Buddhist Morality

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
Khan Singh
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Buddhist Morality

Post by Khan Singh » Sun Apr 10, 2016 7:28 pm

Hi everyone.

I've learned that, in the Mahayana tradition, Buddhist morality simply conformed to the particular culture, which seems to have something to do with the strong influence of Confucianism in China. It seems to me that, because of this, Western liberalism has greatly influenced the Mahayana traditions in the West, even seeking to undo moral views customs from Christianity that share much in common with Buddhism, generally.

My question is, where does Theravada Buddhism derive its morality from and could it be said to be somewhat more conservative and family oriented for lay people?

santa100
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by santa100 » Sun Apr 10, 2016 8:16 pm

Buddhist morality is pretty much the same across schools. For lay people, the Five Precepts, Eight Precepts(on Uposatha days) are recognized by all sects. Same thing for the Bhikkhus/Bhikkhunis Vinaya Pitaka, the Basket of Monastic Rules is pretty much the same between the Theravada Tipitaka and the Mahayana Tripitaka. The loosening of the rules probably come from some lay teachers and got spreaded around. So obviously it will need to be checked against the Buddha's Teaching in the Nikayas (for Theravada practitioners) or the Agamas (for Mahayana practitioners). Matter of fact, in both collections, the Buddha taught us to always verify the words of any teacher, regardless of how famous or well-respected s/he is against His Teaching:
DN 16. wrote:Here, monks, a monk might speak like this: ‘I have heard this directly from the Gracious One, friends, directly I learned it: “This is the Teaching, this is the Discipline, this is the Teacher’s Dispensation.”’ That monk’s speech, monks, is not to be rejoiced over, not to be scorned at. Without having rejoiced over it, without having scorned it, after learning those words and syllables well, they should be laid alongside the Discourses, they should be compared with the Discipline.

If, when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do not fit in with the Discourses, they do not compare well with the Discipline, you may here come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is not the Gracious One’s word, it is not well learned by that monk,’ and, monks, you should abandon it. If when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do fit in with the Discourses, they do compare well with the Discipline, you may come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is the Gracious One’s word, it is well-learned by that monk.’ This, monks, is the first Great Referral you should bear in mind.

Khan Singh
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Khan Singh » Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:20 pm

santa100 wrote:Buddhist morality is pretty much the same across schools. For lay people, the Five Precepts, Eight Precepts(on Uposatha days) are recognized by all sects. Same thing for the Bhikkhus/Bhikkhunis Vinaya Pitaka, the Basket of Monastic Rules is pretty much the same between the Theravada Tipitaka and the Mahayana Tripitaka. The loosening of the rules probably come from some lay teachers and got spreaded around. So obviously it will need to be checked against the Buddha's Teaching in the Nikayas (for Theravada practitioners) or the Agamas (for Mahayana practitioners). Matter of fact, in both collections, the Buddha taught us to always verify the words of any teacher, regardless of how famous or well-respected s/he is against His Teaching:
DN 16. wrote:Here, monks, a monk might speak like this: ‘I have heard this directly from the Gracious One, friends, directly I learned it: “This is the Teaching, this is the Discipline, this is the Teacher’s Dispensation.”’ That monk’s speech, monks, is not to be rejoiced over, not to be scorned at. Without having rejoiced over it, without having scorned it, after learning those words and syllables well, they should be laid alongside the Discourses, they should be compared with the Discipline.

If, when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do not fit in with the Discourses, they do not compare well with the Discipline, you may here come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is not the Gracious One’s word, it is not well learned by that monk,’ and, monks, you should abandon it. If when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do fit in with the Discourses, they do compare well with the Discipline, you may come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is the Gracious One’s word, it is well-learned by that monk.’ This, monks, is the first Great Referral you should bear in mind.
Thanks for the response. Well, it's pretty much the same, but not exactly the same, and the attitude of some of the individuals I've interacted with seems to be that if Buddhism doesn't agree with this or that modern idea, then Buddhism must change. It's pretty offputting.

DC2R
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by DC2R » Mon Apr 11, 2016 12:13 am

Khan Singh wrote:could it be said to be somewhat more conservative and family oriented for lay people?
Yes, it is often viewed as being more conservative, but this also depends on the teacher or lineage. For example, the Thai Forest Tradition is strict in terms of morality, while some other Theravada traditions are not as strict (not to say that the others claim the traditional morality is wrong and needs to change).

I am not sure what you mean by the second part.
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Ben
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Ben » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:01 am

Khan Singh wrote:Hi everyone.

I've learned that, in the Mahayana tradition, Buddhist morality simply conformed to the particular culture, which seems to have something to do with the strong influence of Confucianism in China. It seems to me that, because of this, Western liberalism has greatly influenced the Mahayana traditions in the West, even seeking to undo moral views customs from Christianity that share much in common with Buddhism, generally.

My question is, where does Theravada Buddhism derive its morality from and could it be said to be somewhat more conservative and family oriented for lay people?
You'll find Buddhist morality is based on the pre-existing concept of ahimsa (harmlessness). Where Buddhist morality diverges from many of the existing ethical frameworks was the Buddha's revolutionary thinking on moral agency - kamma. The key to kamma-vipaka is that intention is kamma. And hence, Buddhist morality is also underpinned by the notion that it is the intention behind our words and deeds which is important.
With regards to the historical influence of Christianity and Buddhism - I refer you to Lopez's 'From stone to flesh' and McMahon's 'the making of Buddhist Modernism'.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
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SarathW
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by SarathW » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:20 am

My question is, where does Theravada Buddhism derive its morality?
To me this is just the common sense.
Many people and children do not have common sense so we make it to a precept.
Many people do not want to follow precepts so we make it to a law or commandments.
could it be said to be somewhat more conservative and family oriented for lay people?
Depends on the precepts:
Five precepts manly for lay people.
Eight and ten precepts and Vinaya is for monks.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

Khan Singh
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Khan Singh » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:33 am

SarathW wrote:
My question is, where does Theravada Buddhism derive its morality?
To me this is just the common sense
Not entirely helpful. Like the saying goes, common sense isn't so common.
DC2R wrote:I am not sure what you mean by the second part.
The family oriented part? I just mean that relations in lay family life are defined by the Buddhist canon and not say some Feminist idea.
Ben wrote: You'll find Buddhist morality is based on the pre-existing concept of ahimsa (harmlessness). Where Buddhist morality diverges from many of the existing ethical frameworks was the Buddha's revolutionary thinking on moral agency - kamma. The key to kamma-vipaka is that intention is kamma. And hence, Buddhist morality is also underpinned by the notion that it is the intention behind our words and deeds which is important.
With regards to the historical influence of Christianity and Buddhism - I refer you to Lopez's 'From stone to flesh' and McMahon's 'the making of Buddhist Modernism'.
Kind regards,
Ben
I'm aware of most of what you've stated here, but I will certainly check out the book titles you've given.

SarathW
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by SarathW » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:53 am

Not entirely helpful. Like the saying goes, common sense isn't so common.
There is a story behind all the vinaya rules.
So morality also developed the same way.
Morality is to sustain a harmonious society.
Morality help a meditator to concentrate due to non-remorse.
However because it is allowed by law it will not make morale.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Mkoll
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Mkoll » Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:23 am

Khan Singh wrote:
DC2R wrote:I am not sure what you mean by the second part.
The family oriented part? I just mean that relations in lay family life are defined by the Buddhist canon and not say some Feminist idea.
Can you give a specific example of this? That is, an example of a teaching about lay family life from the Pali Canon and a feminist (or other modern) idea that runs counter to it? I'm curious about how your question applies to the specifics on the ground.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Khan Singh
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Khan Singh » Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:38 am

Mkoll wrote:Can you give a specific example of this? That is, an example of a teaching about lay family life from the Pali Canon and a feminist (or other modern) idea that runs counter to it? I'm curious about how your question applies to the specifics on the ground.
Well, Feminism is influential in some parts of the world, but obviously it isn't accepted everywhere, and where it is, not always to the same degree. In many ways trying to insert Feminism into Buddhism is just doing work that will later be undone by demographic shifts. Your question seems to have the idea that Feminist ideology is somehow in perfect harmony with the Buddha's teaching and the true nature of reality, although this is not something that I accept. (I would say it's false, but I won't waste time arguing over it. Suffice it to say I simply don't accept that.)

Anyway, I think the most prominent benefit (in regard to family values) of the Buddha's teachings is his acceptance of traditional gender roles (male, provider, woman, mother,) and his understanding of human nature and the differing psychologies of men and women. He outlines the mutual duties in marriage and in the family, etc.. I find this valuable.

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Mkoll
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Mkoll » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:27 am

Khan Singh wrote:Your question seems to have the idea that Feminist ideology is somehow in perfect harmony with the Buddha's teaching and the true nature of reality, although this is not something that I accept.
I would say rather that your mind imputed that idea onto my question which, by the way, you did not answer.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Khan Singh
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Khan Singh » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:38 am

Mkoll wrote: I would say rather that your mind imputed that idea onto my question
:thumbsup:

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Aloka
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by Aloka » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:20 am

.....Anyway, I think the most prominent benefit (in regard to family values) of the Buddha's teachings is his acceptance of traditional gender roles (male, provider, woman, mother,)........
Hi Khan Singh,

The Buddha lived in India approximately 2,500 years ago, he didn't get involved in the politics of his country, he taught within the existing system - and society is very different in the western world today. Women, for example, quite rightly have legal rights in my country, as well the opportunity to go out to work and help with family finances, while any children they have attend a nursery or school for part of the day. These are everyday facts not "some Feminist idea."

"Traditional gender roles" in ancient India were that men could have several wives, as well as slaves. You can see evidence of that in AN 5.148:

Excerpt:
.... And his children, wives, slaves, servants, and workers listen carefully to him, lend him their ears, and serve him with understanding hearts.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Luckily women don't all have to live in that kind of bondage in the modern world, being betrothed to men with other wives by our families when we're still children. If we want to, we can practice the Dhamma alone, without interference, even though there are still misogynist attitudes in some places. (and thankfully slavery has been abolished)

With kind wishes,

Aloka :anjali:

.

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The Thinker
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by The Thinker » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:40 am

There is common ground within Buddhist morality, it is crucial common ground, to ease suffering in this life for ourselves and others. (that is the goal),

The morals in Christianity are also noble, the 10 commandments are good, but revelations contradict the practice (why bother?)
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

paul
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Re: Buddhist Morality

Post by paul » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:09 am

Buddhist morality is founded in Greek thought, particularly the idea of the Golden Mean:
Wikipedia: In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns believed that there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth. The Greeks believed there to be three "ingredients" to beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. Beauty was an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, education (paideia), and politics. They judged life by this mentality.

In Chinese philosophy, a similar concept, Doctrine of the Mean, was propounded by Confucius. Buddhist philosophy likewise includes the concept of the Middle Way."
The Greek influence also accounts for the logic in the Buddha's formulations, because morality was seen as a system which like beauty and mathematics, was a law of harmony in the cosmos.
The devas & Tathagatas see the fool
who goes about
out of tune with the cosmos. AN 3.40
Practising morality was a process of skilfully finding a middle way through situations between the extremes of excessive asceticism and indulgence and there could be no predetermined formula for it. The precepts are 'training rules' intended to develop strengths in renunciation in order to apply them in life situations, in a martial sense.
"Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.

"Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (The Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana." SN 56.11
Sila is the foundation of the threefold division of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path into Sila, Samadhi, Panna.
"Thus in this way, Ananda, skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, freedom from remorse as their reward. Freedom from remorse has joy as its purpose, joy as its reward. Joy has rapture as its purpose, rapture as its reward. Rapture has serenity as its purpose, serenity as its reward. Serenity has pleasure as its purpose, pleasure as its reward. Pleasure has concentration as its purpose, concentration as its reward. Concentration has knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its purpose, knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its reward. Knowledge & vision of things as they actually are has disenchantment as its purpose, disenchantment as its reward. Disenchantment has dispassion as its purpose, dispassion as its reward. Dispassion has knowledge & vision of release as its purpose, knowledge & vision of release as its reward.

"In this way, Ananda, skillful virtues lead step-by-step to the consummation of arahantship." AN 11.1

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