How to answer the morality question?

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How to answer the morality question?

Postby VictoryInTruth » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:48 am

I have come across several people who say that it is only by believing in a creator God that one can be a moral person. They took it a step further and asked what is the origin of morality in Buddhism, from where did this concept of a morality come from if not from a creator God?

I guess it all comes down to why should a Buddhist be good and moral if all is illusion? Wouldn't the need to moral person be a futile effort if everything is illusion? How should I respond to a theist concerning the topic of morality and a creator God.

Thank you. :namaste:
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Virgo » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:20 am

KARMA!

Even though in essence there is no self, there is mentality and materiality arising that works with each other - a soulless process - yet, this process gains the effects of its kamma. Also, wholesome states help lead towards enlightenment. Unwholesome ones do not.
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:33 am

If you do bad kamma, then bad things happen, if you do good kamma, then good things happen. It's that simple, and also very easy to see in real life. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is either kidding himself, or he isn't far-sighted enough.

"Everything is illusion" (in a nihilist sense) is a serious misunderstanding of the Buddha's teachings... it was even explicitly stated to be one of the wrong views. The reason why is because it's based on a mistaken idea that there must be a "self" for things to be meaningful. It's a delusion that would cause a lot of trouble (dukkha).

:anjali:
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:53 am

129. All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

130. All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

131. One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.

132. One who, while himself seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.

133. Speak not harshly to anyone, for those thus spoken to might retort. Indeed, angry speech hurts, and retaliation may overtake you.

134. If, like a broken gong, you silence yourself, you have approached Nibbana, for vindictiveness is no longer in you.

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/dp10.htm
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we define salvation through suffering.
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby befriend » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:55 am

morality purifies the mind, without morality, meditation progress is non existent, hence no way to chip away at the defilements no way to realize nibbana and live the holy life. metta, Befriend
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby alan » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:08 am

You might ask those people if it is the belief in God that makes them "moral", or is it the fear of Hell?
You can then say that ethical behavior is seen as an essential part of the path towards happiness.

The idea that "everything is an illusion" is not Buddhist. You'll only create problems for yourself, and the friends you are talking to, if you represent it this way.
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:15 am

The Buddha never taught that "all is illusion." He taught that there is a mundane truth - that time and space appears to exists as we know it - but that this perception is due to ignorance of the supramundane truth - that ultimately the self is simply a functional illusion and cannot actually be found anywhere in the universe, and the result of this ignorance is suffering due to our attempt to use this false sense of self to grasp the physical and phenomenal world and preserve the fleeting self. Our efforts are always ultimately futile, which causes suffering.

Nevertheless, the Buddha did teach kamma - that our actions do have consequences. Even though the self is illusion, the matter of which we are made does interact with other matter, and those interactions have consequences. And the quality of those interactions affect the quality of their consequences. As we do experience suffering, we have an incentive to work towards wholesome kamma that alleviates suffering, and that is the moral foundation for Buddhists - no being wants to suffer.

The Christian claims that only god can define morality, but this very statement itself forces this god to follow his own moral laws or otherwise label himself immoral. A cursory perusal of the Bible and the Koran proves this god rarely follows his own moral code. This is where Christian morality breaks down. To Buddhists, morality must be universal - that is, it must be applicable in every instance for all matter and beings, or else it becomes too inconsistent, too unpredictable, to be followed consistently. Kamma is indeed universally applicable, especially with the Buddha's view of intention added.

:anjali:
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby VictoryInTruth » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:00 pm

I thank you all for your replies and for clearing my misunderstanding that all is illusion.

Dhammakid, your explanation showing how God does not follow his own moral code was very enlightening (pun intended) and helped me to see in a different light the nature of the creator God in many of the monotheistic scriptures.

:namaste:
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Jason » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:37 pm

VictoryInTruth wrote:I have come across several people who say that it is only by believing in a creator God that one can be a moral person. They took it a step further and asked what is the origin of morality in Buddhism, from where did this concept of a morality come from if not from a creator God?


Then I'd say that you've come across several people who probably haven't given this question serious thought.

While I accept that one can make a rational argument logically demonstrating the independence of God and morality (e.g., Euthyphro), I'm a little surprised by theists who attempt to argue that it's only through a belief in a creator God that one can be a moral person. For one thing, we can empirically observe the fact that there are many moral people who are atheist and completely non-religious, so we can conclude that simply believing in a creator God isn't a requirement to being a moral person, i.e., someone who lives by a particular standard of what's right and wrong.

Moreover, we can empirically observe the fact that there are many religions and philosophies that have strong ethical and moral principles without being based on the idea of a creator God, many of their adherents being moral people. From this, we can conclude that theism isn't necessarily the only theological/philosophical basis for morality. Whether or not a theist accepts the validity of these systems is irrelevant.

As for the basis of Buddhist ethics and morality, which I'd say is ultimately empirical and pragmatic in nature rather than 'revealed,' the underlying principles are kamma — the idea that certain actions produce pleasant, painful or neutral feelings/results — and the principle of ahimsa or harmlessness. (If you're interested, you can find more of my thoughts about Buddhist ethics here.)

And since Buddhist morality is centred on the efficacy of actions and the intentions underlying them, a Buddhist can be a moral person even without a belief in God simply by constantly reflecting upon their actions of body, speech and mind, and whether they lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both (MN 61).

I guess it all comes down to why should a Buddhist be good and moral if all is illusion? Wouldn't the need to moral person be a futile effort if everything is illusion? How should I respond to a theist concerning the topic of morality and a creator God.


Personally, I don't think the Buddha ever said that everything is an illusion (i.e., unreal or empty of substance), especially when it comes to actions and their results. In my opinion, this is most likely a misunderstanding of what the Buddha says in place like SN 22.95, which people sometimes try to apply to everything, including the principle of causality.

That said, sometimes the best response is none at all, especially if it avoids a pointless dispute (Snp 4.13).
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Slow Learner » Thu Jun 23, 2011 6:46 pm

Acting and reacting from craving and aversion is at the root of immoral behaviour. The Noble Eightfold Path is all about liberation from craving and aversion. A belief in God isn't needed, just a willingness to look at your own suffering.

Metta,

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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Ruralist » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:56 am

from my experience, many people that i have dealt with who claim morality under the guise of belief in a creator god (christian, from a more "born again" group in UK) were quite immoral in their dealings and business activities.
these people were very greedy, money-orientated, and quite honestly hypocritical. they claimed a "holier than thou" sense of morality but would put even some gangsters activities to shame with their business ethics and attitudes.

morality comes from within, not from a belief. sadly many people believe than belief in a god automatically qualifies moral discipline and conduct.

hello by the way
"Let monkeys be monkeys without getting emotionally involved. Peace can be born within you because you know the way monkeys are. Knowing the manner of monkeys, you will let go and be at peace, not getting tied up in monkey business." Ven. Ajahn Chah
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Re: How to answer the morality question?

Postby Popo » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:22 pm

VictoryInTruth wrote:I have come across several people who say that it is only by believing in a creator God that one can be a moral person. They took it a step further and asked what is the origin of morality in Buddhism, from where did this concept of a morality come from if not from a creator God?


Ethics is about how to live a good life. I think a good life is a happy life. If I want to live a happy life, I need to deal with others in a way that is cooperative, or else I'll be in constant danger and I'll never get the satisfaction found in relationships. To get others to cooperate requires fair terms (which is justice) or coercion (which is unstable - since they have no reason to turn around the situation on me if they get the upper hand).

All a creator God adds to morality is a cosmic enforcer. He can coerce us to deal with each other in a wholesome way. But he cannot make things that are manifestly unjust become "morality". (For instance, if God said rape was a reasonable thing to do, it wouldn't be okay. God would be an evil tyrant.)

I guess it all comes down to why should a Buddhist be good and moral if all is illusion? Wouldn't the need to moral person be a futile effort if everything is illusion? How should I respond to a theist concerning the topic of morality and a creator God.


For the same reasons a non-Buddhist should. Morality makes for a flourishing society and a better life.

Plus, Buddhism teaches that unwholesome actions have effects in this life and future lives. So even if you can get away with injustice now, you'll reap fruits in the future.

Best wishes. :heart:


Thank you. :namaste:[/quote]
Theoretical approaches have their place and are, I suppose, essential but a theory must be tempered with reality.
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