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).

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

Postby Mr Man » Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:31 am

How about would you feed a starving child rather than giving something to yourself? In my opinion that makes the dilemma more real.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby equilibrium » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:01 pm

Mr Man wrote:How about would you feed a starving child rather than giving something to yourself? In my opinion that makes the dilemma more real.

What is real?.....everything is nothing but an illusion.....is it not?

mamas 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."

When there is "oneself", there will be chances to "make merit" hence there will be either good/bad so we choose to do "good work".....What if there is no self?.....would these making merit and doing good work still exist?
Sounds like we will only do if there is a favourable return?.....base on what exactly?

mamas wrote:"I miss out on a million 'merit points' and a thousand years of feasting in Heaven."

Being in Heaven isn't escaping samsara is it?

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

But we don't really see the greatest need do we?.....what about the other planes of existence?.....why just a child and an arahat?
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Mr Man » Sun Sep 15, 2013 2:18 pm

equilibrium wrote:
Mr Man wrote:How about would you feed a starving child rather than giving something to yourself? In my opinion that makes the dilemma more real.

What is real?.....everything is nothing but an illusion.....is it not?



Real in contrast to hypothetical.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 15, 2013 2:18 pm

Sekha wrote:
SDC wrote:
Sekha wrote:And in virtue of what?

What David said.

If you disagree it is likely that we share different views of the characteristics of an arahant.

What if the arahant is subject to a serious disease that makes him look that way?


Sekha, the below quote is the first thing I wrote in this thread. I underlined the sentence I think you missed.


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.

Sorry, manas, for somewhat disregarding your main point.


So I think we are in agreement here.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:08 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. 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.


I feel pretty much the same way you do.

I frequent a Sri Lankan vihara where this mentality is dominant. I understand that there are strongly emotional cultural differences and the fact that their generosity makes it possible for others to learn Buddhism (by paying for viharas, monks needs, books etc ). However, I still have a problem with feeling harshly about this and am looking for a way to live with it in good conscience.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:12 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:Image

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


Hi David, it is more than just a cultural accretion. It has sutta support. Example AN 9:20. As an atheist westerner it looks like a classic example of people writing ( or altering ) religious texts to manipulate people. "Support us and you will get a good reward after death". Please note I mean no disrespect to anyone. I would like to find a way to look at it that isn't harsh but honest with myself ( no rationalizations ) at the same time.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Sekha » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:15 pm

SDC wrote:Sekha, the below quote is the first thing I wrote in this thread. I underlined the sentence I think you missed.

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.


Indeed, I had missed this sentence by the time I wrote the counter-argument. What I meant to underline though is that it's not because I can't think of a reason why an arahant may become plump other than medical, that such a reason CANNOT exist (I have studied maths enough to understand that). So I would be a bit more prudent before making bold statements. The only thing is I overestimated my ability to find such a reason. Who can say with absolute certainty it is impossible that it would come for example as part of a somewhat complex strategy to benefit a particular individual or group of people?

I concede I am rather quibbling with this. But my main idea is that it is generally better to avoid making bold statements.
Last edited by Sekha on Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:19 pm

mikenz66 wrote: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?


I was at a sutta study group at a Sri Lankan vihara just this past Friday evening and that suttas was discussed. I was given the interpretation that donating to a Sangha member gets a person more merit that donating elsewhere. A friend of mine who teaches there was telling how a western monk friend gets inspired to devote more to his practice when he sees the locals taking food away from their own families to feed him. I also read in the book The Broken Buddha that sort of thing is common in Asia. No disrespect to anyone.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:23 pm

Sekha wrote:The greatest need in the world right now is to keep the sasana alive and healthy


Maybe if people gave as much to help the poor ( food, schools, hospitals, job programs ) as they do the empty parts of Buddhism ( temples made with gold, statues, etc ) they would develop personal and cultural qualities where keeping the sasana alive would matter less. In other words, a lot less suffering and learing to give at the same time.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:24 pm

David N. Snyder wrote: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).


:goodpost:
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:26 pm

Mr Man wrote:How about would you feed a starving child rather than giving something to yourself? In my opinion that makes the dilemma more real.


In Asia people take food away from their own children to feed monks. They also donate money to build statues while poor people live in horrible condtions.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby dagon » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:48 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
Mr Man wrote:How about would you feed a starving child rather than giving something to yourself? In my opinion that makes the dilemma more real.


In Asia people take food away from their own children to feed monks. They also donate money to build statues while poor people live in horrible condtions.


Would you care to elaborate on this statement and explain the second sentence in the context of the Four Nobel Truths and the Dhamma generally.

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

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:32 pm

Sekha wrote:But my main idea is that it is generally better to avoid making bold statements.


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

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:42 pm

By donating to the Arahant you could also feed the starving child.

A lot of monasteries in Asia provide a support structure for the very poor. Orphans and others who have no means of support may find food in the monastery, or somewhere to live by becoming a temple boy or novice.

If the monks are well-fed, as they nearly always are, then there will be plenty of left-over food to give to the temple boys and others.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:27 pm

Is this making any contradiction with what I have said? It is not because one feeds an arahant that one won't feed the needy. It should be all the contrary.



Yet feeding the needy would be more "moral", since you get less return and give maximum happiness. The opposite of your original post.


Well, 1) morality is a common translation for sila. I would have thought this was a no-brainer for someone who appears to be interested in the Buddha's teaching. FYI, sila can be defined in terms of the ten akusala kamma-patha, or for monks/nuns in terms of the 227 or 311 rules known to this day.


I know what sila means to me however, as this thread shows, there is a difference of opinion of what Buddhist morality is, let alone what morality is. I was therefore justified in my original question :)

2) I agree intention is the most important factor, but it doesn't mean the outcome has no importance, and it is not difficult to find suttas where this is specified very clearly.


I actually agree with you, yet intention is what defines an action as moral or immoral, in buddhist terms.

So please be less aggressive and reflect a bit more before attacking people.


Its a discussion, dont take things to heart :?
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:34 pm

This is nothing but your own idiosyncrasy, my friend. Morality as a whole has little to do with "transactions," if not "transactions" of metta. I repeat the logic you do not seem to be willing to understand: I do X because it is to the best advantage of the world as a whole, or just because it would be too uncharitable to not be responsive to a needy person when one can.



Of course morality can include "transaction" based thinking. If I do X I will get P

Of course I cannot comment on your intentions, yet the way you framed your response seemed to point to a tit for tat morality.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby clw_uk » Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:35 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:By donating to the Arahant you could also feed the starving child.

A lot of monasteries in Asia provide a support structure for the very poor. Orphans and others who have no means of support may find food in the monastery, or somewhere to live by becoming a temple boy or novice.

If the monks are well-fed, as they nearly always are, then there will be plenty of left-over food to give to the temple boys and others.


True, institutions do prove a role for helping the poor

Yet the poor, it seems to me, should always be at the front of ones mind and not the arahant and the "merit" one gets from giving to her.
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby Sekha » Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:36 pm

clw_uk wrote:Yet feeding the needy would be more "moral", since you get less return and give maximum happiness. The opposite of your original post.

Well, as I said, and I am quite sure, for almost anybody here, morality=sila. Issues revolving around generosity do not belong to the field of morality. The common logic behind these two is that of kamma. Are you sure you don't mistake morality for theories regarding kammic outcome of actions?

clw_uk wrote:
So please be less aggressive and reflect a bit more before attacking people.

Its a discussion, dont take things to heart :?

It's a discussion among civilized people, so let's not be rude. :roll:
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Re: I'd feed a starving child before a plump arahant

Postby cooran » Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:45 pm

Hello all,

Has any member met an Arahant? I haven't. Does any member personally know with absolute certainty of the whereabouts of an Arahant? Especially one close enough to present Dana to?
Then .......

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

Postby Ben » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:11 am

I want to know more about the plump arahants!
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