Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

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Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby altar » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:09 pm

Thievery! My mom brought this up. The question is, if you are a pauper and your children are starving, can you steal some bread?
I know it's hypothetical. I'm just curious what people will say.
One answer might be, "Ask them if you can take it." 1. They say "no." 2. You know they will say "no," and don't ask. Or perhaps you would be surprised if you were to really ask, and they might say yes? Another answer might be: Or, but you might have to keep stealing, again and again, even if they live out an extra week from this days stolen goods. But if it is out of love for your children?
I would say that for me it is a tough question and having not been in such a position, let alone having actually done the stealing for my starving children, it is not within my scope to answer it.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Mukunda » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:28 pm

Regardless of motivation, stealing is unwholesome kamma which will come to an unpleasant fruition. Does gravity cease its pull, the sun slow its rise or set, or the wind quit blowing to accommodate one's motivations?
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby altar » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:01 pm

Mukunda wrote:Regardless of motivation, stealing is unwholesome kamma which will come to an unpleasant fruition. Does gravity cease its pull, the sun slow its rise or set, or the wind quit blowing to accommodate one's motivations?


Actually, motivation is quite important. Even physically killing insects is blameless, right, if there is no intention to kill. Simply walking on an ant hill without seeing it is not the kamma of mass insect genocide.
If her thought is, "Thus will I gain this man's bread for myself!" it is one thing; but if her thought is, "Thus will my children receive nutriment, though it be another man's bread" it is another. But like you said, perhaps unwholesome kamma nonetheless. On the other hand it seems funny to say it's blameless to see bread in a window while your child literally dies.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Sobeh » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:16 pm

I think in many life situations, acting in perfectly wholesome ways is not possible. Stealing is bad kamma, but the cost of not doing so is a dead child, VERY bad vipaka. These are the sorts of problems that make the householder life 'dusty', and the Noble Path harder to traverse. This is also part of the reason why monks and nuns have such strict rules about sex; sex is a sensual pleasure, yes, but it also (in those days without birth control) meant children, and children meant you had to care for their welfare over and above your own - hardly conducive to samadhi based on seclusion.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:33 pm

that child's death would be the child's kamma not the moms.

but anyways is it unwholesome to steal yes, is it still unwholesome to steal even if your kid will die? yes. the reason why these sorts of questions come up is precisely because we know it's wrong. if you want to steal so you can feed your starving kid go ahead just don't think your actions have no consequences. you could go to jail if caught, you could be shot while trying to steal all sorts of things. its a risk you have to choose if it is worth it. maybe it is.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:47 pm

remember there are four types of Kamma
I think this would fall into the third on the list "dark and bright Kamma with dark and bright results," in other words there is both wholesome and unwholesome motivations at play at the same time, which result in the fruit being bitter sweet, so to speak.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby meindzai » Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:13 pm

Manapa wrote:remember there are four types of Kamma
I think this would fall into the third on the list "dark and bright Kamma with dark and bright results," in other words there is both wholesome and unwholesome motivations at play at the same time, which result in the fruit being bitter sweet, so to speak.


Yeah, the problem with these hypotheticals (always notice how these dillemas are almost always hypothetical?) is that they are given too simplisticly. Most of our actions are a mixture of different types of unwholesome and wholesome kamma.

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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Mukunda » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:23 pm

altar wrote:
Mukunda wrote:Regardless of motivation, stealing is unwholesome kamma which will come to an unpleasant fruition. Does gravity cease its pull, the sun slow its rise or set, or the wind quit blowing to accommodate one's motivations?


Actually, motivation is quite important. Even physically killing insects is blameless, right, if there is no intention to kill. Simply walking on an ant hill without seeing it is not the kamma of mass insect genocide.
If her thought is, "Thus will I gain this man's bread for myself!" it is one thing; but if her thought is, "Thus will my children receive nutriment, though it be another man's bread" it is another. But like you said, perhaps unwholesome kamma nonetheless. On the other hand it seems funny to say it's blameless to see bread in a window while your child literally dies.


Intention and motivation are two different things. Kamma is intentional action.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby chownah » Fri Apr 16, 2010 2:10 pm

Mukunda wrote: Kamma is intentional action.

Actuall the Buddha is reported to have said that kamma is intention.

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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Wind » Sat Apr 17, 2010 8:19 am

No need to steal. If you live in a world where no one is willing to feed a starving family, then I rather leave that world. Some people not only steal but would even kill to survive, but at what cost? Would it ultimately put an end to death, to their suffering? I say it's better to live a short wholesome life than a longer unwholesome life.
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Clueless Git » Sat Apr 17, 2010 9:19 am

altar wrote:Thievery! My mom brought this up. The question is, if you are a pauper and your children are starving, can you steal some bread?
I know it's hypothetical. I'm just curious what people will say.
One answer might be, "Ask them if you can take it." 1. They say "no." 2. You know they will say "no," and don't ask. Or perhaps you would be surprised if you were to really ask, and they might say yes? Another answer might be: Or, but you might have to keep stealing, again and again, even if they live out an extra week from this days stolen goods. But if it is out of love for your children?
I would say that for me it is a tough question and having not been in such a position, let alone having actually done the stealing for my starving children, it is not within my scope to answer it.

Difficult one ...

When my daughter was very young she needed a toilet VERY urgently whilst we were in a well known DiY store.

I asked for a toilet for her and was refused ..

In a flash of 'buddhist' inspiration I suggested to the unhelpfull manager that one way or another my little girl was going pee imminently. That all I was really asking him was would he rather she pee in his toilet or would he rather she pee on his floor instead?

I think, in a not entirely dissimilar way, that one could also ask "can you spare some food for me and my starving kiddies or would you rather we just sat in your shop untill we are dead?"
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 17, 2010 9:25 am

chownah wrote:
Mukunda wrote: Kamma is intentional action.

Actuall the Buddha is reported to have said that kamma is intention.

chownah

Hello altar, all,

Kamma as intention

Essentially, kamma is intention (cetana), and this word includes will, choice and decision, the mental impetus which leads to action. Intention is that which instigates and directs all human actions, both creative and destructive, and is therefore the essence of kamma, as is given in the Buddha's words, Cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami: Monks! Intention, I say, is kamma. Having willed, we create kamma, through body, speech and mind.[2]

At this point we might take some time to broaden our understanding of this word "intention." "Intention" in the context of Buddhism has a much subtler meaning than it has in common usage. In the English language, we tend to use the word when we want to provide a link between internal thought and its resultant external actions. For example, we might say, "I didn't intend to do it," "I didn't mean to say it" or "she did it intentionally."

But according to the teachings of Buddhism, all actions and speech, all thoughts, no matter how fleeting, and the responses of the mind to sensations received through eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, without exception, contain elements of intention. Intention is thus the mind's volitional choosing of objects of awareness; it is the factor which leads the mind to turn towards, or be repelled from, various objects of awareness, or to proceed in any particular direction; it is the guide or the governor of how the mind responds to stimuli; it is the force which plans and organizes the movements of the mind, and ultimately it is that which determines the states experienced by the mind.

One instance of intention is one instance of kamma. When there is kamma there is immediate result. Even just one little thought, although not particularly important, is nevertheless not void of consequence. It will be at the least a "tiny speck" of kamma, added to the stream of conditions which shape mental activity. With repeated practice, through repeated proliferation by the mind, or through expression as external activity, the result becomes stronger in the form of character traits, physical features or repercussions from external sources.

A destructive intention does not have to be on a gross level. It may, for example, lead to the destruction of only a very small thing, such as when we angrily tear up a piece of paper. Even though that piece of paper has no importance in itself, the action still has some effect on the quality of the mind. The effect is very different from tearing up a piece of paper with a neutral state of mind, such as when throwing away scrap paper. If there is repeated implementation of such angry intention, the effects of accumulation will become clearer and clearer, and may develop to more significant levels.
Consider the specks of dust which come floating unnoticed into a room; there isn't one speck which is void of consequence. It is the same for the mind. But the weight of that consequence, in addition to being dependent on the amount of mental "dust," is also related to the quality of the mind. For instance, specks of dust which alight onto a road surface have to be of a very large quantity before the road will seem to be dirty. Specks of dust which alight onto a floor, although of a much smaller quantity, may make the floor seem dirtier than the road. A smaller amount of dust accumulating on a table top will seem dirty enough to cause irritation. An even smaller amount alighting on a mirror will seem dirty and will interfere with its functioning. A tiny speck of dust on a spectacle lens is perceptible and can impair vision. In the same way, volition or intention, no matter how small, is not void of fruit. As the Buddha said:
"All kamma, whether good or evil, bears fruit. There is no kamma, no matter how small, which is void of fruit."[3]

In any case, the mental results of the law of kamma are usually overlooked, so another illustration might be helpful:
There are many kinds of water: the water in a sewer, the water in a canal, tap water, and distilled water for mixing a hypodermic injection. Sewer water is an acceptable habitat for many kinds of water animals, but is not suitable for bathing, drinking or medicinal use. Water in a canal may be used to bathe or to wash clothes but is not drinkable. Tap water is drinkable but cannot be used for mixing a hypodermic injection. If there is no special need, then tap water is sufficient for most purposes, but one would be ill-advised to use it to mix a hypodermic injection.

In the same way, the mind has varying levels of refinement or clarity, depending on accumulated kamma. As long as the mind is being used on a coarse level, no problem may be apparent, but if it is necessary to use the mind on a more refined level, previous unskillful kamma, even on a minor scale, may become an obstacle.
http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/kamma1.htm

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Stealing: Is there a time and a place?

Postby Bankei » Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:22 am

In the Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka theft of relics did occur and was justified, see


When Is a Theft Not a Theft? Relic Theft and the Cult of the Buddha's Relics in Sri Lanka
Numen Volume 39, Number 1, 1992, pp. 1-26(26)
Author: Trainor, Kevin M.

Abstract:
This essay examines the phenomenon of relic theft in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Sri Lanka. Having noted the relative paucity of scholarship on this topic, the essay first examines the canonical warrant for the practice of relic veneration in the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta, and identifies a fundamental tension that the cult of veneration poses for the tradition. Relics, as valued material objects subject to human manipulation and possession, would appear to encourage attachment. The canonical passages that deal with the cult of veneration simultaneously affirm the value of the practice, while warning of the danger that attachment to the relics poses. The essay goes on to note evidence, in the form of expanded relic lists in canonical sources, of the expansion of the relic cult and of the need to affirm the authenticity of new centers of sacrality associated with the enshrinement of particular relics. The essay then examines several accounts of relic theft in the Pali chronicle (vamsa) literature, noting that these accounts serve to simultaneously affirm the desirability of relics, and to account for the orderly movement of these valued objects from one location to another. Yet these accounts of relic theft are problematic in that they appear to endorse the practice of stealing, which is a violation of both lay and monastic Buddhist ideals. In response to this problem, the essay identifies two different models of relic theft, noting that one model is religiously affirmed, while the other is condemned. The essay concludes with a brief comparison of relic theft accounts in the Buddhist and Christian traditions.
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