Clarification on Precepts

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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atharva2k
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Clarification on Precepts

Post by atharva2k » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:02 am

Hello, I have been trying to seriously keep the precepts these last few months and I have seen many positive changes. However, I have recently been coming into contact with situations that are putting me in moral turmoil. One example:
My parents stream content that is from a third-party app that is not authorized by the owner of the content. I will not get into the debate of whether downloading/streaming breaks the 2nd precept; for me it does so I do NOT do it. However, they want me to watch some shows with them and generally spend time with them. So I am also indulging in this stolen content, even though I never expressed the intention to watch it. I even enjoy the content sometimes, so then I feel guilty. If I want to watch something, I always make sure it is legal, but I don't want to force my principles onto my parents and cause argument.
Firstly, am I breaking precepts here? I feel like the precepts are an amazing tool for inducing mindfulness and keeping oneself out of harm, but I get really uptight about it all sometimes and then this kind of doubt overwhelms me. How do I develop a more relaxed approach? More generally, what does one do in situations where their loved ones/friends are breaking precepts and I cannot remove myself from the situation so easily?
Thanks

Garrib
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by Garrib » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:22 am

Hi, personally I don't think you are breaking any precepts in the situation you describe, especially as you are not encouraging them to download/stream the content. My parents and grandpa drink alcohol regularly, though they are not alcoholics. I used to as well, but won't go near it now. I actually think that over time I have made them more sympathetic to the idea that there are serious drawbacks to drinking. Hopefully that will lead to their stopping some day, but for now, I have to practice contentment and understanding. They also have few qualms about killing insects and things like that (again I used to do this as well, but it really makes me ill to think about now). It is not always fun or easy, but merely being around (or even intimate with) people who are breaking precepts is not tantamount to breaking precepts ourselves. Maybe these are best viewed as opportunities for cultivating patience?

Best,

Brad

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DooDoot
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by DooDoot » Mon Dec 25, 2017 6:26 am

atharva2k wrote:
Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:02 am
Firstly, am I breaking precepts here?
Hi Atharva2k

While the precept exists to make us considerate & compassionate people & also free from remorse, guilt & fear; the precept mostly exists to prevent harm, pain & suffering to others. SN 55.7 says:
Householders, a noble disciple considers this: 'If someone steals what I did not give, in an act of theft, this would not be pleasant to me. Also, if I steal what another has not have given me, in an act of theft, it would not be pleasant for that other person either. The things that are nasty and unpleasant to me are as nasty and unpleasant for another. How could I inflict on another something that is unpleasant to me? Having considered this, he abstains himself from taking what has not been given , he incites others to not take what was not given and praises the act of refraining from taking what was not given . Thus, his body conduct is purified in three ways.

http://www.buddha-vacana.org/fr/sutta/s ... 5-007.html
Therefore, what is important to consider is if & how much the act of stealing by your parents is causing harm & pain to the legal owner of the property. While I personally do not know very much about streaming internet content, my impression is what your parents are doing is not harming the legal owner of the property very much. For example, if I personally illegally downloaded music of the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, this would not bother me very much, even though I would not do it.

On the other hand, for example, if your parents were stealing valuable things from your neighbors who were financially poor, then it is obvious that your knowingly using those stolen goods are causing harm to your neighbours. You would certainly refrain from using those stolen goods & demand that your parents give them back. If your parents refused to give back the goods, you might even report them to the police.

But in the case of streaming content on the internet, this appears to be a trifling (insignificant) matter that is not depriving the owner in a harmful way. Entertainment companies have generally already made their millions of dollars from their old movies or otherwise written-off their losses in their tax returns and are probably resigned or accepting of the reality that their movies are illegally downloaded.
atharva2k wrote:
Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:02 am
I feel like the precepts are an amazing tool for inducing mindfulness and keeping oneself out of harm :heart: , but I get really uptight about it all sometimes and then this kind of doubt overwhelms me. How do I develop a more relaxed approach? More generally, what does one do in situations where their loved ones/friends are breaking precepts and I cannot remove myself from the situation so easily?
As I suggested, the example of your parents streaming content is a trifling matter. Since no real harm is occurring, you can practise forgiveness & equanimity towards your parents for their actions. You could even tell your parents what you truly think but in a light-hearted way.

About "trifling evil deeds', there is the Lonaphala Sutta, which states:
Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in [contemplating] the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind, undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.

Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

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LG2V
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by LG2V » Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:42 am

Try to avoid it if you can. If they're streaming movies, shows, etc. without paying for it or having copyright rights, then it's generally defined as stealing nowadays. Be careful though, sometimes it isn't. Some sites have agreements with producers or upload content that could possibly be more permissive, such as educational and/or derivatives of copyrighted content.

However, they are your parents. If you're a minor, there's only so much that you can disagree with their desires. So, decline if you can. Don't worry about it if you must. You're not making bad karma if your parents are making you watch it, imo.

As far as breaking precepts for social graces, goes, I wouldn't try to do it. It's similar to social drinking; everyone just comes out worse. So, I agree with your decision to abstain, even if it causes some discomfort.
Here are some excellent sites for giving free Dana (Click-Based Donation):
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manas
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by manas » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:28 pm

atharva2k wrote:
Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:02 am
Hello, I have been trying to seriously keep the precepts these last few months and I have seen many positive changes. However, I have recently been coming into contact with situations that are putting me in moral turmoil. One example:
My parents stream content that is from a third-party app that is not authorized by the owner of the content. I will not get into the debate of whether downloading/streaming breaks the 2nd precept; for me it does so I do NOT do it. However, they want me to watch some shows with them and generally spend time with them. So I am also indulging in this stolen content, even though I never expressed the intention to watch it.
Hi atharva,
the Buddha pointed out that killing of animals is wrong, but did not forbid his disciples from accepting meat on alms-round, thus allowing lay people to practice generousity to the monks. Yet by allowing this, he was not encouraging animal killing. Maybe it's the same, when it comes to your parents illegally downloading stuff, then offering you to watch it with them? So long as you don't actually ask or encourage them to do it, and just accept their offer in order to be sociable with them, for example?
I even enjoy the content sometimes, so then I feel guilty.
Having been initially instructed in the Catholic faith, I can relate to that. But this is Buddhism, not Catholicism. You don't need to feel guilty if you enjoy something; if you've not broken the precepts, it's ok. ;)

:anjali:
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

malunkyaputta
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by malunkyaputta » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:12 am

Hi,

Just passing by and I thought I'd share the way I look at things - it may benefit someone reading...who knows...

I'm not sure I agree with those who say that watching pirated content is not harmful or cause suffering to the original content owner.
We cannot know for sure how will the "loss of profit" due to pirated-content may influence whoever was involved in the creation and distribution of the original content. Maybe someone will lose their job? who knows...

In addition, I believe the precepts are also there to help us practice "giving up" on our self-view, or in other words - giving up the idea that *we* are more "important" than something/somebody else...

By not killing a mosquito, I am not placing my own comfort (and lack of minor-itching) over the life of another living creature.
By not taking what is not given to me - I'm not putting my needs and my content in front of others...
By not lying - I am not trying to "protect" my "self" from any harm that I might imagine will be caused if I tell the truth
etc etc...

One of the basic practices in Buddhism, to my knowledge, is generosity - which also has the side-effect of letting-go of yourself...

Also - you *know* it is not considered legal...and by breaking the law - you are just feeding your defilements.

I would suggest getting NetFlix subscription or buying Apple TV or some other platform you can use to easily purchase/watch legal content...


Thanks for reading :)

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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:28 am

re: 'for me it does,' breaking the 2nd precept. not so, it would be beneficial for you to examine and abandon that view. ven yuttadhammo i believe put it well here https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/2869
and retrofuturist (pbuh) also said well that by the same measure setting up a competing business in a market economy isn't stealing
there may be something blameworthy to breaking the law or a law, but it has to be evaluated differently. a sotāpanna could possibly pirate content but wouldn't take a physical object other than what is given
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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Clarification on Precepts

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:36 am

the five precepts concern gross (rather than subtle) forms of misconduct. it should be quite clear whether something goes against them
deliberately killing a living being
deliberately taking something, in the sense of depriving the owner [of a physical object]
telling a deliberate lie
violating someone else's union out of sensual desire
willful intoxication
encouraging others to do any of these things and expressing approval are certainly blameworthy, it is an offense entailing expulsion for a monk or a nun to encourage someone to kill a human being or to describe death as advantageous
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

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