Taking honey from a bee hive

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
Radix
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Radix »

Mumfie wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 4:31 amTrue. In the case of taking from animals there are cases where it would probably be unwholesome (e.g., much of the dairy industry) and others where it would probably be wholesome,

e.g., saving a sheep from heat stroke by taking away its overgrown fleece.
But that's human fault to begin with. Naturally, sheep do not have ever-growing fleece; such fleece is the result of specific selective breeding.
Another example are breeds of cows that mostly require C-section in order to give birth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_Blue). Again, something that is the result of human action, not something found in nature.
Radix
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Radix »

Mumfie wrote: Mon Jan 09, 2023 12:23 pmBy contrast, the Buddha doesn't state that it's good to take from an animal, merely that it doesn't count as theft.
But what is the justification?

Is it something like because animals (and petas) cannot be considered legal owners of something, taking it from them cannot be considered theft?
Mumfie wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 2:45 am
[james] wrote: Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:51 pm If we admit that bees are not in the habit of giving away the honey that they have, with great effort, produced then it must be obvious that in taking their time honey for our own benefit we are in fact taking what has not been given to us. Therefore, yes, a breach of the second precept.
How then do you deal with the Buddha's explicit ruling that it isn't?
Where is the mistake in considering taking from an animal to be a breach of precept?

Can you show that per Buddhist doctrine, there is such a significant difference between animals and humans (and between petas and humans) that taking from animals (or petas) doesn't count as theft?



[james] wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 2:17 pm
"There is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal."
I undertake not to wander about in the wiggle rooms that surround the precepts and to do my best to be guided by the precepts themselves rather than by the exceptions to the precepts.
Indeed. Going by the spirit of the precept, not primarily by the letter of it.
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Mumfie
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Mumfie »

Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmBut what is the justification?
I don't know.

When the Buddha first lays down a rule, some reason is most often given, even if it's merely a repetition of one out of three or four stock phrases. But as the rule evolves, with amendments being made and rulings issued regarding particular cases, justifications are rather thin in the ground and often non-existent. In the case of the ruling that taking from an animal or a peta isn't theft, this is merely decreed, with no justification at all being given.

Of course we can always speculate as to what justification the Buddha might have offered if somebody had bothered to ask him. My own speculation, however, just leads me to a dead end.

Thus:

The taking of what is not given with thieving intent involves five factors. In the absence of any one of these factors no such act has taken place.

If taking from an animal never counts as an act of this kind, it must mean that at least one of these factors is always and necessarily absent in the case of animals.

For a particular factor to be always absent it must be that in its very nature it is non-applicable in the case of animals. But which factor might this be?

It cannot be that the factor of perception is non-applicable, for it is possible that someone might perceive honey as being owned by the bees that produce it (as several posters in this thread do).

Nor can it be the factor of thieving intent, for if someone perceives honey as being the property of bees then she can form an intention to steal it, regardless of whether the perception be true or false.

Nor can it be the two factors of effort and completed expropriation, for someone with the above perception and thieving intent may exert herself to take the honey and her exertions may be successful – the honey may come into her possession.

So, that leaves only one possibility: the factor of adinnaṁ, meaning that the thing taken is the property of another and has not been given.

If this factor is non-applicable in the case of bees and their honey, it must be that the Buddha didn't regard property ownership rights as extending to the animal realm.

Now comes the difficulty: how to account for why such rights are non-applicable to animals. It's just here that I come to a dead end. The problem is not that there's no possible explanation, but that there are too many possibilities and we don't, afaik, have a clear idea about how the Buddha conceived property and what he saw as being its ideological basis.
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmIs it something like because animals (and petas) cannot be considered legal owners of something, taking it from them cannot be considered theft?
That would be the answer if the Buddha regarded property rights as arising solely or partly from human convention, but we don't know whether this is the case.
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmWhere is the mistake in considering taking from an animal to be a breach of precept?
The mistake consists in presenting avinaya as vinaya, by saying, “...yes, a breach of the second precept...” when the Buddha has said, “There is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal.”

To hold to and publicly espouse an understanding of the second precept that's been hammered out by one's own reasoning, but which blatantly contradicts the Buddha's own ruling on what does or doesn't transgress this precept, seems a contradictory position for one who takes the Buddha as his refuge.
“Bhikkhus, for a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, it is natural that he conduct himself thus: ‘The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple; the Blessed One knows, I do not know.”
(Kīṭāgiri Sutta)
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmCan you show that per Buddhist doctrine, there is such a significant difference between animals and humans (and between petas and humans) that taking from animals (or petas) doesn't count as theft?
No, I can't do that.

I could, by appealing to one theory of property or another, offer a variety of reasons for why the Buddha might have taken the view that he did, but I've no way of knowing which (if any) would be the actual one.
james wrote:I undertake not to wander about in the wiggle rooms that surround the precepts and to do my best to be guided by the precepts themselves rather than by the exceptions to the precepts.
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmIndeed. Going by the spirit of the precept, not primarily by the letter of it.
That seems a rather Christian way of looking at the issue. In Vinaya narratives, however, the good guys (i.e., those monks and nuns described with the words, “of few desires, with a sense of conscience, contented, afraid of wrongdoing and desirous of training”) are not depicted as being at all like good Christians. If anything, they are more like good Jews, by which I mean the kind of Jews who would fully approve of rabbinical statements like these:
“You are not permitted to select injunctions of the Torah which you consent to observe, and reject others for the observance of which you can find no reason. In accepting God's word one is bound to implicit obedience to it.”

...

“Regarding the ceremony of the red heifer (Numb. 19.), Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai explained to his pupils that its ashes could not render any unclean person clean. But as this is a statute of the Torah, we must inquire for no reason. If we refused to do anything that God commands without a definite reason, we should no longer be paying Him simple obedience.”
(Midrash Tanchumah)

“That one should not be wise above what is written is well demonstrated in the life of King Solomon. The Torah says that the king whom the Israelites should set over them should not multiply horses to himself, nor wives, in order that he might not cause the people to return to Egypt, and that his heart might not turn away (Deut. 17. 16, 17). 'Then,' argued Solomon, 'since the reason for the paucity of wives and horses is given, I am sure that I can stand proof against these; I can multiply horses and wives and shall not turn away and will not cause my people to return to Egypt.' Unfortunately he was not proof against the prohibitions, as it is recorded against him (in 1 Kings 2. 1-7). And one can also see the wisdom of the Torah in withholding any reason for many commandments it enjoins.”
(Exodus Rabba)
The attitude towards God and the Torah advocated here is very similar to that of the Vinaya Pitaka's good guys towards the Buddha and the Vinaya.
“Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
Shall daunt his spirit;”
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress II)
[james]
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by [james] »

Mumfie wrote: Wed Jan 11, 2023 1:53 pm
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmWhere is the mistake in considering taking from an animal to be a breach of precept?
The mistake consists in presenting avinaya as vinaya, by saying, “...yes, a breach of the second precept...” when the Buddha has said, “There is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal.”

To hold to and publicly espouse an understanding of the second precept that's been hammered out by one's own reasoning, but which blatantly contradicts the Buddha's own ruling on what does or doesn't transgress this precept, seems a contradictory position for one who takes the Buddha as his refuge.
“Bhikkhus, for a faithful disciple who is intent on fathoming the Teacher’s Dispensation, it is natural that he conduct himself thus: ‘The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple; the Blessed One knows, I do not know.”
(Kīṭāgiri Sutta)
Indeed, I certainly don’t know. I don’t know if the Buddha said what he is being quoted as saying. But if he did say that we are not to take what has not been freely given, I have no need for further qualification. In fact I am quite doubtful that the Buddha would have said that there is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal as this seems contradictory to the precept itself. Why the dance around? The precepts are a challenge to our ingrained sense of self entitlement and to the socially conditioned habit responses through which we live our lives. It is so simple and straightforward. “I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.” Why complicate it with add ons and endless quibbling? Bees don’t agree to anyone stealing the honey that they have worked long and hard to make. We humans don’t need to eat honey.
Radix
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Radix »

Mumfie wrote: Wed Jan 11, 2023 1:53 pm
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmBut what is the justification?
I don't know.
The justification of a rule is the one that determines which precept is being breached. So knowing the justification is important.
In the case of the ruling that taking from an animal or a peta isn't theft, this is merely decreed, with no justification at all being given.
Perhaps at the time, in the society then, it was self-evident why taking from animals or petas isn't theft, but the reason got lost in time.
You posted a link earlier where it says that if the taken item doesn't exceed a certain value, then taking it doesn't count as theft. Perhaps the general belief was that animals and petas to begin with cannot possess items that exceed that value.
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmWhere is the mistake in considering taking from an animal to be a breach of precept?
The mistake consists in presenting avinaya as vinaya, by saying, “...yes, a breach of the second precept...” when the Buddha has said, “There is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal.”

To hold to and publicly espouse an understanding of the second precept that's been hammered out by one's own reasoning, but which blatantly contradicts the Buddha's own ruling on what does or doesn't transgress this precept, seems a contradictory position for one who takes the Buddha as his refuge.
I'm not a Buddhist and have not taken Refuge. I don't find that I have sufficient knowledge of the Triple Gem. So the above doesn't apply to me.
james wrote:I undertake not to wander about in the wiggle rooms that surround the precepts and to do my best to be guided by the precepts themselves rather than by the exceptions to the precepts.
Radix wrote: Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:50 pmIndeed. Going by the spirit of the precept, not primarily by the letter of it.
That seems a rather Christian way of looking at the issue.

Yet it's not because I would be a Christian that I think the way I do. Rather, to me, the letter vs. spirit of the law distinction is based on two things:

1. On an understanding of possible legal voids and an understanding of the implications that come with new inventions or other items that were not in existence or not known at the time a law or a rule was made.

2. Understanding that there is often a desire to indulge in one's defilements and to thus look for such an interpretation of a law or a rule that serves one's defilements. Serving one's defilements, one can keep to the letter of the law, but not to its spirit. For example, a while back a poster came up with a workaround for monks handling money: his idea was that as long as monks later on confess to having handled money, it's okay for them to handle money, and to continue to do so indefinitely.
In Vinaya narratives, however, the good guys (i.e., those monks and nuns described with the words, “of few desires, with a sense of conscience, contented, afraid of wrongdoing and desirous of training”) are not depicted as being at all like good Christians. If anything, they are more like good Jews, by which I mean the kind of Jews who would fully approve of rabbinical statements like these:
/.../
Sure, I think esp. Western Buddhists tend to have little sense of how dogmatic Buddhism is or can be or expects its adherents to be.
“You are not permitted to select injunctions of the Torah which you consent to observe, and reject others for the observance of which you can find no reason. In accepting God's word one is bound to implicit obedience to it.”
However, this kind of reasoning doesn't yet mean that just because something isn't an offense it is praiseworthy to do it.

Moreover, since lay Buddhists aren't supposed to criticize Buddhists, the issue of taking honey from bees is moot anyway, along with other things.
“Regarding the ceremony of the red heifer (Numb. 19.), Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai explained to his pupils that its ashes could not render any unclean person clean. But as this is a statute of the Torah, we must inquire for no reason. If we refused to do anything that God commands without a definite reason, we should no longer be paying Him simple obedience.”
(Midrash Tanchumah)
“That one should not be wise above what is written is well demonstrated in the life of King Solomon. /.../
(Exodus Rabba)
But for this to apply, we actually need to know what is written. It has been my personal experience that sometimes, much more is written in the suttas or the doctrine than is said in popular Buddhist discourse. So where popular Buddhist discourse would have us bow in unquestioning obedience, the suttas and the doctrine might have more to say. Why take something on obedience and faith when there is an explanation for it?

One more thing to this:
The mistake consists in presenting avinaya as vinaya, by saying, “...yes, a breach of the second precept...” when the Buddha has said, “There is no offence when it is in the possession of an animal.”
If I refuse to take honey from bees, on account that I feel that they don't seem willing to gladly part with it, and I don't want what isn't a monetary transaction or freely and gladly given, then where am I going wrong?

Another example from another religion that might help clarify what's going on here: If you're a Roman Catholic with a pet dog, and you wish (or even believe) that your pet dog will go to heaven after he dies (ie. you believe he has a soul), then you're committing heresy, for by RCC doctrine, animals do not have souls and do not go to heaven.

Is my refusal to take honey from bees based on wrong reasons, per Buddhist doctrine? If I refuse to take honey from bees, I haven't committed an offense, but is my refusal based on the right reasons?
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Mumfie
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Mumfie »

Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm The justification of a rule is the one that determines which precept is being breached.
Really? It doesn't seem so to me. Rather, what observance of a particular precept requires and what the justification might be for the precept's existence are self-evidently two different things. If one happens to know what the justification is, then the precept can be observed with a deeper understanding. But even without this knowledge the precept can still be observed.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm You posted a link earlier where it says that if the taken item doesn't exceed a certain value, then taking it doesn't count as theft.
I think you've misread it. The value of the stolen item determines how serious the theft is, not the fact of it being a theft.

For monks and nuns stealing is a misdemeanor if the item is worth a māsaka or less, a grave offence if it's worth more than one but less than five māsakas, and a defeating offence if it's worth five māsakas or more. In its ordination ceremony instructions, the Vinaya requires new monks to be informed that it's an offence of theft to take even a blade of grass that hasn't been given.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmPerhaps the general belief was that animals and petas to begin with cannot possess items that exceed that value.
That can't be the reason, for then we should expect a clause making it at least a misdemeanor to take from an animal or peta, but there isn't one.
Mumfie wrote:To hold to and publicly espouse an understanding of the second precept that's been hammered out by one's own reasoning, but which blatantly contradicts the Buddha's own ruling on what does or doesn't transgress this precept, seems a contradictory position for one who takes the Buddha as his refuge.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmI'm not a Buddhist and have not taken Refuge. I don't find that I have sufficient knowledge of the Triple Gem. So the above doesn't apply to me.
Okay.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmYet it's not because I would be a Christian that I think the way I do. Rather, to me, the letter vs. spirit of the law distinction is based on two things:

1. On an understanding of possible legal voids and an understanding of the implications that come with new inventions or other items that were not in existence or not known at the time a law or a rule was made.
In the Vinaya this would be handled via the four great references (mahāpadesā)
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm2. Understanding that there is often a desire to indulge in one's defilements and to thus look for such an interpretation of a law or a rule that serves one's defilements. Serving one's defilements, one can keep to the letter of the law, but not to its spirit.
This cuts both ways. If we're talking about a lax monk who wishes to indulge his defilements and come up with some justification for this, he can just as easily do so by taking his stand on what he claims to be the spirit of the Vinaya. It merely requires a different sort of expertise. Where the letter-following lax monk relies on a lawyerly talent for spotting loopholes in the wording, the spirit-following lax monk relies on a sophist's skill at concocting plausible-seeming rationalisations. In short, if a monk is simply "not desirous of the training", then neither the letter nor the spirit will save him from going astray. Without a fundamental change in his attitude nothing will.

On the other hand, if we're talking about earnest monks, then although the ideal is that they attend with care to both the spirit and the letter, if one had to choose between the two, I submit that letter-following monks who approach the Vinaya in the way that hardcore Haredi Jews approach the Torah enjoy a securer immunity to Māra's whisperings than monks focussed on whatever it is that they perceive to be the spirit of the law.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmFor example, a while back a poster came up with a workaround for monks handling money: his idea was that as long as monks later on confess to having handled money, it's okay for them to handle money, and to continue to do so indefinitely.
A monk who conducted himself so could be faulted on the basis of the letter of the Vinaya no less than on the spirit. For example, the act of confession concludes with the formula:
“Do you undertake, friend, to be restrained in the future?”

“Yes, bhante, I undertake to be restrained.”
And so the monk in your example, since he has no intention of restraining himself with regard to the money prohibition, will perforce end every act of confession with a falsehood to his confessor.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmIf I refuse to take honey from bees, on account that I feel that they don't seem willing to gladly part with it, and I don't want what isn't a monetary transaction or freely and gladly given, then where am I going wrong?
In my understanding, you wouldn't be going wrong if you merely did what you describe above. It might even be meritorious if it were prompted by compassion at the thought that it is more to the bees' detriment than to their benefit to have their honey taken from them.

The problem is when someone represents such conduct as an obligation of Buddhist sīla, in this case the second precept. The merit of the abstinence here would of a supererogatory sort – an action which is good to do but not bad not to do, or whose commission is praiseworthy, but whose omission is not blameworthy. To represent it as other than supererogatory is to misrepresent the Tathāgata – a teacher who didn't recognise a right of ownership in the animal kingdom, who didn't include beekeeping in his list of wrong livelihoods, and who included honey in his list of five tonics that are allowable for monks.
“Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
Shall daunt his spirit;”
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress II)
[james]
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by [james] »

Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm The justification of a rule is the one that determines which precept is being breached.
Really? It doesn't seem so to me. Rather, what observance of a particular precept requires and what the justification might be for the precept's existence are self-evidently two different things. If one happens to know what the justification is, then the precept can be observed with a deeper understanding. But even without this knowledge the precept can still be observed.
The precept can only be observed if one recognizes and accepts its challenge to our deep seated lazy complacency. Deep and complete as it is, the justification of the precept and its observance are the same.
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm You posted a link earlier where it says that if the taken item doesn't exceed a certain value, then taking it doesn't count as theft.
I think you've misread it. The value of the stolen item determines how serious the theft is, not the fact of it being a theft.

For monks and nuns stealing is a misdemeanor if the item is worth a māsaka or less, a grave offence if it's worth more than one but less than five māsakas, and a defeating offence if it's worth five māsakas or more. In its ordination ceremony instructions, the Vinaya requires new monks to be informed that it's an offence of theft to take even a blade of grass that hasn't been given.
This is like filling the deep end with sand.
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmPerhaps the general belief was that animals and petas to begin with cannot possess items that exceed that value.
That can't be the reason, for then we should expect a clause making it at least a misdemeanor to take from an animal or peta, but there isn't one.
More sand.
Mumfie wrote:To hold to and publicly espouse an understanding of the second precept that's been hammered out by one's own reasoning, but which blatantly contradicts the Buddha's own ruling on what does or doesn't transgress this precept, seems a contradictory position for one who takes the Buddha as his refuge.
Not contradictory at all. The precept is straightforward and profound as is. It doesn’t need further dubious and distracting bean counter elaborations.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm2. Understanding that there is often a desire to indulge in one's defilements and to thus look for such an interpretation of a law or a rule that serves one's defilements. Serving one's defilements, one can keep to the letter of the law, but not to its spirit.
Not just looking for, but actually creating such interpretations. The history of religion is full of this self serving bureaucratic manipulation. Why would Buddhism be any different?
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm This cuts both ways. If we're talking about a lax monk who wishes to indulge his defilements and come up with some justification for this, he can just as easily do so by taking his stand on what he claims to be the spirit of the Vinaya. It merely requires a different sort of expertise. Where the letter-following lax monk relies on a lawyerly talent for spotting loopholes in the wording, the spirit-following lax monk relies on a sophist's skill at concocting plausible-seeming rationalisations. In short, if a monk is simply "not desirous of the training", then neither the letter nor the spirit will save him from going astray. Without a fundamental change in his attitude nothing will.
Exactly so.
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm On the other hand, if we're talking about earnest monks, then although the ideal is that they attend with care to both the spirit and the letter, if one had to choose between the two, I submit that letter-following monks who approach the Vinaya in the way that hardcore Haredi Jews approach the Torah enjoy a securer immunity to Māra's whisperings than monks focussed on whatever it is that they perceive to be the spirit of the law.
No, the earnest follower of the Buddha’s teachings attends to the unambiguous spirit of the Buddha’s precept: don’t take what is not freely given. Deep! Don’t waste this precious life looking for the bottom.
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmIf I refuse to take honey from bees, on account that I feel that they don't seem willing to gladly part with it, and I don't want what isn't a monetary transaction or freely and gladly given, then where am I going wrong?
In my understanding, you wouldn't be going wrong if you merely did what you describe above. It might even be meritorious if it were prompted by compassion at the thought that it is more to the bees' detriment than to their benefit to have their honey taken from them.
There is only detriment. There is no benefit. Weighing the merit of the act is yet more sand.
Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm The problem is when someone represents such conduct as an obligation of Buddhist sīla, in this case the second precept. The merit of the abstinence here would of a supererogatory sort – an action which is good to do but not bad not to do, or whose commission is praiseworthy, but whose omission is not blameworthy. To represent it as other than supererogatory is to misrepresent the Tathāgata – a teacher who didn't recognise a right of ownership in the animal kingdom, who didn't include beekeeping in his list of wrong livelihoods, and who included honey in his list of five tonics that are allowable for monks.
It isn’t about obligation. Neither is it about any so called rights of ownership. It is about accepting the challenge and doing what is appropriate to the path of liberation. In any case there are plenty of opportunities to obtain honey from wild bee colonies that have died out or been abandoned for a variety of reasons. So, no need to raid a living hive for the tonic necessaries of a few people.
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Mumfie
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Mumfie »

[james] wrote: Sat Jan 14, 2023 2:11 am The precept can only be observed if one recognizes and accepts its challenge to our deep seated lazy complacency.
A Buddhist training rule is observed when one does what it enjoins or refrains from doing what it prohibits. Your proposed stipulation that it's observed only if “one recognizes and accepts its challenge to our deep seated lazy complacency” is merely your own invention and is without support in the texts.

In the case of monastic sīla what observance actually requires is the ability to distinguish:

* What was laid down by the Tathāgata from what was not laid down.
* Offences from non-offences.
* Light offences from heavy offences.
* Curable offences from incurable offences.
* Minor offences from grave offences.

While in the case of a householder's sīla a knowledge of just the first two will suffice.
[james] wrote: Sat Jan 14, 2023 2:11 am Deep and complete as it is, the justification of the precept and its observance are the same.
A newly-ordained monk of little learning, or a young child raised in a family where everyone keeps the eight precepts on Uposatha days, may not have the faintest idea what the Buddha's justification was for monks and eight-precept householders to abstain from food after midday. Nevertheless, so long as the monk and the child observe the said fast, their observance is pure. Therefore a precept's observance and the justification for its existence are different things and readily distinguishable.
[james] wrote: Sat Jan 14, 2023 2:11 am Not contradictory at all. The precept is straightforward and profound as is. It doesn’t need further dubious and distracting bean counter elaborations.
Your statement seems to presuppose a naive and untenable conception of the nature of language – a conception that attributes to language a degree of transparency that it just doesn't have. If language worked like this, then we could take the four words, adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi and translate them into any language of the world in the full confidence that all the users of each target language would understand them in the same way. In reality – as any linguist will tell you – we can't do this even with a statement as simple as, "The cat sat on the mat."
[james] wrote: Sat Jan 14, 2023 2:11 am There is only detriment. There is no benefit.
In apiarism there are three benefits to the bees.

Firstly, a greatly diminished risk of predators compared with wild bees. Secondly, no risk of starvation, for when nectar availability is low the bees will be supplied with sugar water. Thirdly, through their daily interactions with their keepers the bees have more opportunity than wild bees to develop a kammic affinity with the human realm, which will be to their benefit in future lives.
“Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
Shall daunt his spirit;”
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress II)
Radix
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Radix »

Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:37 pm
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pm The justification of a rule is the one that determines which precept is being breached.
Really?
Of course. Presumably, one wants to know why something is wrong or why something else is right.
If one happens to know what the justification is, then the precept can be observed with a deeper understanding. But even without this knowledge the precept can still be observed.
Sure, but it's observed in the manner of silabbataparamasa.
I think you've misread it. The value of the stolen item determines how serious the theft is, not the fact of it being a theft.
Oh, okay.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmYet it's not because I would be a Christian that I think the way I do. Rather, to me, the letter vs. spirit of the law distinction is based on two things:

1. On an understanding of possible legal voids and an understanding of the implications that come with new inventions or other items that were not in existence or not known at the time a law or a rule was made.
In the Vinaya this would be handled via the four great references (mahāpadesā)
Can you give a few examples?
If we're talking about a lax monk who wishes to indulge his defilements and come up with some justification for this, he can just as easily do so by taking his stand on what he claims to be the spirit of the Vinaya. It merely requires a different sort of expertise. Where the letter-following lax monk relies on a lawyerly talent for spotting loopholes in the wording, the spirit-following lax monk relies on a sophist's skill at concocting plausible-seeming rationalisations. In short, if a monk is simply "not desirous of the training", then neither the letter nor the spirit will save him from going astray. Without a fundamental change in his attitude nothing will.
Sure.
On the other hand, if we're talking about earnest monks, then although the ideal is that they attend with care to both the spirit and the letter, if one had to choose between the two, I submit that letter-following monks who approach the Vinaya in the way that hardcore Haredi Jews approach the Torah enjoy a securer immunity to Māra's whisperings than monks focussed on whatever it is that they perceive to be the spirit of the law.
Then what about erring on the side of caution?
(Although it seems to me this is more a problem for lay people. For example, we can discuss whether buying meat at the grocery store goes against the spirit of the precept against taking life.)
And so the monk in your example, since he has no intention of restraining himself with regard to the money prohibition, will perforce end every act of confession with a falsehood to his confessor.
I couldn't remember a useful keyword now in order to find that thread, but if I do, I'll post it.
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmIf I refuse to take honey from bees, on account that I feel that they don't seem willing to gladly part with it, and I don't want what isn't a monetary transaction or freely and gladly given, then where am I going wrong?
In my understanding, you wouldn't be going wrong if you merely did what you describe above.
The question is whether it involves a heresy or not, and if yes, which heresy in particular.
The problem is when someone represents such conduct as an obligation of Buddhist sīla
Who is even in the position to do so??
Since in Buddhism, there is no central authority (as there is, for example, in Roman Catholicism) and keeping precepts is not regarded as an absolute obligation (they are not "commandments"), it seems irrelevant if someone were to claim that something is an obligation for a Buddhist.
The merit of the abstinence here would of a supererogatory sort – an action which is good to do but not bad not to do, or whose commission is praiseworthy, but whose omission is not blameworthy. To represent it as other than supererogatory is to misrepresent the Tathāgata – a teacher who didn't recognise a right of ownership in the animal kingdom, who didn't include beekeeping in his list of wrong livelihoods, and who included honey in his list of five tonics that are allowable for monks.
Sure, but inquiring minds still want to know.
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Mumfie
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Mumfie »

Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pm Presumably, one wants to know why something is wrong or why something else is right.
Not necessarily. It's usual for Western convert bhikkhus to be interested in the reasons behind Vinaya training rules, but Asian monks in my experience tend to be curiously incurious about it, unless they happen to be Vinaya specialists.
mumfie wrote: If one happens to know what the justification is, then the precept can be observed with a deeper understanding. But even without this knowledge the precept can still be observed.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmSure, but it's observed in the manner of silabbataparamasa.
I think you have it the wrong way round. When someone has neither been informed of the actual justification or purpose of some sīla or vata, nor conjectured one of her own, there is no possibility of her observance of it being sīlabbataparāmāsa.

The parāmāsa in sīlabbataparāmāsa can denote two things: upādāna or micchādiṭṭhi.

When it's upādāna then we get sīlabbataparāmāsa that accords with reality, as in:

“By this gift-giving, five-precept-observance, worship of stūpas, etc. may I be reborn as a Tāvatimsā deva!”
“By this development of mundane jhāna may I become a Brahmā!”
“By this dog-duty asceticism may I become a dog!”

And when it denotes micchādiṭṭhi, then we get sīlabbataparāmāsa that is contrary to reality, as in:

“By this dāna and sīla / jhāna-development / dog-duty asceticism [or any other insufficient practice] I shall be purified.”

But if a householder habitually observes, say, the five precepts merely because she's been raised in a traditional Buddhist family where everyone is expected to do so, and has no other reason beyond, say, maintaining the family tradition; or if a monk observes a Vinaya training merely out of reverence for the Buddha and with no idea of what the rule is for, then their respective observances aren't dependent on either upādāna or micchādiṭṭhi and therefore are not sīlabbataparāmāsa. The downside, of course, is that the absence of understanding in their observance means that it won't amount to the path-factor of sīla either.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pm1. On an understanding of possible legal voids and an understanding of the implications that come with new inventions or other items that were not in existence or not known at the time a law or a rule was made.
mumfie wrote:In the Vinaya this would be handled via the four great references (mahāpadesā)
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmCan you give a few examples?
The four mahāpadesas are given in Ven. Thanissaro's Buddhist Monastic Code (volume I):
The Buddha, however, had enough foresight to see that, over the course of many centuries, new situations would arise that had not existed in his lifetime, and there would be a need to extend the principles of the Vinaya to cover those situations as well. Thus, Mv.VI.40.1 reports that he established the following four guidelines for judgment--called the Great Standards (not to be confused with the Great Standards given in DN 16 and mentioned above)--for judging cases not mentioned in the rules:

“Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against [literally, “preempts”] what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.

“Whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.

“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.

“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.”
Three issues that seem to come up with especial frequency in modern monastic Vinaya discussions are, whether such and such modern beverage (or other consumable) is permitted between midday and dawn; whether such and such modern practice is tantamount to using money; and whether such and such extra garment would be allowable for monks living in very cold or very wet climates.
mumfie wrote:On the other hand, if we're talking about earnest monks, then although the ideal is that they attend with care to both the spirit and the letter, if one had to choose between the two, I submit that letter-following monks who approach the Vinaya in the way that hardcore Haredi Jews approach the Torah enjoy a securer immunity to Māra's whisperings than monks focussed on whatever it is that they perceive to be the spirit of the law.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmThen what about erring on the side of caution?
But what would that amount to?

I mean letter-following monks would probably reply that erring on the side of caution is exactly what they're already doing. For them “caution” means, inter alia, that in any doubtful matter what must absolutely be avoided is attempting to second-guess the Buddha.

And spirit-following modernist types may likewise claim to be erring on the side of caution, but with some different sense of “caution” in mind. It might, for example, be conceived in a more utilitarian fashion (“Since the Buddha's prohibition on ordaining such and such persons is plainly detrimental to those concerned, we should be cautious about taking it too seriously...”). And second-guessing the Buddha is then something they do with alacrity (“He probably wouldn't have made such a rule if he hadn't been limited by a pre-scientific understanding of gender dimorphism...”).
Radix wrote: Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:58 pmIf I refuse to take honey from bees, on account that I feel that they don't seem willing to gladly part with it, and I don't want what isn't a monetary transaction or freely and gladly given, then where am I going wrong?
mumfie wrote:In my understanding, you wouldn't be going wrong if you merely did what you describe above.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmThe question is whether it involves a heresy or not, and if yes, which heresy in particular.
Heresiology isn't really my strong suit, but I don't believe there would be any heresy in it, provided you didn't insist that such a supererogatory observance is obligatory for a precept-keeping Buddhist, in which case it would be the heresy of treating dāna as sīla. As heresies go, this would be a relatively trifling one and we probably wouldn't burn you at the stake for it.
mumfie wrote:The problem is when someone represents such conduct as an obligation of Buddhist sīla
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmWho is even in the position to do so??
Who isn't in a position to do so? Such misrepresentations can be made anyone who has an opinion on the matter and cares to express it. For example, anyone who cares to post to a Buddhist forum, baselessly reproaching non-vegetarian Buddhists for not keeping the first precept or honey-eating Buddhists for not keeping the second.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmSince in Buddhism, there is no central authority (as there is, for example, in Roman Catholicism) and keeping precepts is not regarded as an absolute obligation (they are not "commandments"), it seems irrelevant if someone were to claim that something is an obligation for a Buddhist.
Okay, but I don't see the relevance of these observations, for I wrote only of the problem of the teaching being misrepresented (an actual problem), not of the imaginary problem that the misrepresenters might someday form a Magisterium with the power to impose and enforce their view of things.
“Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
Shall daunt his spirit;”
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress II)
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Re: Taking honey from a bee hive

Post by Radix »

Mumfie wrote: Fri Jan 20, 2023 2:09 pm
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pm Presumably, one wants to know why something is wrong or why something else is right.
Not necessarily. It's usual for Western convert bhikkhus to be interested in the reasons behind Vinaya training rules, but Asian monks in my experience tend to be curiously incurious about it, unless they happen to be Vinaya specialists.
I agree.
As outsiders, I think we have little choice but to be intentional about various Buddhist practices.
mumfie wrote:If one happens to know what the justification is, then the precept can be observed with a deeper understanding. But even without this knowledge the precept can still be observed.
Radix wrote: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:07 pmSure, but it's observed in the manner of silabbataparamasa.
I think you have it the wrong way round. When someone has neither been informed of the actual justification or purpose of some sīla or vata, nor conjectured one of her own, there is no possibility of her observance of it being sīlabbataparāmāsa.
True. I take for granted that people do things intentionally and that they have thought through their reasons for doing those things. And indeed, it's also possible that some people sometimes "just do" things, without having thought them through, and that includes the keeping of precepts. However, in this case, it's not clear whether such a person's lack of silabbataparamasa is the same of that of a stream-enterer. You can sometimes see examples of people, usually Westerners, who are new to Buddhism, who boldly declare that they have abandoned the fetter of clinging to rules and rituals. Well, have they really, or are they more like an infant in whose case none of this applies?
But if a householder habitually observes, say, the five precepts merely because she's been raised in a traditional Buddhist family where everyone is expected to do so, and has no other reason beyond, say, maintaining the family tradition; or if a monk observes a Vinaya training merely out of reverence for the Buddha and with no idea of what the rule is for, then their respective observances aren't dependent on either upādāna or micchādiṭṭhi and therefore are not sīlabbataparāmāsa.

The downside, of course, is that the absence of understanding in their observance means that it won't amount to the path-factor of sīla either.
When would it amount to such a path factor?
The four mahāpadesas are given in Ven. Thanissaro's Buddhist Monastic Code (volume I):
The Buddha, however, had enough foresight to see that, over the course of many centuries, new situations would arise that had not existed in his lifetime, and there would be a need to extend the principles of the Vinaya to cover those situations as well. Thus, Mv.VI.40.1 reports that he established the following four guidelines for judgment--called the Great Standards (not to be confused with the Great Standards given in DN 16 and mentioned above)--for judging cases not mentioned in the rules:

“Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against [literally, “preempts”] what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.

“Whatever I have not objected to, saying, ‘This is not allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.

“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, that is not allowable for you.

“And whatever I have not permitted, saying, ‘This is allowable,’ if it conforms with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, that is allowable for you.”
There still seems to be a lot of wiggle room here.
mumfie wrote:On the other hand, if we're talking about earnest monks, then although the ideal is that they attend with care to both the spirit and the letter, if one had to choose between the two, I submit that letter-following monks who approach the Vinaya in the way that hardcore Haredi Jews approach the Torah enjoy a securer immunity to Māra's whisperings than monks focussed on whatever it is that they perceive to be the spirit of the law.
Like I said already, it seems to be an issue more pertinent for lay people. For example, many Western male Buddhists choose non-Buddhist females as their wives or sexual partners; the unspoken expectation is that the non-Buddhist woman will abort any unwanted pregnancy without bothering the man with it. So that kind of sexual relationship is a kind of kammic safe heaven for such a Buddhist man who never has to concern himself with breaking the first precept through advocating for an abortion or helping with it.
And spirit-following modernist types may likewise claim to be erring on the side of caution, but with some different sense of “caution” in mind. It might, for example, be conceived in a more utilitarian fashion (“Since the Buddha's prohibition on ordaining such and such persons is plainly detrimental to those concerned, we should be cautious about taking it too seriously...”). And second-guessing the Buddha is then something they do with alacrity (“He probably wouldn't have made such a rule if he hadn't been limited by a pre-scientific understanding of gender dimorphism...”).
On this particular point, I take no issue with the Buddha's teaching. I can't imagine how someone who does not conform to standardized traditional gender roles would want to ordain at all, or have anything much to do with Buddhism in the first place.

Although, on another possibly contentious point, I wonder where exactly the line is between being healthy enough for ordaining and not being healthy enough to do so. When is a physical defect enough to be an impediment to ordination? Some examples: a limp, some fingers or toes missing, obesity, an incurable progressive disease that will eventually render the person blind.
Heresiology isn't really my strong suit, but I don't believe there would be any heresy in it, provided you didn't insist that such a supererogatory observance is obligatory for a precept-keeping Buddhist, in which case it would be the heresy of treating dāna as sīla. As heresies go, this would be a relatively trifling one and we probably wouldn't burn you at the stake for it.
So where's the dividing line? At what point does a heresy become a burning-at-stake level of offense?

Who isn't in a position to do so? Such misrepresentations can be made anyone who has an opinion on the matter and cares to express it. For example, anyone who cares to post to a Buddhist forum, baselessly reproaching non-vegetarian Buddhists for not keeping the first precept or honey-eating Buddhists for not keeping the second.
But where exactly is the problem with that? Who has this problem?

Secondly, in my experience, Buddhists, like people in general, are eager to feel offended and to jump to conclusions, not distinguishing between someone making an accusation and expressing a personal preference.

If I say, "I'm not too fond of associating with Buddhists who are keen on meat-eating and who believe that the modern commercial system of supply and demand creates a kammic safe heaven for meat eaters, shielding them from breaching the first precept", then this is me expressing a personal preference. It's not yet an accusation, it's not yet a claim of obligation, it's not even a criticism. Yet from what I've seen, it's usually taken as such (given that the reply I get is along the lines of "Who are you to tell me what to do?!" or "Even the Buddha ate meat").

Okay, but I don't see the relevance of these observations, for I wrote only of the problem of the teaching being misrepresented (an actual problem), not of the imaginary problem that the misrepresenters might someday form a Magisterium with the power to impose and enforce their view of things.
In order to misrepresent the teaching, the person would actually have to say words to the effect, "The Buddha said it's wrong to kill, therefore, you should not meat".

As long as people qualify their statement saying that what they're stating is their preference, their current understanding, or otherwise distance themselves from Buddhism, then they're not misrepresenting the teaching.

But again, as noted above, many people have a peculiar habit of ignoring those qualifiers, as if they were mere politically correct fillers that should be ignored.
not of the imaginary problem that the misrepresenters might someday form a Magisterium with the power to impose and enforce their view of things.
My reference to the lack of central authority in Buddhism was to point out that anyone can say anything and nobody has the formal power to silence them.
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