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I read somewhere that the Zen man would snatch a crust of bread from the mouth of a starving man.
And that without God we would have no idea of what was right and what was wrong.
I disagree with both of these statements.
I would suggest that what makes us happy is good. (Happiness is a feeling of contentment, fulfilment and peace of mind. Broadly speaking pleasures make us happy.)
It is good to use our intellect to satisfy our life-sustaining appetites. That’s what intellect is for - so long as we confine it to that role. To state the obvious: Successful actions make us happy and therefore are good.
That raises the question: do the successful actions of a criminal qualify as good? They are undoubtedly happy – until they get caught.
In answering this question we must take into consideration the fact that we are social creatures.
The overriding benefit of being in a cooperating group of specialists is the degree to which such membership facilitates the satisfaction of our appetites and the achievement of our goals. We offer a specialised service to the society we live in and barter that for the services of others – mainly through the medium of money. That way we don’t have to build our own house, grow our own food or build our own TV set. This arrangement is invaluable and it is to our overwhelming advantage to maintain it at all cost. The implications are profound. My actions must not just be good for me they must also be good for the society in which I live measured by how much happiness they result in.
The fraudster who steals money on the internet may feel that his actions are good for him but once the effect on those whose bank accounts he has emptied are taken into consideration his actions turn out to be very bad indeed.
My actions must be moral .
(Inaction( Nirvana) is neither moral nor immoral in the sense that it is devoid of all concepts.)
The Zen man would not snatch that crust and we don’t need a god to tell us how to behave.
"Sila" (SHEE-lah) is important for all Buddhist practitioners. It's formulated in the Precepts. The Ten Grave Precepts are the ones commonly studied by lay people. Monastics have many more. Nuns have more than monks do.
It's noted that the Precepts are not prescriptive (like the "Thou shalt NOTS... " of the Decalogue) but are DESCRIPTIVE. Descriptive of the actual behavior of a Buddha.
On the question of the criminal's "successful" actions, well, certainly they satisfy the criminal, but not others. The criminal has a rather smaller sphere of hoped-for satisfaction than less criminal people: oneself only (plus possible co-conspirators or other pirates). Criminals are "out for themselves", no matter what it costs others. That is not the Buddha-Way! In the Mahayana way of Buddhist practice, others are put first.
BTW, I never read that bit about the crust of bread. I think it's probably a modern fiction hatched by an ignoramus slanderer. In the first place, where Chan really grew and had its Golden Age before spreading to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam (etc.), RICE was (is) the staple food, not bread. Granted, Bodhidharma legendarily brought Chan from India to China, and in India we know there is bread, flat-bread, like Nan, and Roti. But that's a (tasty... ) detail.
If I may, where is it noted?
I'm asking because, frequently, the precepts are stated in forms of imperatives, e.g.:
1. Do not kill!
2. Do not steal!
3. Do not engage in sexual misconduct!
4. Do not speak falsely!
5. Do not take intoxicants!
Imperatives do not describe anything. They tell us what to do.
The first one is just flat out crazy; it looks to me like some anti-Buddhist propaganda. Zen Buddhism is BUDDHISM. Hence, it is based on wisdom-compassion. Compassionate people do not steal food from hungry.
(Now, it is possible that this saying is put proposed in a context that implies it is not too be taken literally. For example, according to a famous Zen saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the way, kill him". It does not mean that we should LITERALLY kill awakened beings. It only means that, ultimately, we need to liberate our minds from such concepts as Buddha, holy, and so on.)
I too have seen this statement many times. And, again, it too looks to me like some form of propaganda this time put forth by theists. The problem here is that they never give satisfactory rational answers to the following questions:
b) Even assuming that God exists, how do we know whether "messages" we receive (about right and wrong) really come from God (rather than satan, or a demon, or whatever)?
Ultimately, accepting a) and b) seems a matter of faith rather than reason. And faith is rarely a good guide to the true and rationally defensible views.
In particular, most of the holy books in almost all theistic traditions propose some pretty outrageous views. For example, neither the Bible nor Koran contain any prohibition of slavery; they REGULATE what can be done with and to slaves but they do not prohibits slavery. In fact, in several places of both the Old and the New Testaments slavery is allowed and slaves are instructed not to rebel against their masters. This contains several references to the Bible that you may verify (I recommend a good modern translation that does not white-wash the issue by substituting the term "servant" for the term "slave"): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_slavery . Also, there are numerous passages in the Old Testament commanding us to murder entire groups of people such as gays, witches, those who worship other gods, and so on, and so forth. If we were to base our morality on faith only, there would be no way to reject these passages (as perhaps, merely human inventions rather than true morality).
Sometimes a slightly different statement is made making a stronger "ontological" or even "conceptual" point along the following line:
(DCT) has even more problems. For example, how does it happen that merely commanding something makes it right. Furthermore, if merely commanding something makes it right, then God's commands would be arbitrary. For, it seems, God would have no reason to command us to act kindly rather than with cruelty. If you'd like to learn more about DCT, I recommend this scholarly essay overviewing many major issues: http://www.iep.utm.edu/divine-c/ .
I hope this helps a bit.
Nah; the list goes:
No misuse of sex
Descriptive, not normative!
Where it's noted, I dunno right now. Teachers mention it. But in general, it need never be noted if you have the right translation in the first place. and understanding of the translation. Better if the translator is not heavily influenced by a life lived in the Judeo-Christian tradition (and hence, exposure to the model of the Decalogue), and can instead be more cleanly fair to the Pali text.
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