The Pali Line

Sila — Ethical Culture

Ethical Culture

 


 

Self Torture

Beggars!

These two
amount to self-torture:

Not doing
what ought to be done.

And

Doing
what ought not to be done.

 


 

Sila

Sīla: = to seed; la = etcetera. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Ethical Culture.

In the Buddha's system, ethical culture is dictated by self-interest, not some authority, and not the selfish interests of the greedy, ambitious, blind, and fearful. Of course 'Self-interest' means 'one's best interests according to a point of view', but that, at least allows for objective evaluation of one's behavior. Here the 'point of view' is, naturally, High Point of View, Sammā Diṭṭhi — essentially the idea that all existing things bring about pain to the degree one is attached to them. The orientation is to the attachment of the individual, not on the form of the behavior.

While good deeds produce kamma the consequences of which are experienced as pleasant, for the Buddhist, the highest ethical behavior produces kamma the consequences of which are experienced as neither pleasant nor unpleasant. In the Pāli, sila, or ethical behavior, is always the abstention from an act that would produce bad kamma.

Since the stimulus for an act of bad kamma is always sensation, and as sensation is the result of previous kamma, the non-reaction to sensation, provided it is done with the conscious intent to end past kamma, is the bringing to an end of that chain of kamma with no further kamma resulting.

In the Pali, there is no bad kamma from deeds of omission, no matter how compelling, or no matter how much the culture of the times might dictate the opposite. Think about it! If intentional 'doing' (aka kamma) were required, the goal of ending kamma could not be attained.

 


 

Three modes of action, three intents, three outcomes.

Acts are produced by an individual through three modes:

Imagining, or mental wishing or willing, or intending.

Word-thought-and-speech (first you mutter to yourself, and then, we shudder to think of it, you speak).

Bodily acts (unbend bent arm, bend unbent arm)

The intent behind the act determines the pleasant,
unpleasant,
or not-pleasant-but-not-unpleasant outcome.

One Intends to produce pleasant sensations,
or unpleasant sensations,
or to end kamma.

According to the intent the consequence is experienced as pleasant,
unpleasant,
or neither pleansant nor unpleasant.

 


 

Example: If one serves a beggar a meal, with the intention of furthering that beggar's life [intent to produce pleasure], but in some way that meal has become poisoned through no intent of the giver, there is no bad kamma as a consequence.

If one feels remorse and guilt as a consequence of some action intended to produce pleasure going wrong, that is in itself bad kamma. [Since there is no bad kamma in connection with this act, the individual feeling remorse has invented the remorse with the intent to create unpleasant sensation]. An incorrect 'view' is the source of on-going misjudgments of this sort and is therefore itself considered bad kamma.

 


 

Example: There is a story of a Japanese torture used on American prisoners of war that is attributed to the Japanese Buddhist culture. In this torture, an innocent person is brought before the prisoner and tortured if the prisoner refuses to cooperate. Here the prisoner would be advised that the torture was not Buddhism, and that the torturers were the only ones who would experience bad kamma as a consequence of their behavior. This is extremely difficult to grasp for the modern American practitioner: there is not only no bad kamma from abstaining from cooperation, but cooperating would, itself be bad kamma in that it would encourage the further use of the torture, and would have been based on incorrect perception of the real mechanism of kamma, something called contrary view, which is bad mental kamma. Finally, the innocent victim of the torture would not, as a consequence of the torture experience bad kamma, but, if the prisoner had cooperated and the victim had been grateful, the view from which that gratitude emanated would be bad kamma, so that the prisoner's cooperation would have had precisely the opposite of the intended result.

 


 

The first steps in the Ariya Aṭṭhangika Magga (The Aristocratic Multidimensional Way) after High View are brief presentations of ethical culture, and in some ways the entire system of the Pali can be seen as a system of higher ethical culture.

If you came to the Buddha's Dhamma for a good reason, you came looking for freedom and likely that took the form of seeking freedom from the ten million rules imposed on you by your parents, siblings, schools, clicks, peers, bullies, criminals, courtship, customs, librarians, psychiatrists, doctors, dentists and dietitions, yoga masters, Martial Arts masters, views of normalcy, copright laws, political correctness, religions, philosophies and the state with it's 'law-makers' and 40,000 new laws every year. Unlike laws, imposed from the outside, rules in this system are adopted by the practitioner after he sees for himself their value in the attainment of his goals.

An act intending to cause harm returns to the actor as a painful consequence. A rule suggesting that that form of behavior be avoided results in freedom from pain. That is the logic.

The idea: 'intending to cause harm' is based on an evolving perception. It becomes more sophisticated as one becomes more sophisticated. Abstaining from pursuit of pleasure is imposed on the self by the self to the degree it is perceived as ending in pain.

The rules for the members of the Order are more ridgid than those imposed 'in general' by the system for various reasons relating to the maintenance of the order and should not be confused with the process of adopting ethical behavior by the lay beginner.

See: Dhammatalk Forum: Understanding the Distinctions between Kamma, Ethics, Morality, the Rules of the Sangha, and the Behavior Required of One Seeking Awakening for a more comprehensive discussion of this issue.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

In the Buddhist Saŋgha, (the Order of Buddhist Beggars), there are more than 200 rules of conduct. However, one time a Beggar came to the Buddha and said that he was unable to remember so many rules and consequently feared falling off the path. The Buddha asked him if he thought he could remember 3 rules. He said he could. [AN 3.83, Jataka #56] So for the purposes of introducing ethical culture at this stage, while not discouraging the newcomer with excessive rules, the three rules will do for now:

1. Train yourself to abstain from intentional harm to living creatures

2. Train yourself to abstain from intentionally saying that which is not true

3. Train yourself to abstain from intentionally taking things that have not been given to you.

In your imaginings, word thought and speech, and bodily acts.

However this applies: Abstain from imagining theft or harm, uttering malevolent curses, theft by way of causing people to give by "signifying" with the body, and so forth.

Rest assured that these three rules are so worded as to encompass all the rules.

For a really in-depth treatment of ethics see The BrahmaNet, Excerpts on Morality and the section on the Vinaya

 


 

Occupations

This is not to be understood as a command. It is given as a matter of advice in interpreting how the law of kamma would apply to one's occupation. And no one should use this list as a gauge for judging others. The Buddha had good relations with kings and generals while at the same time holding that it was rare for such a one not to end up in Hell as a consequence of his occupation.

For more on this see: AN 5.177: Trades, Olds, Introduction

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

A lay follower should avoid these five Occupations:

Dealing in weapons,
selling human beings or raising livestock for slaughter,
selling meat,
selling drugs that result in loss of good judgment,
selling poisons.

— [AN 5 177]

 


 

§

 


 

[SNAP]

The Finger Snap

Beggars!

Practice the heart's release
through friendly vibrations

Beggars,

Practicing the heart's release
through friendly vibrations
brings great fruit
brings great profit

Beggars!

If one were to give
100 bowls of rice
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening

Or if one were to practice
the heart of friendly vibrations
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening
if only for so short a time
as it takes to snap the fingers

Greater would be the fruit
greater would be the profit
of the practice of
the heart of friendly vibrations
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening
if only for so short a time
as it takes to snap the fingers

Less would be the fruit
less would be the profit
of giving 100 bowls of rice
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening

Not even worth a quarter part
of a quarter part
would be the fruit
would be the profit
of giving 100 bowls of rice
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening

Compared to the fruit
compared to the profit
of the practice of
the heart of friendly vibrations
in the morning
and again at noon
and again in the evening
if even for only so short a time
as it takes to snap the fingers

SN 2 20 4

 


 

Cover Your Bets

The two-sided, safe position
in the matter of whether there
is or is not:

A good rebounding consequence from good deeds
a bad rebounding consequence from bad deeds
heaven and hell
mother and father
rebirth according to one's deeds
god, gods, and evil ones
seers who have seen for themselves

is to conform one's actions
to the ways indicated by the position that
"there is."

This way, if there is,
one has made one's self safe;
if there is not,
then even in the here and now
the wise see
that one has adopted the two-sided position.

On the other hand,
to say that "there is not"
when one does not know,
is to say that one does know
what one does not know,
which is to speak an intentional untruth,
which the wise see
is unwise
even in the here and now.

— Adapted from [MN 60] The Middle Length Sayings, II, #60 (PTS, Horner, On the Sure, pp 69; Wisdom, Bodhi/Nanamoli, The Incontrovertible Teaching, pp 506); SN 4.42.013

 


 

Beggars!
There are 3
Signs of a fool:

Foolish Bodily Deeds
Foolish Word-Thought and Speech
and
Foolish Imaginings.

If there were not These 3 Signs of a Fool,
how could the wise know of a fool:

"This fine fellow is a fool,
not a real person?"

— AN 3 3

 


 

Paths Leading Upward

Beggars!
There are these three paths
leading upward
following which a beggar
goes upward starting from the first step:

1. For the liar, there is speaking truth
2. For the bloody handed, there is harmlessness
3. For the thief, there is not stealing

 


 

Beggars!
There are these
2 fools:

One who does not see his own faults
and
One who does not pardon
As one should
The fault confessed
By another

AN II:21; GS II:iii:1

 


 

How To Judge
From
Personal Experience

Adapted from a combination of suttas including
[MN 61] Middle Length Discourses #61: Discourse on an Exhortation to Rahula at Ambalatthika;
[MN 17] Discourse on the Forest Grove (PTS, pp104);
[AN 3.65] the Kalama sutta, The Gradual Sayings, Book of the Threes, #65;
[AN 9.7], [AN 10.54]

How to know your friends
How to know if you are doing the right thing
Using the right bowl, robes, food, shelter
Following the right teacher
Begging from the right town

Do not do or not do a deed
Because it is the law of the land
The word of the Elders
The pronouncement of some authority
Because hear-say say so
Because it is traditional
"The custom of my people."
Because it is the conclusion reached after thinking over reasons

But do or do not do a deed
Only after careful consideration
Of your own personal experience
Before
During
and
After

If beforehand you think:

"Bad conditions will increase
and
good conditions will decrease
going that way."

Then do not go further on that way

But if you think:

"Good conditions will increase
and
bad conditions will decrease
going This Way."

Then goThis Way
a little further.

If during you think:

"Bad conditions are increasing
and
good conditions are decreasing
as I go that way."

Then do not go further on that way —
even if it means you must get up and go
without saying "goodbye."

But if you think:

"Good conditions are increasing
and
bad conditions are decreasing
as I go along This Way."

Then go along This Way
a little further —
even if it means maybe having to work a little,
experience a little discomfort.

If afterward you think:

"Bad conditions increased
and
good conditions decreased
going that way."

Then do not go that way again.

But if you think:

"Good conditions increased
and
bad conditions decreased
as I went along This Way."

Then keep going
along This Way
a little further.

 

The importance of this little ditty cannot be overemphasized. For good and bad conditions, look to conditions within yourself, in the others and in conditions in the surrounding situation. For bad conditions, look for conditions that increase wanting, anger, and blindness; for good conditions look for conditions that are without wanting, anger, and blindness.

 


 

Knowing A Man

It is through having dealings with a man
That his character is to be known.

It is through being in continuous association with a man
That his consistency is to be known.

It is in times of adversity that a man's strengths are to be known.

It is through conversing with a man
That his wisdom is to be known
and then only after a long time
not by a passing thought
or no thought at all
and by a wise man, not a fool.

AN 4 192, SN 1.3.11

 


 

BAD COMPANY

Beggars!
I see no other single thing
More conducive
To increasing bad conditions
And decreasing good conditions
As keeping
Bad Company

Indeed, Beggars,
Keeping
Bad Company
Is conducive
To increasing bad conditions
And decreasing good conditions

 


 

"Sweet was once the mango's savour, sweet its scent, its colour gold:
What has caused this bitter flavour? for we tend it as of old."

"Round about the trunk entwining, branch with branch, and root with root,
See the bitter creeper climbing; that is what has spoilt your fruit"

— Jataka Stories #186: Dadhi-Vahana-Jataka, Rouse, trans.

 


 

Upekkha — Objective Detachment

Beggars! Beings, for the most part wish:

"O,O,O May good conditions increase and bad conditions decrease for me."

But for the most part, Beggars, good conditions decrease and bad conditions increase for beings of such wishes.

How come?

Because wishing in such a way as that is not the way to make good conditions increase and bad conditions decrease, that's how come.

It's like a man wishing for seed oil, seeking seed oil, gonna find a way to get soma seed oil, and 'e 'eap sand inta seed press and sprinkle on soma apo water an press that press crank'n'it

roun anna roun anna roun anna roun

yet still he don' ged evana one dropa seed oil from that press.

An how come?

Cause that's not The Way to get seed oil from a seed press, that's how come.

But here come some Beggar and whether he wish "O,O,O may good conditions increase and bad conditions decrease," or whether he make no such wish, good conditions increase and bad conditions decrease for sucha beggar.

How come?

Because This Is The Way to make good conditions increase and bad conditions decrease that's how come.

It's like some Beggar looking to get seed oil from a seed press and he heaps oil seed into such a press and he cranks that old press

round and round and round and round

until it oozes out seed oil muchas any Beggar'd wish.

How come?

Cause this is The Way to get seed oil from a seed press, that's how come.

Say: "O, O, O May all beings know objective detachment!"

 


 

PP explains

Abortion

Something to consider:

From: [MN 38] Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, The Middle Length Discourses, The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving Wisdom Publications, Bikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodi, trans.

Bhikkhus, the conception of an embryo in a womb takes place through the union of three things. [Here the things that do not result in an embryo are given.] . . . when there is the union of the mother and father, and it is the mother's season, and the being to be reborn is present, through the union of these three things the conception of an embryo in a womb takes place.

Thus, from the Buddhist point of view, "life" as an individual here in this world begins at conception.
Also, from the Buddhist point of view, there is no cause in that for bombing abortion clinics or holding anyone in contempt for anything.
An abortion from this perspective is a serious act of bad kamma for the individual performing it or instigating its performance.
It's nobody else's business.

 


 

References:

Dhammatalk Forum: Understanding the Distinctions between Kamma, Ethics, Morality, the Rules of the Sangha, and the Behavior Required of One Seeking Awakening


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 [ The Gradual Course ]  [ I. Nidana ]  [ II.Dana — Giving ]  [ II.Sila — Ethical Culture ]  [ III. Jagarianuyoga — Self Discipline ]  [ The Second Lesson ]  [ The Third Lesson ]  [ The Fourth Lesson ]  [ The Fifth Lesson ]  [ The Sixth Lesson ]  [ The Seventh Lesson ]  [ The Eighth Lesson ]  [ TheGreatMastersSatisfactionPastures ]  [ HighGetnHigh ]  [ The 10th Question I ]  [ The 10th Question II ]


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