Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Strive4Karuna
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Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by Strive4Karuna » Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:52 pm

My dad has an old cell phone recharger. Since then he has purchased a new phone and the recharger has been sitting in my room for months. My parents are very generous towards me, even if he needed it, i know he would likely still give it to me, however, i believe he no longer needs it and know 100%, without a doubt if I asked him for the charger he would say yes.

He is sleeping on the couch and is not in the best health. I do not want to wake him up to ask for permission. The charger is his property not mine. Is it okay to take something without permission if you know the person would give it to you? In some situations, even if you know the answer would be "yes", depending on the persons personality, some people would still prefer for you to ask first and may get upset. In this situation, you should wait for permission. My family is different and do not care, they let me use, borrow, take whatever I want within reason and sometimes when i ask them they kind of have that "you don't need to ask, just take it response or "of course you can" response. I did not take the charger, and know without a doubt that that was the right decision to make because my instincts rarely lead me astray and my heart is content.

Metta Karaniya Sutta "do not do the slightest thing that the wise would reprove"

How many of you would have taken it? If I would like the charger now, i may now need to make a 30-1 hour trip back to my parents house by public transit to get the charger. I could easily purchase a new charger, but that would be a waste of resources. I prefer to reuse things that others do not need.

Why did I post this if I already know the answe? Because I want to shine light on the deeper aspects of "sila" that are rarely discussed.

An argument towards this may be that my actions were "overkill". That time is precious, our lives truly are very short and an hour of time could be spent towards the practice for the goal of nibbana however my mind now feels brighter, more concentrated, sila is truly a magnificent thing.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jul 06, 2016 8:12 pm

Taking something on trust is not breaking any precept.

Take a look at the Ghaṭīkāra Sutta of the Majjhimanikāya.

Even monks are allowed to take something without asking, if they are really sure that the owner will be pleased.

If it turns out that they were mistaken, and the owner is not pleased, it is not any offence at all, let alone one of defeat for stealing. However, if they fail to give it back, that becomes an offence. If it has been used, e.g. food or medicine, then they have a duty to replace it whenever they are able to.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Strive4Karuna
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Re: Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by Strive4Karuna » Wed Jul 06, 2016 8:33 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Taking something on trust is not breaking any precept.

Take a look at the Ghaṭīkār Sutta of the Majjhimanikāya.

Even monks are allowed to take something without asking, if they are really sure that the owner will be pleased.

If it turns out that they were mistaken, and the owner is not pleased, it is not any offence at all, let alone one of defeat for stealing. However, if they fail to give it back, that becomes an offence. If it has been used, e.g. food or medicine, then they have a duty to replace it whenever they are able to.
This raises a good point, I have read this Sutta before, and agree if one were to take something from someone and knew it would bring them pleasure and joy, it would be okay to do this act however i am neither an enlightened being, nor would my parents be "pleased" with me taking the charger, they would simply be okay with the act. It truly takes great wisdom to know how to behave in every situation and not to rely on the same response every time. I know if I were to take to take the charger in this situation, it would have been the wrong thing to do however, it is nice to know that I am not breaking any precepts. Your post was beneficial to me.thank you.

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samseva
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Re: Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by samseva » Fri Jul 08, 2016 4:08 am

Borrowing and stealing are two different things. Furthermore, situations change depending on whom the item or items belong to. An example is with close family or with a significant other. You might be in a situation where asking is not possible. In these circumstances, the close person would be happy (i.e., glad that they could help out) that you would borrow an item or take a small consumable. It is socially understandable that in these situations where you can't ask, you use your common social sense to determine that it really isn't that much and the person would be happy to help out if you were to ask. You need to be 100% sure though.

Also, this isn't taken out of nowhere. Like Ven. Pesala said, there is actually a Vinaya rule that allows a monk to take something if he is sure that the owner would be glad that he take the item in question.

rolling_boulder
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Re: Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by rolling_boulder » Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:24 am

Sometimes permission is implied. I live with my parents and eat food out of the cupboards without asking for permission every time. It would be pretty silly for me to ask my mother every time I want to eat a bowl of corn flakes or have a glass of milk.

Ajahn Thanissaro mentioned in one of his talks that while in India he asked some people if he could drink water out of their well or some such device. The people just gave him a funny look because part of their culture is that it's expected that you can just take water. It's something without a price in this case.

I run into a similar situation at work all the time where I need to borrow someone's pen or something without asking. The office provides the pens and stationary for the purposes of doing work, and if I'm using these things to do work I think there is no issue.

Use your judgement. As always, intention is the important factor. IMO.
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

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fivebells
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Re: Taking something without permission..yet knowing the answer is yes

Post by fivebells » Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:13 am

The key questions are always,
  • Will this lead to anyone's benefit, or to anyone's harm?
  • Will it lead to good or bad qualities of mind?
  • Will it lead to clearer understanding, or delusion?
If an action comes down on the bad side of any of these questions, it's worth at least asking about, if not outright abandoning the action. Otherwise, it's probably OK.

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