buddhism & Morality

A forum for discussion of Buddhist ethics.

Buddhism & Morality

Postby Punya » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:03 am

I have been listening to Dzongsar Khyentse's Rinpoche's talk on Buddhism and morality which can be downloaded here http://www.khyentserecordings.org/namo/Podcasts.html. He says:

"The value of a practitioner will be judged by who is morally right and good. And this is very dangerous... Someone may be very good with the morality but they may have no compassion. They may have no understanding of the truth... The morality sort of becomes a pillar for our pride and arrogance so the whole purpose of the morality is defeated... the wish and practice to enlighten all the sentient beings. " (25.30 on)

This seems to be related to the idea that there are no absolute truths in Buddhism eg killing creates heavy negative karma but there may be circumstance where killing one person would save many. When I read Old Path White Clouds where Thich Nhat Hanh brings togeher a number of Sutras to retell the Buddha's life , I got the impression that the Buddha didn't start out setting down a whole bunch of rules but gradually assembled them as a way of keeping his sangha out of trouble.

But is my thinking a bit muddled (this would be nothing unusual) and what is the best way to approach the "rules"?
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:16 am

Rules must be followed from a motivation of Bodhicitta to train one-self's behavior. Not because the rules exist and it's the custom.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Dave The Seeker » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:54 am

Also, in my opinion, the "rules" are just a right way to live. And be mindful of our actions.
As you said, Buddha made them as he went along to keep the Sangha out of trouble.
To me the one that was made for that reason, more than the others, was to avoid intoxicants.
The rest, as I said, are just the right way to live without harming others.


:namaste:
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Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Will » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:19 am

See also the Precepts thread where Asanga is quoted on the subject.

Here Asanga mentions the bodhicitta motive for precepts or Sila:

To undertake and proceed to train oneself in the essence of
ethics endowed with these four qualities, should be understood as "wholesome,"
because of benefit for oneself, benefit for others, benefit for
many people, pleasure for many people, mercy for the world, and welfare,
benefit, and pleasure for divine and human beings. Because "measureless"
comprehends the bodhisattva bases of training, they should
be understood as "immeasurable. " Because they are lived for the benefit
and pleasure of all sentient beings, they should be understood to be
"favorable to all sentient beings." Because they acquire and bestow the
result of supreme, right and full awakening, they should be understood
to be "a great result and advantage."
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Ramon1920 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:44 am

The poisonous attitudes slip in quietly, often without your detecting them. They warp your reasoning. Little things seem big, big things seem small, if anger wants it can make killing anyone seem reasonable.

The rules are a safety net for when the afflictions take control. They keep you from doing something with long term ill effects if your faith in the vows is strong enough to over power the afflictions.

The vows are like links in a chain that holds the various aspects of lineage and practice together, without them the afflictions will scatter the pieces and make sure they can never be used in conjunction and you'll lose attainments in a moment of rage or another affliction.

The vows aren't a clumsy set of limitations, they include injunctions to account for unusual situations like when you want to adhere to a petty rule to the neglect of a major rule, when you want to use a petty rule to avoid situations where you have work to benefit beings, and when compassion calls for destructive actions.

If we were already enlightened it's true we wouldn't need rules to account for the deception of the afflictions that makes us harm our own and other's welfare.
We are not enlightened yet.
So we need the rules or we'll destroy the positive relationships with the triple gem and sentient beings.
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Ramon1920 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:54 am

It is no coincidence that people pick out of context teachings, out of millions of Buddhist teachings, that challenge the parts of the teachings that keep the afflictions in line.

It's a conspiracy, and the mental afflictions are the conspirators.

"Let's undermine vows, let's undermine the Buddha's credibility, let's undermine the attainments, let's undermine renunciation of samsara, let's undermine bodhicitta, let's undermine meditation, let's undermine wisdom realizing emptiness. We'll gradually tear down these things so they won't realize they don't have to do what we say and they can get rid of us forever. Instead we'll bring them to teachers that will convince them there is nothing they can do, it's already been done, or even that the methods like vows and concentration lead to harm and make them suffer!"
Sound familiar?
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:30 am

Ramon1920 wrote:It is no coincidence that people pick out of context teachings, out of millions of Buddhist teachings, that challenge the parts of the teachings that keep the afflictions in line.

It's a conspiracy, and the mental afflictions are the conspirators.

"Let's undermine vows, let's undermine the Buddha's credibility, let's undermine the attainments, let's undermine renunciation of samsara, let's undermine bodhicitta, let's undermine meditation, let's undermine wisdom realizing emptiness. We'll gradually tear down these things so they won't realize they don't have to do what we say and they can get rid of us forever. Instead we'll bring them to teachers that will convince them there is nothing they can do, it's already been done, or even that the methods like vows and concentration lead to harm and make them suffer!"
Sound familiar?
So you are saying that Dzongsar Khyentse is a conspirator of Mara? Coz it seems to me he is not argiung against morality but against using morality as yet another prop for the ego.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby muni » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:49 am

:namaste:

Awaken Beings can be 'acting' in a not so moral way, seen by our habits, to awaken us. They act without any fear to lose face. Stainless Awaken ones are simple compassionate nature, beyond our creations their limitations.

I myself can behave as appearing good one to innocent beings, like an apple with beautiful skin, hiding my rotten inside.

I samsara, can use all as weapon, to attack others instead of attacking the only single mistaken one and be free. Awaken Beings see only nature and help the suffering rotten insides.

Therefore I need rules, like if I cannot help, at least I should not harm.
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Ramon1920 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:29 am

I don't know Dzongsar Khyentse, much less well, so I cannot say.

Unless Dzongsar Khyentse is Punya, he did not pick out this one quote from, I assume, thousands of sentences Dzongsar has used to teach.

The afflictions give special attention to anything that can be used to wear down resolves they don't like. So Dzongsar probably has been teaching for a while and has said thousands of things, but this one quote is getting lots of attention. It's like when you give a little kid emergency money, then they want to say everything is an emergency because it means they can spend the money.

The idea of the afflictions is this, "lets ignore everything else the teacher said about keeping our vows and focus on the single time he said vows aren't the most important thing so we can disregard them".

It's like when teachers say studying is very important so students start denigrating meditation. Or when teachers say meditation is the most important thing and students start denigrating study. The afflictions like to split up and tear down aspects of the path at every opportunity.

I don't like talking about individual teachers unless I am familiar with them or their students. Let's talking about the the Buddha if we're going to talk about individual teachers.

Dvedhavitakka Sutta: Two Sorts of Thinking http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality(ill will, & harmfulness one sort) arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.'"

How does it obstruct discernment? By picking out exceptions, by making big things seem small and small things seem big. Mental afflictions can also produce mental blind spots like being unable to relate to another. Mental afflictions can take over your body in a few ways, making you fall asleep during teachings or whenever you start thinking about subjects they don't like is one.
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:13 pm

I dunno about what you read into the whole deal, but the quote seemed pretty clear to me.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby flavio81 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:51 pm

Punya wrote:"The value of a practitioner will be judged by who is morally right and good. And this is very dangerous... Someone may be very good with the morality but they may have no compassion. They may have no understanding of the truth... The morality sort of becomes a pillar for our pride and arrogance so the whole purpose of the morality is defeated... the wish and practice to enlighten all the sentient beings. " (25.30 on)


So true. Excellent advice, specially for those who repeatedly relish in judging other Buddhist masters (and students) through external aspects.

gregkavarnos wrote:So you are saying that Dzongsar Khyentse is a conspirator of Mara? Coz it seems to me he is not argiung against morality but against using morality as yet another prop for the ego.


Exactly, that is what i understood as well.
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby Punya » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:54 pm

Thanks for everyone's comments, they've really helped.

Ramon1920 wrote:Unless Dzongsar Khyentse is Punya...
:rolling:

Ramon1920 wrote: The afflictions give special attention to anything that can be used to wear down resolves they don't like. So Dzongsar probably has been teaching for a while and has said thousands of things, but this one quote is getting lots of attention.... The idea of the afflictions is this, "lets ignore everything else the teacher said about keeping our vows and focus on the single time he said vows aren't the most important thing so we can disregard them".


I actually think what DKR is saying puts the vows in context. Greg's interpretation is what I also understood, but I was just checking.

I guess the special attention comes from something resonating with you and then trying to go deeper into its meaning. Like I assume most of us here I have read and listened to many, many hours of buddhist teachings but my experience is you don't take it all in instantly and understand it's meaning. So at any given time some aspect might resonate and you go deeper into the meaning of that and over time it builds your intellectual understanding, which is a support to practice.

Ramon1920 wrote: I don't like talking about individual teachers unless I am familiar with them or their students. Let's talking about the the Buddha if we're going to talk about individual teachers.


Unfortunately I am not so well versed in the sutras (I'm slowly working on this) but I do read and listen to teachings by a number of different teachers in the different Tibetan traditions so this quote was just one that struck a chord with me when I heard it. Also, there's now a new Ethics category at DW and it's a topic Will seems keen to talk about so I thought this was a discussion worth having.

I love Muni's rotten apple example. For me, even if I am successful at keeping a calm, dignified outer appearance (not often) there is all this turmoil going on underneath. I might be mistaken, but I see keeping the vows or precepts as an important first step which hopefully creates some merit and has some positive effect on the mind while (cushion) practice tackles the underlying assumptions. What DKR seems to be reminding us is that they shouldn't be worn as a badge of honour or used as a vantage point from which to judge others.
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Buddhism & Morality

Postby In the bone yard » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:52 pm

All sentient beings will have to eliminate their karma to eliminate rebirth. The path should be the goal.
We can't expect an animal or lower realm, human being to adhere to a Mahayana practitioner's set of morals.
A vajrayana practitioner cannot follow the morals of a Mahayana practioner without descent into hell realm.

For a Mahayana practitioner simply refraining from the 10 harmful acts will not be enough, generally speaking.
For example, no killing should be extended to animals (including insects and spiders!) and so forth. But as was stated in the original post, merit must be accompanied by wisdom.

We have to learn to listen to our heart for what's right and wrong and always use a healthy sense of discipline.
The biggest assistance to one's practice is keeping to the good influence of friends and acquaintances.
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