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The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version) - Dhamma Wheel

The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
Bankei
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The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby Bankei » Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:30 pm

Hi

I am wondering if there is any concept of Karmic consequences of not doing something.

eg. You see someone drowning and don't save them.

In this situation would you have an intention to left them suffer. Kamma = Intention.

What do you think?

Bankei
Last edited by Bankei on Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Ethics of Not Action

Postby thecap » Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:32 pm

Hi Bankei

As Suzuki said in Beginner's Mind, "not-doing is doing too". Is there an equivalent of 'passive aggressive' in Abhidhamma?

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Re: The Ethics of Not Action

Postby clw_uk » Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:33 pm

Well it all depends on what the intention is of the individual at the time. However I cant see how watching someone drown would be anything other than unwholesome kamma.

The act not to act is an act itself

If one intends not to help then this is action and not non-action.
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Ben
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Re: The Ethics of Not Action

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:34 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Feb 08, 2009 3:00 am

I can't recall coming across anything in the texts which points to non-action as unwholesome.
On the other hand, various abstinences are taught to be wholesome. :shrug:
- Peter


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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby Jechbi » Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:39 am


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Ben
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:17 am

Thanks Jechbi and Peter.

Its time like these I wish I had my Dhamma books. In particular my copy of Ven Bodhi's translation of the Majjhima, A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma and the Vissudhimagga. I think they could shine some light on this issue.

My reasoning above is based on the Upali Sutta (?) in the Majjhima Nikaya where the Buddha refutes the doctrine of the Jains who held that the 'physical rod' to be the root of kamma. The Buddha, in the Upali Sutta and elsewhere, asserted that it was the 'mental rod', to use the expression favoured by the Jains, as kammically most potent. Perhaps it was an error of my interpretation to then jump to say that inaction, particularly when the result coincided with the unwholesome roots of desire, aversion or ignorance, were not kammically neutral.

Hi Jechbi
From memory, ahetu-apaccayavada maybe treated in Ledi Sayadaw's Manual of Conditionality and perhaps also in the Compendium of Conditionality in Venerable Bodhi's A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma.
Kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby Annapurna » Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:05 pm

Last edited by Annapurna on Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:59 pm

Greetings,

This thread is being moved to the General Theravada Discussion forum given the replies that have been received and the perception I get that Bankei wasn't exclusively interested in the Mahavihara perspective. (If that is wrong Bankei, please let us know).

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby Bankei » Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:38 am

Hi Retro

Yep, that is ok. I was after the 'Mahavihara' perspective, but am happy to hear other 'modern' idea.

I personally would find it hard to justify non action if someone was suffering in front of me.

The reason I ask this question is that I had been reading some writings by Peter Singer who is a modern philosopher. He argues that it is also unjustifiable to not help someone who you can see suffering. But he takes things further.
e.g. there are people starving right now in many places of the world.
e.g. There are people dying because they can't afford medicine etc.

Do we have a moral obligation to help these people (even though they may be located far away)?

Could there be any karmic affects of not helping them - there is no real conscious decision as there would be with watching someone drown in front of you. Most people would not give a moments thought to these issues, so how could there be Karma?

Bankei
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:44 am

Greetings Bankei,

I've duplicated this thread and left a copy in the Classical Mahavihara Theravada section, with all the off topic posts removed. We'll leave this one here too for the more generic Theravada responses since you say you're interested in those too.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action

Postby Annapurna » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:28 am

http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby Jechbi » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:49 pm

fwiw ...

It rained last night where I live, and this morning there were worms out crawling across the blacktop. This discussion must have been in the back of my mind, because the thought occurred to me, maybe I should try to rescue all those worms. Immediately I realized how impossible that would be.

As I was getting closer to my house, I saw a single worm struggling on the blacktop in the shade, inching toward the grass a few feet away. Again the thought occurred to me that maybe I should rescue this one worm. Usually I would just dismiss the thought, but then I remembered this discussion. So first I brought my mail inside the house and set it on the counter, then I went back outside to rescue the one worm.

When I took a closer look at the worm, I realized that it was an extremely healthy, moist worm in no apparent danger. It was moving toward the grass at its own pace and probably would have been fine if I had left in alone. Then I reached out to pick it up. When I touched it, it squirmed violently in protest. I pinched it gently to pick it up, and the thought crossed my mind that I hoped I wasn't injuring it. Then I dropped it into the dirt in the grass.

I know, it's kind of silly.

:smile:

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clw_uk
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby clw_uk » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:53 am

You had right intention though :smile:

:namaste:
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Bankei
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby Bankei » Thu Feb 19, 2009 10:37 am

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clw_uk
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:13 pm

I would help the guy and bay the bill, better for him to have an easier existence than an awkward one and the money is just money
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:57 pm

- Peter


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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby Bankei » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:42 pm

The reason I ask these questions is that I have been reading some modern philosophy/ethics such as the works by Peter Singer and Peter Unger. The above quote about the car is by Peter Unger, there is a bit at wikipedia

Unger gives the car example where most people would agree that you should help the victim and disregard the car. He then compares this to people dying of starvation, aids etc. We each have the economic power to save a number of people if we choose.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby tellyontellyon » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:29 am

To me, the most important aspect of Karma is how we are training our mind. There is no cosmic 'judge', it is more a matter of conditioning our habits.
Surely indifference and ignorance, as well as willful ignorance are negative mind states?
So it is 'bad karma', in the sense of how we are training ourselves, to continue with those sorts of bad habits of body, speech or mind.

Ignorance, indifference and unawareness are bad habits that will keep us in Samsara and so must be challenged if we want to make progress and reduce/eliminate suffering.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Postby jnak » Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:37 am

I would tackle the OP's question from a different angle. The Buddha taught the value of generousity. I can't think of anything more generous than giving someone in danger lifesaving assistance. At the same time, IIRC there is a sutta where the Buddha advised a householder to "thatch his own house first" rather than attempting in vain to thatch the whole village. So it would seem there is a limit to what we owe our fellow beings.
"...I'm not much of an expert when it comes to the texts. I've simply learned a few parts, and put them into practice." Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo


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