Kindness vs. privacy

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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby SDC » Tue May 04, 2010 4:21 pm

PeterB wrote:I am saying that I catch a whiff of burning martyr.
I am futher saying that sacrifices that merely serve to reinforce social custom and that are not part of of a mature and reciprocal relationship, ( which by definition must preclude moral blackmail and threats of social isolation ) may unwittingly be unskillful.


I 100% agree with you. It would be unskillful. That's what I was trying to say. You would have to want to be making the sacrifice outside of it social implications and be dealing with the decision on a personal level. If you can't do that, the situiation is definitely going to bad, and could easily be considered martyrdom. But if you can, then I see it as a great sacrifice with great merit.

So I don't think there is anything we are disagreeing on.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Tue May 04, 2010 4:22 pm

When entered into freely and with reciprocal respect it certainly isnt a dumb custom.
Being forced into offering free hotel accomodation for several weeks because of a threat of social isolation otherwise, might be.
You declare your admiration for Sam Harris on another thread Pannapetar.
It seems to me that you can either have doing stuff because your folks did it and will ostracise you if you dont, OR you can have Sam Harris, not both.
Life throws up enough opportunity for learning every day. Its not necessary to turn or homes into Salvation Army hostels for stray relatives to experience that.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Tue May 04, 2010 4:24 pm

SDC wrote:
PeterB wrote:I am saying that I catch a whiff of burning martyr.
I am futher saying that sacrifices that merely serve to reinforce social custom and that are not part of of a mature and reciprocal relationship, ( which by definition must preclude moral blackmail and threats of social isolation ) may unwittingly be unskillful.


I 100% agree with you. It would be unskillful. That's what I was trying to say. You would have to want to be making the sacrifice outside of it social implications and be dealing with the decision on a personal level. If you can't do that, the situiation is definitely going to bad, and could easily be considered martyrdom. But if you can, then I see it as a great sacrifice with great merit.

So I don't think there is anything we are disagreeing on.

I dont think so either SDC. My apologies if I misunderstood.

:anjali:
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby SDC » Tue May 04, 2010 4:31 pm

Pannapetar wrote:The need for privacy is often based in selfish, egotistic motives which remain subconscious if never challenged. If nothing else, a situation that challenges habitual behaviour patterns such as this, can bring hidden motives to the surface. It is a possibility, the silver lining of the grey cloud so to speak, wherein lies some potential. Furthermore, SDC is quite correct in saying that there is merit in giving up something cherished for the benefit of another person.

In my view, accommodating family members is never a "dumb custom".

Cheers, Thomas


I was just about to bring up something along these lines. I can only speak for myself, but I feel that in other situations of sacrifice I still hover between handling it skillfully and unskillfully. But I like to give it a shot and find it easier and easier as time goes on.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby SDC » Tue May 04, 2010 4:34 pm

PeterB wrote:
SDC wrote:
PeterB wrote:I am saying that I catch a whiff of burning martyr.
I am futher saying that sacrifices that merely serve to reinforce social custom and that are not part of of a mature and reciprocal relationship, ( which by definition must preclude moral blackmail and threats of social isolation ) may unwittingly be unskillful.


I 100% agree with you. It would be unskillful. That's what I was trying to say. You would have to want to be making the sacrifice outside of it social implications and be dealing with the decision on a personal level. If you can't do that, the situiation is definitely going to bad, and could easily be considered martyrdom. But if you can, then I see it as a great sacrifice with great merit.

So I don't think there is anything we are disagreeing on.

I dont think so either SDC. My apologies if I misunderstood.

:anjali:


Right on, Peter. No need to apologize. Good discussion.

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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Pannapetar » Wed May 05, 2010 2:42 am

PeterB wrote:When entered into freely and with reciprocal respect it certainly isnt a dumb custom.


Peter, a custom is by definition not something that you enter into freely.

PeterB wrote:Being forced into offering free hotel accomodation for several weeks because of a threat of social isolation otherwise, might be.


It might. :quote: Or it might not. Your judgement depends very much on your cultural upbringing. I am sure that there are plenty of customs in the Western world that appear "dumb" to Asians. You see, it all depends on what you have been trained to think. I lived almost half of my life in Asia and it has helped me to see through the cultural veneer. I can understand why the social pressure to accommodate relatives appears odd in societies with an extreme individualistic orientation, such as the US or Britain. But China has a very collectivist orientation; it is on the other end of the scale in that regard. Perhaps it helps to realise, that there are other types of social pressures in Western societies, which Asians find odd and unreasonable. A matter of perspective. I am not saying that everything is a matter of perspective, but in this instance you are probably arguing from a cultural bias.

PeterB wrote:You declare your admiration for Sam Harris on another thread Pannapetar. It seems to me that you can either have doing stuff because your folks did it and will ostracise you if you dont, OR you can have Sam Harris, not both.


Sam Harris does not argue against customs and conventions per se. He is primarily concerned with faith and religion, and he argues against faith as far as it is at odds with reason and he demands intellectual honesty. In this regard I concur with Sam Harris. He is also an excellent speaker and a man of quick wit. This does not imply that I agree with everything that Harris says, as you've already seen in the other thread.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Wed May 05, 2010 6:46 am

Of COURSE a custom is something that you enter into freely....or not.

It is not a biological or psychological imperative.
But as with the Sakya prince , it takes a process of Individuation for any given person to swim against the current of their culture.
Even in the year 2010 there would be few western Buddhists if it not for that need , that impulse to swim against that current.

During my youth the UK was replete with customs and traditions. Many of which have disappeared by the simple expedient of the population letting them die. In some cases that is a pity. In other cases its a jolly good thing that they have gone.
That includes the stultifying idea of the extended family and its needs taking presidence over individual consciousness.
An idea that kept each generation a clone of its predecessors.
In some sense every Buddhist is called upon to "go forth" even if they remain lay people.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Pannapetar » Wed May 05, 2010 7:48 am

PeterB wrote:Of COURSE a custom is something that you enter into freely....or not.


I am afraid I have to disagree with you on this point. Customs are preestablished. They exist whether you agree with them or not. You cannot choose the customs of British society, for example. They are simply there, like a speed bump in the road. Of course you can choose to honour a particular custom, or go against it and suffer the consequences. Likewise, you can choose to slow down or take a speed bump at full speed. You are right in saying that customs do change, but this is again something that happens outside of the sphere of individual control. Customs are memes, and they are subject to an evolutionary process. However, I wouldn't expect this particular custom to change any time soon. The extended family has been at the heart of Chinese society for thousands of years.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Wed May 05, 2010 8:06 am

I would have thought that it was clear that I was referring to the ability, even the neccessity, for the individual to go against the stream of their cultural conditioning for any process of individuation to occur.
And that process is a necessary precursor to Dhamma practice.
As to customs that date back thousands of years we see such customs crumbling on a global scale.
Sometimes regrettably, but often to the benefit of the people formerly in thrall to those customs.
I see no reason..restrictions on google and the like not withstanding..to suppose that China will not undergo a similar process of shedding much of its cultural baggage over the next 50 years or so.

It was Richard Dawkins' protege Susan Blackmore that described Buddhism as " The ultimate anti-meme meme."
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Pannapetar » Wed May 05, 2010 8:40 am

PeterB wrote:I would have thought that it was clear that I was referring to the ability, even the neccessity, for the individual to go against the stream of their cultural conditioning for any process of individuation to occur. And that process is a necessary precursor to Dhamma practice.


Whew! Now you bring quite new and controversial statements into the discussion. And a new term.... individuation. Is individuation a necessary precursor for Dhamma practice? Or swimming against the stream? Well, I don't know. It would be good start to define what you mean with individuation. I've heard the term in the context of Jungian and developmental psychology. I am not sure if this is what you have in mind.

PeterB wrote:As to customs that date back thousands of years we see such customs crumbling on a global scale.


Yes, there is an accelerated rate of change in the wake of globalisation, particularly in NIC countries like China, and this change definitely affects the culture of these countries. However, I am not sure if we can deduce that traditional customs are inevitably "crumbling". According to my observation some do, others don't. It would be a mistake to assume that Asian countries go through the same sequence of developments that Europe has gone through. The would be unwarranted reductionism.

PeterB wrote:It was Richard Dawkins' protege Susan Blackmore that described Buddhism as " The ultimate anti-meme meme."


Susan Blackmore has a bit of knack for producing catchy phrases, I suppose, but the statement can easily be proven wrong. The mere fact that Buddhism has survived 2500 years and has successfully fused with different cultures can be seen as evidence for Buddhism being a super-meme rather than an anti-meme. Here in Thailand, Buddhist practice is virtually unchanged since the early beginnings of Buddhism in India.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Wed May 05, 2010 8:46 am

:anjali:
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Ruud » Fri May 07, 2010 4:16 am

Wow, I am unable to check in for a week and a lot has happened (appologies for that but internet is here not always that stable and officially Dhammawheel is,sadly enough, unaccessable in China).
I have to agree with Pannapetar that customs are already part of the society and that it is, definitely in cultures where that is not encouraged, difficult to break with them. Let me give some examples in different grades of seriousness:

---In the West, when in a restaurant, you behave quite and polite, as not to disrupt other people. In China it is no problem to be loud (really loud) and when there are some bones in the dish you spit them on a seperate plate, or, on the table.
---In the West it is more and more the "custom" to call parents, uncles and aunts, people one generation above you in general, just by their first names. In Asia people are much more strict, even for people you don't/hardly know, or older collegues, and therefore have specific respectful names for all of them.
---In the West, when someone died, you wear black to show that you are mourning. In many countries in Asia, white is the general mourning color.

My point is that for the first one you can just decide to not do so and be an individualist and indeed maybe over time the custom will change. But for the time being you'll have to cope with it. The second case is something you can decide not to do, but people will look at you a little strange, account it to you being a foreigner, will try to correct you. The third case would simply be disrespectful if you would, knowingly, wear black instead of the customary white. Many of these habits and customs are ingrained into the culture and you only in some cases have an opportunity to show your individual ideas.
As a side-point, yes, China's values are shifting, and possibly more than in all it's recent history, but still a lot of tradition,customs and education are alive and make or break the decisions of people.
I found myself i this situation and want to act wholesome. It has nothing to do with that I need to live up with the custom despite my feeling of privacy (and thus is not martyrdom), I am presented with this situation, have this feeling, try to understand their origin and want to learn from them in order to clean them up. It is going to be hard, but I want to focus on how I can grow instead how I can stay where I am. Probably practicing patience is the best. Like Ajahn Chah told Ajahn Brahm to see the annoying mosquitos as Ajahn mosquito, I'll have to see the "intruding" distant-family-member as Ajahn distant-family-member. The opinions in this tread have been very insightful to me in that respect so far. Thanks.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Annapurna » Fri May 07, 2010 4:51 pm

Ruud, I have a feeling you will do just fine!

It's great you are so willing to be respectful to the people your wife belongs to, and see it as a chance to grow.

It was interesting to read how the customs differ, especially spitting bones on a plate and table. :smile:

(So, where do you guys place your bones and how do you transport them there? )

In Asia people are much more strict, even for people you don't/hardly know, or older collegues, and therefore have specific respectful names for all of them.


Wow. Reminds me of:

In France, Spain and Germany you don't just have the "you" to adress somebody, but 2 different types. In German "Du" and "Sie". "Sie" is pluralis majestatis ( for Royalty you use even another form!) and absolutely necessary for dealing with any stranger or people you don't know as well as family and friends and haven't officially agreed to say "Du" to.

Offering somebody the "Du" can be informal, or a big act, sealed with drinking for "Brotherhood", with a hug, each taking a sip from his glass in a ritualized embrace and perhaps even a kiss on the lips.

Offering the "Du" is strictly regulated. (Amongst people who know the etiquette)

The older person can offer "Du", the younger must wait for it. The superior in rank offers to the inferior, and so forth.

To reject it is a GRAVE shame for the other. Don't expect further contact, unless you excuse yourself with having TOO much respect for somebody.

It happened to me once that I rejected a "Du" from an old Gentleman, simply because I respected him so much that I couldn't, I told him on the spot and asked him to please accept my deep veneration, that I'm flattered, but I can't, I would feel like insulting him. -- He smiled. :smile:

To call a stranger" you" is a grave insult. Equally, if you were on familiar terms with somebody and suddenly begin to use the formal form again, it is obvious this person has just fallen from grace and friendship is over.

I have heard loud protests before when a lady was called "Du" by a man, using it to show despise.

Interesting, huh?

:soap:

Sorry. Got carried away.

:embarassed:
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby PeterB » Fri May 07, 2010 5:03 pm

In England Anna there was a similar convention. If talking to people considered your superiors socially you used the "thee " and " thou" form. To your equals or those you consider your social inferiors you used the "you and ye " form.
Then in the 18th century a religous group was founded called the Quakers, they refused to make that distinction and used the" you and ye " form to everyone.
At first that was considered outrageous, but after a hundred years or so it became the norm and the " thee and thou " form was lost.
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Re: Kindness vs. privacy

Postby Annapurna » Fri May 07, 2010 5:23 pm

Thanks Peter. That's interesting....explains some old ballads, doesn't it? :smile:
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