Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

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

Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby perkele » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:56 am

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


Well said. I agree.
It's not helpful to make up imaginary dilemmas and tie us up in knots with that. Rather we should face with the most possible clarity and courage the dilemmas that we actually encounter in our lives and try to see that they really are imaginary. Most of those dilemmas we can't even describe and talk about very much if we really want to solve and overcome them.
Those who are ashamed of what they should be ashamed of, and are not ashamed of what they should not be ashamed of -- upholding true views, they do not go to states of woe.
(suggested by SamBodhi)
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Virgo » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:00 am

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

Hi Tilt, maybe you mean consequentialist? Relativistic would not make any sense in this context. And absolutists can be consequentialist in extreme circumstances without carrying a general consequentialist view.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:11 am

mikenz66 wrote:
danieLion wrote:In his lecture on the Ambalaṭṭhikārāhulovāda Sutta (MN 61) to be found at

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

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

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

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

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

:anjali:
Mike

Good observation. Didn't Ven. Bodhi contextualize his comments with the very point that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions. I took it to mean he was implying a systematic moral imposition from the text transmitters.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:23 am

To clarify:
Out of all the moral compasses I've tried, the Buddha's is the most practical and often does provide clear-cut direction. That's why I brought this up. It's the first time I'd heard Ven. Bodhi engage in situational ethical discussion. He always struck me as a staunch sila moralist. Again, sila is very valuable and the more I use it the more conviction I have in the Dhamma and the Buddha's presentation of it.
Goodwill
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:24 am

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


Well said. I agree.
It's not helpful to make up imaginary dilemmas and tie us up in knots with that. Rather we should face with the most possible clarity and courage the dilemmas that we actually encounter in our lives and try to see that they really are imaginary. Most of those dilemmas we can't even describe and talk about very much if we really want to solve and overcome them.

The Holocaust was not an imaginary dilemma.
Goodwill.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby perkele » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:53 am

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


Well said. I agree.
It's not helpful to make up imaginary dilemmas and tie us up in knots with that. Rather we should face with the most possible clarity and courage the dilemmas that we actually encounter in our lives and try to see that they really are imaginary. Most of those dilemmas we can't even describe and talk about very much if we really want to solve and overcome them.

The Holocaust was not an imaginary dilemma.
Goodwill.
Daniel

I think you got me wrong. I say that our personal dilemmas (and that are those we're really dealing with, aren't they?) are imaginary and can be overcome. And actually that's the way of Dhamma, the way to arahantship. I think one can see it that way. If you're talking about an imagined holocaust scenario then you're not dealing with a personal problem that's part of your personal experience.
(And now don't accuse me of denying the holocaust or something, please. Try to not get me wrong.)
Now I don't want to undermine any good intentions in solving real problems which can of course entail talking about them. But one should not get lost too much in the theoretical and ask if sila is or is not absolute or things like that. It doesn't help. The point is to try as hard as possible to stick to sila in every circumstance. And I am sure that an arahant can really do that without difficulty and without causing harm, because he has solved his personal dilemmas once and for all. If we generalize such personal dilemmas it's only solidifying them. The popular lying to nazis about hiding jews example is not an example from reality. It's an abstraction. Many individual persons had to deal with this sort of dilemma but it was different in all cases, their personal dilemma was different in all cases. I hope this clarifies my point. :smile:
Those who are ashamed of what they should be ashamed of, and are not ashamed of what they should not be ashamed of -- upholding true views, they do not go to states of woe.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:12 am

danieLion wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I recall listening to this talk back in 2007, when studying the MN. To me, the particularly interesting point in this talk is that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions about right or wrong. All the examples are very black and white.

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

Good observation. Didn't Ven. Bodhi contextualize his comments with the very point that nowhere in the Suttas are there examples of difficult decisions.

I thought that's what I just said... :tongue:
danieLion wrote:I took it to mean he was implying a systematic moral imposition from the text transmitters.

I don't really understand this comment.

danieLion wrote:To clarify:
Out of all the moral compasses I've tried, the Buddha's is the most practical and often does provide clear-cut direction. That's why I brought this up. It's the first time I'd heard Ven. Bodhi engage in situational ethical discussion. He always struck me as a staunch sila moralist. Again, sila is very valuable and the more I use it the more conviction I have in the Dhamma and the Buddha's presentation of it.
Goodwill
Daniel

These are the sort of issues that the students would come up with, so discussing them makes sense. I think he's a very skilled teacher who is trying to get the students to think about the issues. After raising this issue he goes on to discuss the rest of the advice to Rahula about how to behave, so perhaps the underlying message is: "there are these dilemmas" ... "this is how you should approach it" [by carrying out these examinations...].

I think this is a very good point:
perkele wrote:I think you got me wrong. I say that our personal dilemmas (and that are those we're really dealing with, aren't they?) are imaginary and can be overcome. And actually that's the way of Dhamma, the way to arahantship. I think one can see it that way. If you're talking about an imagined holocaust scenario then you're not dealing with a personal problem that's part of your personal experience.
(And now don't accuse me of denying the holocaust or something, please. Try to not get me wrong.)

If faced with an actual dilemma, I think the least of my worries would be the intellectual logical exercise part of these scenarios. The real problem would be summoning up my moral courage. Not an easy task. As Zom says:
Zom wrote:For an arahant there are no dilemmas and "hard cases" - for example, no, he would not lie to Nazis (since he doesn't speak lie). I think, he would just keep silence. We see different situations as "dilemmas" because of our greed-hatred-delusion. So, actually, sila is "cut and dry". The problem is that for ignorant people it seems "not cut and dry". ;)

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

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books8/Pa_Au ... _Kamma.pdf

But it's a long book. Can you point me to some particular sections?

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:20 am

mikenz66 wrote:
danieLion wrote:I took it to mean he was implying a systematic moral imposition from the text transmitters.

I don't really understand this comment.

He was alluding to how too much textual consistency is suspicious.
Goodwill
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:52 am

danieLion wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
danieLion wrote:I took it to mean he was implying a systematic moral imposition from the text transmitters.

I don't really understand this comment.

He was alluding to how too much textual consistency is suspicious.

I went back and listened to it again and didn't hear him say that.

Listening to it again, I actually don't think that Bhikkhu Bodhi is equivocating one bit. In fact, completely the opposite. To me he is saying that if there appears to be a dilemma you need to figure out the most moral course of action and follow that. And especially not hide behind legalistic arguments, but follow the advice of the sutta he is discussing:
"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:36 am

:goodpost:
_/|\_
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:45 am

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

Hi Tilt, maybe you mean consequentialist?
Nope.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby sshai45 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Virgo wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:We should be absolutely relativistic based upon the circumstamnce and one's moral wisdom. Got it.

Hi Tilt, maybe you mean consequentialist?
Nope.


So would this "relativism" mean that some Buddhist principles may need to be modified in different situations, or what?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:24 am

I think Tilt was being sarcastic...
_/|\_
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:15 am

Dan74 wrote:I think Tilt was being sarcastic...
Not necessarily.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby nameless » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:30 pm

I think, as someone has pointed out, we need to think about the purpose of sila, some examples of which can be found here.

The way that a lot of us think about morality is the way that is conditioned into us through various ways: you are a bad religious follower/child/student/part of society (and hence 'immoral')if you don't follow such and such rules. But from the above page, I think that the Buddhist view of sila is quite different.

There were some comments about a "moral compass" and "moral conviction". I think one has to be careful about such ideas, in the sense that one needs to examine one's motivations for desiring such things. How much of the desire is for something to guide you in difficult moral situations, so that you don't need to make the difficult decisions yourself? Instead of thinking through the consequences and implications carefully, it is comparatively easy to just make a decision "because the suttas/monks/Buddha/people on the Internet say so".
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Zom » Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:27 pm

But it's a long book. Can you point me to some particular sections?


page 117 and further..
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:06 pm

Thanks Zom. I think you might mean 127 and on:

THE COURSES OF KAMMA
Now that we have discussed the unwholesome and wholesome, we can
go on to discuss what The Buddha calls courses of kamma
(kamma·patha). When He explains why beings have an unhappy or happy
rebirth, The Buddha speaks of the unwholesome and wholesome courses
of kamma:
1) Ten unwholesome courses of kamma (dasa akusala·kamma·patha):
three unwholesome courses of kamma of the body, four of speech,
and three of the mind.
2) Ten wholesome courses of kamma (dasa kusala·kamma·patha): three
wholesome courses of kamma of the body, four of speech, and three
of the mind.

THE TEN UNWHOLESOME COURSES OF KAMMA

THE THREE UNWHOLESOME BODILY KAMMAS

Let us then take His explanation of the ten courses of unwholesome
kamma: what they are, and their roots (greed, hatred or delusion).477
First, He explains the three types of unwholesome bodily conduct:478
And how, bhikkhus, are there three types of bodily kamma, of fault and
failure, of unwholesome intention, yielding pain, with a painful result?
...


The sort of examples I presume you are referring to are:
A butcher and fisherman kills beings as a livelihood: it is greed, be-
cause she or he wants to enjoy sensual pleasures. A soldier may in the
same way kill beings because of greed, but she or he may also kill be-
cause of fear or anger. A farmer may also kill to protect his crops: it is
greed because she or he also wants to enjoy sensual pleasures, and it is
hatred because she or he is angry at the beings who eat his crops. One
may also kill beings to make one’s house or garden look beautiful: it is
greed because one wants one’s house or garden beautiful, and it is hatred
because one is angry at the insects and other vermin who make it un-
beautiful. In the same way, a doctor may as livelihood kill a patient who
is incurably sick. The patient’s family may agree or request to have the
patient killed because they hate seeing the patient so sick. It is the same
when one has a sick animal killed: one hates the sight of the animal suf-
fering.
A doctor may also perform abortions as her or his livelihood: that
is greed. And the mother who asks a doctor to perform the abortion does
it because she does not want to look after her child: she is greedy for
freedom, and hates her child because she or he endangers that freedom.
If the child is deformed, she may hate it because it is abnormal, and be-
cause it will require much looking after. If the mother has been raped,
she may also have an abortion because she hates the man who raped her,
or because she hates her child, whom she identifies with that man. In all
cases, there is delusion (moha).479 And if one thinks there is nothing
wrong about killing another, or one thinks it is somehow right to kill an-
other, then the kamma is view-associated (di hi·sampayutta); if one does
not think so, then the kamma is view-dissociated (di hi·vippayutta).


:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby sshai45 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 1:00 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I think Tilt was being sarcastic...
Not necessarily.


So what did you mean, then?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby santa100 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:39 am

If we take the 4th precept: "I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech", and apply it toward the Nazis scenario, would an answer like: "Sure, my Jewish friends are in my home basement right now" considered to be a "true speech" or a "false speech"?? Is being "factual" the one and only criteria that defines whether a speech is true or false in this case?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 4:42 am

Well you see, the arahat would be able to blast the Nazis with his mind beam, so no need for telling untruth.

Wait, no harming Nazis is allowed, blast!

Correction, she will blast them with her compassionate mind beam and they will leave the Jews alone.

Well, that was useful wasn't it. 30 seconds of your life you are not getting back...
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