The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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clw_uk
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by clw_uk » Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:13 pm

I would help the guy and bay the bill, better for him to have an easier existence than an awkward one and the money is just money
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kc2dpt
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by kc2dpt » Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:57 pm

Bankei wrote:What about this scenario, what would you do?
How does asking what a bunch of unawakened folks would do help answer the question of what the Buddha teachings are regarding "the ethics of non action"? Isn't it perhaps more relevant to ask "What would the Buddha advise us to do?"

The desire to protect the car's upholstery is clearly rooted in greed, an unwholesome quality, while the desire to help the man is clearly rooted in compassion, a wholesome quality.

I think everyone here agrees it is possible to abstain from acting for unwholesome reasons, just as it is possible to act for unwholesome reasons.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bankei » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:42 pm

The reason I ask these questions is that I have been reading some modern philosophy/ethics such as the works by Peter Singer and Peter Unger. The above quote about the car is by Peter Unger, there is a bit at wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Hig ... etting_Die

Unger gives the car example where most people would agree that you should help the victim and disregard the car. He then compares this to people dying of starvation, aids etc. We each have the economic power to save a number of people if we choose.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by tellyontellyon » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:29 am

To me, the most important aspect of Karma is how we are training our mind. There is no cosmic 'judge', it is more a matter of conditioning our habits.
Surely indifference and ignorance, as well as willful ignorance are negative mind states?
So it is 'bad karma', in the sense of how we are training ourselves, to continue with those sorts of bad habits of body, speech or mind.

Ignorance, indifference and unawareness are bad habits that will keep us in Samsara and so must be challenged if we want to make progress and reduce/eliminate suffering.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by jnak » Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:37 am

I would tackle the OP's question from a different angle. The Buddha taught the value of generousity. I can't think of anything more generous than giving someone in danger lifesaving assistance. At the same time, IIRC there is a sutta where the Buddha advised a householder to "thatch his own house first" rather than attempting in vain to thatch the whole village. So it would seem there is a limit to what we owe our fellow beings.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:27 pm

Man Jailed for Manslaughter due to doing nothing to help a drowning woman.

Judge Jeremy Carey said:
"You did not try in any way to help a drowning girl - not by throwing her a life buoy, not by going to her aid as some would have done, not by calling for help, not by contacting the rescue or emergency services.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:20 am

Greetings,

That's a terrible verdict IMO.

(Possibly the reason he pleaded guilty to manslaughter was because he was actually guilty of something worse?)

Metta,
Paul. :)
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:20 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

That's a terrible verdict IMO.

(Possibly the reason he pleaded guilty to manslaughter was because he was actually guilty of something worse?)

Metta,
Paul. :)
I don't know why you think it's a terrible verdict. It seems about right given the lack of any evidence for murder. One might have suspicions that she jumped to escape unwanted sexual advances, or that he pushed her, but suspicions are not evidence, so a charge of manslaughter is probably the best that the CPS could hope to substantiate, which they did.
"It is the failure to take any steps to prevent Miss Morgan's death after she fell into the sea which forms the basis of his culpability for manslaughter."
If you do want to rescue a drowning person, and are not trained in life-saving, nor a strong swimmer, you should not attempt to rescue them, except by using techniques like that above: extend a robe or a board, etc., in their direction. If you try to rescue them, they will probably drown you too.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Mkoll » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:30 am

The guy went off partying and hitting on women before calling the police to say that he witnessed her dying hours before. Speaks volumes about his character. I don't know of the punishment for manslaughter over there, but he should definitely experience some serious consequences.
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:58 am

He got five and a half years, possibly reduced due to pleading guilty.

To get back on topic. What guilt is there in inaction if one watches someone drown because one is unable to help (not a competent swimmer), and there is no way of getting help?
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Buddha Vacana » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:53 am

I would tend to think that inaction is not unwholesome with the exception of legal cases where silence is assumed by default to be either a "yes" or a "no". That happens in the Vinaya for Patimokkha recitation for example. Other examples might be cases where one is pressed to tell what they know but they won't.

That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.

Another approach would be to consider how rebirth works. We get basically acquainted with like-minded people. If we are the kind of person to rescue others when in danger, we will get reborn in the company of such people, so we increase the likelihood of not being let down in situations of danger in the future.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:52 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:To get back on topic. What guilt is there in inaction if one watches someone drown because one is unable to help (not a competent swimmer), and there is no way of getting help?
It's not clear that there is guilt in such cases; however, such cases also seem to be very rare.

- - -
retrofuturist wrote:That's a terrible verdict IMO.
Do explain why you think so.


Also, in some cases, a person is automatically considered guilty and being an accomplice if they fail to take steps to prevent a crime that they witness and don't report it; this goes at least for police officers and lawyers.
On principle, medical doctors also face an investigation by an ethics committee if it is discovered that in their off-duty time, they have witnessed a person facing a medical emergency and have not acted in line with their duties as a medical doctor.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:59 am

Buddha Vacana wrote:That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.
Some of the core ideas by which the our legal system works is that human life in and of itself is valuable and that humans owe eachother a measure of goodwill and solidarity.

In some cases, inaction is a betrayal of humanity.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Buddha Vacana » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:43 pm

binocular wrote:
Buddha Vacana wrote:That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.
Some of the core ideas by which the our legal system works is that human life in and of itself is valuable and that humans owe eachother a measure of goodwill and solidarity.

In some cases, inaction is a betrayal of humanity.
Yes here non assistance to person in danger is an offense, and I agree.

I think not helping someone will not drive you to hell, just that it is a failed opportunity to increase merit, which can result in not being helped in the future when being in the same situation.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Jojola » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:47 pm

Shouldn't it be obvious when you understand volition is kamma? The action or consequences of doesn't matter, just intention.
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