Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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mikenz66
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:28 am

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

http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Ben » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:23 am

Hi Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Is pontificating about complex moral choices a waste of time in a Dhammic context?
Yes, I believe so. Life is complex and some of the decisions we are faced with are...difficult.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:20 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Is sīla the same or different for layfolk and bhikkhus?
Yes and no, there are different considerations for both, but a core ethic which is recommended and can be seen in the first and last two precepts of the five precepts. the third due to it changing I omit from the core group, however as its widest function is to promote healthy relationships between the sexes, and its narrower function is to detail how that relationship should be, it is expanded and covered by several rules in the Patimokkha.
Might the "parameters" of sīla (as presented in the Suttas and Vinaya) yield different recommendations?
yes, the sila of the vinaya is purely designed for Monks and Nuns, so only ever consider the workability for them, this is why ruled can have several edits, and even be rendered next to pointless, no matter why the rule came about.
Might the recommendations be different based on the precepts you've taken - 5, 8, 10, 227 etc.
for the five and eight the recommendations are the same, where the precept overlap, and the 10 and monastic precepts are the same where the precept overlap/have a common theme, but for mendicants of any level there are other rules they have which may or may not be applicable to both/all.
The vibhangha to the first parajika gives Bhikkhunis the allowance not to follow rules not shared by both groups and this could in theory be applied to Samanera/i given that novices asked the buddha what were the rules they were to follow in the culavagga.
These seem to be important distinctions to call out in light of this conversation, lest we inadvertently jump between the two lifestyles without notice, or without calling out and acknowledging the distinction in the first place.
Where there are overlap in the rules I feel the more detailed versions for monks and Nuns can inform the other group, but always the consideration of whether it is applicable to the lifestyle needs to be considered.
so I hope this helps...
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:This is of vital importance to the topic because if they are different, and sila is therefore subjective and relative to your chosen mode of livelihood, we then need to be cognizant of which teachings were given the bhikkhus, which were given to householders, and which were given to both.

Metta,
Retro. :)
this in light of the suttas may not always be possible as there is evidence that there are certain default rules to use when reciting and the memory of the place, person is 'wonky'.
this is found in the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadins, but it is reasonable to assume that it wasn't just them who followed such guidelines seeing as the bhikkhus were the most mentioned. this frequence has led to the commentaries pointing out several different types of Bhikkhu, which could cover both Bhikkhu (propper) and layperson so at times the relivance to how one lives should be considered.

but after saying that, and on a general note, unless a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni joins the discussion, the vinaya would be out of the bounds for most members here to discuss with any authority as no one hare has access to the texts in full (to my knowledge) and it would be best to stick with the suttas.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:41 pm

Cittasanto wrote: but after saying that, and on a general note, unless a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni joins the discussion, the vinaya would be out of the bounds for most members here to discuss with any authority as no one hare has access to the texts in full (to my knowledge) and it would be best to stick with the suttas.
I'm puzzled when this comes up. There are English translations of the Vinaya:
http://www.palitext.com/palitext/tran.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Book of the Discipline,
6 volumes,
tr. I.B. Horner:
Set ISBN 254 4 £157.30
Translation of Vinaya-piṭaka: (Vols. I-III) Suttavibhaṇga; (Vol. IV) Mahāvagga; (Vol. V) Cūlavagga; (Vol. VI) Parivāra.
On the other hand, without some experience of monastic life and discipline, I don't see a lot of point of speculating on some aspects.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:46 pm

mikenz66 wrote: 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.
I'm surprised noone picked up on this. :o It is amazing (to me) that the suttas are so black and white, but so much subsequent discussion (such as here...) tends to focus on complicated situations. Hard to believe there were not some complicated situations 2500 years ago. Maybe the complicated situations were discussed one-to-one, and not recorded...

[This doesn't just apply to sila, by the way. Arguments with Jains, for example, are presented in a cartoon fashion...]

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:06 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
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.

I'm surprised noone picked up on this. It is amazing (to me) that the suttas are so black and white, but so much subsequent discussion (such as here...) tends to focus on complicated situations. Hard to believe there were not some complicated situations 2500 years ago. Maybe the complicated situations were discussed one-to-one, and not recorded...
What is the purpose of sila? If it is to sort out the external world in accordance with principles, then it would tend to lead into those "difficult" areas that you refer to. For "difficult", read "complicated", as most of the difficulty stems from the attempt to apply complex rules to indeterminate situations which resist definition. This is the type of situation beloved of Western moral philosophy and jurisprudence.

If sila is more about the cultivation of certain desirable mental qualities, however, it is less likely to lead to such complexity. Intentions, for example, are less amenable to exact analysis than practical outcomes.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:29 pm

Hi Mike,
how many people have access to it like they have access to the Majjhima Nikaya?
it isn't on many peoples book shelf, and most people have Ajahn Thanissaros manuals or Ajahn Brahms Notes which are not the same as the Vinaya itself and at points these may misrepresent what is in there, and most wont have it on their Book Shelf.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Zom » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:52 pm

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". ;)

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by Vepacitta » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:11 am

I guess an Arahant wouldn't lie to one of the Cheka either, then.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by 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.

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by 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.

Kevin

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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.
Goodwill

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by 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
Daniel

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi Equivocating on Sīla?

Post by 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.
Daniel

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