(Re)examining the first precept?

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(Re)examining the first precept?

Post by fuki » Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:29 pm

Was reading this 1992 article posted on tricycle regarding the first precept;

How does one "view" or "embody" (sorry for that word lol)
the precept in daily life relations (One body, Great compassion) where are your blindspots and do we get uncomfortable when we notice them or if ppl want to talk about it?

https://tricycle.org/magazine/first-precept/

(article also copied in spoiler tag)
[SPOILER]
Refrain from killing is the first Buddhist precept. The Theravada tradition of Southeast Asia interprets this precept in terms that parallel a Western sense of morality: there is a clear-cut distinction between killing and not killing in which the existence of a breathing, moving being either comes to its end—or doesn’t. In this view, there is a killer, a separate entity that is killed, and the activity of killing. Compassion is expressed by not harming others, and many followers honor this precept by choosing a vegetarian diet.

In Zen and other Mahayana traditions in East Asia, there is a tendency to translate this precept into the more unfamiliar concept of non-killing. This view emphasizes a nondualistic reality in which there is no killer and no killed. From the Mahayana perspective, all apparent separations are illusions. The meaning of “life” in these traditions
extends beyond biological definition; maintaining a non-dual consciousness supports life, and not maintaining such awareness is considered a form of killing. For example, the spiritual goal of the practice is the complete extinction of craving—which Mahayana sees as killing, as does Zen. Zen Master Bodhidharma defines killing as “nursing a view of extinction,” which means, in part, defining spiritual practice in terms of the elimination or eradication of some aspect of life perceived as negative. If this is killing, then nirvana itself (usually defined as extinction) is killing. The Mahayana Lotus Sutra makes this point by saying that the nirvana of extinction is not the “true nirvana.” The” sword of compassion” in Mahayana teachings is used to cut through the illusion of separation, of self and other, of this or that. Compassion may be understood to be the functioning of an interconnected, interdependent reality.

Vajrayana Buddhism incorporates both Theravada and Mahayana views. The practice of the precepts begins with those rules and regulations of daily conduct that were systematized after the death of Shakyamuni Buddha and unfolds as a mindful response to an ever-changing present. In Vajrayana, as spiritual practice matures, there is less dependency on codified ethics and more on personal guidance from an authentic teacher.

The advent of Buddhism in the United States—1950 to the early 1970s—was dominated by Japanese Zen. In Japan, precept study (largely comprised of koans on the precepts) is introduced at the end of training—a strategy designed to prevent students from blindly embracing rules and regulations. According to Zen adepts, adherence to rules of ethics without some uncovering of Buddha nature (the universal consciousness that knows no duality) produces false piety and jeopardizes what they consider true moral action—action born not of rules but of non-dualistic consciousness. This gave rise to a misconception about Buddhist practice in the early days of Buddhism in America—namely, that Buddhists were unconcerned with ethics. Today many American Zen teachers choose not to wait until the end of training to initiate a modified, more discursive form of precept study that uses rational discussion (rather than koans) to explore the precepts. All American Buddhists—no matter which tradition they adhere to—face the challenge of adapting the moral guidelines Shakyamuni created twenty-five hundred years ago to modern life. The following extracts offer a sampling of teachings from the various Buddhist vehicles.

THERAVADA

The Buddha outlined five areas of basic morality that lead to a conscious life. These training precepts are given to all students who wish to follow the path of mindfulness. They are not given as absolute commandments; rather, they are practical guidelines to help us live in a more harmonious way and develop peace and power of mind. . . . The first precept is to refrain from killing. It means honoring all life, not acting out of hatred or aversion in such a way as to cause harm to any living creature . . . . Even though it sounds obvious, we still manage to forget it. There was a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine some years ago during the hunting season. One deer turns to the other and says, “Why don’t they thin their own goddamn herds?”

Excerpted from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation by Joseph Goldstein andJack Kornfield. Shambhala Publications: Boston, 1987.


With respect to the unprofitable course of action known as killing living things, (a) abandoning is virtue; (b) abstention is virtue; (c) volition is virtue; (d) restraint is virtue; and (e) non-transgression is virtue. . . . And here there is no state called abandoning other than the non-arising of the killing of living things. But the abandoning of a given unprofitable state upholds a given profitable state in the sense of providing a foundation for it, and concentrates it by preventing wavering, so it is called “virtue” (sila) in the sense of composing (silana), reckoned as upholding and concentrating. . .

Excerpted from fourth-century Theravada scholar Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa’s The Path of Purification, Volume One. Shambhala Publications: Boston, 1976.

ZEN

Life is non-killing. The seed of Buddha grows continuously. Maintain the wisdomlife of Buddha and do not kill life.

Excerpted from Instructions on the Precepts by Dogen Kigen (1200-1253 C.E.),  Japanese Zen Master of the Soto School.

The ten dharma worlds are the body and mind. In the sphere of the everlasting dharma, 
Not nursing a view of extinction 
Is called the precept of refraining from killing.

Bodhidarma (470-543 C.E.), First Zen Patriarch of China.


From the intrinsic standpoint—one of body, of Buddha-nature—non-killing means that there is nothing being born and nothing dying. The very notions of “birth” and “death” are extra. Life does not divide up into things to be killed or not killed; it is just this one body, constantly changing. From the subjective standpoint, there are two criteria involved: one is compassion and the other is a radically relative and completely intuitive sense of “rightness.” Compassion in the context of non-killing would mean encouraging or nurturing life. . . . “Rightness” is defined in terms of four aspects of judgement: time, place, the people involved, and the quantity or extent. . . . Whereas the literal perspective sees this precept in absolute terms of either killing or not-killing, maintaining both the literal and the subjective standpoints requires the compromise of minimizing the destruction of life. . . . The powerful irony at the heart of Zen practice is that the strongest way to follow this precept of non-killing is by killing the self! If we can kill—that is, truly forget—the self, we are at that very moment the infinite life of the Buddha, and are this nurturing and fostering life in the fullest, most genuine manner possible.”

Excerpted from a dharma talk by Bernard Glassman, abbot of the Zen Community of New York.

MAHAYANA AND VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM

Although one is powerless to act for the best when bound by fear, agitation, and so forth, still, on an occasion of charity (dana), the overlooking of conventional morality (sila) is advised.

Excerpted from Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The Bodhicaryyavatara of the Buddhist Poet Santideva. Translated by Marion Matics, Macmillan Company: London, 1970.

There is no moral precept that a bodhisattva fails to practice and observe. However, circumstances can arise in which it is better to commit certain normally non-virtuous actions than it is to bind ourselves to a specific moral code. Of course, it takes wisdom to determine when it is appropriate to relax our moral discipline and when it is better to be strict. If we keep our bodhicittamotivation in mind, however, we shall find it much easier to make the correct discriminations. Our basic consideration should be: “What is more beneficial for others? What is the best way of dealing with the situation so that they receive the most good?” [Here] is [a] traditional example used to explain how a bodhisattva can even commit murder if this is beneficial to others. In a previous life, Shakyamuni Buddha was an oarsman and one day he was ferrying 500 merchants across the sea. With his powers of clairvoyance he realized that one of the merchants was planning to kill all the others. He thought to himself, “If he follows out his plan he will not only cause 499 people to lose their lives but will also create the cause for being reborn in the lower realms.” The oarsman realized that if he killed the would-be assassin he could prevent all 500 people from being harmed. Therefore, with the motivation of great compassion, he killed the merchant. As a result of this selfless action, the oarsman purified much negative karma accumulated through many eons and also collected limitless merit. This story illustrates the range of a bodhisattva’s actions, but most of us are not able to practice like this at the moment. We should be aware of our level of attainment and understand our limitations for, as the saying goes, if a jackal tries to jump where a tiger leaps he will only break his neck! 

Excerpted from Meaningful to Behold: View, Meditation and Action in Mahayana Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Wisdom Publications: Cumbria, England, 1980.

THERAVADA

All Buddhist accept the five precepts (panca-sila) as their basic ethical guidelines. Using these as a handle, we know how to deal with many of the real issues of our day. The first precept is “I vow to abstain from taking life.” We promise not to destroy, cause to be destroyed, or sanction the destruction of any living being. Through accepting this precept, we recognize our relationship to all life and realize that harming any living creature harms oneself. The Buddha said, “Identifying ourselves with others, we can never slay or cause to slay.”

This precept applies to all creatures, irrespective of size. We do not sacrifice living beings for worship, convenience, or food. Instead, we try to sacrifice our own selfish motives. Mahayana Buddhists may, however, commit acts that harm themselves if, in doing so, they genuinely help other living beings. The Vietnamese monks who burned themselves, for example, felt that their acts would help bring about the end of the Vietnam War. According to the Theravada Buddhist tradition, purity is essential for wisdom and compassion to be possible, and serious Theravadins do not condone killing at all. For Theravada monks, to cut trees or cultivate land is killing. However, most of us have to compromise. Alan Watts once said that he chose to be a vegetarian because cows cry louder than cabbages. Mahayana monks can generally be vegetarians, since they are permitted to till their own land. Theravada monks depend entirely on lay supporters for food, so they must eat whatever is offered to them, including meat. But if they suspect that an animal has been killed specifically for them, they cannot eat it.

Killing animals and eating meat may be appropriate for a simple agrarian society or village life, but once complicated marketing comes into existence, one has to reexamine the first Buddhist precept carefully. In industrial society, meat is treated as just another product. Is the mass production of meat respectful of the lives of animals? If people in meat-eating countries could discourage the breeding of animals for consumption, it would not only be compassionate toward the animals, but also toward the humans living in poverty who need grains to survive.

Buddhists must also be aware that there is enough food in the world now to feed us all adequately. Hunger is caused only by unequal economic and power structures that do not allow food to end up where it is needed, even when those who are in need are the food producers. And we must look at the sales of arms and challenge these structures, which are responsible for murder. Killing permeates our modern way of life—wars, racial conflicts, breeding animals to serve human markets, and using harmful insecticides. How can we resist this and help create a non-violent society? How can the first precept and its ennobling virtues be used to shape a politically just and merciful world? I do not attempt to answer these questions. I just want to raise them for us to contemplate.

Excerpted from Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society by Sulak Sivaraksa. Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 1992.

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:49 am

Maybe a blindspot is within the precept itself, that the emphasis is on "effort" but not "never"-

More aligned to actual human existence than the textual idea of it, which is unrealistically confining-

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:51 am

Sorry .. I didn't read the article .. :114:

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by jundocohen » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:23 am

There is absolutely nobody to be killed, no one to do the killing, no birth nor death, thus no killing possible.

And yet ... there is. Thus, here is Samsara, we should do as we can to avoid taking sentient life, especially in anger.

Various Buddhists will disagree, but I believe that violence, even the taking of life, is sometimes justified if necessary to save life. That may include, for example, use of reasonable deadly force (emphasis on reasonable) as my friend, a police officer, needed to use once to rescue a child being held hostage, or the use of force if one has an intruder in one's home. Even so, we should avoid to act in anger even then, and we should condemn excess force by police or anyone. I think that some groups, such as the Rohingya in Burma, might be justified in some violence if necessary to defend their villages and members from being burned or killed in a pogrom, ethnic cleansing etc.

I think there has to be some clear connection, however, and no reasonable alternative. Thus, while some might argue that violence in the streets to overturn an unjust system is necessary to "save lives" because members of a minority group are dying of poverty in a situation that is like "ethnic cleansing," burning a Starbucks or throwing rocks at police does not seem directly connected to the goal, and it seems counter-productive and motivated by anger. There are reasonable alternatives, and peaceful action should be maintained unless unavoidable. Violence should only be a last resort.

This is just my view, I am not the last word on this for other Buddhists.

Gassho, J

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:03 am

It appears what many have in common is that they are clear about what they will or will not allow and yet use different methods of expressing it-

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by avisitor » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:25 am

jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:23 am
Various Buddhists will disagree, but I believe that violence, even the taking of life, is sometimes justified if necessary to save life. That may include, for example, use of reasonable deadly force (emphasis on reasonable) as my friend, a police officer, needed to use once to rescue a child being held hostage, or the use of force if one has an intruder in one's home.
If one acts to take a life in order to save a life
Then hasn't one become judge, jury and, executioner?
One judges another and sees one life is of more value than another's life?

Read a story once about a man who returns to his home to see a thief in his house
But, there was nothing to steal. So, the man said the visitor had come a long way to see him
And did not want his visitor to leave empty handed. So, he gave the thief the clothes he was wearing.
The thief confused took the clothes and ran off.
The man looked at the moon and wished he could give the visitor the beautiful moon.

Someone told me that the precepts were more of a by-product of meditating a simple life?? IDK?
Where is the compassion? And what is the wisdom in this?

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by jundocohen » Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:59 am

avisitor wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:25 am
jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:23 am
Various Buddhists will disagree, but I believe that violence, even the taking of life, is sometimes justified if necessary to save life. That may include, for example, use of reasonable deadly force (emphasis on reasonable) as my friend, a police officer, needed to use once to rescue a child being held hostage, or the use of force if one has an intruder in one's home.
If one acts to take a life in order to save a life
Then hasn't one become judge, jury and, executioner?
One judges another and sees one life is of more value than another's life?
Yes, a police officer rescuing a hostage child must think quick and act as judge and executioner on the spot (and we see this week what happens when an officer guesses wrong or does more than he should). Someone who suddenly finds an intruder hovering over their loved one's bed in their house, or who is finding groups coming to rape the women and burn down the village in ethnic cleansing must decide on the spot, judge and executioner on the spot. Does he fight or not? No right or wrong answer if needed to protect the loved one or the village.
The thief confused took the clothes and ran off.
The man looked at the moon and wished he could give the visitor the beautiful moon.
If I found an intruder in my house near my loved one I would act as needed, hopefully without anger, but probably with a good deal of adrenaline and instinct. This being Japan, there are few gun crimes, so I sleep soundly. When I lived in Miami, I was more prepared for such an actual eventuality. I would do whatever I had to do to protect my loved ones from a perceived threat (hopefully without anger, hopefully not doing too much) within my house, then ... stepping out on the porch, as the police cars approached, I would admire the beautiful moon.

Gassho, J

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by Larry » Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:32 am

:560:

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by Larry » Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:37 am

p22 wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:51 am
Sorry .. I didn't read the article .. :114:
I also start to zone out after a few thousand words :D

I blame it all on Google :D

I like to disguise my laziness as pith :D

I said pith :lol:

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by fuki » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:27 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:23 am
we should do as we can to avoid taking sentient life
The precepts were gifted a very long time ago while our society has "modernized" so the consequences or ripple effect of one's activity are often blindspots. Whether its eating meat, dairy, eggs, using pesticides, buying products, having accounts at banks which invest in weapons, child labour etc Something as simple as buying a soap can be directly linked to harming countless of beings, deforestation/genocide etc etc

Point is often ppl take the precept in a way like "I don't kill" while like for instance buying nazi gold is something ppl won't do because they realize the horrors behind it. In our current capatalistic technology theres more harm then non-harm, buying a smartphone is linked to child labour, rape and death. The CEO's and plutocrats don't care, in the social function that Buddhism has I think the precepts could be reexamined a bit closer by everyone, and it's something I miss in sanghas too, just sharing and taking a moment to check which soap (or any product) is harm free or in which soap a lot of unnecessary harm/cruelty is involved. Just an example we might be all "lovely compassionate" people and earnest practisioners but I belief Buddhism has a function to the "external world" in examining that there's a lot of "hidden" or uncovered killing, harm, torture involved in simple daily actions, like shopping. I think back when the precepts were gifted it was a bit more simple "not killing"

Whenever I refrain from buying a product that involves cruelty and switch to a cruelty free product, I write a short email to the company and state the reason. If more ppl write emails then companies sometimes switch to making their products cruelty free too, so in that sense since non-killing doesn't (only) refer to our self-(referential)interests ("karma cough") but the totality of manifestation I belief we as a Buddhist community can do much better raising awareness and check the harm involved directly or in-directly.

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:25 pm

I said pith too .. in another thread .. :106:

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by avisitor » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:31 pm

avisitor wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:25 am
If one acts to take a life in order to save a life
Then hasn't one become judge, jury and, executioner?
One judges another and sees one life is of more value than another's life?
jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:59 am
Yes, a police officer rescuing a hostage child must think quick and act as judge and executioner on the spot (and we see this week what happens when an officer guesses wrong or does more than he should). Someone who suddenly finds an intruder hovering over their loved one's bed in their house, or who is finding groups coming to rape the women and burn down the village in ethnic cleansing must decide on the spot, judge and executioner on the spot. Does he fight or not? No right or wrong answer if needed to protect the loved one or the village.
The man taking the kid as hostage could be the kid's father.
Even though what he is doing is wrong in the eyes of the law, he is doing out of his love for the kid.
So, police officer kills the father in front of the kid's eyes???
Is this the wisest thing to do?

So, you would take your gun out and shoot the intruder hovering over your wife?
Or maybe take a baseball bat and hit the intruder?
And what if the intruder turned out to be your son?
Where is the wisdom in making the decision on how to act before the event??
Being prepared is one thing. Deciding before ... is another??

Groups coming to rape women and burn down village?????
Do you live in such a violent neighborhood, country, world???
avisitor wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:25 am
The thief confused took the clothes and ran off.
The man looked at the moon and wished he could give the visitor the beautiful moon.
jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:59 am
If I found an intruder in my house near my loved one I would act as needed, hopefully without anger, but probably with a good deal of adrenaline and instinct. This being Japan, there are few gun crimes, so I sleep soundly. When I lived in Miami, I was more prepared for such an actual eventuality. I would do whatever I had to do to protect my loved ones from a perceived threat (hopefully without anger, hopefully not doing too much) within my house, then ... stepping out on the porch, as the police cars approached, I would admire the beautiful moon.

Gassho, J
Reminds me of the story of the scorpion and the frog.
Where the scorpion ask the frog to help him cross the pond.
In the middle of the pond, the scorpion strikes and stings the frog.
While the frog feels the venom and dies, he ask the scorpion why .. cause now they will both die
The scorpion says it was its nature. ... ????


There is nothing wrong with your desires to protect loved ones.
And the policeman, who acted cruelly and killed a man handcuffed in his custody, is not normal.
But, I do wish to at least re-examine situation???

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by Larry » Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:14 pm

p22 wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:25 pm
I said pith too .. in another thread .. :106:
Yes, I noticed. I was paying attention attention. Like Ikkyu :D

So many pithy posts :D

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by fuki » Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:20 pm

p22 wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:49 am
Maybe a blindspot is within the precept itself, that the emphasis is on "effort" but not "never"-
Yes but the bodhisattva vows actually do not say "never" but that's a too dangerous discussion I think easy to be misinterpretated as a sort of bypass for doing harm.
I "killed" a dragonfly a few weeks ago, my cat caught it and it was half-dead just writhing in agony, first "kill" in perhaps 20 years or something.

More aligned to actual human existence than the textual idea of it, which is unrealistically confining-
You mean the human existence made up of non-human existence? :D

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by fuki » Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:27 pm

avisitor wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:31 pm
And the policeman, who acted cruelly and killed a man handcuffed in his custody, is not normal.
But, I do wish to at least re-examine situation???
I can only "feel" compassion for the policeman too and that "humans" due to delusion manifest such activity.

I remember when about 8-9 years old a friend from school went fishing, I didn't fish but was just joining him, when he out of nowhere wondered about killing a fish, I didn't know what to do or say and just stood there. A vision that "haunts" me often to this day me being "compliant" by keeping silent and doing nothing, also vividly remember killing some flies in the windowsill around that age with chemical cleaning products, when I see the policeman I see my 'own' transgressions too.
One Body, Great Compassion"
🙏

Re-examining indeed how greed, hatred, ignorance governs our lifes, 'individually' and 'collectively'

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:09 pm

To be clear .. :)

The stuff I said was dependent upon the assumption the first precept is expressed as "prohibit" .. which in my head registered as "never" ..

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by p22 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:47 pm

Compassion .. and even forgiveness .. For the officer ..

Sometimes grave mistakes are made, which anyone can make-
So there's compassion because anybody could see themselves in say the policeman in this particular situation-

But another grave mistake that can be made is twisting compassion into something it isn't:

Policeman did this thing, which anyone could, it's forgiven, there will be zero accountability because it could happen to anyone, too-

No ..

When paying attention attention .. I see that happening again and again ..

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by Larry » Thu Jun 04, 2020 7:58 pm

:namaste:

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by Nothing » Thu Jun 04, 2020 8:57 pm

Thanks for sharing the article brother.
It is definitely a question that deserves to be reexamined over and over again depending on the present causes and conditions.

In my experience when observing this precept, most practitioners are doing it selectively, do not harm, do not kill human beings , though the precept clearly reads, do not harm, kill sentient beings. Can we really talk of non-violence if it is selective, narrow? Are the issues with violence towards another human being(s), separate, not connected to the violence inflicted to the rest of the sentient beings? I do not think so :) Or we should pretend that it does not exist and instead just talk about our self centered practice which is preoccupied with our well being?
“Here it is--right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.”
― Huang Po

https://beingwithoutself.org/retreats/

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Re: (Re)examining the first precept?

Post by avisitor » Thu Jun 04, 2020 9:07 pm

fuki wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:27 pm
avisitor wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:31 pm
And the policeman, who acted cruelly and killed a man handcuffed in his custody, is not normal.
But, I do wish to at least re-examine situation???
I can only "feel" compassion for the policeman too and that "humans" due to delusion manifest such activity.

Re-examining indeed how greed, hatred, ignorance governs our lifes, 'individually' and 'collectively'
Yes, I have my own demons. And while I wish not to be heavily punished for my transgressions, the policeman needs to be punished. Consequences for actions, Karma.

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