Author Topic: Buddhism and Societal Morality  (Read 361 times)

Offline ehinkley

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Buddhism and Societal Morality
« on: March 07, 2017, 10:48:38 am »
I am fairly new to Buddhism (past 5 years), and prior to my introduction, my life had been immersed in the beliefs of Christianity.  I have much to learn and have received no formal teaching of any kind.  Anything I've come to understand, or am working towards understanding, has come from reading, listening and watching.  I am very interested to hear and read the thoughts and beliefs of those of you who would like to share your position concerning what morality may mean to you - both from a societal perspective, and a Buddhist one.  I can't even say that the word "morality" sets that well with me, simply from the standpoint that, depending on one's background, it can have a different meanings and be more or less impactful.
One of the things that I love about Buddhist philosophy is this idea of getting closer to oneself and having unconditional love for oneself.  Understand too that this post is in no way meant to cast any negativity whatsoever upon Christianity or Christians.  There are obviously crimes against humanity, national and local laws that are to be obeyed, and the like..., but I think morality is such an interesting topic because in many ways I feel society has always created, changed, altered and/or modified where those lines are  and aren't.  I believe, as I have heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama say time and again, that a person is not born with characteristics that instinctively make them "bad" or "angry", or "spiteful", etc...  Our lives assist in writing that narrative for who it is we become as human beings.  I believe "sin" to be a christian term that, for the most part, reaches far beyond the scope of what is considered "wrong" in terms of how and what we do affects other human beings.
Again, this is really just a way to open this up for discussion, and I'm very interested in reading your comments.
Thank you.

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Buddhism and Societal Morality
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 07:22:20 pm »
What you seem to describe, and correct me if I'm wrong, is a kind of relative morality.  That's fine, but it seems that that on this, as well at other forums, there are those who favor an absolute morality as well as those who favor a more liberal, relative view.

I tend towards the liberal view.

Most online Buddhist folks will base their morality on a reading of the Noble Eightfold Path.  Some think that following the 8FP  should be like the Judeo/Chritains following the Ten Commandments.  It's an interesting thing to consider and watch - the synthesis of Judeo/Christian forced behavior and Buddhist teaching.  This is probably because modern translations of the 8FP have the word "right" associated with word, deed and livelihood.  Some like words like "harmonious", "complete" or "skillfull" (although I don't think root texts support that translation).

Ultimately, morality is up to us, as individuals.  This used to be the purvue of society, but with the steady erosion of societal importance, and influenmce we are left to our own devices. 

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Buddhism and Societal Morality
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2017, 03:31:29 am »
Hi ehinkley. What IdleChater says makes a lot of sense to me. personally, I like 'skillful' in the sense that we are trying to develop skills to see things as they really are, although Buddhism is beset by different translations of the same terms. Once you see for yourself, then some sort of moral code develops, although many would hold that developing a moral code helps helps the process of seeing for yourself. As IdleChater says, in the sort of Buddhism most online followers of Buddhism talk about, we get to have the final choice, rather than having stuff imposed from on high.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline ehinkley

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Re: Buddhism and Societal Morality
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2017, 06:33:58 am »
Thank you to both of you for your replies.
What you both say makes a lot of sense to me and is wonderful food for thought.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Buddhism and Societal Morality
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2017, 09:42:22 am »
Welcome ehinkley,   :hug:  I will get back to you regarding your original question, but first I would like to respond to my friend's comment:

Quote
Idle Chater:  "Some think that following the 8FP  should be like the Judeo/Chritains following the Ten Commandments.


In some respects this is true, except for what the Abrahemic religions call the most important of all the commandments:  "Love the Lord Thy God with all thy mind, heart and strength."....with only some minor variations.  The intention remains the same.  Christ cites this commandment in The New Testament, emphasizing the importance of it to The Children of Israel and to his followers.

There is no such thing as a commandment in Budhhism.  There are precepts, which are personal commitments to standards of behavior, which were framed by Buddha in The Vinaya Rules for Monks.  There are similar rules for Bhikkunis (sisters) of the monastic order, when Buddha was alive, and are still adheared to in most monastic communities today, no matter what traditions.  The idea is to keep order within the sangha.

Other precepts are designed to prevent harm primarily in the community at large (laypersons) as well as within the monastic sangha:

1.  Cause no harm to sentient beings,  variously stated:  Cause no harm to living beings.
2.  Take not that, which has not been freely given.
3.  Refrain from sexual misconduct.
4.  Avoid all mind-altering substances.
5.  Refrain from any means of livelyhood, which causes harm (see precept #1)

....And there are more if you are a Monk or a Sister.

No Commandments, only a commitment to personal rules of conduct.

I think what The Buddha was trying to do was to keep order, and help us to avoid undesired karmic consequences.

Hi, ehinkley:

Here is a sutta, which describes The Law of Kamma (Cause and Effect of Intentional Actions), which should answer most of your questions:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/kamma.html
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 12:52:19 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Buddhism and Societal Morality
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2017, 06:02:17 pm »
Quote
Idle Chater:  "Some think that following the 8FP  should be like the Judeo/Chritains following the Ten Commandments.

In some respects this is true, except for what the Abrahemic religions call the most important of all the commandments:  "Love the Lord Thy God with all thy mind, heart and strength."....with only some minor variations.  The intention remains the same.  Christ cites this commandment in The New Testament, emphasizing the importance of it to The Children of Israel and to his followers.

True enough, I suppose, but not the point.  That is, there are Buddhists aplenty, mainly found online, that treat the N8FP like they were the 10 commandments - immutable, unchanging, and to be followed to the letter.  The same applies to the precepts.  You've seen the same tired old arguments for years - just bring up the subject of eating meat.  There are those who vocally and loudly condemn the practice using the precepts as the basis.  If you eat meat, you are on the same moral level as a child molester.

Quote
There is no such thing as a commandment in Budhhism.  There are precepts, which are personal commitments to standards of behavior, which were framed by Buddha in The Vinaya Rules for Monks.  There are similar rules for Bhikkunis (sisters) of the monastic order, when Buddha was alive, and are still adheared to in most monastic communities today, no matter what traditions.  The idea is to keep order within the sangha.

Ideally, yes, but as often as not these precepts are used to beat others over the head, so to speak.

 


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