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Fundamental Tenets Of Buddhism

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The Fundamental Tenets

Of Buddhist Ethics

The Moral Dilemmas

Word Count: 2,521

To live is to act, and in doing so our actions can have either harmful or beneficial consequences for oneself and others. Buddhist ethics is concerned with the principles and/or practices that help one to act in the ways that are helpful rather than harmful. ( Primary to the human factor is the fact that work implies equally to any setting, a supermarket or the stock market. No matter where we work, we've got to find a way to get along well with the people around us. (McLeod, 2004)

Some claim that Buddhism cannot encourage one to be good, because then you would become attached to goodness. Is it not better to find a middle ground where one does enough good that there cannot be criticism of this action? Buddhist many find that even this middle ground is not enough for their spiritual enlightenment. It may be that as one works on improving themselves through good, a natural process of compassion for others may develop.

It is important to note that three fundamental forms of training are practiced in Buddhism. These practices consist of morality, mental culture, and wisdom. (Plamintr, 1994) Each of these practices is implemented with regards to the five precepts. These practices are the basic objectives behind the precepts rather than the practice themselves.

Morality is translated to sila in Buddhist terms. Sila is a state of normalcy, and when practiced it will return one to one's own basic goodness or original state of normalcy. (Plamintr, 1994) Greed, hatred, anger, jealousy are just some factors that alter individuals nature, making them into something other than their own true self. Sila trains individuals to preserve their true nature while overcoming negative forces.

When viewing morality it is easy to understand that there is, and will be corruption. This in turns effects society, and can be seen when viewing what society is experiencing presently. Whether or not this effect is direct or indirect, it shows the lack of some form of good morality. Without morality one may never achieve the right concentration, and without the right concentration wisdom will not be fully perfected.

How good morality is determined, may be viewed by whether or not an action is either good or evil, right or wrong. (Wangu, 2002) When viewing an action it must be evaluated by some mean, and this may be accomplished through the use of a few simple questions. What were the intentions that motivated the action, what repercussions resulted from this action, and what effect does this action have on others, can show whether or not the action was precipitated with good or evil intent.

For the Buddhist these moral precepts are based on Dhamma, and reflect eternal values. (Wangu, 2002) The percepts help one to live those ideals, and teach one to do the right things while avoiding the wrong things. Moral precepts are not like commandments, such as those used in many Christian religions, they are more a course which one trains willingly in order to obtain a desired objective. The precepts are not practiced to please a supreme being, but are for the good of oneself and the good of society. Training is based on the concept that all human beings have the potential for development. And development may be realized through distinct standards by which individuals may train themselves.

Observance of the five precepts represents the minimal moral obligation for the practicing Buddhist. This practice deeply affects the follower's personal life, as well as their social life. The precepts assist in leading a moral life and advancement on the spiritual path, both on a personal level and on a social level.

The five precepts are a means to an end, they are observed for specific reasons. (Plamintr, 1994) They represent the groundwork for promoting higher virtues, mental development and spiritual enlightenment.

The first precept consists of not destroying living things. A Buddhist will observe the abstinence from the destruction of life. The destruction of life must be seen as a negative act, therefore enlightenment and /or wisdom comes from refraining from such acts. Abandoning all unnecessary destruction of life is the first step. There are those individuals that find entertainment and/or pleasure in destroying another creature, such as those that hunt or fish for sport, or a more drastic means as found in the observance of bullfights, cock fights or dog fights. All these types of destruction of life are senseless and should be abstained from. Even the extermination of insects for one's personal comfort can be seen as unnecessary and even condemnable. As when we exterminate this pest we are often contaminating the environment through the use of pesticides.

It is important, and must be realized, that each individual that practices Buddhism will practice it in accordance to his or her own abilities and the opportunities that arise. (Plamintr, 1994) An individual who hunts for a living because it is necessary to themselves and their family's well being is understandable to an extent. A law enforcement officer, or military personal, out on patrol in hostile areas will find different circumstances, yet are bound by duty. Each situation must therefore be judged upon circumstance and duty. But no matter what duty, situation, or circumstance, Buddhism never justifies destruction of life. (Gyatso, 2001)

The moral dilemma with this first precept concerns the ideal of universal love and compassion. It simple is not just a way of conducting one's life but can be seen in a more spiritual level concerning the purity of ones body, mind, and soul. This purification does not come without considerable effort and training. It is best to take this step in stages or steps. A first step may consist of abandoning any form of killing that is not absolutely necessary. Killing for entertainment whether as a recreational sport or whether observed for the entertainment value it may present is an example of such a step. Although some occupations may not allow such abstinence while in the line of duty it may assist in one seeing or developing sensitivity to the suffering of other beings. Instruments of the law, such as capital punishment, while not advocated by Buddhists, can be seen as devices by which law and order are maintained for the common good of society.

The second precept concerns not taking things that are not given. This would pertain to respecting the possessions of others and not stealing. This is not just the mere stealing of any item, but avoiding



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