Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

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

Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby santa100 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:26 am

..reminds me of the leaping frog puzzle that as many of you may already knew: a frog fell into a well 14.5 feet deep. He could jump 3 feet, but slid back 1 foot on each try. How many jumps does it take to get out of the well? Guess what friends, the well is Samsara, the frog is you and me, the 3-foot foward hop is good kamma, and the foot-long slide is bad kamma. As long as we're the frog stuck inside a well, we WILL generate good and bad kamma. And that's quite all right. Don't worry too much about how much you've slid. Just make sure the forward hops are plenty enough so it'll result in a positive net gain. That way, sooner or later, you'll be able to get out of that darn well..
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby perkele » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:40 am

DarwidHalim wrote:Good action is as bad as bad action. Both of them are the culprit of the wheel of samsara.


You often speak as if you thought to have already reached Nibbana.
Be careful about your thoughts.
But first and foremost: Be careful about your actions.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:43 am

Greetings Vepacitta,

The issue isn't about what I think of particular individuals. The matter I'm drawing attention to is whether the practical application of sīla is the same for both a bhikkhu and a layperson. In other words, is it universal or subject-relative?

Daniel's post asked...
In your experience, do the "parameters" of sīla (as presented in the Suttas) always give you clear-cut guidance, or do you often struggle with ambiguity in ethical decisions using sīla as a guide?

Presumably he'll allow that to be extended to the Vinaya for the Bhikkhu, and so on.

Therefore, is the same application of the parameters of sīla universal to bhikkhus and laymen?

Is it cetana/kamma/action or the external form of sila that is paramount?

Is being "engaged" (as in Engaged Buddhism, or "speak[ing] about eco-buddhism and capitalists") correct sīla for both, considering that right speech, right livelihood and right action fall under the banner of sīla in the threefold training? Is it correct action for both the layman and Theravada bhikkhu? (We can set aside Mahayana for now - that's an off-topic can of worms)

Does what I quoted from Sn 3.11 apply equally to both?

Is what is deemed tiracchāna-kathā for one group acceptable practice for the other?

etc.

This is of vital importance to the topic because if they are different, and sila is therefore subjective and relative to your chosen mode of livelihood, we then need to be cognizant of which teachings were given the bhikkhus, which were given to householders, and which were given to both.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:29 am

Ferox wrote:...who knows what the Buddha would of done/said in this situation. If he thought that there is much suffering in life and humans kill each other all the time so this is nothing new and no reason to break precepts, I could almost understand that perspective

Hi Ferox,
Would you call this equanimity?
Goodwill
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:35 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Vepacitta...,

Daniel's post asked...
In your experience, do the "parameters" of sīla (as presented in the Suttas) always give you clear-cut guidance, or do you often struggle with ambiguity in ethical decisions using sīla as a guide?

Presumably he'll allow that to be extended to the Vinaya for the Bhikkhu, and so on....
Metta,
Retro. :)

Of course I'll allow it. And I apologize for not adding personal experience as allowable in my OP. That's fine with me, too.
Goodwill
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Vepacitta » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:40 am

Retro - gotcha. I will bring it up with Bhante once class starts- it's my understanding, from reading, that there are slight variations in sila between laypersons and renunciants - although there are indeed 'the basics' that apply to all.. although I could be merely mixing up the rules of the viniya with sila - it's possible.

That being said, I have my own personal 'horse sense' opinions about sila, religious conventions and the real world. :soap: :smile:

Best from Mt. Meru,

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:42 am

Retro is making very important points, and I think he's directing this topic to a fruitful place. I'll refrain for the moment from responding to what he's said partly because I'm pooped and partly because I'm curious to see how others respond to his posts.

Edit: & I'd like to hear from Monkey Mind, as he has "syncretist" take on the bhikkhu/lay "lifestyles" for us "modern" Buddhists.

Is there a Monkey Mind "Bat Signal"?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Virgo » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:04 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Daniel,

I'll listen to it later but perhaps you could say what some of the issues are that were raised?

:anjali:
Mike

Sure. The example Ven. Bodhi used was the Germans who lied to the Nazis about the Jews they were hiding.
Goodwill
Daniel
One should not lie to Nazis?

To this end, I feel it is important to understand that Buddhists are (or should be, in my opinion, after years of study and practice) moral absolutists first and foremost. It is also just as important to understand that moral absolutists should be able to use their own wisdom to pick the lesser of two evils in some cases and choose one action to prevent another. People should understand that doing so, in extreme cases, does not make one a moral consequentialist. This is not a gray-area type thing, it is a specific type of absolutist doctrine. We have to use our wisdom knowing what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. In no way, shape, or form are we (or should we be) utilitarianists, and not moral relativists of any kind.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:38 am

Virgo wrote:]
To this end, I feel it is important to understand that Buddhists are (or should be, in my opinion, after years of study and practice) moral absolutists first and foremost. It is also just as important to understand that moral absolutists should be able to use their own wisdom to pick the lesser of two evils in some cases and choose one action to prevent another.
We should be absolutely relativistic based upon the circumstamnce and one's moral wisdom. Got it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby DarwidHalim » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:55 am

In my opinion, what Bhikku Bodhi said is really good.

Sila is no something fixed. This one must be like this one or like that one.

By knowing sila itself is just a tool to go beyond, we are free from the victim of our ego.

Sila can become the pillar of our ego in judging others.

We can see this in our daily life, sila somehow become the standard in judging other behavior.

We can say oh this guy is not good, his sila is bad and so on.

By knowing sila is not absolute black and white, just because someone drink alcohol, doesn't mean he is a bad practitioner. He can actually even purer than us.

Sila can be helpful, but at the same it has somehow become the pillar of our ego.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:28 am

danieLion wrote:In his lecture on the Ambalaṭṭhikārāhulovāda Sutta (MN 61) to be found at

http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html

and starting around the 10:30 minute mark and ending around the 19:00 minute mark, Ven. Bodhi discusses the actual complexity of most moral choices, and the reality that sīla is not always cut and dry.

Thanks danieLion for persuading me to (re)listen to one of BB's excellent talks.

I recall listening to this talk back in 2007, when studying the MN. To me, the particularly interesting point in this talk is that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions about right or wrong. All the examples are very black and white.

What to make of this? Is pontificating about complex moral choices a waste of time in a Dhammic context?

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:23 am

Hi Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Is pontificating about complex moral choices a waste of time in a Dhammic context?

Yes, I believe so. Life is complex and some of the decisions we are faced with are...difficult.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:20 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Is sīla the same or different for layfolk and bhikkhus?

Yes and no, there are different considerations for both, but a core ethic which is recommended and can be seen in the first and last two precepts of the five precepts. the third due to it changing I omit from the core group, however as its widest function is to promote healthy relationships between the sexes, and its narrower function is to detail how that relationship should be, it is expanded and covered by several rules in the Patimokkha.
Might the "parameters" of sīla (as presented in the Suttas and Vinaya) yield different recommendations?

yes, the sila of the vinaya is purely designed for Monks and Nuns, so only ever consider the workability for them, this is why ruled can have several edits, and even be rendered next to pointless, no matter why the rule came about.
Might the recommendations be different based on the precepts you've taken - 5, 8, 10, 227 etc.

for the five and eight the recommendations are the same, where the precept overlap, and the 10 and monastic precepts are the same where the precept overlap/have a common theme, but for mendicants of any level there are other rules they have which may or may not be applicable to both/all.
The vibhangha to the first parajika gives Bhikkhunis the allowance not to follow rules not shared by both groups and this could in theory be applied to Samanera/i given that novices asked the buddha what were the rules they were to follow in the culavagga.
These seem to be important distinctions to call out in light of this conversation, lest we inadvertently jump between the two lifestyles without notice, or without calling out and acknowledging the distinction in the first place.

Where there are overlap in the rules I feel the more detailed versions for monks and Nuns can inform the other group, but always the consideration of whether it is applicable to the lifestyle needs to be considered.
so I hope this helps...
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:This is of vital importance to the topic because if they are different, and sila is therefore subjective and relative to your chosen mode of livelihood, we then need to be cognizant of which teachings were given the bhikkhus, which were given to householders, and which were given to both.

Metta,
Retro. :)

this in light of the suttas may not always be possible as there is evidence that there are certain default rules to use when reciting and the memory of the place, person is 'wonky'.
this is found in the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadins, but it is reasonable to assume that it wasn't just them who followed such guidelines seeing as the bhikkhus were the most mentioned. this frequence has led to the commentaries pointing out several different types of Bhikkhu, which could cover both Bhikkhu (propper) and layperson so at times the relivance to how one lives should be considered.

but after saying that, and on a general note, unless a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni joins the discussion, the vinaya would be out of the bounds for most members here to discuss with any authority as no one hare has access to the texts in full (to my knowledge) and it would be best to stick with the suttas.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:41 pm

Cittasanto wrote:but after saying that, and on a general note, unless a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni joins the discussion, the vinaya would be out of the bounds for most members here to discuss with any authority as no one hare has access to the texts in full (to my knowledge) and it would be best to stick with the suttas.

I'm puzzled when this comes up. There are English translations of the Vinaya:
http://www.palitext.com/palitext/tran.htm
The Book of the Discipline,
6 volumes,
tr. I.B. Horner:
Set ISBN 254 4 £157.30
Translation of Vinaya-piṭaka: (Vols. I-III) Suttavibhaṇga; (Vol. IV) Mahāvagga; (Vol. V) Cūlavagga; (Vol. VI) Parivāra.

On the other hand, without some experience of monastic life and discipline, I don't see a lot of point of speculating on some aspects.

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:46 pm

mikenz66 wrote: To me, the particularly interesting point in this talk is that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions about right or wrong. All the examples are very black and white.

I'm surprised noone picked up on this. :o It is amazing (to me) that the suttas are so black and white, but so much subsequent discussion (such as here...) tends to focus on complicated situations. Hard to believe there were not some complicated situations 2500 years ago. Maybe the complicated situations were discussed one-to-one, and not recorded...

[This doesn't just apply to sila, by the way. Arguments with Jains, for example, are presented in a cartoon fashion...]

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:06 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
To me, the particularly interesting point in this talk is that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions about right or wrong. All the examples are very black and white.

I'm surprised noone picked up on this. It is amazing (to me) that the suttas are so black and white, but so much subsequent discussion (such as here...) tends to focus on complicated situations. Hard to believe there were not some complicated situations 2500 years ago. Maybe the complicated situations were discussed one-to-one, and not recorded...


What is the purpose of sila? If it is to sort out the external world in accordance with principles, then it would tend to lead into those "difficult" areas that you refer to. For "difficult", read "complicated", as most of the difficulty stems from the attempt to apply complex rules to indeterminate situations which resist definition. This is the type of situation beloved of Western moral philosophy and jurisprudence.

If sila is more about the cultivation of certain desirable mental qualities, however, it is less likely to lead to such complexity. Intentions, for example, are less amenable to exact analysis than practical outcomes.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:29 pm

Hi Mike,
how many people have access to it like they have access to the Majjhima Nikaya?
it isn't on many peoples book shelf, and most people have Ajahn Thanissaros manuals or Ajahn Brahms Notes which are not the same as the Vinaya itself and at points these may misrepresent what is in there, and most wont have it on their Book Shelf.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Zom » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:52 pm

For an arahant there are no dilemmas and "hard cases" - for example, no, he would not lie to Nazis (since he doesn't speak lie). I think, he would just keep silence. We see different situations as "dilemmas" because of our greed-hatred-delusion. So, actually, sila is "cut and dry". The problem is that for ignorant people it seems "not cut and dry". ;)

I recommend this book of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, where he gives a lot of examples of such "hard cases" and explains why it is unskilfull to act the way people usually do (and think that they are absolutely right):

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books8/Pa_Au ... _Kamma.pdf
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Vepacitta » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:11 am

I guess an Arahant wouldn't lie to one of the Cheka either, then.

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