Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Post Reply
User avatar
TLCD96
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by TLCD96 »

I think we might all be familiar with the tendency to compare Buddhism to different philosophies: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Aristotle's Virtue ethics. But so many of these comparisons revolve more around theory rather than practice.

It seems that a huge and glaring difference is the fact that Buddhism is a teaching and discipline, whereas other philosophies seem to be just teachings. I recall that Epicurus formulated a set of teachings (http://classics.mit.edu/Epicurus/princdoc.html) and encouraged community, but there seems to be little indication that these teachings and communities were as rigorous as the dhamma-vinaya, despite being based in well-thought-out theory.

Why might this be so; is the apparent lack a result of a lack of evidence? Are there any other western philosophies which spoke of practice and provided "containers" for that practice in the form of precepts and/or well-defined communities?
All of us are bound by birth, aging, and death.
SteRo
Posts: 2998
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am
Location: अ धीः

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by SteRo »

You should question your premise because you seem to assume buddhism to be a philosophy and thus compare the apple with the pears. There are western religions that have precepts for the ordained, too.
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
User avatar
TLCD96
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by TLCD96 »

SteRo wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 6:56 pm You should question your premise because you seem to assume buddhism to be a philosophy and thus compare the apple with the pears. There are western religions that have precepts for the ordained, too.
Thanks for the feedback Stero. Actually, I'm moreso referencing others who have taken that as their premise. Really, I'm mostly interested here in learning about the role of community in western philosophies, since most attention is given to theory. I think community is a good point to bring up when people start getting hooked on theory. :group:
All of us are bound by birth, aging, and death.
User avatar
Nicholas Weeks
Posts: 1583
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 11:26 pm
Location: California

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Go back to Pythagoras Golden Verses and many commentaries by those in his tradition, like Hierocles. Practice was the theme throughout the Platonic tradition.

Not sure when Western philosophy became mainly or exclusively speculative.
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
SteRo
Posts: 2998
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am
Location: अ धीः

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by SteRo »

TLCD96 wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 7:23 pm I think community is a good point to bring up when people start getting hooked on theory. :group:
Depends. Communities usually have the purpose of mutual support and mutual affirmation of belief and they affirm that belief even when the belief is false. So from a buddhist perspective communities may also obstruct liberation
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 5563
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Mae Wang Huai Rin, Li District, Lamphun

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by Dhammanando »

I.B. Horner, in the introduction to the third volume of her translation of the Vinaya Piṭaka, draws a comparison between the seventy-five sekhiya rules and the Paedagogus of Clement of Alexandria:
A striking parallel to the Sekhiya rules for training in manners is to be found in Clement of Alexandria’s Paedagogus (Instructor). Clement was apparently beset by the same kind of preoccupations and faced by the same kind of bad manners as were those who drew up the Sekhiyas. His own code of polite, civilised behaviour which he vigorously hoped his fellow Christians would adopt has been put in a nutshell by T.R. Glover, whom I cannot do better than quote. He says:

“Clement of Alexandria has much to say to Christians about the minutiae of manners; they must not scratch themselves or spit in public; they should not guffaw, nor twitch, nor crack their fingers, nor fidget; they must not eat or drink in uncouth styles. Very trifling? No, not at all trifling; for these little things annoy the people to whom you have to appeal, to whom Christ has sent you with a message which it is important for them to hear.”

Thus India in the sixth and fifth centuries before Christ, and Egypt in the second century after, had the acumen to perceive the value of decorum and good manners in facilitating the growth of friendly interest, even faith, in the new religious ventures experienced by each of these two richly endowed countries.
Contents:
I. On Eating
II. On Drinking
III. On Costly Vessels
IV. How to conduct ourselves at Feasts
V. On Laughter
VI. On Filthy Speaking
VII. Directions for these who live together
VIII. On the use of Ointments and Crowns
IX. On Sleep
X. Qusenam de procreatione liberorum tractanda sint
XI. On Clothes
XII. On Shoes
XIII. Against excessive Fondness for Jewels and Gold Ornaments

https://archive.org/details/writingsofc ... 6/mode/2up
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta
binocular
Posts: 8067
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by binocular »

Reading the thread title, I think of the self-help genre and its predecessors and relatives, such as conduct literature, mirrors for princes literature, courtesy books. Texts in these genres tend to contain lists of things to do and not to do.
TLCD96 wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 7:23 pmReally, I'm mostly interested here in learning about the role of community in western philosophies, since most attention is given to theory.
A prominent theme in several Western philosophies is individualism; and then the tension between the individual and society, or between two individuals.

I wouldn't say that in Western philosophies, "most attention is given to theory". It's that individualism and community are on principle understood quite differently than in older or Eastern societies. If you google something like "individualism in Eastern and Western societies", you can find plenty of articles and studies on this topic from different perspectives.
If you can't build with them, don't chill with them.
binocular
Posts: 8067
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by binocular »

TLCD96 wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 7:23 pmI think community is a good point to bring up when people start getting hooked on theory.
Not in a group of individualists.
(It still needs to be discovered whether a group of individualists can be considered a "community" or not.)
If you can't build with them, don't chill with them.
beanyan
Posts: 288
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:21 am

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by beanyan »

TLCD96 wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 6:51 pm I think we might all be familiar with the tendency to compare Buddhism to different philosophies: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Aristotle's Virtue ethics. But so many of these comparisons revolve more around theory rather than practice.

It seems that a huge and glaring difference is the fact that Buddhism is a teaching and discipline, whereas other philosophies seem to be just teachings. I recall that Epicurus formulated a set of teachings (http://classics.mit.edu/Epicurus/princdoc.html) and encouraged community, but there seems to be little indication that these teachings and communities were as rigorous as the dhamma-vinaya, despite being based in well-thought-out theory.

Why might this be so; is the apparent lack a result of a lack of evidence? Are there any other western philosophies which spoke of practice and provided "containers" for that practice in the form of precepts and/or well-defined communities?
Well Epicureanism and Stoicism were not monastic. And the Cynics don't seem so organized. Maybe what you're looking for can somewhat be found in something like the Rule of St. Benedict, or the Rule of the Community in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For pre-Christian monasticism the most organized would be Pythagoreanism, but it was also kind of secret-society-ish so didn't leave behind any written teachings.
User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 5275
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by Kim OHara »

Everyone seems to be going back hundreds of years for their examples but there are some which are far more recent. Gurdjieff's community in France comes to mind, but there were also "intentional communities" in America including the Shakers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakers - and other Christian sects. You want rules? They had plenty.

:coffee:
Kim
User avatar
TLCD96
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by TLCD96 »

Will wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 8:11 pm Go back to Pythagoras Golden Verses and many commentaries by those in his tradition, like Hierocles. Practice was the theme throughout the Platonic tradition.
Dhammanando wrote: Fri May 29, 2020 10:18 am I.B. Horner, in the introduction to the third volume of her translation of the Vinaya Piṭaka, draws a comparison between the seventy-five sekhiya rules and the Paedagogus of Clement of Alexandria....
binocular wrote: Fri May 29, 2020 12:33 pm I wouldn't say that in Western philosophies, "most attention is given to theory". It's that individualism and community are on principle understood quite differently than in older or Eastern societies. If you google something like "individualism in Eastern and Western societies", you can find plenty of articles and studies on this topic from different perspectives.
beanyan wrote: Fri May 29, 2020 9:19 pm Well Epicureanism and Stoicism were not monastic. And the Cynics don't seem so organized. Maybe what you're looking for can somewhat be found in something like the Rule of St. Benedict, or the Rule of the Community in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For pre-Christian monasticism the most organized would be Pythagoreanism, but it was also kind of secret-society-ish so didn't leave behind any written teachings.
Kim OHara wrote: Fri May 29, 2020 11:38 pm Everyone seems to be going back hundreds of years for their examples but there are some which are far more recent. Gurdjieff's community in France comes to mind, but there were also "intentional communities" in America including the Shakers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakers - and other Christian sects. You want rules? They had plenty.

:coffee:
Kim
Thank you all! I think another good recent example is the Amish, with their Ordnung (which seems to be maintained by oral tradition, like Vinaya in some ways).
Will wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 8:11 pm Not sure when Western philosophy became mainly or exclusively speculative.
It's really my own bias; a lot of what I see (or at least pay attention to in passing) is the emphasis on debate or intellectual discussion. Groups that center around philosophy (besides the Amish, Gurdjieff, Christian monastic orders) may ascribe to values and enforce them in some way, and they may have rules for membership, but what does it mean to practice the philosophy of these communities? What does it look like? As Binocular seems to have suggested, the inclination toward individualism may be one reason why communities like the Sangha or other monastic traditions aren't very prominent in philosophical traditions such as Stoicism, etc. Then again it might be useful to see to what extent these groups exist in the current day - and not just education-oriented organizations.

Pythagoras' Golden Verses (whether they were his or not) don't seem to bear much similarity to the Vinaya. They may be helpful and provide something of an inspiring compass, but they seem too open ended to function as a moral code. Part of it bears similarity to the Buddha's teachings on the hindrances, but the Buddha's teachings on the hindrances alone might be hard to follow to the end were it not for the precepts, Sangha and all of the other teachings that have been passed on.
All of us are bound by birth, aging, and death.
User avatar
Nicholas Weeks
Posts: 1583
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 11:26 pm
Location: California

Re: Do western philosophies have anything similar to precepts or Vinaya?

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

However loose the Golden Verses themselves appear, they were used for hundreds of years by the Pythagorean sangha. If one wants to go more in depth to see what those practitioners unfolded from the verses, study Hierocles of Alexandria by H.S. Schibli, Oxford, 2002.
Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. Dhammapada
Post Reply