Coyote wrote:I understand that Buddhists follow a set of morals laid down by the Buddha, but I am interested in knowing exactly where they come from and what the basis of morality in Buddhism is.
Is morality a set of universal laws, like the laws of nature, that were just discovered by the Buddha? If so, is there any value in trying to understand where morality comes from, or why morality is the way it is - why some things are bad and others are good? For example, if good things are good because they correspond to values that exist outside of the human mind, or if they are good because it benefits humanity and for no other reason? I am interesting in learning what exactly is the foundation for morality in Buddhism in terms of ontology.(I hope that means what I think it does).
Ethics in Buddhism is usually conveyed as a function of intention (kamma). This
may help you enunciate specific questions and concerns.
In addition, there is the idea that morality is an essential foundation for meditation (a view held in common by other renouncers contemporaneous with the Buddha). The Noble Eightfold Path can be broken up into three sections, one of which is morality (sila) - Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood. Sila is considered a core necessity and is often explored alongside the brahmaviharas
One is also encouraged to consider that what is disagreeable to oneself is disagreeable to another, and thereby refrain. This is a negative formulation of the Golden Rule - don't do unto others if one would have others not do unto oneself.
As to the ontological underpinnings, I am of the opinion that there is no ontological foundation to the Dhamma. It is epistemology, phenomenology, and ethics, if we must classify it according to Western categories at all. Others have differing views on this point.
Coyote wrote:How does Buddhism understand epistemology? For example: how can we know that what the Buddha teaches is correct or is not? Do you have to put complete faith in Buddha and trust that what he teaches is correct? As with morality, where does such a standard of evaluating truth come from and what is it's ontological foundation.
You are encouraged to test things and see for yourself. There are two logical bases in Buddhism: experience and inference. The "correctness" is in direct relation to the ability of the Dhamma to attenuate and ultimately eliminate dukkha (suffering; the general unsatisfactoriness of experience). This is something that happens within your experience, and cannot be 'shown' apart from practice. The first step is usually to explore Right View
And again, ontological foundations are wholly absent, which is okay because they are wholly unnecessary. Others may disagree.
Coyote wrote:If everything is impermanent, then why does Buddhism teach that the Dhamma is eternal and always the same? And what about Nirvana - is that not permanent? If everything really is impermanent, they is that not a permanent truth? Will the Buddhas teaching one day change or break down?
The idea that "the Dhamma is eternal and always the same" is something I've never heard before. The Dhamma has causes and conditions (cf. the Buddha), and therefore cannot be permanent or unchanging.
The fact of impermanence is a "permanent fact", but this will only cause a problem if you inappropriately reify such a statement.Nibbana
(nirvana) is considered a special case: although it is neither dukkha nor impermanent (anicca) it is still characterized by anatta.