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Thread: Not Doing Wrong Vs. Doing Right

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  1. #1

    Not Doing Wrong Vs. Doing Right

    Hello Everyone
    In a posting I read on another Soto Zen website today, I noticed an interesting phrase: "In Buddhism we value refraining from doing wrong much more highly than doing right." Does anyone have any personal interpretations of this statement or feedback regarding it that they would care to share?
    gassho
    -Lou

  2. #2
    Evil is often done in the name of righteousness.
    Avoiding to do harm is good enough!

    /Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  3. #3
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    It's cool I read Brad's blogs sometimes too.

  4. #4
    Junior Member George's Avatar
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    Hi Lou,

    Very interesting question!

    My personal opinion is that inaction is just another form of action, i.e. you are always 'doing' even if you are doing nothing. Therefore refraining from wrong action is a right action, just as actively doing a right action is too. I would suggest therefore that there is no difference and hence they have the same 'value'.

    I do however agree with the point from Pontus that harm can result from action with good intentions, perhaps this just indicates that we should think a little more with active actions compared with inactive actions?

    As a thought experiment would you feel that as Buddhists we value not mugging old ladies any more than actually helping an old lady being mugged?

    Gassho,
    George

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mr.Lou View Post
    Hello Everyone
    In a posting I read on another Soto Zen website today, I noticed an interesting phrase: "In Buddhism we value refraining from doing wrong much more highly than doing right." Does anyone have any personal interpretations of this statement or feedback regarding it that they would care to share?
    Hi Lou,

    I am not sure where Brad took that, or what it could mean. Sometimes Brad seems to pull things out of the air. Our own Teacher, Nishijima, wrote [in his commentary on Dogen's Shobogenzo-Shoaku-Makusa] ...

    Master Dōgen teaches us the Buddhist theory of morality. Morality or ethics is, by its nature, a very practical problem. But most people are prone to forget the practical character of morality, and usually only discuss it with words or as an abstract theory. However, talking about morality is not the same as being moral. Morality is just doing right or not doing wrong.

    And Dogen emphasizes in that same Jazzy writing ...

    The eternal buddha says,

    Not to commit wrongs,
    To practice the many kinds of right,
    Naturally purifies the mind;
    This is the teaching of the buddhas.


    ...

    https://www.bdkamerica.org/digital/d...enzo1_2009.pdf

    Dogen also wrote, in his Eihei Shingi and elsewhere, rule upon rule of behavior for his monks that specified as much what to do right as what not to do wrong or fail to do.

    Buddhism emphasizes responsibility for intentional (volitional) action. I agree that, very often, intentionally not taking action to do the right thing, or omitting to take action to prevent a wrong, is the same as "not doing right, and doing wrong". Traditionally in Buddhism, we are responsible for our good intent, even though we cannot always see all the consequences ... good and bad ... that may come from them.

    And, yes, don't get hung up on words. Who is the one getting hung up on "evil" and attached to certain baggage about it? It is just a label for the harmful.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-19-2012 at 01:21 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    In my limited experience of Alexander technique, inhibition, stopping the wrong habits and misuses is the very ground out of which the natural thing does itself. As Pontus reminds us, trying to do good can often be lethal. Mu, in Zen, can also be lived and experienced as not doing, a not doing out of which true life springs forth.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    As a thought experiment would you feel that as Buddhists we value not mugging old ladies any more than actually helping an old lady being mugged?
    I don't mean to say that as buddhists we should always be passive. But right action, true good, is always determined by the moment. This is why I also don't believe in upholding the precepts to the letter, in every situation, as some sort of law. As a general rule, I think helping people who are at immediate risk of being harmed is great. But I don't think we should always step between a mugger and an old lady. The end result may that that you scare the mugger, making him kill the old lady with his knife instead of just taking her purse. Then your heroic action turned out to be harmful. It may be better to just watch, call the police and comfort the old lady after the mugger runs away.

    Gassho
    Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  8. #8
    Junior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi View Post
    I don't mean to say that as buddhists we should always be passive. But right action, true good, is always determined by the moment. This is why I also don't believe in upholding the precepts to the letter, in every situation, as some sort of law. As a general rule, I think helping people who are at immediate risk of being harmed is great. But I don't think we should always step between a mugger and an old lady. The end result may that that you scare the mugger, making him kill the old lady with his knife instead of just taking her purse. Then your heroic action turned out to be harmful. It may be better to just watch, call the police and comfort the old lady after the mugger runs away.

    Gassho
    Pontus
    I totally agree with you Pontus. I think the example you give about calling the police and comforting the old lady would in many cases be the best way to help, and I think the 'heroic' action also ties back in with what you said earlier about harm being done in the name of righteousness. What seems to important then is the considered nature of the action rather than the alleged difference between action and inaction.

    Gassho,
    George

  9. #9
    I feel they are perfectly balanced, none is more important, action can be non action and non action can be action. Not doing wrong is wonderful, but sitting on your a** and letting things go wrong is not our way imho; and blind activity is not our way either. To find the balance and to find the appropriate stillness or action we sit on the cushion which too is neither inaction nor action and both. I'm guilty of both being to active at times and being too lazy at other times, so what is more important than to sit, wholeheartly sit and thus working on the balance which comes if I allow it to come. Just 2c
    _()_
    Myoku

  10. #10
    This may simply be a reference to the ten grave precepts, which are worded in a "not doing" form. Not killing, not stealing, etc



    Gassho, Kaishin / Matt
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  11. #11
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    In the heat of the moment, the ability to hold back from saying the spiteful word or refraining from striking back is a form of non action, but not getting into those situations is a wiser practice of non action.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  12. #12
    Dividing good into two and calling one half better. I don't understand. Why bother?

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Cameron View Post
    Dividing good into two and calling one half better. I don't understand. Why bother?
    Because some actions result in great harm and hurt and little children being killed, and some do not.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    This is so tricky! Our intentions matter of course, but it's awfully hard (impossible?) to see what the consequences of our actions will be.

    I think all we can do is what we think will cause least harm and hopefully even help others (all beings??) even though from our limited perspective we can't really know.

    Sometimes doing nothing will look like the best choice. But yeesh...
    Last edited by Brian Roessler; 12-30-2012 at 12:48 AM.

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