Saturday, July 5, 2008

Being practical

Question: (unedited)

I have a question which has been troubling me for quite some time. I have joined an online investment scheme which will give us some returns every month. The revenue generated comes from different sources, eg. real estate, financial services,restaurants etc. My question is that am i creating bad karma as one of the revenue source comes from restaurants which will definately have meat and beer. Am i indirectly killing lives? I loved this scheme as 10% of our revenue will be donated for humanitarian aid and the boss of this scheme seems a good man as he is always helping others and contributing to charities. It's just that the "restuarant" is making me worried. The boss is intending to franchise the resturant all over the world. I am scared that the meat eaten all over the world will be held responsible by me. Really hope you can help me with this. Thank you for your patience and time.


First, we have to define what constitute "killing". There have to be the 5 conditions fulfilled to constitute full responsibility in the "killing". First, there has to be a being; second, knowledge of it being alive; third, the intention to kill; fourth, the act of killing; fifth, the being is dead as a result of the action.

The Buddha advised us to use our human intelligence and common sense to live a wholesome and practical life. 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 monks (or nuns). 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 call in worldly terms, "standards"or "yardsticks". Standards are yardsticks to measure our performance. Each of us has a certain level of "performance standard". It is our "standard". How much we score depends on our level of this "standard". Just like performing gymnastic in the Olympics. Are we required to score a perfect 10 every time? Or can we?

As lay Buddhists, 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. The Buddha would want us to analyze conditions 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. In the final analysis, you must decide for yourself.

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