Indirect consequences of actions

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ko-alex
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Indirect consequences of actions

Postby ko-alex » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:12 pm

Hello everyone,

I am just starting to explore Buddhism, having largely tried to follow my own conscience and form my own views about ethical matters in the past. I am enjoying and appreciating much of what I am reading, but there is one area that I find difficult to accept.

One of the principles I try to live by is to "take responsibility for the forseeable consequences of my actions". This obviously includes indirect consequences. For example, I don't make much distinction between rearing and killing a chicken for food and buying one in the shop - knowing as I do that the latter will create demand for dead chickens and the result of that will be (more or less) one more chicken reared and killed for food. If anything, I tend to think that the former is more courageous, as at least it does force you to be aware of the consequences of your actions. That in turn, forces you to decide if this is something that is really appropriate for you to do. I think a lot of chicken-buyers probably aren't thinking much about the consequences of their actions, and this has led to terrible conditions for chicken-rearing.

Buddhism in general seems to make a distinction here that I don't really perceive. Thus, for example, it is not acceptable to take the life of another living being, but it is acceptable to buy a dead one, even knowing that this will mean that the life of another being will be taken. Likewise, I understand that monks are prohibited from digging the soil, for fear of harming living beings, but that they can hint to a layperson that it needs to be done.

I find this difficult to square with my own perspective, and with other Buddhist teaching that genarlly seems simple, direct and unflinchingly honest. Have I formed the wrong impression about this issue? Can someone shed some light on this for me? Please note that my question is really about indirect consequences in general, rather than meat-eating or chickens in particular, which is just an example.

Best wishes to all,
Alex.

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:41 pm

Some of the issues you raise were recently discussed here:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18903

ko-alex
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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby ko-alex » Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:25 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:Some of the issues you raise were recently discussed here:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=18903


Thank you, and sorry that I didn't find that discussion before posting.

Alex.

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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby Mkoll » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:11 pm

Here's some food for thought in regards to your food example.

For meat-eating to exist, there must be humans who deliberately kill the animal that provides the meat, creating great fear and terror in the living being they are killing and performing wrong action for themselves.

Cultivating vegetarian food will kill beings from the plowing of the fields, application of pesticides, etc. But the purpose here is not to kill the sentient beings; they are being killed indirectly for the cultivation of vegetable sustenance.

Both kill. Living means killing.

Personally, I buy vegetarian food for myself because I think it causes less harm and suffering overall. Not to mention the health benefits of eating a vegetarian diet vs a meat-eating one are pretty well-established. Living longer means practicing the Dhamma longer. Who knows where the next birth will be and if the Dhamma will be available to practice?

In regards to indirect consequences in general, I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say: "Buddhism in general seems to make a distinction here that I don't really perceive". If you can provide details and a reference to the Suttas, I can try to give you a good answer.

And just a word of advice in your studies, if I may: let what we have today as the word of the Buddha or the closest to it (meaning: the Suttas) be your guide to what he taught and thus what "Buddhism" really is.

Good luck and may you find peace.
Peace,
James

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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby jungblood » Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:42 am

Mkoll wrote:But the purpose here is not to kill the sentient beings; they are being killed indirectly for the cultivation of vegetable sustenance.


Thanks for this Mkoll....for me, intention is such a key issue in navigating morality and ethics... intention, intention, intention... sometimes it can be difficult, as it can be hard to really judge what my deepest intention is in a given situation, but more often than not, if I am honest with myself, i have a clear idea...

Best,
Lucas
'Renunciation' http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl036.html
'Trading candy for gold': http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... candy.html

'The more we really know the Dhamma, the more we can let go. Those who know a little can let go of a little; those who know a lot can let go of a lot.' - Ajaan Lee

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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby Babadhari » Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:50 pm

hi there,

i live with my parents at the moment and work on the family farm. my father rears animals for slaughter. they live a good life while alive but everytime i'm working i feelguilty for having an incorrect livlihood.

as an only son im the only one here to help my father, so i'd like to know what the sutta's say about obligation to one's parents.
i'm at the stage in my life where i want to live by at least 5 precepts and practice the Dhamma to the best of my ability.

i plan to undertake a long retreat soon and dont want to be distracted by feelings of guilt for having left. i've been in this state of mind for a long time now and would like to know where my priorities should lie. everyone i know says i should stay on the farm and think im crazy for wanting to go to a monastery. however the life of a farmer is full of stresses, troubles and worries which make it hard to have a consistent and regular in-depth meditation routine.

any opinions would be appreciated
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28

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Re: Indirect consequences of actions

Postby Mkoll » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:28 pm

kitztack wrote:as an only son im the only one here to help my father, so i'd like to know what the sutta's say about obligation to one's parents
Paraphrasing AN I, 62-63:
The Buddha taught that there you can never physically repay your mother and father even if you were to carry them upon your shoulders or give them rulership over the whole world. The only way to repay them is to teach them Dhamma: establish the unbelieving in faith, the immoral in morality, the stingy in generosity, the ignorant in wisdom.

~~~

If your parents are supportive of you going and living off on your own or if they don't absolutely need you, I would leave with all due respect to them. If they absolutely need you on the farm to help them, that is tricky. On the one hand you want to follow the Buddhist path and not have wrong livelihood. On the other, you have an obligation to help your parents which involves slaughtering animals. You could try reducing guilt by reminding yourself that you only live in such a way to help your parents. Time will pass and eventually, one way or another, you will be freed from your obligations and at that time you will be able to choose the right path for yourself.

In the meantime, I'd do the best I could to extricate myself from having to slaughter animals directly.

Good luck.
Peace,
James


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