Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
ihrjordan
Posts: 850
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:42 am

Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by ihrjordan »

While walking back and forth, listening to a dhamma talk I was reminded that Greed and Hatred are opposite sides of the same coin, this led me to ponder as to why the Buddha would show us the way to untold pleasure and wealth and hence the arising of greed if it was equated with hatred of which we humans view as indisputably evil? It made me recall a teaching (I can't remeber where) of how beings are mired in pleasure and pain craving and aversion with a preference for the two formers; which now has me thinking that the Buddha taught this way because beings views of pleasure and pain were such that anything said contrary to our beliefs would fall on deaf ears.

It's like the Buddha baited his disciples into practicing (Who had originally practiced with ignorance of the truth of pleasure and pain). It's like we're foolish children and the Buddha was speaking to us in a way which made sense to our sensory preferences but to ultimately get us out of the "pleasure mire". Critics of Vajrarayana often site that it takes a far too relativist approach to the Dhamma but I can understand how this understanding was arrived at. Take for example a question I posed earlier today as to whether or not I can eat live oysters without remorse, I couldn't really envision them cognizing in any meaningful way nor displaying any response to pain other than floating with the current and I don't believe that they subsist on breath as is a common indicator of a "being"... Nevertheless I decided to air on the side of caution and take a pass but I wonder what the karmic consequences of an act such that a person who believed plants to be sentient and later on "killed" a few plants. What would take precedence? The person's belief as to what they did or the reality that may state that they either are or aren't capable of experiecning suffering?

Or in the case of driving vehicles/walking and knowing that beings are being killed but continuing nonetheless but never harboring direct intention to kill them? Is collateral damage less blameworthy?

Sorry for the disorginization, my mind was full of questions of which I wrote down in the order they came to me.
Pinetree
Posts: 460
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:25 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by Pinetree »

Certainly anything is better taught in a way that is understood, and Buddha used this approach.

Which I guess applies to questions. Beyond my above comment, I'm lost about what points you're trying to make.
Buddha would show us the way to untold pleasure and wealth
What pleasure and wealth ?

I wouldn't compare Buddhism to religions which actually do promise a heaven of sense pleasures. There's a reason many people criticize Buddhism for being nihilistic.

Sorry for the disorginization, my mind was full of questions of which I wrote down in the order they came to me.
When that happens, I write stuff down in a text file, then edit and post it later on forum, when at least some of the disorganization can be sorted. I really think the phrasing of the first post in a thread is important, otherwise, its kamma perpetuates dozens of pages of discussion later.

Your oyster part of the question is interesting, but it would maybe benefit from a separate thread. As I don't see how it relates to "utilitarian".
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 4013
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by robertk »

http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index. ... wtopic=472" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Pinetree
Posts: 460
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:25 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by Pinetree »

Well, kamma is a carrot and a stick. Which is obvious.

But still miss the main point being made. Besides this obvious. Unless the question is whether kamma is utilitarian ?
User avatar
ihrjordan
Posts: 850
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:42 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by ihrjordan »

I guess the oyster bit relates to the notion of whether killing in all it's manifestations is "unwholesome" or if it solely relys upon the perception of either a "being that is being killed" or an inanimate object. I know that monks aren't supposed to "kill" plant life but I'm also aware that this is merely because there are those that believe plants to be living and int heir eyes it would be murder. Hence my ultimate question is: Do "wholesome" and "unwholesome" actually play a role in the dhamma or is it solely a case of one's perception of what is wholesome and unwholesome? If one kills an oyster under the impression that it is sentient but then later discovers that it is not; how are we to interpret the kammic chain of one's original intent?

Hope I was a little more clear.
User avatar
ihrjordan
Posts: 850
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:42 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by ihrjordan »

Pinetree wrote: Unless the question is whether kamma is utilitarian ?
Basically. That is to say, is it possible that an "unskillful act" may, by way of the doers perception, be construed as wholesome and consequently reap a pleasurable reward? And in regards to "rewards of giving and sharing" I think the Buddha very much did reveal the path to wealth, success, friendship and beauty in the dhamma only to then reveal the evil inherent therein...Wouldn't this mean that the Buddha used evil (which is our perception of good) to lure us to true goodness? Hence utilitarian: doing what gets the job done regardless of good/bad classification.
User avatar
ihrjordan
Posts: 850
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:42 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by ihrjordan »

robertk wrote:http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index. ... wtopic=472" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
So if the Buddha's understanding of pleasure and sensuality are taken into account; then he baited us with a rotten and ultimately damaging carrot? Therefor utilitarian no?
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by daverupa »

ihrjordan wrote:I think the Buddha very much did reveal the path to wealth, success, friendship and beauty in the dhamma only to then reveal the evil inherent therein.
This doesn't make sense to me; where did the Buddha promise friendship and wealth and beauty? He described the attraction, drawback, and escape in the case of sensuality, and lauded none of it.

I also don't see a "bait 'n' switch" strategy anywhere, so I'm wondering about the source of these ideas...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
ihrjordan
Posts: 850
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:42 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by ihrjordan »

daverupa wrote:This doesn't make sense to me; where did the Buddha promise friendship and wealth and beauty? He described the attraction, drawback, and escape in the case of sensuality, and lauded none of it.

I also don't see a "bait 'n' switch" strategy anywhere, so I'm wondering about the source of these ideas...
He taught the rewards of virtue, giving and practicing dhamma; which all account to friends, beauty, wealth and heaven. I never actually said that he "lauded sensuality" but rather baited his childish followers who came into the practice with hopes of attaining some trifling worldy end like "friends, beauty, wealth and heaven". What you're referring to :"He described the attraction, drawback, and escape in the case of sensuality" was taught only to monks and lay followers who had seen the dangers inherent in sensuality of which they had originally beleived to be happiness; hence carrot... then stick accross the head with the "unfortunate" truth. So my question: Does this mean that the Buddha employed evil to arive at goodness?

...And are oysters sentient?
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by daverupa »

ihrjordan wrote:He taught the rewards of virtue, giving and practicing dhamma; which all account to friends, beauty, wealth and heaven.
Hmm. Where's this said? Perhaps you think AN 4.197? It's a misunderstanding, if so; otherwise, let's have your source.

(You seem to be blaming the Buddha for the pre-existing ignorance among uninstructed worldlings by calling that ignorance a 'carrot' and the Dhamma instruction a 'stick'. In other words, you seem to be blaming the Buddha for the pre-existing kamma-merit-heaven worldview in India. Makes no sense to me.)
So my question: Does this mean that the Buddha employed evil to arive at goodness?
Nope.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
SarathW
Posts: 14954
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by SarathW »

Ultimate teaching of Buddha is Nibbana.
That is transcending both good and bad.
However if you read "Safe Bet" he is promoting the benefit of being good for the happiness of this world.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6551
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by Mkoll »

ihrjordan wrote:...And are oysters sentient?
Depends on how you define sentience. What we know is that though they have some nerves, they don't have a central brain. So it's unlikely that they experience pain even though they're able to respond to stimuli; most microbes can do the same—would you call them sentient?

Also, oysters die within a few minutes of being shucked.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
chownah
Posts: 9085
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by chownah »

ihrjordan wrote: I never actually said that he "lauded sensuality" but rather baited his childish followers who came into the practice with hopes of attaining some trifling worldy end like "friends, beauty, wealth and heaven".
...And are oysters sentient?
There is one sutta which I think clearly demonstrates the baiting of a particular follower. I hope someone can bring the reference. The story is something like a follower who had traveled a considerable distance on the path was back sliding due to his being attracted to a beautiful woman. The buddha promised that if the man wanted it then then upon the man obtaining enlightenment the buddha would provide him with dozen of mythically beautiful women (jinnarie I think) to attend to him. The man worked harder and attained enlightenment after which he obviously had no interest in mythically beautiful women and did not ask buddha to provide them. The mythically beautiful women were described as having had pink pigeon feet......pretty enticing isn't it!!!
As to the oysters....the question as to what is sentient and what is not is rarely explored...seems that sentience is difficult to pin down so people mostly seem to just stick with thinking they know without ever thinking about just exactly what it is they know.....
chownah
SarathW
Posts: 14954
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by SarathW »

"Lord, compared to these 500 dove-footed nymphs, the Sakyan girl, the envy of the countryside, is like a cauterized monkey with its ears & nose cut off. She doesn't count. She's not even a small fraction. There's no comparison. The 500 dove-footed nymphs are lovelier, better looking, more charming."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
Pinetree
Posts: 460
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:25 am

Re: Is the Dhamma purely utilitarian?

Post by Pinetree »

Generally, from Buddha's teachings, I'm not getting that he was promising wealth and pleasure. On certain occasions, he was acknowledging the people's desires for wealth and pleasure and using that context as an opportunity to teach.

Also, the nymph story, I saw it as an opportunity to reveal a weakness rather than a promise for pleasure.
Post Reply