Monday, July 11, 2011

A Pleasant Conversation (Part 1 of 4)

Question : (Unedited)

Hello dear,
I hope you are fine. It`s a great chance that I can ask you my questions. My first question is as follows:

Where is the place of

Self-Defense and Self-Country Defense and Self-Family Defense in the Theravada Tradition of Buddhism (TTB)? If we divide actions in 5th categories, which category will be the place of Self-Defense in TTB? Here are the 5th categories:

1. Optional: Whether it is done or not doesn
t have anything to do with TTB.
2. Recommended: It is better to be done.
3. Abominable: It is better not to be done.
4. Obligatory: It must be done.
5. Illegal: It must never be done.

This question came to my mind when I was reading these verses of Dhamma-padda :

For never does hatred cease by hatred in this world. Hatred ceases only by non-hatred. This is an eternal law. Verse No.5

All people tremble at the prospect of punishment. All people fear death.Behave others as if you are behaving yourself, don`t kill and don`t cause others to kill. Verse No.129

Victory breeds hatred, for the conquered are unhappy. Those who have given up both victory and defeat are content and happy. Verse No.201

The sages who injure no one and who always control their bodies
they will go to the unchangeable place where they will suffer no more. Verse No.225

He is not noble who injures living beings. One is so called because he is harmless towards all living beings. Verse No.270

Patiently shall I endure abuse as the elephant in battle endures the arrow sent from the bow, for there are many, indeed, who lack virtue. Verse No.320

The ones I call indeed brahmans who, though innocent offense, endure abuse, beating, and bonds
who have patience as their force and strength as their army. Verse No.399

The ones I call indeed brahmans who are tolerant among the intolerant, mild among the violent, and free from greed among the greedy. Verse No.406

Besides these verses, there is another verse that forbids selling weapons for lay people: Anguttara-Nikaya V, Sutta 177

To put simple, my question is, in which conditions Buddhists are allowed to break the SIKKHAPADA [I mean panca-sila(the Five Moral Order for lay people)]

My comment:
Hi A,

Welcome.  It is also with great pleasure that I am given a chance to try to answer your questions.  May I take it that your question is in your last sentence:


The Buddha did not COMMAND his followers NOT to break precepts. It is generally translated as "I undertake to observe the precept".
Take the example of the first precept which states that one should REFRAIN from killing. Killing is unwholesome. The act of killing means a being has to die due to this act of killing. The law of kamma is amoral. It does not take mitigation for a lesser crime. As lay Buddhists, we are always confronted with this conflict of principles against the onslaught of worldly evils. That was why the Buddha encouraged his followers to become monks to be "away" from the worldly evils. As monks they are required to keep their precepts strictly without compromise. That is the type of life that monks have decided to live by. This means that they will not commit any killing for whatever reason. However, for us lay people we have to be wise to weigh circumstances and to balance our worldly lives with our spiritual values. It is difficult as well as controversial. The Buddha encouraged us to use our common sense and human intelligence to live a practical life. The question here is whether an unwholesome act can be for the better good of the other parties. For example, if killing an aedes mosquito could save the lives of many humans, then we have to use our wisdom to decide. However, the act of killing will produce an unwholesome result now or in the future. Are we prepared to face the consequences for the better good of others? Also, we have to take into considerations of the nature of the life that we have taken. Is this life that we have taken beneficial to society; what is its life span? If that life is not beneficial and its life span is also very short, then the bad effect is much less than otherwise.

The universal law holds supreme.  An unwholesome act will produce corresponding unwholesome consequence now or in future.  Wholesome lifestyle will generate wholesome consequences.  It is our responsibility to live right and make effort to maintain this wholesome way of life; and hopefully there will be less chance that we have to commit unwholesome acts.  The five precepts are like a protective fence, when effectively guarded, harm will not come our way.  

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