To Do or Not To Do !
Is that a question?
BEHAVIOUR IN DAILY LIFE
"Do not commit any unwholesome actions,
Accumulate virtuous deeds,
Tame and train your own mind."
Ethics and Vows
But I Never Do Terrible Things...
The 8 Worldly Dharmas
The main practice in Buddhism evolves around transformation of one's own mind. The main means to accomplish this is via meditation as one needs to know the 'enemy' inside before one can efficiently subdue it. However, without the causes for positive results in terms of karma, spiritual progress is impossible. For example, if you plan to do a meditation retreat, but you fall sick instead because of some negative karma ripening, no retreat will happen at all. Hence, the practice of ethics prevents us from creating negative karma and will enable our spiritual progress.
Ethical behaviour is said to be at the basis of any spiritual path. A life
filled with killing, stealing and lying is certainly not very conducive to inner
peace and the generation of compassion.
The Buddha explained the 8-Fold Noble Path (correct thought, speech, actions, livelihood, understanding, effort, mindfulness and concentration) as a guideline to proper conduct.
If you desire to achieve Buddhahood in order to help all others, then you can also try the practices of a Bodhisattva: the 6 Perfections ( the perfection of giving, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom).
In other pages of this website more details can be found on the various sets of Buddhist vows (see Refuge, Compassion, Mahayana Precepts, Tantra and Sangha). Vows are intended to keep ones' mind focussed on mindfulness of our mental and physical actions. Moreover, keeping to vows creates a large store of positive energy (karma) which allows progress on the spiritual path. For example, if one does not kill without having taken a vow, one simply does not create any karma. However, when one has taken a vow not to kill, one accumulates positive karma 24 hours a day, as long as one does not kill.
The bottom line for all these practices is to control our behaviour so we do not harm others, but help them instead.
BUT I NEVER DO TERRIBLE THINGS...
"Please don't hurt others...
Please try to work with people and be helpful to them.
A fantastically large number of people need help.
Please try to help them, for goodness sake, for heaven and earth.
Don't just collect Oriental wisdoms one after the other.
Don't just sit on an empty zafu, an empty meditation cushion.
But go out and try to help others, if you can. That is the main point...
Your help doesn't have to be a big deal.
To begin with, just work with your friends and work with yourself at the same time.
It is about time we became responsible for this world."
Chogyam Trungpa, from "Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala"
Please take some time to reflect on a famous scientific experiment done in
1963 by Stanley Milgram:
Test persons came after an advertisement: "Join a memory experiment, one hour for 4 dollars". It was explained that the people were the "Master" of the experiment, and the "real" test person was in another room, connected to electroshock equipment. The research was to verify if people learn better when being punished. Whenever the other gave a wrong answer to a question, the Master should push a button to give a shock. To clarify what the other person was undergoing, the Master was given an very unpleasant shock of 45 volts. Every time when the other person would answer wrongly, shock must be given, 15 Volts higher than the previous one, from 15 to 450 Volts. The other person could be heard, and would be screaming and banging the walls at shocks over 300 volts.
The crux of the experiment: the "other person" in the room next door was an actor, not receiving any shocks at all, the real test persons were the masters giving the shocks and the experiment was about how far they would be prepared to go.
The truly shocking about this experiment was that 2/3rd of the test persons would continue (though sweating and nervous) after some simple assurances from the test leader that they should continue in order to make the test work, until the maximum shock of 450 Volts was given. This means that as much as two-thirds of people are potential torturers who merely need a little encouragement and 4 dollars per hour! The experiment did not clarify if people are really bad, or just easily convinced by a man in a white coat, but it does make one think....
If you think the above is not representative of normal human behaviour;
please reflect on the following equally disturbing experiment. (Recently a
German movie; 'Experiment' was made on the basis of the findings of this experiment.)
About 30 years ago, Professor Philip Zimbardo carried out this experiment in
24 Students were put in a fictional prisonward (set up in the university) and divided into two groups. The 'guards' became a uniform, a batton, handcuffs and dark sunglasses. The 'prisoners', merely dressed in short pants were put into cells. The professor intends to observe them for 2 weeks via videocameras. However, already after 6 days the experiment needs to be stopped, as the guards treat the prisoners too dreadful - the experiment has become dreadfully serious. To quote from the conclusion:
"We had created an overwhelmingly powerful situation -- a situation in which prisoners were withdrawing and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards were behaving sadistically."
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THE EIGHT WORLDLY DHARMAS
Apart from the above, the practice of trying to avoid the "Eight Worldly
Dharmas" is quite important. These describe the ceaseless activities we develop
towards short-term pleasures, which often prove not even to be pleasures.
The Eight Worldly Dharmas are being concerned with:
Getting what you want, and avoiding getting what you do not want
Wanting (instant) happiness, and not wanting unhappiness
Wanting fame, and not wanting to be unknown
Wanting praise, and not wanting blame.
From the point of view of karma, we usually behave contrary to our goals,
because in order to receive what we want, we need to give others
what they want. To avoid getting what we do not want, we should avoid giving
others what they do not want and so on.
This is a very good subject for meditation; you can ask yourself for example:
- Do I often give others happiness or unpleasant experiences?
- Do I help others who are unhappy?
- How often do I blame people instead of praising them?
- What can I do with fame, what will it really bring me?
- What will be useful when I am about to die?
Practicing Dharma in Daily Life - a teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Advice by the Western Geshe Michael Roach on "Running a business the Dharma-way" , look under study material.
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Last updated: April 11, 2001