I'd feed a starving child before a healthy arahant

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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manas
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I'd feed a starving child before a healthy arahant

Postby manas » Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:09 pm

Sorry if my post offends, but I just wanted to point out an issue in Buddhism, and some other religions, that I find a little disturbing. It is the idea of 'making merit' for oneself, by 'doing good works'. It sounds just a little calculating and self-serving to me. If I have an apple in my hand, and before me I see a starving beggar child, and a plump arahant on alms round, I will give the apple to the starving beggar child, yes even if that means I miss out on a million 'merit points' and a thousand years of feasting in Heaven. Give where there is the greatest need, not where it will make things better for oneself. And on the side of 'demerit' - the reason I don't kill little bugs, isn't because I would would incur a reaction for doing so; the reason I don't kill them, is because I feel for them, I have empathy for these little creatures. Same with human beings. How sad that some folks actually need to be threatened with pain and suffering, so that they restrain themselves from inflicting it on others.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:15 pm

Image

So you want a Buddhism without cultural accretions? Nothing wrong with that.

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:19 pm

manas wrote:Sorry if my post offends, but I just wanted to point out an issue in Buddhism, and some other religions, that I find a little disturbing. It is the idea of 'making merit' for oneself, by 'doing good works'. It sounds just a little calculating and self-serving to me. If I have an apple in my hand, and before me I see a starving beggar child, and a plump arahant on alms round, I will give the apple to the starving beggar child, yes even if that means I miss out on a million 'merit points' and a thousand years of feasting in Heaven.


I would do the same. But if i had two apples i would first give one to the arahant to see if he gave it to the child.
Ok wait a minute. If an arahant is plump, isnt he doing it wrong?
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:50 pm

manas wrote:It is the idea of 'making merit' for oneself, by 'doing good works'. It sounds just a little calculating and self-serving to me.

I agree, and I so not think that such a calculating approach is what the teachings are pointing to.

There are many suttas on generosity: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#dana
One that might be relevant to the current discussion is:
AN 9.20 Velāma Sutta
Is it actually saying that we should feed a plump arahant ahead of a starving child?

:anjali:
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 10:14 pm

Here is a useful thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 346#p18278

I recall another discussion the Ven Dhammando about this issue but I can't locate it right now.

:anjali:
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Sep 14, 2013 10:23 pm

m0rl0ck wrote: If an arahant is plump, isnt he doing it wrong?

That was more or less my thought, too.

:namaste:
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:07 pm

manas wrote:And on the side of 'demerit' - the reason I don't kill little bugs, isn't because I would would incur a reaction for doing so; the reason I don't kill them, is because I feel for them, I have empathy for these little creatures. Same with human beings. How sad that some folks actually need to be threatened with pain and suffering, so that they restrain themselves from inflicting it on others.


To keep one’s precepts merely out of a prudential wish to avoid unpleasant vipākas no doubt bespeaks of an inferior level of motivation, but don't you think it's better than not being motivated towards sīla at all? And I doubt the unkilled bugs would find it in the least sad.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Ben » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:39 pm

Hi Manas,

I think the idea is to give selflessly, objectively without consideration as to the benefit to oneself and without consideration where is the greatest good to be served.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Sekha » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:51 pm

manas wrote:Give where there is the greatest need, not where it will make things better for oneself.

The greatest need in the world right now is to keep the sasana alive and healthy, because it will benefit humanity and all living beings much more than anything else. It is because the benefit for the world as whole is maximum when one contributes to the prolongation of the sasana, that in turn the benefit for the giver is maximum, provided he is truly motivated by altruism. In other words, it is always better to help an arahant (if he truly is one and we're being really helpful) than helping anyone else, not for one's own sake but for the world.

More generally speaking, it is always better to help beings who have a higher sense of morality because they will in turn take advantage of the help we have provided them to help others. On the contrary, if I save the life of a serial killer and he goes on killing more people, I will gather less merit and impact the world less positively than if I save the life of a surgeon who is going to save the life of many people. The same if I give money to a beggar who is going to do no better than getting more drunk with it. Or if I give money to a monk, or even offer requisites to immoral monks.

Once again, self-merit is gathered through "helping" the world as a whole, so it does make sense to choose one's gift's recipient carefully. That said, we should always try to be responsive to those who are in need and ask for help, no matter who they are.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 15, 2013 12:24 am

m0rl0ck wrote:Ok wait a minute. If an arahant is plump, isnt he doing it wrong?


Yes!

You'll NEVER see a plump arahant. Ever. Unless of course it's due to a medical condition they have no control over.

Sorry, manas, for somewhat disregarding your main point.

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Sekha » Sun Sep 15, 2013 12:44 am

SDC wrote:You'll NEVER see a plump arahant. Ever. Unless of course it's due to a medical condition they have no control over.

And in virtue of what?
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:31 am

I think the OP was getting at something like what we often see here:
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2013/08/u ... hamma.html

where it is used for gaining some merit or for some advantageous position, better health, etc. But with the important qualifier of the intention of the motivation and being self-less as Bhante and others have mentioned above, then it would be done the right way without a reward and punishment system.

Sekha wrote:
SDC wrote:You'll NEVER see a plump arahant. Ever. Unless of course it's due to a medical condition they have no control over.

And in virtue of what?


A non-returner and higher has completely eliminated all sense cravings, so we would assume no longer has any food cravings, no longer overeats (if he/she did before).

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:34 am

The greatest need in the world right now is to keep the sasana alive and healthy, because it will benefit humanity and all living beings much more than anything else. It is because the benefit for the world as whole is maximum when one contributes to the prolongation of the sasana, that in turn the benefit for the giver is maximum, provided he is truly motivated by altruism. In other words, it is always better to help an arahant (if he truly is one and we're being really helpful) than helping anyone else, not for one's own sake but for the world.


But you need a humanity to be there, I.e. fed, in order to be "saved"
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:36 am

More generally speaking, it is always better to help beings who have a higher sense of morality because they will in turn take advantage of the help we have provided them to help others. On the contrary, if I save the life of a serial killer and he goes on killing more people, I will gather less merit and impact the world less positively than if I save the life of a surgeon who is going to save the life of many people. The same if I give money to a beggar who is going to do no better than getting more drunk with it. Or if I give money to a monk, or even offer requisites to immoral monks.



First of all you haven't defined morality

Secondly Buddhist ethics rests on the intention, not the outcome, of an action

So you reasoning is baseless because of my first point, and invalid in Buddhist terms because of my second point.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:39 am

Once again, self-merit is gathered through "helping" the world as a whole, so it does make sense to choose one's gift's recipient carefully. That said, we should always try to be responsive to those who are in need and ask for help, no matter who they are.


A nice footnote to a post that seems to glorify a transaction based morality

I do X because it gives me maximum return. :shrug:
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:42 am

To keep one’s precepts merely out of a prudential wish to avoid unpleasant vipākas no doubt bespeaks of an inferior level of motivation, but don't you think it's better than not being motivated towards sīla at all? And I doubt the unkilled bugs would find it in the least sad.


As always that depends on the circumstances.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:44 am

Kim OHara wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote: If an arahant is plump, isnt he doing it wrong?

That was more or less my thought, too.

:namaste:
Kim



Not if its because of genetics


Or because all his alms are lumps of lard ...
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby santa100 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:45 am

manas wrote:If I have an apple in my hand, and before me I see a starving beggar child, and a plump arahant on alms round..


Ok, plumb or not plumb, the key antecedent assumed that it's a real arahant and all 3 people are within viewable distance to one another. With that in mind, you can still go ahead and give your only apple to the arahant knowing that s/he with the selfless virtue of a true arahant will in turn give it to the starving beggar child. You'd still gain a million 'merit points' and at the same time the starving child would still be saved. Problem solved. Sorry if it sounded a bit too...calculating.. :tongue:

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:47 am

santa100 wrote:
manas wrote:If I have an apple in my hand, and before me I see a starving beggar child, and a plump arahant on alms round..


Ok, plumb or not plumb, the key antecedent assumed that it's a real arahant and all 3 people are within viewable distance to one another. With that in mind, you can still go ahead and give your only apple to the arahant knowing that s/he with the selfless virtue of a true arahant will in turn give it to the starving beggar child. You'd still gain a million 'merit points' and at the same time the starving child would still be saved. Problem solved. Sorry if it sounded a bit too...calculating.. :tongue:



Which seems to still rest on a transaction based morality, a business deal.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby santa100 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:58 am

clw_uk wrote:Which seems to still rest on a transaction based morality, a business deal


Label it whatever way you like. I'd just call it a win-win..


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