Saturday, May 10, 2008

Robin Hood (Comment)

This is my comment:

Hi Robin Hood,
If I may call you such. You know, there is a moral to this legend. Robbing the rich to feed the poor. And we all love Robin Hood. He was also the hero. He was not the villain. As for your adventure, first let us define what constitute "stealing". A lot of people said that taking things that are not theirs is stealing. I beg to differ. To me taking things that we know belong to someone is stealing. You see the difference? If I see a coat hanging on the wall, say in the office where I work for the past one year, and knowing that no one in the office is the owner, what should I do? Of course I can rigidly keep my precept of not "stealing" and let the coat collect dust. Or I can use my common sense and human intelligence to decide whether I should take it and if I so desire, donate it to charity. The Buddha always encouraged us to use our common sense and human intelligence to conduct our lives skilfully guided by our precepts. In Buddhism, we must always remember that there are 2 paths to conduct our lives. One is that of renunciation, which means we have made up our mind to keep stringent precepts irrespective of consequences. Our precepts take precedence over anything else. If we want to follow this path then we have to become a monk. Otherwise, the conditions of this world are such that we will face contradictions between our supreme spiritual principles and the dictates of our worldly affairs. The 2nd path is to live as a lay person to face the challenges of this unwholesome world and to try our best to live in peace with ourselves while being bombarded with the evils of life. Here, we have to be very careful in interpreting and living a Budhhist way of life. The Buddha encouraged us to keep the 5 precepts. The precepts are supreme principles, they are like what we called in worldly terms "standards". Standards are yardsticks to measure our performance. Each of us has a certain level of "performance". It is our "standard". How much we score depends on our level of the "standard". Just like performing gymnastic in the Olympics. Are we required to score 10s every time? Or can we? As a lay Buddhist, we must be aware of this "standard". We can only perform up to our "standard" at this point in time. Hopefully, with progressive improvements through diligent practice. In your scenario, you can assess your actions in terms of wanting to perform a 10 in your principles; or you can still be Robin Hood and continue to be a hero in the eyes of the suffering poor. Or you as a 100% holy monk, blissfully, maintaining your perfection in upholding your lofty principles. It is a question of perfection of the path; or being an ordinary Joe trying his best to help other less fortunate people in this world. The first path is what we called the Aryan path, the path of perfection which is above the world. The 2nd path is the path of ordinary mortals like you and me. I keep my precepts to the best of my ability at my level (which is below the prescribed "standard"). I can have peace with myself that I have tried my best, given my mortal limitations. The choice is yours. The Buddha would want us to analyse condition in this manner and not to succumb to rigid interpretations of life. But one word of caution. Whatever or whichever we choose, we must be guided by the Buddha's teachings. What is it? Avoid doing evil, do good, and think wisely. Once we have decided, we must have the courage to face the consequences, whatever they may be. Take care.

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