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Thread: Taking lives as a good thing?

  1. #1

    Taking lives as a good thing?

    In the thread "A question on anger" Jundo said the following, which I have been thinking about for a while (and I don't want to hijack Christopher's thread, so I'm starting a new one).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Most Buddhist teachers who spoke on the issue after 9-11 felt, for example, that some military action might be necessary, the taking of some lives to prevent a greater loss of life. However, I can think of none who spoke in terms of anger and revenge.
    Gassho, J
    I find this fascinating. Do you, Jundo, know if these teachers actually saw taking lives as a path or a goal (which it could be considered to be if you take lives in order to prevent a greater loss of life)? I have a hard time imagining support for this stance in any buddhist school (but I could be wrong!).

    Isn't the seed of violence always anger? Could you use violence, and still keep a peaceful mind? A loving heart? Wouldn't the karmic effects of this kind of action be horrible (= spawning more aggressive behaviour, more violence, more killing)? Or is it done JUST and ONLY to prevent something worse, thus being a kinda good action, or at least neutral, a 'necessary evil'?

    But that will lead us to the following: is ten people worth more than one person? That would be the logical conclusion to the aforementioned "killing in order to save more people".

    These are very difficult questions. May I ask for oyour opinions on this matter?

  2. #2

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    I find this fascinating. Do you, Jundo, know if these teachers actually saw taking lives as a path or a goal (which it could be considered to be if you take lives in order to prevent a greater loss of life)? I have a hard time imagining support for this stance in any buddhist school (but I could be wrong!).
    From the opinions of Buddhist teachers from various traditions which I have read, I would say that almost all who saw the need for some response involving the taking of life saw it as a "necessary evil" ... not as a path or goal in any positive sense. Sometimes we must break a Precept to keep a Precept. And given modern warfare, most of the teachers were aware that this might include the unavoidable taking of civilian and other "non-combatant" lives in order to save a much greater number of lives.

    I believe that the following responses, some by the Dalai Lama, are representative of the diversity of opinion.

    http://www.tricycle.com/p/1487 (the comments which follow are also very interesting)
    http://www.tricycle.com/feature/war-...utside-the-box
    http://india.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/7833.shtml

    Thich Nhat Hanh may have been most representative of the "any violent response only leads to increased violence" opinion ...

    http://www.peaceiseverystepla.org/PeaceMessage.htm

    The Buddha also seems to have been of two minds on this. On the one hand, there are some writings in which he is framed to say that killing is never skillful.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...ngmessage.html

    On the other hand, in other Sutta he did seem to countenance a nation having an army for certain limited purposes, and its discreet use.

    http://www.beyondthenet.net/thedway/soldier.htm

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma6/militarycanon.html

    Almost all the Buddhist teachers I can think of (including me too, for what it is worth) would say that we must also bear all the Karmic consequences of our volitional words, thoughts and acts, no matter whether we had a "reason" for killing or not.

    You may kill the cat, but you still likely have to pay the price in some way.

    A Tibetan teacher (Chagdud Tulku) relates this famous Jataka legend about a previous incarnation of the Buddha ...

    (In a previous life, the Buddha was Captain Compassionate Heart, sailing with 500 merchants. An evil pirate, Dung Thungchen (Blackspear) appeared, threatening to kill them all. )The captain, a bodhisattva himself, saw the [pirate]'s murderous intention and realized this crime would result in eons of torment for the murderer. In his compassion, the captain was willing to take hellish torment upon himself by killing the man to prevent karmic suffering that would be infinity greater than the suffering of the murdered victims. The captain's compassion was impartial; his motivation was utterly selfless.
    I am not sure about the effect of our Karma in lives to come ... but I do know that we likely will bear the effects of our actions in this life in some way. I have a friend, an ex-policeman, who had to kill someone in a perfectly necessary and justified act to save lives. Yet, my friend still carries that with him to this day.

    No, taking lives is never a "good" thing.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-23-2012 at 08:21 AM.

  3. #3

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I have to say that part of this is the intention. Aitken Roshi said in his book Taking the Path of Zen that if a deranged person came to his house seeking someone within, he might lie and say the person being sought wasn't there. This would seem to violate the Precept on Not Lying, but since the goal of all Precepts is to save all sentient beings, his action would be in keeping with the Precepts as a whole.

    The same can be said of a person who kills another person, if the person who was killed would have killed many people, had they not been stopped. While it is a sad and aweful event to take a life, is it better to have refrained from taking a life if that person kills you instead? What if they killed a hundred people? Perhaps no one life is of more "importance" than another, but if you view all people as one body, the wound left by the loss of one hundred as compaired to the wound of the loss of one is much deeper. And, as Jundo said, we must all bear the karma of our actions. I have a friend who by any standard can be called a hero. He served in Iraq and Afganistan, was part of the team sent into the prison to reclaim Michael Spann's body and return it home to America and his family, loves his country and the freedom his service brings to his people, received a Purple Heart, which I believe was pinned on him personally by the President of the US (I saw the picture, but not which of the numerous medals it was being pinned). Through his service, out of neccessity on the field of battle, he took the lives of some 200+ people in pitched battle and artillary fire direction.

    He is now divorced for the second time, unable to keep up with his children, and often unable to tell what portions of his stories are reality and fiction. He is on many forms of medication, was in a horrible vehicle accident (alchohol related, which in turn was likely to try and drown out the events of the preceding years) the result of which was several facial reconstructive surgeries, one of which was to re-attach his teeth to his gums, and regularly wakes up at night screaming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I also served in the Marine Corps for 5 years. Though I in no way ever saw battle, and I thank Buddha for that every day, I think that my friend's thought process would be the same as mine; we willingly took that chance when we signed up in order to protect the people of our nation, and would accept the repercussions of karma for that reason. My friend killed. A horrible decission to have to make. He made it for reasons that he believed to be righteous and noble, but a death occured just the same, and his karma, perhaps reflects that.

    Was it a good thing? No. Even, or perhaps especially, he would tell you that, as well. But, his actions were not from a place of hate or anger, but of love for those he joined the service to protect. It was not a good thing, and karma has shown that there are still consequences to his actions - no matter the intent. But he accepted them in order to do what he felt was right.

    Perhaps he is a Bodhisattva in training........

  4. #4
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    These idle discussions of ethics are distractions from the path, IMHO. Develop wisdom and insight and self-honesty and the precepts become invitations to pause before acting so as to inquire whether such action is harmful or not. Generally, killing is to be avoided - occassionally, it may be required. If it is, no amount of philosophical argument or discussion will be sufficient to make the decision. However, I think if we sharpen our wisdom, see through our self-rationalization - then maybe we can make the least harmful decision.

    Chet

  5. #5

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    These idle discussions of ethics are distractions from the path, IMHO. Develop wisdom and insight and self-honesty and the precepts become invitations to pause before acting so as to inquire whether such action is harmful or not.......However, I think if we sharpen our wisdom, see through our self-rationalization - then maybe we can make the least harmful decision.

    Chet
    I must both agree and disagree with your statement here Chet. I believe you are correct that if we sharpen our wisdom, etc. than we can make the best (or at least non-worst) decision available to us. However, like all blades that need to be sharpened, you have to take it to a grind stone that will scrape away layers of the metal (delusion) until it comes to the razor edge. Perhaps these discussions are that whetstone, perhaps talking with others sharpens the wisdom until the mind becomes Mind.

  6. #6

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    I also served in the Marine Corps for 5 years. Though I in no way ever saw battle, and I thank Buddha for that every day, I think that my friend's thought process would be the same as mine; we willingly took that chance when we signed up in order to protect the people of our nation, and would accept the repercussions of karma for that reason. My friend killed. A horrible decission to have to make. He made it for reasons that he believed to be righteous and noble, but a death occured just the same, and his karma, perhaps reflects that.

    Was it a good thing? No. Even, or perhaps especially, he would tell you that, as well. But, his actions were not from a place of hate or anger, but of love for those he joined the service to protect. It was not a good thing, and karma has shown that there are still consequences to his actions - no matter the intent. But he accepted them in order to do what he felt was right.

    Perhaps he is a Bodhisattva in training........
    Thank you for this, Christopher. Much appreciated. I agree with you, especially with the "accept the repercussions". If you accept that your actions are going to create bad repercussions, but still want to do them because you believe that that's the right thing to do, then that's a sacrifice that you yourself knowingly is doing. You're accepting bad karmic consequences for something that it bigger than yourself, and I can certainly respect that.

    Is your friend a buddhist? It makes a difference because if he's not, buddhist ethics doesn't apply to his situation (of course the karmic consequences would still be there, if there is such a thing). If he is, then that would, I think, be interesting, because then he would, as I said, be willingly taking on the karmic consequences for something that he believes in (e.g. the Nation, the People).

  7. #7

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    These idle discussions of ethics are distractions from the path, IMHO. Develop wisdom and insight and self-honesty and the precepts become invitations to pause before acting so as to inquire whether such action is harmful or not. Generally, killing is to be avoided - occassionally, it may be required. If it is, no amount of philosophical argument or discussion will be sufficient to make the decision. However, I think if we sharpen our wisdom, see through our self-rationalization - then maybe we can make the least harmful decision.

    Chet
    I must admit, I am a bit curious Chet. If these idle discussions, in your opinion, are distractions from the path, then why take part in them? Why do you let them distract you?

    Not critizising ya, just curious

    Anyway, I have to agree with Christopher (again). I do think these discussion are important, because they are at the heart of the problem. If there are no discussions, then the precepts, for example, can mean whatever you want them to mean. And that is not, IMHO, doing Buddhism a favour. Discussions are also vital for a sangha, so that we can work out differences. If this sangha is avoiding discussions in favour of a more direct approach to life, or even berating people who do want to discuss (not saying that this is so, though) then this sangha is perhaps not for me.

    There is a sutta where the Buddha is talking about "Dhamma-devotees" and "Jhana-devotees" (those who are more interested in learning the Dharma, talking about it, discussing it, reciting it - and those who are more interested in the meditation part). It says

    Thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being Dhamma-devotee monks, we will speak in praise of jhana monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who dwell touching the deathless element with the body.

    And thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being jhana monks, we will speak in praise of Dhamma-devotee monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who penetrate with discernment statements of deep meaning.
    I take this to mean that there is a place for both, even within the same sangha.

  8. #8

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Thank you for your reply, Jundo.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The Buddha also seems to have been of two minds on this. On the one hand, there are some writings in which he is framed to say that killing is never skillful. l

    On the other hand, in other Sutta he did seem to countenance a nation having an army for certain limited purposes, and its discreet use.
    In my opinion, this is not so much that Buddha was of two minds, but rather that different ethics is valid for different people. The Buddha himself, and those who followed him, were not to kill anything. A king, however, has not accepted the same precepts, a king has other obligations. Which means that the war on terror, for example, may be justifiable for a nation, wanting to defend itself, but it is never justifiable for a person wanting to follow the eightfold path. The king would have to face up to his actions sooner or later, but if he's acting to ensure minimal damage, then he is to be reborn in a situation where he can live more in according to the Buddhist path. But this is just my view, as I said.

    Almost all the Buddhist teachers I can think of (including me too, for what it is worth) would say that we must also bear all the Karmic consequences of our volitional words, thoughts and acts, no matter whether we had a "reason" for killing or not.

    You may kill the cat, but you still likely have to pay the price in some way.
    I agree with this, and this kind of what I said to Christopher in an earlier post. To be prepared to accept responsibility for one's actions.

  9. #9

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Thank you for your reply, Jundo.

    In my opinion, this is not so much that Buddha was of two minds, but rather that different ethics is valid for different people. The Buddha himself, and those who followed him, were not to kill anything. A king, however, has not accepted the same precepts, a king has other obligations. Which means that the war on terror, for example, may be justifiable for a nation, wanting to defend itself, but it is never justifiable for a person wanting to follow the eightfold path. The king would have to face up to his actions sooner or later, but if he's acting to ensure minimal damage, then he is to be reborn in a situation where he can live more in according to the Buddhist path. But this is just my view, as I said.
    Even a king who has taken the precepts must use his army to defend his people. I believe there was such a king in Buddhas time and will try to find the reference. In general, I agree with most everything you said in the last few posts.

  10. #10

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    EDIT: whoops, I was going to link to an article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu that I felt was spot on, and expressed much more eloquently the point I was trying to make, but I noticed that it was the same article that Jundo linked to in his earlier post.

    So, never mind

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    These idle discussions of ethics are distractions from the path, IMHO. Develop wisdom and insight and self-honesty and the precepts become invitations to pause before acting so as to inquire whether such action is harmful or not.......However, I think if we sharpen our wisdom, see through our self-rationalization - then maybe we can make the least harmful decision.

    Chet
    I must both agree and disagree with your statement here Chet. I believe you are correct that if we sharpen our wisdom, etc. than we can make the best (or at least non-worst) decision available to us. However, like all blades that need to be sharpened, you have to take it to a grind stone that will scrape away layers of the metal (delusion) until it comes to the razor edge. Perhaps these discussions are that whetstone, perhaps talking with others sharpens the wisdom until the mind becomes Mind.
    No, they won't. No amount of philosophical discourse will really 'sharpen the edge' when it comes time to make a decision like this. The precepts are a reflection of wisdom - using them as a path to wisdom is pointless if it sets up a huge internal struggle. A small struggle is okay, but when we talk about taking lives - we're not talking about a small struggle.

    In the moment in which a decision to take a life or not would occur, I can't imagine a scenario whereby a philosophical discussion would affect you. Practice, wisdom, insight, and the curbing of delusion might possibly help....but a philosophical discussion about whether Buddhism sanctions the taking of life would be entirely irrelevant.

    Were you to act in anger, without practice with anger, without insight into anger, and without dis-investment of ego in anger, a philosophical discussion would be unlikely to even be remembered.

    If you were to act out of greed, insight into the nature of greed, the delusion upon which it is based, and practice with greed may help. Remembrance of a philosophical discussion would not.

    If you were to act out of ignorance (and you would be in the examples above), without insight into ignorance and a general dis-investment in ego - a philosophical discussion would not help.

    The only thing for which a philosophical discussion is useful is to inspire you to practice diligently...which we should all be doing regardless of philosophical discussions about whether Buddhism sanctions the taking of a life.

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    The only thing for which a philosophical discussion is useful is to inspire you to practice diligently...which we should all be doing regardless of philosophical discussions about whether Buddhism sanctions the taking of a life.
    In my mind, you hit upon my very point. The discussion, which isn't entirely phliosophical but also practical, is the begining of or the reinforcement of the underlying morals of the act or the Precept. Without the discussion, people may not understand fully what is being talked about. You say that we aren't talking about a little thing, the taking of a life, and while I agree with you, it's the conceptions and delusions that a person is under that may make them believe it is ok. I'd venture to say that a person's life now is no less relevent or meaningful than it was in ancient Japan, but the samurai often took life, and sometimes for tiny indescretions. And the culture of the time that they were a part of was....sort of fine with that. I think if you asked Pol Pot or any of the other despots in history if they thought killing all those people was wrong, you might be surprised by the answer. While I don't think a mere discussion would have turned them around, the right type of many discussions may have gotten them thinking in a different direction.

    My introduction to Buddhism was a discussion that I heard on T.V. and while that discussion didn't spring board me into Buddhism, it got me thinking enough to persue knowledge about it, the end result (if you could call it that since there is never really an end to practice) is that I am here and I now view the world through different "eyes".

  13. #13
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    I think if you asked Pol Pot or any of the other despots in history if they thought killing all those people was wrong, you might be surprised by the answer. While I don't think a mere discussion would have turned them around, the right type of many discussions may have gotten them thinking in a different direction.
    A philosophical discussion will not end this sort of delusion. Not only that, but why are we even talking about Pol Pot or historical despots? The precepts and principles of Buddhism are designed to be guiding lights on your path, not necessarily Pol Pot's...

    I don't even know why I'm arguing this. Sit. Don't sit. It's your realization.

    Chet

  14. #14

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I wrote the following on another thread today (and, truly, the image is more appropriate to America than here in Japan, where the fellow is less likely to be carrying a gun) ...

    If a robber is coming through the window of my house ... well, I hope in that moment that I will just do what needs to be done, and that it will be appropriate when viewed afterwards. I am sure that my years of Buddhist training will guide me in an important way in that moment, and I am sure that Buddhist training may be the farthest from my mind in that moment.

    Our "Karma" arises from our volitional actions in this moment, whether we consider the future or not.
    I can only hope it will never happen.

    (But actually ... it did happen once while I was home in Japan, a fellow crawling through our kitchen window, not knowing that I was at home. This being Japan, when he saw me, he apologized profusely, complete with a quick bow while half hanging from our window ... before running off. The only thing he left behind ... his shoes, which he had kindly removed before trying to rob the house. True story. Hard to be too upset at a considerate robber like that. I stood my ground, a straw broom in hand. If it had been Miami ... where we used to live ... my fear and reaction in the circumstances would likely have been quite different. What would I have done to protect my family? Whatever I could. Would I take his life if I felt our lives were threatened, a snap decision were needed, and I had the means? Yes, most probably ... without much of a thought, if any thought. ).

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS -

    There is a sutta where the Buddha is talking about "Dhamma-devotees" and "Jhana-devotees" (those who are more interested in learning the Dharma, talking about it, discussing it, reciting it ... and those who are more interested in the meditation part). ...

    I take this to mean that there is a place for both, even within the same sangha.
    We should never neglect Zazen, discuss and study Buddhist teachings when we can (both are vital to this Practice) ... yet realize that words and armchair philosophy about how one will react in a particular moment are just words and theory. It is all just "practice". All our sitting on the cushion, study of the Precepts and the like will likely be one of many factors when the "survival" instinct of the primitive brain takes control, and we are acting by that.

  15. #15

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    And what if you believe the person is harmful, but in fact, you are not seeing clearly.

    Our practice is to act out of clarity in situations like these. And it needs no further discussion.

    Gassho

    W

  16. #16

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    And what if you believe the person is harmful, but in fact, you are not seeing clearly.

    Our practice is to act out of clarity in situations like these. And it needs no further discussion.

    Gassho

    W
    If the fellow is coming through my kitchen window, seems to be threatening, does not stop at a warning (assuming there is even time, and the circumstances, for a warning) ... I will do what I do, sort out the perceptions and mis-perceptions later.

    This article and book about the situation in Southern Thailand is not inappropriate ...


    Then in January 2004, violent attacks broke out in the southern provinces of Thailand, some of which were directed at Buddhist monks. These attacks and the numerous ones to follow shocked the country. But, since contemporary issues and my research interests seemed to be converging, I thought: what better way to study Buddhist activism than to observe Buddhist monks engaged in peacemaking?

    Unfortunately, I found very little of this.

    During my visits between 2006 and 2008, southern Thai monks shared the challenges of living in their fear-infested communities. All but a few concentrated on survival; peacemaking was the last thing on their minds.

    The constant fear and violence took a toll on them. Monks talked about the guns they had bought and now kept at their bedsides.
    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archi ... _violence/

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    And what if you believe the person is harmful, but in fact, you are not seeing clearly.

    Our practice is to act out of clarity in situations like these. And it needs no further discussion.

    Gassho

    W
    Then you'll make an honest mistake...or maybe you'll have enough faith and confidence to stay with someone perceived as harmful until it becomes clearer.

    I don't think wisdom and insight bring perfection-if your mistakes are honest, what mire can you hope for?

    Chet

  18. #18

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    There was a thread about pacifism and the appropriateness of violence on the judo list I used to subscribe to. The host, someone I'd consider to be an extremely thoughtful and moral person, said something that has stuck in my brain for years afterward. Not precisely, though...I have to paraphrase. He made an analogy between the use of force and a surgeon amputating a limb from a badly injured or diseased patient. Is it bad to cut off someone's limb? Of course, but sometimes it's necessary. When it is necessary, it should be done as quickly and effectively as possible, with as little extra harm as possible. And no matter how well the amputation goes, it's never a cause for celebration. I think this came along in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but it's been so long I'm not sure any more.

    I think Brad Warner wrote an article about buddhists as soldiers on his blog once, not too long ago...

  19. #19

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I think it's important to remember also, how Shaolin was when it first was formed. They were originally a Zen Buddhist sect that Bodhidharma himself began and, over the years, they developed their martial arts to protect their monestary, themselves, and the devotees of the Buddha that they served during a very troubled time in China's history. The Songshan mountains were riddled with bandits and warlords that would love to pillage a religious site, and some that murdered for sport. As direct dharma decendents of Bodhidharma, I think we can probably infer that they shared a very Zen view of the Precept of No Killing, but they also saw the world as it was and not as they would like it to have been. I'm sure they would have prefered not to have to develope those skills to fight off and probably kill intruders and the like, but realizing that that was the world and the time in which they lived, and their belief in karma and the Precepts wouldn't stop a person intent on murdering the entire monestary and stealing their dharma treasures.

  20. #20

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    A philosophical discussion will not end this sort of delusion. Not only that, but why are we even talking about Pol Pot or historical despots? The precepts and principles of Buddhism are designed to be guiding lights on your path, not necessarily Pol Pot's...

    I don't even know why I'm arguing this. Sit. Don't sit. It's your realization
    I was using the example of historical despots to illustrate that some people's cultures or personal philosophies probably did not include this kind of moral and ethical questioning. If it had, would things have been different? Granted the desire to learn must be there, but if these same people had a teacher who discussed the philosophies that we are right now, Buddhist Ethics if you will, would history remember them differently because they would have acted differently? Maybe. The principals of Buddhism are designed to be guding lights on my path, but my path is not seperate from the paths of all sentient beings. I didn't think we were arguing anyway, if we were I appologize, I thought we were having a discussion around the merits or demerits of discoursing on philosophy. As for my realization, sometimes I sit, sometimes I don't......I'm not sure it would matter if I didn't understand why I sit. If I do achieve realization, I hope to share it with everyone, even the Pol Pot's of the world.

    Thank you Chet, your oppinions are very well thought out and your faith is evident. I really do enjoy our exchanges.

  21. #21
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    A philosophical discussion will not end this sort of delusion. Not only that, but why are we even talking about Pol Pot or historical despots? The precepts and principles of Buddhism are designed to be guiding lights on your path, not necessarily Pol Pot's...

    I don't even know why I'm arguing this. Sit. Don't sit. It's your realization
    I was using the example of historical despots to illustrate that some people's cultures or personal philosophies probably did not include this kind of moral and ethical questioning. If it had, would things have been different? Granted the desire to learn must be there, but if these same people had a teacher who discussed the philosophies that we are right now, Buddhist Ethics if you will, would history remember them differently because they would have acted differently? Maybe. The principals of Buddhism are designed to be guding lights on my path, but my path is not seperate from the paths of all sentient beings. I didn't think we were arguing anyway, if we were I appologize, I thought we were having a discussion around the merits or demerits of discoursing on philosophy. As for my realization, sometimes I sit, sometimes I don't......I'm not sure it would matter if I didn't understand why I sit. If I do achieve realization, I hope to share it with everyone, even the Pol Pot's of the world.

    Thank you Chet, your oppinions are very well thought out and your faith is evident. I really do enjoy our exchanges.
    I suspect that you think of Zen (and Buddhism in general) as mental exercises. You may not call them that - you may reject that - maybe you're thinking I'm saying 'only mental exercises'.

    What I mean to say, really, is that you seem to think that the essence of the Dharma is content. The content of your mind is largely irrelevant in the context of Zen because wisdom erodes identification with content. This is not something you will ever grok through the manipulation of content - or really any manipulation at all!

    How can we have a conversation about ethics if we do not first have an understanding of dis-identification with content? This is an understanding of true Buddha, of true 'self' - which is oddly selfless because it is conditionless, content-less, and dis-identified.

    When you deepen your wisdom, you loosen your grip on identification. Ethics is the navigation of an object identity through a world of objects - but you can't hold this identity loosely if you have not first been dis-identified with it. The ego's first reaction to resistance is to toughen up, batten down, fight, and push through - there's little choice because you are this thing - you are identified with it. It is constant struggle. This approach to ethics is doomed to failure, disillusionment, and despair. It is defeated before it starts.

    If you try to formulate an approach to ethics without at least a little bit of opening to this wisdom, when the road turns, you'll fall into the ditch. The precepts are signs on the road, but as we develop wisdom, we have faith that we can walk this path without having every nook and cranny pre-mapped - we just follow the road! Then the signs are useful. Have you heard the stories about people who drive their cars into rivers and off out-of-service bridges because they are following too closely the instructions of their GPS units? I wonder if they're still following their GPS when they're underwater - this would be the essence of being lost, of being in despair, of being hopelessly deluded and miserable.

    What part of you is it that wants to have these issues settled? What is the basis of the insecurity that asks these questions?

    Chet

  22. #22

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    How can we have a conversation about ethics if we do not first have an understanding of dis-identification with content? This is an understanding of true Buddha, of true 'self' - which is oddly selfless because it is conditionless, content-less, and dis-identified.

    When you deepen your wisdom, you loosen your grip on identification. Ethics is the navigation of an object identity through a world of objects - but you can't hold this identity loosely if you have not first been dis-identified with it. The ego's first reaction to resistance is to toughen up, batten down, fight, and push through - there's little choice because you are this thing - you are identified with it. It is constant struggle. This approach to ethics is doomed to failure, disillusionment, and despair. It is defeated before it starts.
    Have you been listening to Adyashanti tapes again, Chet? 8)

    Yes, what you say is all well and true. Fully 'groking' this selfless, conditionless, content-less 'true self' is vital and the heart of the matter.

    But after the ecstasy of its rediscovery there is laundry to do because my other 'not quite real' self needs clean socks and underwear, has a job to get to and a mortgage to pay (and better act at that job as if there were conditions to satisfy and content to fulfill or his imaginary ass will be in an imaginary unemployment line), and my "not quite real' self might just shoot a "ultimately empty" fellow coming through his "not really there" kitchen window to do harm to his fictional self and the equally fictional selfs of his loved ones.

    That selfless, conditionless, content-less self informs our life in samsara, flavors our life in samsara, clarifies our life in samsara ... but does diddly-squat to change some of the basic "facts on the ground" of our day to day life and grind here in sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly samsara.

    On the one hand ... truly seeing that "conditionless, content-less" self lets us know that samsara is a grand show! On with the show! On the other hand, this show is our life, and we better treat most of it as real with real consequences (especially, for example, when it comes to sometimes as serious as shooting a perceived threat). As I am blowing away that poor fellow sentient being coming through my window, I know now that I both am ... and I am not ... for there is nobody to shoot and no shooter. It is all just a show! Bam bam he's dead and the blood flows ... yet no death, and all is swept up in the flow of the unconditioned .. yet he is still dead, and I'm scarred for life for having taken a life.

    In other words ... seeing thoroughly the "conditionless" both completely sweeps away all the confusion and ugliness of this world, and does not ... yet it does ... yet it does not ... yet it does.

    And I still have to answer the question for myself ... objectless ultimately or not ... about whether it is right or wrong to buy a gun and keep it under my pillow. :?

    Gassho, J

  23. #23

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Chet,

    I think I understand what you are saying, and if I am correct, why this conversation has “gone astray”.

    I do not think of Zen or Buddhism as content. Since all forms are empty, how could it be content? The statement you made makes me think that you believe that I am constantly checking my “self” against the Precepts and the doctrine of Buddhism and Zen, sort of like walking on a road and only looking down to make sure that my feet land exactly in the foot print of the person who walked there before me,


    instead of looking up and seeing the direction that all those who’ve gone before have taken.


    What I’ve been trying to say, is that the discussion of the Dharma is essential because it begins the process of realization. It isn’t a goal in and of itself to sit around and “just talk” just like, in my opinion, if you never discuss the Dharma until you begin your realization, you’ll never get anywhere by “just sitting”. The teisho is a part of the process. We all have delusions, we are all bereft of realization in the beginning, if we weren’t we’d have been born Buddha’s, the discussion helps to frame the Dharma in a way that we can understand and begins the process of realization, dis-identification with content and concept, and self-lessness.

    Basically, you can not have discussed the Dharma, it’s attendant ethics, and Buddhist philosophy and “just sit” and realized……what? Maybe something, probably nothing, and almost certainly nothing in the way that we mean when we say non-attainment, and emptiness. You would have just sat with the monkey mind being the monkey mind and the self still a “real” concept, delusions abounding, and attachments being the way of life.

    Or, you could discuss the Dharma, begin the process of understanding what this thing we call Zen is from a standpoint of original nature, and then “just sit” but then “just sitting” isn’t just sitting, it’s shikantaza, where “just sitting” becomes the original nature of “just being” and you divest yourself of “your self”, and the content of Buddhism becomes the context of life.

    What I’ve been saying, or trying to (though you once remarked to Taigu, “the limitations of language….) is that the discussions don’t result in realization. The discussions result in reflection and a faithful practice (the act of shikantaza being the core activity of that practice), and faithful reflection and practice eventually (hopefully) result in realization. Just sitting, without the benefit of reflection and the basis of understanding, results in a sore bottom.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I don't think that taking another human life is ever "good", ever "justifiable" (to whom?).

    As for the argument that it might be a "necessary evil", it's impossible to discern the consequences of our actions accurately. I'm guessing that many of those who advocated a violent response after September 11 as a "necessary evil" took the view that if one has the ability to stop another attack and doesn't do it, that inaction would cause the deaths of the victims of the next terrorist attack as surely as going to bomb the supposed terrorists would cause the deaths of the supposed terrorists. So, they would see the choice not as between killing and not killing, but as to which path involves less killing, or perhaps less killing of people they consider more worthy of living. Personally, I think none of the military responses to September 11 were well advised, in practice: I think they ended up killing tens / hundreds of thousands of people and will surely help to trigger future terrorist attacks thus reinforcing the cycle of violence- but that's an argument about whether the actions in practice worked out as planned, not an argument about the illusory principle. We can't foresee the results of our actions, even not acting is an action and has consequences, we can only decide as best as we can and accept the consequences.

  25. #25

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    This whole conversation reminds me of this poem:

    "I spur my horse past the ruined city;
    the ruined city, that wakes the traveler's thoughts:
    ancient battlements, high and low;
    old grave mounds, great and small.

    Where the shadow of a single tumbleweed trembles
    and the voice of the great trees clings forever,
    I sigh over all these common bones --
    No roll of the immortals bears their names. "
    — Han-shan

  26. #26

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    I don't think that taking another human life is ever "good", ever "justifiable" (to whom?).

    As for the argument that it might be a "necessary evil", it's impossible to discern the consequences of our actions accurately. I'm guessing that many of those who advocated a violent response after September 11 as a "necessary evil" took the view that if one has the ability to stop another attack and doesn't do it, that inaction would cause the deaths of the victims of the next terrorist attack as surely as going to bomb the supposed terrorists would cause the deaths of the supposed terrorists. So, they would see the choice not as between killing and not killing, but as to which path involves less killing, or perhaps less killing of people they consider more worthy of living. Personally, I think none of the military responses to September 11 were well advised, in practice: I think they ended up killing tens / hundreds of thousands of people and will surely help to trigger future terrorist attacks thus reinforcing the cycle of violence- but that's an argument about whether the actions in practice worked out as planned, not an argument about the illusory principle. We can't foresee the results of our actions, even not acting is an action and has consequences, we can only decide as best as we can and accept the consequences.
    I agree, and this is why I think that the analogy of a doctor amputating a limb from an injured patient is inaccurate. In the case of the amputating, the doctor knows that it will bring something good (the patient recovering). Acts of war or killing or violence are never that accurate. In that way, I believe that the best action is a peaceful one, even if it doesn't seem like it at first. Like you say, war will only reinforce the cycle of violence, bring about more hate, more acts of terrorism. If being peaceful, the need for terrorism decreases.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    I think it's important to remember also, how Shaolin was when it first was formed. They were originally a Zen Buddhist sect that Bodhidharma himself began and, over the years, they developed their martial arts to protect their monestary, themselves, and the devotees of the Buddha that they served during a very troubled time in China's history.
    Buddhist monks were allowed to defend themselves physically if attacked. But they were not allowed to kill. I just realized that the laws in Sweden are really into the same thing. I'm allowed to defend myself physically, but the force has to be moderate. I'm not allowed to beat the attacker to a pulp, and I'm not allowed to kill him. FWIW.

  27. #27
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    yet it does.

    And I still have to answer the question for myself ... objectless ultimately or not ... about whether it is right or wrong to buy a gun and keep it under my pillow. :?

    Gassho, J
    No, Jundo - this is coming from my direct practice - but thanks for the backhanded jab - it lets me know you're not sleeping (I really do mean that in a good-hearted way - I'm not sure if the internets are capable of properly expressing my gratitude.) Nonetheless, I think you are misunderstanding me here. I'm not saying that the 'self' is unreal or useless - I'm saying that in the moment in which you have to decide what to do about the strange fellow breaking into your kitchen - it will be your sitting practice, insight, and karmic predisposition that will determine your actions much more than philosophical discussion about whether taking lives is sometimes justifiable. These 'fight-or-flight' instances demand action - instinctive action. If your disposition has not been mitigated by insight and wisdom, you are less likely to make a non-harmful decision. I think this is much more important than any philosophical discussion of the precepts.

    Buddhism is as useless as any philosophy for determining such questions, as you will ultimately twist it or turn it to suit your predisposition. I've seen it time and again. You do it, Brad certainly does it, I do it - everyone here does it.

    The precepts are warning posts, guides, etc....but they have as much to do with 'here and now' reality as any other abstracted generalization - which is to say, not very much. They point in a direction, like a good map.

    I don't want anyone to get me wrong, you need a good map! I believe Buddhism and Zen provide as good a map as you can find - but part of what makes Zen such a useful map is that it is so sparse that it is less likely to allow you to mistake the map with the territory actually traveled. Likewise, looking at a quagmire on a map will cause you to make certain judgments and form certain plans that may need to be completely thrown out the moment you're mucking through the swamp. I think that instinctively, we know that - but what is it about us that causes us to want to cover the bases of such unlikely scenarios beforehand when we intuit, or should intuit that the likelihood of such situations is small and that the usefulness of pre-planning for such events is questionable? In essence, planning for such events, covering all the bases - this is something the mind and self-identification love to do, and I think that such tendencies should be reduced to make room for real practice.

    At least, that's what I'm attempting to do. I know myself - and I can get lost down these planning roads forever - trying to cover every base, every nook and cranny. I do it less and less as I get older because I see just how unnecessary much of it is and also how unhelpful it frequently is. Plan for retirement? Sensible. Buy insurance? Sensible. Save for kids' college fund? Sensible. Try to predetermine the 'Buddhist-correctness' of taking a life in what will be an emotionally charged event where instinct will take over? Not so sensible.

    So that's what I'm saying. In a nutshell, yes - plan, you need to. But the mind has a tendency to micromanage and the ego has a tendency to constantly turn and try to secure itself. You can literally be at that job for an eternity. Maybe we should inquire to some extent into that tendency, see where it comes from, and refocus our energies elsewhere.

    Chet

  28. #28

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Bad situations can escalate out of control very quickly, so you need to slow everything down to change a bad situation to a good situation. Practice helps with this. Get past the emotional reaction to a concrete action. Only defend the essential spirit of the body-mind. Give up everything else.

    I don't really think about Buddhism that much unless I'm reading books or on the internet. But that doesn't mean I don't practice a lot.

    Discussions of precepts, ethics, and what if's can be helpful but in real life situations , conscious thinking is too late. I think intuition is a kind of thinking but it's not conscious and happens effortlessly if your mind is clear.

    FWIW
    /Rich

  29. #29

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I think this thread has gone from general ethics to what-ifs. Sure, we can't possibly know how we will react in certain hypothetical situations, but that's not really the point of these ethics. The point is to have a set of ideas that you want to follow as closely as you can, a set of ideas that will guide you in your normal day-to-day life. For example, since I became a Buddhist some 12 years ago, I stopped killing bugs intentionally. I'm not doing this because of my awakened state of mind. (I'm not awakened). I'm not doing this intuitively (well, not in the beginning anyway). I'm doing this because I have adopted ethics which I believe are Buddhist, and will help me live in accordance with the eightfold path, which according to the Buddha, will lead me to more positive karmic consequences, which is the way to awakening.

    Now, if these ethics, including discussions of the same ethics, have lead me to a path which is from a Buddhist point of view, more skillful, then those discussions have been really, really good for me, and for others around me. How is that bad?

    Which means, that from a buddhist perspective I find it odd, but fascinating, that different buddhist teachers have condoned killing, no matter what the motive. That's not the ethics I'm used to (but they are not automatically wrong because of this).

    I'm interested in seeing what kind of ethics these buddhist teachers are using.

    I'm interested in discussing ethics because it helps me with my own intellectual understanding of Buddhism, which helps me with more skillful actions.

  30. #30

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Acts of war or killing or violence are never that accurate. In that way, I believe that the best action is a peaceful one, even if it doesn't seem like it at first. Like you say, war will only reinforce the cycle of violence, bring about more hate, more acts of terrorism. If being peaceful, the need for terrorism decreases.
    Perhaps. I certainly wish that we had the guts in the West to have made a totally non-violent response to 9-11 ... flooding Afghanistan with money for schools and hospitals instead of CIA sharp-shooters and bombs. I wish we had thought "outside the box" more, and killed them "with kindness" instead of with bullets. Of course, the Taliban might not have allowed that (they are not big fans of Western education, and likely would have diverted the funds to their own purposes). However, I truly wish ... in an ideal world ... we had "turned the other cheek" more, and dropped flowers and chocolate bon bons from the sky instead of bullets from drone planes. (However, in fact, I think that Osama would have simply enjoyed nibbling on the chocolate while planning something even more deadly).

    I wish we had bombs and gases which only caused people nearby to be rendered unconscious and passive instead of dead, but we do not have those yet (they are working on them, I happen to know, and I actually fully support and encourage such research into non-deadly alternative weaponry I think we have to develop non-deadly, violence neutralizing BUDDHA-BOMBS ... valium bombs and 'temporary physical paralyzers', and I have actually consulted with some researchers on the ethics, from a Buddhist point of view, of doing so.).

    But In the meantime, the world is complex. It was necessary to capture or kill members of Al Qaeda, not just leave them alone in their training camps to plan something more than crashing planes into buildings. Mass killings in urban areas by chemical or biological weapons seem quite likely as the next scene should the group have been allowed to remain unchecked ... because its leaders said so openly in their videos (and any checking of the group and those leaders required the use of deadly force).

    Thus, I believe that some limited, narrowly focused violent response was justified to destabilize the organization ... and perhaps more violence to weaken their Taliban supporters (although, certainly, not the big widespread mess in Iraq that it later became).

    Honestly, I believe that, someday, we should identify the sections of the brain responsible for anger, hate, a desire for revenge and neutralize those in a hospital. I am deadly serious on this. (Was I the only fellow who read "Clockwork Orange" and thought it was actually a good idea to neutralize violence in that way instead of throwing people into prisons for life? I think we have to eventually go this way ...).

    CLOCKWORK ORANGE SYNOPSIS: The movie is based on the novel by Anthony Burgess and takes place in a future where crime has run rampant and there is very little to be done about it. Alex is the leader of a gang of droogies and is particularly vicious. After accidentally killing someone he is imprisoned and volunteers to under go a new form of treatment in which his body associates violence of any kind with extreme feelings of nausea and sickness that are strong enough to paralyze him. Afterwards he attempts suicide and the government is forced to “fix” him again, restoring him to his former self and covering up the whole experiment.

    I thought they should have left him as he was. I truly hope that we eventually get to something like that (mental neutralization of violence after trial by a jury of one's peers) ... instead of assassinations, carpet bombings, executions, water boarding and life imprisonment in some high security hell hole.

    We need to turn murderers, rapists and terrorists into loving Bodhisattvas ... whether they want to be or not!

    I just realized that the laws in Sweden are really into the same thing. I'm allowed to defend myself physically, but the force has to be moderate. I'm not allowed to beat the attacker to a pulp, and I'm not allowed to kill him. FWIW.
    While I may be mistaken, my brief research indicates that you are mistaken about the laws of "self-defense", including the use of deadly force when reasonable and necessary under the circumstances, in Sweden. The law appears to be about the same in content and interpretation as in most Western countries. Thus, deadly force can be used to meet a situation in which one perceives (even if a reasonable but mistaken belief) that one is defending self or others from a likely use of deadly force or serious bodily injury. (One is not allowed to use deadly force, however, to prevent what is perceived as merely property theft, for example, or a non-deadly, relatively minor assault)

    Defense justification - Self defense law in Sweden

    Self defense is considered grounds for non-conviction if the accused acted in a situation of peril and acted in a manner that is not "blatantly unjustifiable" in relation to that which is defended.

    A situation of peril is stated to exist if:

    1. a person is subjected to, or is in imminent danger of being subjected to, a criminal attack against property or person, or
    2. a person through threats, force or violence is prevented from taking back stolen property found on criminals "red handed", or
    3. an intruder attempts to enter a room, house, estate or ship, or
    4. another person refuses to leave a residence after being told to.

    The interpretation of what is to be considered not "blatantly unjustifiable" is popularly expressed in Sweden as "that force which is required by the peril". In other words, the defending party may do whatever it takes so long as no alternative, less severe options are available. For example, if the defending party can flee a dangerous situation instead of engaging in a fight (in other words, a similar "duty to retreat" as described above). It should be noted that the expression "blatantly unjustifiable" allows fairly generous tolerance towards the defending party.

    However, the defending party must also consider that which is defended and what injury is inflicted upon the attacker. If that which is defended is insignificant in comparison to the injuries to the attacker, the court may reject the claim that person acted in self defense since the damage done to the attacker is "blatantly unjustifiable". Loss of life or permanent bodily injury rarely justifies self defense unless the defending party was in danger of being subjected to the same. ... The Swedish criminal code states that anyone who assists a defending party in peril shall have the same rights as the defending party.
    Please correct me if the law in Sweden is interpreted otherwise.

    I think this thread has gone from general ethics to what-ifs. Sure, we can't possibly know how we will react in certain hypothetical situations.
    I think that I can state, with a high degree of certitude, that I would take violent action against an intruder in my house (if in the United States), including the use of deadly force if perceiving danger to my loved ones. It is not merely hypothetical.
    I would then carry all the resulting Karma, weight and guilt of that for the rest of my life .. and maybe then some.

    In Miami, I had one of those electric 'taser' stun guns in the house ... and I would have reached for that ... although I heard that they are not very effective against a large man strung out on PCP (not a merely hypothetical situation when living in Miami). I did consider having a gun in the house, although I rejected that option for any number of reasons (karmic effects in future lives being way down the list compared to other factors of practicality). I also had (and have) a baseball bat, and there is no doubt that I would attempt to apply it to the intruder's head with all the force I could muster.

    For example, since I became a Buddhist some 12 years ago, I stopped killing bugs intentionally.
    Well, I am not eating in your kitchen (although, I assume you are using some other means to dissuade the bugs from coming). We faced this issue when Treeleaf Japan, a completely wooden building (built without nails, just joined wood beams) ... was infested with termites ...

    A Google search on the subject, and talking to some other Buddhist clergy in various traditions, turned up the fact that (as I suspected), infested wooden Buddhist temples will take countermeasures ... though sometimes followed by a memorial service or the like for the little lives taken (and although some claim not too, and that good chanting is enough to chase the bugs away ... I tried that, no luck.) ...

    The following was also typical advice, and I gave it a try ...

    In the area of prohibitions against killing, one laywoman asked, "What should we do if there are mice and termites at home?" Dharma Master Heng Lyu answered, "You first post a notice asking them to leave. Next, you use insect repellants to chase them out. Avoid insecticides because you want to avoid the karma of killing."

    One layman asked, "How do you avoid harming living beings while mowing the lawn?"

    Dharma Master Heng Lyu said, "You would first post a notice to let the small creatures know that it's best to move, then mow the lawn. While you're mowing the lawn, recite the Great Compassion Mantra at the same time."

    Excerpted from the article, "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Holds First Transmission of the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts in the New Millenium", on page 49 of the October 2000 issue (volume 31, series 73) of the Vajra Bodhi Sea.
    And, of course, this is the famous "Dalai Lama kills the Mosquito" video ...



    I really feel the weight of having to kill those termites ... but somehow, whenever there is an earthquake and the heavy roof timbers start shaking over my family's heads ... I know it was necessary. That is the Koan.

    Finally, as a "non-hypothetical" and very real possibility (perhaps not in Sweden, but in Miami) ... what do you believe you would do, Anista Philip, if you found ... not ants in your kitchen ... but a large man on PCP with a weapon heading for your child's bedroom? That is a Koan as well.

    In the Buddha's Western Paradise, there are no rapists and terrorists strung out on PCP ... down here in Samsara, there are.

    Gassho, Jundo

  31. #31

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I think this is much more important than any philosophical discussion of the precepts.
    I am with ya on about all you wrote there, Chet.

    However, I don't think that all this is merely a hypothetical discussion, a "what if". In this modern world, we have to make very real decisions as Buddhists about whether we support, or do not support (or wish to withhold all judgment ... a kind of Dharmic abstaining), military action in a given situation ... we have to consider and confess what we will likely do if there is a drugged up intruder in our home (another very real possibility of urban life).

    "Enlightenment" allows us to see that there is never any violence from the outset, no one to kill or be killed, no drugs or guns ... no place for a bullet to be shot ... Peace beyond peace or war.

    Yet "Enlightenment" also allows us to see that there is violence, killing and death, drugs and victims and blood.

    In fact, "Enlightenment" makes the weight and ugly reality of the violence and death even more crystal clear and prominent ... this world, for all its beauty and ugliness, is shown to be even more real than we ever conceived due to its very impermanence and unreality.

    I do not wish anyone to misunderstand my point, that I am a "Buddhist teacher who advocates shooting people, starting wars, hitting people in the head with a baseball bat". Yet I think it a shame that folks get lost in idealized Buddhist images of Nirvana and Western Buddha Lands that will scrub this world clean of all the ugliness, conflict, ethical challenges.

    In other words ... in the Buddha's Paradise and Emptiness, there is no stinking garbage rotting in trash cans. No "you" or "me" to catch a disease, and no disease. Yet, down here in the day to day, I still need to take it out and burn the fetid maggot filled pile before we all get sick ... I need to kill by the tens of thousands the rats that carry the plague infested fleas. That is just the reality ... Most Buddhist temples I have visited in Asia have rat traps, fly paper ... and do not look like this ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACzWdSfZXmw[/video]]

    I think that anyone who has a too "scrubbed clean and pure" image of the realities of Nirvana-Samsara is seeing only one face of the picture. Sun faced Buddha, Moon faced Buddha.

    Gassho, J

  32. #32
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    I think this thread has gone from general ethics to what-ifs. Sure, we can't possibly know how we will react in certain hypothetical situations, but that's not really the point of these ethics. The point is to have a set of ideas that you want to follow as closely as you can, a set of ideas that will guide you in your normal day-to-day life. For example, since I became a Buddhist some 12 years ago, I stopped killing bugs intentionally. I'm not doing this because of my awakened state of mind. (I'm not awakened). I'm not doing this intuitively (well, not in the beginning anyway). I'm doing this because I have adopted ethics which I believe are Buddhist, and will help me live in accordance with the eightfold path, which according to the Buddha, will lead me to more positive karmic consequences, which is the way to awakening.
    This is the nature of the misunderstanding, IMHO. There is no way 'way to enlightenment' - it is a 'gateless gate'. You don't live in accordance with the 8FP, wisdom allows you to reflect it - not through self-conscious effort - but by a natural diminishment of greed, anger, and delusion which is a natural effect of 'right view'. You cannot will yourself into 'right view'.
    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Now, if these ethics, including discussions of the same ethics, have lead me to a path which is from a Buddhist point of view, more skillful, then those discussions have been really, really good for me, and for others around me. How is that bad?

    Which means, that from a buddhist perspective I find it odd, but fascinating, that different buddhist teachers have condoned killing, no matter what the motive. That's not the ethics I'm used to (but they are not automatically wrong because of this).

    I'm interested in seeing what kind of ethics these buddhist teachers are using.

    I'm interested in discussing ethics because it helps me with my own intellectual understanding of Buddhism, which helps me with more skillful actions.
    Skillful actions are a reflection of wisdom - they don't in and of themselves lead to wisdom. There are many misguided applications of the precepts that have nothing to do with wisdom. Are you trying to measure your actions to the actions of others?

    Look at your own actions - determine their roots, verify whether you know what you think you know. Are your actions based on any realization or do they spring from mental exercise? Have you mistaken Buddhism with mental exercise?

    Do these not seem like more important questions than the ethical underpinnings of Roshi Joe? I'm not saying you're wrong to inquire into it - the mind is curious. What I'm asking is what you really think you'll get from the answers.

    Chet *just a loon*

  33. #33

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    JohnsonCM wrote:
    I think it's important to remember also, how Shaolin was when it first was formed. They were originally a Zen Buddhist sect that Bodhidharma himself began and, over the years, they developed their martial arts to protect their monestary, themselves, and the devotees of the Buddha that they served during a very troubled time in China's history.
    Actually, Bodhidharma started this martial art to balance the monks out after long periods of sitting/meditation/Zazen. After seeing how sickly/out of shape the monks were after sitting for long periods, he decided to teach them some martial arts. It became part of their practice.

  34. #34
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I think this is much more important than any philosophical discussion of the precepts.
    I am with ya on about all you wrote there, Chet.

    However, I don't think that all this is merely a hypothetical discussion, a "what if". In this modern world, we have to make very real decisions as Buddhists about whether we support, or do not support, military action in a given situation ... we have to consider and confess what we will likely do if there is a drugged up intruder in our home.
    We do? This is interesting, because I've gone through my entire life without giving it much thought beforehand.

    "Enlightenment" allows us to see that there is never any violence from the outset, no one to kill or be killed, no drugs or guns ... no place for a bullet to be shot ... Peace beyond peace or war.
    I don't really think 'enlightenment' shows us this. It's not that they don't exist, it's that they don't exist the way we think they do - and that our attachment to a certain way of seeing things is what causes us to do crazy shit. It really isn't for me to say whether violence is 'real' or if bullets are 'real' - insight simply shows us that maybe the thing we're using violence and bullets to defend - the self and ideas of self - may not be self-evident facts in our actual experience. The point is not whether the gun is real, the point is that this thing I'm trying to protect with it....well, what the hell is that? Does it require such actions?

    In other words ... in the Buddha's Paradise and Emptiness, there is no stinking garbage rotting in trash cans. No "you" or "me" to catch a disease, and no disease. Yet, down here in the day to day, I still need to take it out and burn the fetid maggot filled pile before we all get sick ... I need to kill by the tens of thousands the rats that carry the plague infested fleas. That is just the reality ... Most Buddhist temples I have visited in Asia have rat traps, fly paper ... and do not look like this ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACzWdSfZXmw[/video]]

    I think that anyone who has a too "scrubbed clean and pure" image of the realities of Nirvana-Samsara is seeing only one face of the picture. Sun faced Buddha, Moon faced Buddha.

    Gassho, J
    I think you have a weird idea of Buddha's Paradise. Buddha's Paradise is the stinking garbage and the rats - it is whatever you experience before you say "I don't like the stinking garbage or rats, I wish they did not exist." This is not the same thing as not removing the garbage or killing the rats - that may be the right thing to do - but you do it without saying "I'm doing this because these things shouldn't exist." I don't know what kind of enlightenment would lead one to say, "I don't have to do anything because the garbage and rats are perfectly fine." By all means, clean the place up! Just don't resent the existence of the rats or the garbage while you're doing it - because reality cannot really be partitioned up into 'things that should exist' and 'things that shouldn't exist'. Where do you put the garbage and dead rats? Where else could they go but Buddha's Paradise?

    All of this may seem confusing from an intellectual standpoint - but in my experience, recognizing nothing is really wrong and working as an agent to change things to your preference are not incompatible activities. Buddha self cleans up Buddha garbage and Buddha rats. I think we simply need to recognize that our own preferences are not sanctioned as somehow 'better' than the preferences of the rats in the view of the universe. We need to recognize that our preferences are our preferences. Reality itself may not care so much about our preferences and so maybe we should hold them lightly and perform our Buddha activity without resenting the rats who are also doing their Buddha activity, or the garbage that is doing its Buddha activity of stinking.

    Chet

  35. #35

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    And btw, clarity does not mean being passive. It means doing the proper thing when the moment arises. That means picking up some trash or staying someones hand. Debate, philosophize all you want, but all it will do is lead to what? Thinking? Hesitation. What does Buddha mind tell you? Maybe that's what you like to do "philosophize" and "Hypothesize". Then fine. I'm just saying.

    Gassho

  36. #36

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    And btw, clarity does not mean being passive. It means doing the proper thing when the moment arises. That means picking up some trash or staying someones hand. Debate, philosophize all you want, but all it will do is lead to what? Thinking? Hesitation. What does Buddha mind tell you? Maybe that's what you like to do "philosophize" and "Hypothesize". Then fine. I'm just saying.

    Gassho
    I respectfully disagree. Some questions of ethics and "best path" need to be turned over in the mind before the fact (or reflected upon after the fact in anticipation of "next time") ...

    ... and then, hopefully, will play some role in the instant action, when the time comes without a moment to think.

    In our house, we periodically rehearse escape routes in case of earthquake, as we know earthquake is likely someday here in Japan ... and there will be little time to think about it then. Each earthquake, we review ... in anticipation of next time.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    "Enlightenment" allows us to see that there is never any violence from the outset, no one to kill or be killed, no drugs or guns ... no place for a bullet to be shot ... Peace beyond peace or war.
    I don't really think 'enlightenment' shows us this. It's not that they don't exist, it's that they don't exist the way we think they do - Buddha's Paradise is the stinking garbage and the rats - it is whatever you experience before you say "I don't like the stinking garbage or rats, I wish they did not exist." This is not the same thing as not removing the garbage or killing the rats - that may be the right thing to do - but you do it without saying "I'm doing this because these things shouldn't exist." I don't know what kind of enlightenment would lead one to say, "I don't have to do anything because the garbage and rats are perfectly fine." By all means, clean the place up! Just don't resent the existence of the rats or the garbage while you're doing it - because reality cannot really be partitioned up into 'things that should exist' and 'things that shouldn't exist'. ....
    Chet
    Chet, what you are saying is absolutely the case. No shoulds or should nots, just what is.

    Yet there is also that face without garbage or rats, earthquakes to shake, rapists and robbers, victims or war & peace ... not there and never were.

    Both are one face, both are simultaneously so. In fact, not apart.

    As is the face too with the rats who should not be there because they cause disease, the earthquake or robber to prepare for, the intruder who cannot be allowed to live because he is threatening my child and thus should not be there ... each as real as real can be.

    Anyway, such is the world(s) I live-not-live in.

    You don't live in accordance with the 8FP, wisdom allows you to reflect it - not through self-conscious effort - but by a natural diminishment of greed, anger, and delusion which is a natural effect of 'right view'. You cannot will yourself into 'right view'.
    Yes and know. In the same way that book study alone will not make one a good nurse, nor will a good and caring heart alone, nor blind practice and effort without all of the foregoing. There is a place and time for each. Self conscious effort is not to be neglected in becoming someone who can act unself-consciously when called upon. There is a place and time for each.

    Gassho, Jundo

  37. #37

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I wish we had bombs and gases which only caused people nearby to be rendered unconscious and passive instead of dead, but we do not have those yet.
    Even more reason not to use those bombs and gases until there are more peaceful solutions. IMHO.

    But In the meantime, the world is complex. It was necessary to capture or kill members of Al Qaeda, not just leave them alone in their training camps to plan something more than crashing planes into buildings. Mass killings in urban areas by chemical or biological weapons seem quite likely as the next scene should the group have been allowed to remain unchecked ... because its leaders said so openly in their videos (and any checking of the group and those leaders required the use of deadly force).
    But then your killing someone as a preventive action. Killing so that they might not do harm in the future. Preventive and might are the key words here.

    While I may be mistaken, my brief research indicates that you are mistaken about the laws of "self-defense", including the use of deadly force when reasonable and necessary under the circumstances, in Sweden.

    Please correct me if the law in Sweden is interpreted otherwise.
    No, you're not wrong, but that wasn't a big thing I brought up - just something I thought was a bit funny (not ha-ha funny, but still). There have been several examples in Sweden of people using far more violence that the situation permits, which I was thinking about. There are very, very few incidents were someone was attacked with deadly force, killed the attacker and got away. I have discussed this in a Swedish forum, and thwhile they agree that it is possible to "get away" with killing someone who is attacking you, the situation have to be so extreme that the forum people couldn't think of even one example which had been tried in court. But you're definitely right.

    In Miami, I had one of those electric 'taser' stun guns in the house ... and I would have reached for that ... although I heard that they are not very effective against a large man strung out on PCP (not a merely hypothetical situation when living in Miami). I did consider having a gun in the house, although I rejected that option for any number of reasons (karmic effects in future lives being way down the list compared to other factors of practicality). I also had (and have) a baseball bat, and there is no doubt that I would attempt to apply it to the intruder's head with all the force I could muster.
    Even though I wouldn't have done the same thing, Jundo, I must admit your honesty about this. It's much easier to discuss things with this kind of frankness, of "laying all the cards on the table". It's refreshing!

    Well, I am not eating in your kitchen (although, I assume you are using some other means to dissuade the bugs from coming). We faced this issue when Treeleaf Japan, a completely wooden building (built without nails, just joined wood beams) ... was infested with termites ...
    You assume wrong. I get your point though. But there's a difference: the karmic retribution for me killing bugs just because I don't like them (ew, a spider, you die now!) and a monestary trying to get rid of termites. Those are not skillful actions, but I was talking about the former, which will bring much more negative consequences, and since I can avoid it, it would be skillful to do so, don't you think?

    And, of course, this is the famous "Dalai Lama kills the Mosquito" video ...
    Yeah, I've seen that one, but he's not killing it, he's flicking it away. First, he lets it suck his blood, if it comes back, he blows on it, and the third time he's losing a little bit of patience, and flicks it away. Anyway, I'm not using the Dalai lama as a yardstick on ethics. He eats meat, for example, and I'm not.

    Finally, as a "non-hypothetical" and very real possibility (perhaps not in Sweden, but in Miami) ... what do you believe you would do, Anista Philip, if you found ... not ants in your kitchen ... but a large man on PCP with a weapon heading for your child's bedroom? That is a Koan as well.
    That's the kind of really hypothetical and unrealistic scenarios I was talking about. I don't know what I would have done. I have no weapons at all of any sort at home, so perhaps I would jump at him hitting him on the head with my laptop. Don't know really. And how do I know he's on PCP?

    The point is, in that scneario I would probably do something instinctively, maybe even kill him. I acknowledge that. But that is not the same thing as condoning war, or saying that killing is OK, or saying that Buddhist ethics allow it. Or do you think so? People will continue doing impulsive stuff, even me, but that's no reason for abandoning an overarching ethic, is it? I'm against capital punishment, but perhaps I would personally kill someone threatening my baby. It's, in my opinion, two radically different approaches. Anyway, to this date, I've never killed anyone, or been in a physical fight. I hope it stays that way. (I'm pretty small and weak so I would lose anyway ).

  38. #38

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    This is the nature of the misunderstanding, IMHO. There is no way 'way to enlightenment' - it is a 'gateless gate'. You don't live in accordance with the 8FP, wisdom allows you to reflect it - not through self-conscious effort - but by a natural diminishment of greed, anger, and delusion which is a natural effect of 'right view'. You cannot will yourself into 'right view'.
    yes, I understand that this is how you perceive it, and this is where we differ. I do believe that there is a way to awakening. I do believe that it is possible to live in accordance with the "8FP" (nice abbrevation by the way, I'm going to use it from now on! ).

    I respect your views, though.

  39. #39

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    The point is, in that scneario I would probably do something instinctively, maybe even kill him. I acknowledge that.... I'm against capital punishment, but perhaps I would personally kill someone threatening my baby. ...
    Then we are not different on this point. Thank you for admitting this.

    And it may be a hypothetical in Sweden or Japan, but it was much more when we were living in Florida. The news filled with weekly, even daily, cases there ... the following just one of the more terrible ...

    Beulah, FL - The Escambia County Sheriff's Office is searching for three men they say shot and killed the mother and father of 16 children during a home invasion/robbery.

    http://www.wkrg.com/florida/article/dou ... 9_2-53-pm/
    Were I a single, childless monk living in a monastery ... a begging bowl and a few rags my only possessions ... I might be willing to martyr myself (that attitude is not limited to Al Queda fanatics in hijacked planes) and let the thief do what he will.

    But that is not the situation in which my self finds itself.

    But that is not the same thing as condoning war, or saying that killing is OK, or saying that Buddhist ethics allow it. Or do you think so?
    I think that Buddhist ethics allow it, although certainly do not approve of it as something positive. The Precept against killing, none of the Precepts, are black and white. I believe that some wars are justified, although only with great hesitation and within limited confines.

    Here is another article on the topic, the title expresses the point ...

    The Budhha Taught Nonviolence, Not Pacifism

    Here are two key differences between nonviolence as taught by the Buddha, and pacifism. First, the Buddha ... recognized different levels of personality development, different social roles and obligations, different responsibilities and necessities incumbent on different individuals according to their history and choices. The Buddha taught people according to their “karma.”

    ...

    In a brief discourse, the Buddha is challenged by a General who claims that Dhamma is mere passivity. The Buddha replies that he teaches inactivity in regard to unwholesome things and “activity by way of good conduct in deeds, words, and thoughts.” There is no further blanket position taken towards government, warfare or the karma of Generals. What constitutes good conduct is left to the General’s discernment. The Buddha gave the principle, not the details of the infinite varieties of interpretation and application.

    None of this, however, justifies hatred, or violence in service of personal goals or gains. For the government servant who, for example, as a soldier must kill, the Buddha implicitly asks of him two questions. The first is: “Can you do this task as an upholder of safety and justice, focused on love of those you protect rather than on hate for those you must kill? If you are acting with vengeance or delight in destruction, then you are not at all a student of Dhamma. But if your hard job can be done with a base of pure mind, while you are clearly not living the life of an enlightened person, you are still able to begin walking the path towards harmony and compassion.” The Buddha’s ethics clearly allows differentiation between situations like American soldiers fighting to liberate the concentration camps at the end of World War II, versus death camp guards and mass murderers. If the soldier is acting in a protective, pure hearted way of life, he may be an agent of justice who simply is the vehicle by which the karma of the murderers ends in their own death.

    It is to serious, committed meditators, who are lifelong practitioners of moral precepts, daily meditation, and a purified mind, that the Buddha gave his often quoted, stunning guidance on non-violence, “Even if bandits brutally severed him limb from limb with a two handled saw, he who entertained hate in his heart on that account would not be one who followed my teaching.” [Majjhima 21] Please note that this famous passage does not preclude skillful and vigorous self defense that is free of hate.
    http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002a/nonviolence.htm

    Gassho, J

  40. #40

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    There is one more "Buddhist perspective" that must be mentioned as part of this conversation. And that is that BOTH the rapist and raped, murderer and murdered, terrorist and terrorized are ultimately EACH VICTIMS of human greed, anger and ignorance. Many a violent actor is certainly just an adult who, as a child, grew up in a violent environment, a broken home or a bad neighborhood ... all victims of the circumstances that lit the flames of hate and desire within them ... a victim of circumstances and Karma.

    EVEN THOUGH we might see the violent person as just a victim too, still, we may need to take action to prevent the violence, and to save a non-aggressor's life. That may mean putting the violent individual in prison or, in my view, sometimes taking his life to save the lives of others.

    Gassho, J

  41. #41
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Well, how do you judge "good" and "bad"?

    If you are theistic in outlook, you operate on the notion that God or "the Universe" has some code of good and bad that you can either conform or not conform to.

    If you are non-theistic in outlook, you don't suspect or assume that there is some entity or "Greater Awareness" who knows or cares whether you're being bad or good. In this case, then, determining what is "good" or "bad" is up to you.

    A lot of the arguing here seems to be rooted in the former perspective--that there is some cosmic "judge" out there somewhere who judges our behavior, or a cosmic "code" of right and wrong that we either follow or not. Otherwise, how could we argue over what is "ultimately" right or wrong, if there is no one to judge that but us?

    Personally, I think my deepest tendency when it comes to the way my brain assumes the world works is naturalistic and/or polytheistic--in the sense that I assume there are various Principles in operation but not necessarily a "Great Principle" or an ultimate authority that gives us either a candy or a spanking at the end of the day.

    If you look at nature, and our evolutionary origins, violence and killing are natural to this world. As human beings, we have decided we do not like violence and killing and make laws against these things. We can think it is because we are wiser or "doing the will of God" or what have you, but we can't deny that the world we find ourselves in is intrinsically violent. New life in this world depends on the destruction and decay of the old. In order for things to live, they must consume--which means destroy--other life forms. Survival means being able to fight, and win, against those that would stand against you. Welcome to Planet Earth.

    So the way I see it, as a compassionate person who is attuned to the subjectivity of others, I do not wish to harm or kill others. But if a situation arose in which I had to choose to kill or be killed, and my being killed would not be of benefit, I would kill. It is senseless, in my view, not to defend one's life in a situation in which losing it would not bring about good to anyone, and might actually make the world worse (choosing to "allow" a violent criminal to live, rather than a person who tries to live a life of love and kindness). I know this goes against canonical Buddhism and the noble stories of the Buddha in his previous lives letting himself be killed in 1000 different ways, but I think there gets to be a point where self-sacrifice becomes destructive.

    So yes, I can certainly think of scenarios where killing another person might yield a better outcome than otherwise. I don't know about how that would fit in to a worldview based in cosmic principles of "good" and "evil," but that doesn't bother me as I don't really have that worldview. (I did for a long time; I wanted to believe in saints and heroes; but over time, it seems more and more based in fantasy and wishfulness than reality. Yes, we can do acts that we or others deem "good," or acts we or others deem "bad," but at the end of the day I think this is all up to us to determine.)

  42. #42
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    This is the nature of the misunderstanding, IMHO. There is no way 'way to enlightenment' - it is a 'gateless gate'. You don't live in accordance with the 8FP, wisdom allows you to reflect it - not through self-conscious effort - but by a natural diminishment of greed, anger, and delusion which is a natural effect of 'right view'. You cannot will yourself into 'right view'.
    yes, I understand that this is how you perceive it, and this is where we differ. I do believe that there is a way to awakening. I do believe that it is possible to live in accordance with the "8FP" (nice abbrevation by the way, I'm going to use it from now on! ).

    I respect your views, though.
    Reality doesn't care what you believe. As long as you think awakening is a a goal that can be attained, you'll be blocked from it. It is a significant barrier and one of the most prevalent.

    Chet

  43. #43
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    There is one more "Buddhist perspective" that must be mentioned as part of this conversation. And that is that BOTH the rapist and raped, murderer and murdered, terrorist and terrorized are ultimately EACH VICTIMS of human greed, anger and ignorance. Many a violent actor is certainly just an adult who, as a child, grew up in a violent environment, a broken home or a bad neighborhood ... all victims of the circumstances that lit the flames of hate and desire within them ... a victim of circumstances and Karma.

    EVEN THOUGH we might see the violent person as just a victim too, still, we may need to take action to prevent the violence, and to save a non-aggressor's life. That may mean putting the violent individual in prison or, in my view, sometimes taking his life to save the lives of others.

    Gassho, J
    This view pretty much reflects mine 100%. Not that this is important, of course - but I somehow felt it would be nice to let you know I feel the same way. I'm not really sure why, actually....

    Chet

  44. #44

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Well, how do you judge "good" and "bad"?

    If you are theistic in outlook, you operate on the notion that God or "the Universe" has some code of good and bad that you can either conform or not conform to.
    Hi Steph,

    Actually, "humanists" (who tend to be agnostics or atheists or "light handed" believers) came up with some very good answers to this centuries ago, very clear and practical ethical standards. As many have observed in history, atheists and agnostics have not, throughout the centuries, proven to be particularly more prone to "raping, pillaging, robbing and murdering" than believers in one creed or another. In fact, one might say that there are "good people and bad people" among both believers and non-believers of various stripes. One might argue that people (religious or not) with a soft and tolerant view of the rest of the world are less likely to inflict violence on others than those with hard and inflexible "I'm right, you're wrong" views (for example, Quakers, the "Pennsylvania Dutch" and, yes, most Buddhists, are deeply committed to their views of "right and wrong", yet also incredibly tolerant and "live and let live" toward the rest of the world. Nazis and Cambodian Communists, although seemingly "atheists", showed that they were actually deeply 'religious', inflexible folks who sought to impose their rigid views of "right and wrong" on others by force).

    Anyway, "secular humanists" came up with pretty much the same "standards" as everyone else. Seek not to kill, to steal, avoid sleeping with your neighbor's wife,etc. ... because it makes for a more peaceable, pleasant, safe, livable society and world to do so. Buddhists came up with pretty much the same general standards. Why? To not have those things quickly brings violence and chaos. All developed some form of the "Golden Rule" (with, perhaps, the Buddhist emphasis being a bit more on "do unto others because they are your self too"). The Buddhists said that the "punishment" would be in the form of Karma and a bad rebirth, the Christians had a trip to hell (although, actually, the Buddhists had that too .... viewtopic.php?p=27699#p27699 ).

    Buddhists too can be divided into those who have a very fixed, detailed, rule oriented set of morals (I often compare some forms of Buddhism holding a very rigid, black/white view of the Vinaya with Hasidic Jews, who have very much the same attitude toward the rules of Book of Deuteronomy), and those of us who see the Precepts as wise guides and arrows pointing in the general direction of a harmless, healthy, mutually beneficial way of living, with the "details" left open and involving much tolerance and remolding and many gray areas (as this whole discussion on "not Killing" has shown!!). I believe that different personalities may require different amounts of rigidity ... some Jews and Buddhists need to live "bound head and foot" to the rules, while others can be more flexible, open ended and tolerant, while yet living as quite "honest, good, decent, moral" people.

    Anyway... when you, Stephanie, do an act of Compassion ... there is Compassion in the universe. When you do an act of harm and hurt, there is that in the universe. It makes little difference whether those standards come from "On High" or just from within each of us (where is "in" or "out" anyway?)

    TO CUT TO THE CHASE: It is possible to be a Theist or not (I am not advocating one way or the other), yet have a pretty clear view of "right and wrong" while still being flexible, harmless, beneficent and tolerant toward others.


    If you look at nature, and our evolutionary origins, violence and killing are natural to this world. As human beings, we have decided we do not like violence and killing and make laws against these things. We can think it is because we are wiser or "doing the will of God" or what have you, but we can't deny that the world we find ourselves in is intrinsically violent.
    Well, the world is just the world. I wonder if the snake, and the rabbit it chases down for lunch, think of the world as "violent" or "not" in the same we do (those seem like judgments of a human mind). It is just the way things are. However, as human beings, what we do with this world from this point out, and how we choose to live, is up to us. We are building a world in which we need not kill other sentient creatures to survive and thrive.


    So the way I see it, as a compassionate person who is attuned to the subjectivity of others, I do not wish to harm or kill others. But if a situation arose in which I had to choose to kill or be killed, and my being killed would not be of benefit, I would kill.
    I think I could also clearly see scenarios for myself in which I would jump on a live grenade, rush into a burning building in order to save others in place of myself. But that is truly a hypothetical until that bridge is crossed.

    Gassho, J

  45. #45
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Jundo, I appreciate and agree with the perspective offered in your post.

    In my discussion of a theistic perspective versus a non-theistic one, I did not mean to imply that only theists could conceive of good and bad, rather that only theists believe that "good" and "bad" are woven into the fabric of the universe and that some force greater than us holds us accountable to this cosmic standard of good and bad.

    As a non-theist I conceive of good and bad, and pursue good, just as anyone else does, but I am aware that "good" may only be a matter of perspective, and that doing what I think of as "good" is a personal choice. I do not believe that choosing to do what I believe is "good" will lead to any cosmic round of applause, or a better afterlife, etc.

    Because of this perspective, I do not have a rigid sensibility about rules, precepts, etc. Nor do I find anything problematic about the "violence" to be found in nature. Quite the opposite. I appreciate, admire, and respect the natural order, "red in tooth and claw" as it is. I think that the act of killing is a natural part of life in the universe and life on Planet Earth. I also think that it is a good thing that as human beings, we have decided that killing is not good and something we only want to do rarely. As you point out, non-killing preserves the social order. It also reduces suffering, tyranny, and oppression.

    The sensitive, human part of me trembles at the pain of others and cannot bear to inflict it. At the same time, however, the "animal" part of me understands killing in a different way, as a part of the natural order, and not something "forbidden" or "corrupt." If I had to kill to survive, I would do so. That said, there are also circumstances in which I would willingly give up my life and uphold pure pacifism.

    I personally doubt I will ever be in a situation that will require me to kill another person, or even an animal, to survive, so it is not a great concern. And if I was, I know it would not be easy. I have a hard time squashing bugs and felt horrible when one of the glue traps the exterminator placed in my kitchen caught a mouse. But then, I also placed down glue traps myself later when mice started getting bolder and not just skittering behind the stove, but getting on top of my kitchen counters.

    I accept and embrace the fact that I live in a world in which death and killing must occur. I admire the power and grace of natural predators and do not think the world would be more beautiful if "the lion lay down with the lamb." But I am also grateful to be a human being and not a lion, and that I live in a human world in which, as you point out, killing is not required, except in rare circumstances.

  46. #46

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I think we can all sit with that


    Gassho _/_

  47. #47

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Reality doesn't care what you believe.
    Agreed, but the same applies to you.

    As long as you think awakening is a a goal that can be attained, you'll be blocked from it. It is a significant barrier and one of the most prevalent.
    Nope, not in my book. Again, this is your view, and that's cool, but that doesn't make it objectively correct. Correct?

    According to my view of the Buddha's teachings, awakening is a goal that can be attained (and that is the reality that doesn't care what we think). Awakening is the unconditioned, hence separating itself from everything else that is conditioned. Nirvana is not something you can grasp, but since it is the blowing out of all causes of cravings, I think you're blocking yourself from it by thinking it can't be reached.

    Hm, come to think of it, it seems I'm more Theravada-oriented on this one. Sorry

  48. #48
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Reality doesn't care what you believe.
    Agreed, but the same applies to you.

    As long as you think awakening is a a goal that can be attained, you'll be blocked from it. It is a significant barrier and one of the most prevalent.
    Nope, not in my book. Again, this is your view, and that's cool, but that doesn't make it objectively correct. Correct?
    Right. Okay, you go follow your Zen - we'll all be over here waiting for you. Don't let the years and sheer numbers of people who have explicitly stated that awakening is not a goal to be attained deter you. Clearly, we must all be wrong.

    According to my view of the Buddha's teachings, awakening is a goal that can be attained (and that is the reality that doesn't care what we think). Awakening is the unconditioned, hence separating itself from everything else that is conditioned.
    Let me get this straight - you've been on this path for six years or so and you still think that awakening is something fundamentally different and separate from delusion? No offense, but what exactly the fuck have you been doing on that cushion'? An awakening that can be attained is exactly a conditioned thing - only an awakening that can neither be attained nor lost is unconditioned.

    I'm the wrong person to tell you this, since my sitting practice is in disrepair - but you need to get off the computer, off the forums, get your nose out of the books and actually examine experience, reality, and the nature of mind. These ideas of yours would not last long in the face of simple honesty about what you do and do not know.

    Nirvana is not something you can grasp, but since it is the blowing out of all causes of cravings, I think you're blocking yourself from it by thinking it can't be reached.
    Nirvana is not something that is 'reached'. There is no permanent condition of awakening from whence enters or exits no flux, no change - because 'permanent condition' is a complete contradiction.

    You misunderstand this 'blowing out' - it is not the application of force from outside onto delusion that extinguishes it - it is the 'blowing out' or 'blowing forth' of the concentrated energy required to keep it going. That is to say, it is not attained by striving - it is the cessation of striving. One does not cease striving by striving.

    And this is my argument against the idea that you can follow the precepts to 'awakening'. If you are split into two and try to suppress an aspect of yourself that is attempting to attain happiness, security, or some benefit through deluded means, you are merely setting up a war with your mind. You won't, can't win that war - to win it is to lose it, in effect - as it furthers a dichotomy that is fundamentally false. The only means by which delusion is ended is by seeing the full depth of how it is incorrect and how it is causing harm.

    Let's take stealing as an example. If you steal, you are by definition laboring under a falsehood of some sort - some part of you believes that you are being benefitted by the act. As long as some part of you continues to believe this, there will be a war within you between that part of you that wants to stop stealing and the part of you that thinks that you are being - can be - benefitted by stealing. Trying to follow this precept while at war with yourself is the same as building your house on sand - it requires constant effort, constant battle, and the merciless suppression of some aspect of yourself. Only by bringing the fullness of your being to an awareness of reality can that war stop, as determined introspection will point out that stealing does not, in fact, benefit you. At this point, there is no war - the energy required to continue stealing is no longer being produced by deluded views.

    Chet

  49. #49

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Oh dear I'm talking too much...being drawn in by forum topics. Well here goes:

    My answer to this question has come from experience. I spent 25 years plus practicing unarmed combat. To date I have never walked past someone being attacked without coming to their assistance. That's not bravery btw..I just couldn't live with being a "walk on by" person. I have dealt with gangs attacking an individual on a few occasions- proper dangerous gangs and also drunk groups as well as individual on individual.

    Before getting to the meat of what happened, I distanced myself from the combat world years ago because of the trend in teaching. The current street ideas revolved, in large part, around the idea of pre-emptive striking. If someone shows the psych-physiological indicators that they are about to attack then hitting them first was taught as the best option. There is logic to this. It can prevent innocents getting hurt, including oneself (if one hasn't been verbally escalating things and really just is in the wrong place at the wrong time), plus it can prevent further hurt to the attacker that might occur in the mess of a real fight. However, people's minds had got stuck on that as THE response, plus that world was full of too many folks that were quietly itching to test their skills when the opportunity presented itself - as long as they could be seen to be the good guy hero who had been "forced" into violence.

    What was missing was what has happened in every one of my experiences. That is that no-one ever got hurt at all in any way (except once when I was a young lad and had that aforementioned mentality myself). Why? I think there are a number of factors..firstly I lost all sense of self, there has never been any fear, I accepted quite naturally I could already be dead and once that happened (quite without any conscious effort) I couldn't lose in any way (my "me" was already gone). Psychologically that seems to have affected others in those encounters where words were never said..they just withdrew (once with such fear on their face I was confused- the guy was huge and scary and had been doing an irish dance with another guys head quite happily- I was smaller and thin but nonetheless something told him to go very quickly even though at that point in my life I couldn't fight very well at all). In other cases where words were used I had calmly said things along the lines of, " There's seven of you and only one of me. I might be seriously hurt or worse today. One person would have to be every lucky to defeat seven guys howvere well trained that guy is. However, the first one of you to attack will probably never go home and at least two others will be in hospital for a very very long time. You have to decide who that''s going to be". Their answer was running!

    I meant what I said, at that point all choices had come down to one. There was no suki in me I guess. However, there was no aggression. There was no me to want to hurt anyone. The compassion to help the victim and prevent further violence was the energy that created the whole situation, and to date, as I said, everyone has gone home fine.

    So it is possible to have real world experience of non-violence, even in situations where the aggressors had proved themselves already capable of mindless acts of hurt. I can't say that this will always be true. One day bad things may happen to me, but that's life. Still these situations and others- I once took a late night walk in a US city and the family I was staying with looked at me with dropped jaws and begged me not to go because of the violence and gangs. Sure enough there were gangs out, black and white. To each I said "good evening chaps" which seemed to shock them- perhaps it was the combination of being spoken to and treated with respect and my funny English accent- but I had no trouble. By the third walk I would get a greeting from most of them before I had said anything. I never had any inkling of any bad intent from anyone, even when someone got shot at the place where I had been standing just five minutes earlier. This seems to be true of animals as well. 15 feet from three big brown bears in Alaska and they just walked towards me and turned off into the grass- just four creatures doing their thing. Plus one of the most venomous snakes in the Amazon allowed me to pick it up and pop it away from the camp when the locals wanted to kill it because they were so scared.

    To conclude I think that in action we might be able to prove more about non-harming than by discussion. And just as an afterthought- its strange that many ordinary things still bring up a level of anxiety in me. Ho hum..such is life :lol:

    Best wishes to you all

    Rich

  50. #50

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Right. Okay, you go follow your Zen - we'll all be over here waiting for you. Don't let the years and sheer numbers of people who have explicitly stated that awakening is not a goal to be attained deter you. Clearly, we must all be wrong.
    No, I didn't say that at all. I apologize deeply if this is how I came off.

    You are all probably right. The thing is, Chet, that zen and mahayana is not the only perspective. Yes, I know, I know, this is a zen sangha, but I'm still pretty much influenced by theravada teachings, that in many cases correspond with my own experience of reality. I'm really sorry if this is bothering you, and if you want, I can keep my mouth shut if it's not proper to express these views in a zen context. Really, I didn't know, I'm not just trying to please you by saying that. Because it does seem to offend you, but maybe I'm just reading you wrong?

    Let me get this straight - you've been on this path for six years or so and you still think that awakening is something fundamentally different and separate from delusion? No offense, but what exactly the fuck have you been doing on that cushion'? An awakening that can be attained is exactly a conditioned thing - only an awakening that can neither be attained nor lost is unconditioned.
    No offense taken. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that once it is attained, it becomes unconditioned. It is unconditioned, not uncaused. But you don't have to reply to that one, I see a whole row of "what the fuck!"s coming my way if you do . Just kidding of course.

    I'm the wrong person to tell you this, since my sitting practice is in disrepair - but you need to get off the computer, off the forums, get your nose out of the books and actually examine experience, reality, and the nature of mind. These ideas of yours would not last long in the face of simple honesty about what you do and do not know.
    Thank you Chet, that is good advice! It really is. I shall take it to heart.

    Fred ut.

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