Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Being Bad


A friend wrote, “In my mind I can not understand why a person would have to promise to be good in a public ceremony.  A person is either good or isn't.  I can't understand how saying it public would make a difference.  Is it because you are making a promise to yourself, or a promise to the universe, or to the people around you?  Is it making a promise to the Buddah, who is long gone?  Does it give you a leg up on all the people who do not see the need for it?  Does it even matter in the big picture?  Sorry, these are things I do not understand.  The ceremony was quite like the Catholic ceremony, so that is why I am asking.”

My wife and my friend were both confused by the ceremony. I suspect others were confused as well. Was I promising to be good? Granted that it sure sounded like it when I said repeatedly “yes I well!” If not, what was I saying?

Instead of going to the next precept tonight, I thought I'd say something about being “good.” I certainly don't want to be good... especially if it's someone else's concept of good. I think it was one of the reasons I quit the boyscouts... I didn't like the "morally straight" bit. What is the “good” was a question that plagued Socrates.

Am I just publicly saying I'll follow the Buddhist equivalent of the ten commandments? I hope not.

From Wikopedia: “In the Abhisandha Sutta (AN 8.39), the Buddha said that undertaking the precepts is a gift to oneself and others:
... In [undertaking the five precepts], he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the ... gift, the ... great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests. This is the ... reward of merit, reward of skillfulness, nourishment of happiness, celestial, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, leading to what is desirable, pleasurable, & appealing; to welfare & to happiness.”[7]

So undertaking the precepts saves all sentient beings. We don't do it to be seen as "good" people; rather, we do it because it makes a healthy and happier world with less suffering. And from the Pali Canon, “Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given.” So you choose to renounce certain behaviors because you become aware of the consequences should you not renounce that behavior. It is not to be a good boyscout. It is because you see what happens when you don't. The boyscout behaves in a certain way because he is told to... or because he promised. Taking the precepts suggests to me that one will look at the consequences of their actions and do only what produces beneficial results. 

4 comments:

Kate said...

I can’t act like it’s a bad thing to try to not be a jerk.

Kate said...

I can’t act like it’s a bad thing to try to not be a jerk.

Kim Mosley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Mosley said...

Me neither. But still, we can try. The bird can't feed all its young with one trip away from the nest... but it tries.