moral situations

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

moral situations

Postby chris98e » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:22 pm

As of now it seems to me that at least more than half of all moral situations can be argued either way in favor of either party. Note any attack from someone from out of nowhere is not a moral situation but one that deals with sanity and insanity. :candle:
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Re: moral situations

Postby Aloka » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:42 pm

chris98e wrote:As of now it seems to me that at least more than half of all moral situations can be argued either way in favor of either party. Note any attack from someone from out of nowhere is not a moral situation but one that deals with sanity and insanity. :candle:


Hi Chris,

I wonder if you could clarify what you mean with some examples, please?

with kind wishes,

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Re: moral situations

Postby chris98e » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:22 pm

Sure. A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he wrong or right. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger. :coffee:
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Re: moral situations

Postby Moth » Mon Dec 26, 2011 12:13 am

Is the first percept "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings...unless in self defense"?
No. The first precept is "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings."

"Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves."

- Kakacupama Sutta (Similie of the Saw)
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Re: moral situations

Postby reflection » Mon Dec 26, 2011 12:51 am

chris98e wrote:Sure. A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he [b]wrong or right[b/]. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger. :coffee:


Wrong and right are concepts that don't exist in Buddhism. So, thinking in such black and white concepts will not work in a discussion about morality. A better question would be whether it was skillful or unskillful.
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Re: moral situations

Postby whynotme » Mon Dec 26, 2011 2:21 am

Moth wrote:Is the first percept "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings...unless in self defense"?
No. The first precept is "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings."

"Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves."

- Kakacupama Sutta (Similie of the Saw)

Great quote
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Re: moral situations

Postby manas » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:12 am

reflection wrote:
chris98e wrote:Sure. A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he wrong or right. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger. :coffee:


Wrong and right are concepts that don't exist in Buddhism. So, thinking in such black and white concepts will not work in a discussion about morality. A better question would be whether it was skillful or unskillful.


Not so; wrong and right are very important concepts in Buddhism. 'Skillful' is an incomplete rendering of the term kusala, and this incomplete rendering has resulted in much confusion:

Kusala

Kusala (adj.) [cp. Sk. kuśala] 1. (adj.) clever, skilful, expert; good, right, meritorious M i.226; Dh 44; J i.222. Esp. appl. in moral sense (=puñña), whereas akusala is practically equivalent to pāpa. ekam pi ce pāṇaŋ aduṭṭhacitto mettāyati kusalo tena hoti It 21; sappañño paṇḍito kusalo naro Sn 591, cp. 523; Pv i.33 (=nipuṇa). With kamma=a meritorious action, in kammaŋ katvā kusalaŋ D iii.157; Vv iii.27; Pv i.1011 see cpds. -- ācāra -- k˚ good in conduct Dh 376; parappavāda˚ skilled in disputation Dpvs iv.19; magga˚ (and opp. amagga˚) one who is an expert as regards the Path (lit. & fig.) S iii.108; samāpatti˚, etc. A v.156 sq.; sālittaka -- payoge k˚ skilled in the art of throwing


Please note: not just 'skilful', but also 'good, right, meritorious'...

with metta.
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Re: moral situations

Postby rowboat » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:18 am

Moth wrote:
Is the first percept "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings...unless in self defense"?
No. The first precept is "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings."


and

manasikara: Not so; wrong and right are very important concepts in Buddhism. 'Skillful' is an incomplete rendering of the term kusala, and this incomplete rendering has resulted in much confusion:


Two very important distinctions.
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It does not sodden what is open.
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That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: moral situations

Postby reflection » Mon Dec 26, 2011 11:15 am

manasikara wrote:
reflection wrote:
chris98e wrote:Sure. A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he wrong or right. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger. :coffee:


Wrong and right are concepts that don't exist in Buddhism. So, thinking in such black and white concepts will not work in a discussion about morality. A better question would be whether it was skillful or unskillful.


Not so; wrong and right are very important concepts in Buddhism. 'Skillful' is an incomplete rendering of the term kusala, and this incomplete rendering has resulted in much confusion:

Kusala

Kusala (adj.) [cp. Sk. kuśala] 1. (adj.) clever, skilful, expert; good, right, meritorious M i.226; Dh 44; J i.222. Esp. appl. in moral sense (=puñña), whereas akusala is practically equivalent to pāpa. ekam pi ce pāṇaŋ aduṭṭhacitto mettāyati kusalo tena hoti It 21; sappañño paṇḍito kusalo naro Sn 591, cp. 523; Pv i.33 (=nipuṇa). With kamma=a meritorious action, in kammaŋ katvā kusalaŋ D iii.157; Vv iii.27; Pv i.1011 see cpds. -- ācāra -- k˚ good in conduct Dh 376; parappavāda˚ skilled in disputation Dpvs iv.19; magga˚ (and opp. amagga˚) one who is an expert as regards the Path (lit. & fig.) S iii.108; samāpatti˚, etc. A v.156 sq.; sālittaka -- payoge k˚ skilled in the art of throwing


Please note: not just 'skilful', but also 'good, right, meritorious'...

with metta.

I don't agree that in Buddhism you can't just divide things up between wrong and right. The words might exist, but the concept how a lot of people usually look at it does not. In the end it is all about our intentions. And the fact kusala does not only mean "good", but also other things - I think supports that.
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Re: moral situations

Postby whynotme » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:04 pm

chris98e wrote:Sure. A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he wrong or right. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger. :coffee:


It is life, so it is a trade off, its always trade offs between what you get and what you lose.

You don't shoot him, so you trade your money or even your current life for the sake of your next life, if you have belief, or you trade your next life and your belief for your money, it all depends on you, what do you want.

You can call it right or wrong, call it black and white, or deny it. What ever you use, they are words, just put them in the right context and it will work.
Right and wrong are states of logic, so they can be applied wherever logic and thought can be applied. You can say reality isn't black or white, it is gray, and you still can say yeah it is right that reality is just gray and we should act grayly. There are absolute logic and fuzzy logic, but they doesn't contradict each other. If you have an opened mind, you can overcome these 'right' and 'wrong' words easily.

Back on topic, yes he was right for shooting the mugger to protect his wallet, but he was wrong for shooting the mugger and putting some of his days in jail, or some of his lives in hell. It is a list of rights and wrongs for you to choose and after all it depends on what you want, what you do and what you get from it.

Put it in a simpler manner, you can break a complex situation into plain pieces. His action contains an object: protecting his wallet and solution for that by shooting the robber. You can say protecting his money is right while killing (shooting) the robber is wrong (all for the sake of you). By this manner you can easily break gray into its compositions. Each part has it own meaning, don't mix them up then apply a label right or wrong. If your goal is good, keep it and you still can change to the right method to attain your goal. These are right view and right thought.

And Buddhism isn't total nonviolence, you can use force if it's necessary, just be careful and don't use it excessively or without right intentions.

I still think if you want to solve social dilemmas, you need politics and political solutions, it will be easier if you have the right tool

Just cheer, my friends and my foes, I'm so tired of this world.
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Re: moral situations

Postby contemplans » Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:41 pm

reflection wrote:In the end it is all about our intentions.


Okay, in this case let's assume a very high level of intention -- he had fear for his life. Pretty reasonable considering a gun is being pointed at him. So the shooter's intention is to preserve his life. Preserving one's life is good. In order to preserve this life, he needed to shoot the man, because he was under deadly threat. So all the intentions are good here. He can't be burdened with the guilt of a predicament he never willed to be involved in. Most moral codes also would not require what would be called "heroic virtue", that is, that you just submit to the lethal force. Most say you can never positively will the death of another. You will the good, which may cause an unwanted result. So we can categorize such a theoretical situation as good.
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Re: moral situations

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:39 pm

contemplans wrote:
reflection wrote:In the end it is all about our intentions.


Okay, in this case let's assume a very high level of intention -- he had fear for his life. Pretty reasonable considering a gun is being pointed at him. So the shooter's intention is to preserve his life. Preserving one's life is good. In order to preserve this life, he needed to shoot the man, because he was under deadly threat. So all the intentions are good here. He can't be burdened with the guilt of a predicament he never willed to be involved in. Most moral codes also would not require what would be called "heroic virtue", that is, that you just submit to the lethal force. Most say you can never positively will the death of another. You will the good, which may cause an unwanted result. So we can categorize such a theoretical situation as good.


Hello contemplans,

The manner in which you speak of "moral codes" does not leave room for a spectrum of behavior from evil to saintly. Prioritizing intention rather than the specific acts which arise in relation to it has the effect of creating an attitude of creativity. This is in contrast to trying work out how a fixed set of moral rules will apply when they can't possibly spell out the vast potential circumstances one might find oneself in. This does not mean specific moral practices are not valuable to undertake. It just means that intention is a far better guide.

So the shooter's intention is to preserve his life.


This is a very simplistic view of intention. One could wish to preserve life from variety of attitudes from fear and anger all the way to compassion. For example if you defend yourself out of fear you are much less likely to notice the potential for a creative response in such a situation. A story like yours limits the possibilities to either kill and live or just die. This is not helpful since real life situations could have a vast number of other kinds of creative responses where not killing but remaining alive might be possible. If we simply justify killing we turn the situation into a caricature of reality where spiritual development has no value. This is the dark side of a "moral code".

May we practice the cultivation of perfect intention

Prasadachitta
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Re: moral situations

Postby cooran » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:50 pm

Moth wrote:Is the first percept "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings...unless in self defense"?
No. The first precept is "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings."

"Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves."

- Kakacupama Sutta (Similie of the Saw)



Hello Moth, all,

The Kakacupama Sutta ''The Simile of the Saw'' is a disourse on the need to maintain patience when addressed with disagreeable words. It is not about abstaining from killing.

with metta
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Re: moral situations

Postby contemplans » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:19 am

Prasadachitta wrote:The manner in which you speak of "moral codes" does not leave room for a spectrum of behavior from evil to saintly. Prioritizing intention rather than the specific acts which arise in relation to it has the effect of creating an attitude of creativity. This is in contrast to trying work out how a fixed set of moral rules will apply when they can't possibly spell out the vast potential circumstances one might find oneself in. This does not mean specific moral practices are not valuable to undertake. It just means that intention is a far better guide.


I did prioritize intention. But one can call it an informed intention. Ignorant intention means that everyone is a saint, since all people choose actions which they think are good (for themselves). But informing yourself of moral guidelines, sometimes prescriptive and sometimes descriptive, creates a situation in which one is not flying blind. Why recreate the wheel on every moral decision for the sake of being "creative"? Now some acts are not conclusive if they are or will be good or bad, and in that case we can follow the advice to contemplate the act before hand (look at analogous situations), look at it as we are doing it, continue if it is good, and reflect on it afterwards to see what the longer term implications are. The "informed" part is getting outside of our own minds (or letting outside information in) and outside of what we may be doing to color the situation. Many an ill deed has been done under the guise of good intentions. Intentions alone or external moral codes alone will not suffice for a fully moral life. A nice balance of the two is what is needed.

This is a very simplistic view of intention. One could wish to preserve life from variety of attitudes from fear and anger all the way to compassion. For example if you defend yourself out of fear you are much less likely to notice the potential for a creative response in such a situation. A story like yours limits the possibilities to either kill and live or just die. This is not helpful since real life situations could have a vast number of other kinds of creative responses where not killing but remaining alive might be possible. If we simply justify killing we turn the situation into a caricature of reality where spiritual development has no value. This is the dark side of a "moral code".


I understand, and all moral dilemma stories have a ring of abstract falsity to them. I do, however, train in martial arts in which many people have been in very close life or death situations, and they were just average people not looking for fights. But we train so that we may be able to exercise every option available before applying any physical force. For instance, avoid dangerous situations; be aware of your surroundings; don't look for fights, be macho, or have an inflated sense of pride or honor; if you are in a situation, run if possible; tell the person to leave you alone of you don't want trouble. The very very last resort is violence, and even then the violence is taught so that force is applied at a level needed to diffuse the threat. Every situation is unique, I agree, but having general rules in mind will help when a tough situation gets in hand. The person who doesn't think about this, or any other relatively likely modern moral dilemma, will freeze up and probably will not choose a good way of response. (Too many sad stories on that too.) But the truth is that some people are brought to a point in which it is literally you or him. Then the question is do you creatively survive, or do you creatively die? That's a choice each person makes, but I don't think the option of fighting out for survival is wrong on every occasion. I am all for creativity in all realms of moral activity, but I am not for a sort of principle of creativity uber alles as though we are so unique that no one's advice or guidance is worthy of note. But the intention, if we are to place a priority on intention, is to preserve one's life, not to kill another person. If the threat subsided, then the force applied to end it would also ideally (and people train for that). What is justified is survival self-defense, not killing. Killing is a sad and unfortunate result of someone's evil act -- live by the sword, die by the sword. Any defense measure worthy of respect will have an overarching ethos of preserving life.
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Re: moral situations

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:07 am

contemplans wrote: Why recreate the wheel on every moral decision for the sake of being "creative"?

Hi Contemlans,

We can can have a general recollection of relatively parallel situations and still cultivate creativity.


contemplans wrote: the truth is that some people are brought to a point in which it is literally you or him. Then the question is do you creatively survive, or do you creatively die? That's a choice each person makes, but I don't think the option of fighting out for survival is wrong on every occasion. I am all for creativity in all realms of moral activity, but I am not for a sort of principle of creativity uber alles as though we are so unique that no one's advice or guidance is worthy of note.


It is a choice which each person will make for themselves and regardless of the decision which is made there will be consequences. Ruminating about rightness and wrongness is not very helpful in my opinion. Previous experience and guidance are an integral part of a creative response but justification only clouds our awareness of the situation.

Take Care

Prasadachitta
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Re: moral situations

Postby chris98e » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:10 am

Moth wrote:Is the first percept "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings...unless in self defense"?
No. The first precept is "I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings."


Sorry I'm not the perfect Buddhist you are Moth. By the way Moth you have a picture of a Monk next to your name are you a monk? Just wondering. :buddha2:
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Re: moral situations

Postby befriend » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:33 am

some people have wonderful intentions, but they still make akusala kamma. take for example ascetics who abuse there bodies or animal sacrifices. good intentions there, not wholesome in the slightest. WISDOM and compassion.
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Re: moral situations

Postby chris98e » Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:19 am

befriend wrote:some people have wonderful intentions, but they still make akusala kamma. take for example ascetics who abuse there bodies or animal sacrifices. good intentions there, not wholesome in the slightest. WISDOM and compassion.
I don't think that I make akusala kamma through my intentions. There is of course a fine line between right and wrong. Just like there is a fine line between argued and completely justified. In the gun situation. "A guy is carrying a gun for protection. He's walking down the street. A robber comes and tries to stick him up with his own gun. The first guy shoots with mugger. Was he wrong or right. I think he shouldn't have been carrying a gun to begin with. But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger." To say that the guy is tottaly wrong for shooting the mugger is a bit harsh. An example is in the Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life. The Buddha says at the end: "The king is wounded, monks. The king is incapacitated. Had he not killed his father — that righteous man, that righteous king — the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye would have arisen to him as he sat in this very seat." He doesn't say that he was wrong or right for doing it he just talks about the facts. Now this is a situation where it didn't even seem like there is a strong case for the King to kill is father it seem to me the only two being accedental and self-defense. Also, I'm not the one arguing the justification of the mugger being shot. But I'm sure there are people who would argue that case. And do you call them crazy? Probably not.
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Re: moral situations

Postby chris98e » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:56 pm

chris98e wrote:But it can be argued that he was right for shooting the mugger.
Or maybe it can't be. I don't know. I think the likely hood of me carrying a gun from now to the next 20 years is pretty low. So, i'll never be in that situation. I would end up giving up my money in that situation. haha. :reading:
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