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My creed...a work in progress

Posted 03-28-2022 at 11:26 PM by phetaroi

My Creed:

Many Westerners don’t understand that Buddhism is a religion (in fact, is it a religion or a philosophy?) not based on commandments. I see Buddhism primarily as suggestions that help one lead a moral life, make decisions based on mindfulness, and – perhaps most importantly – reduce suffering.

The first component of Buddhism is The Four Noble Truths. First that life always involves suffering. Some of the suffering we will experience in life is unavoidable. It’s not our fault, as individuals, that there is a pandemic or a war. But ‘everyday life’ also has suffering in it, and we can mitigate or even avoid some of that suffering if we make decisions based on mindfulness. Do I believe in nibanna? I remain unconvinced, but I’m open-minded about it. But we can still eliminate some of our suffering, or at least reduce our suffering, and, if we choose, the suffering of others.

The second component of Buddhism is the Eightfold Noble Path.

The first part of the Eightfold Noble Path is Ethical Conduct. Ethical conduct (sila) is built on the concept of compassion for all living beings. There is sometimes some conflict between two qualities that compete in regard to ethical conduct -- compassion (karuna) on one side, and wisdom (panna) on the other. Sometimes, for the sake of wisdom, we must step away from some people. Sometimes, we must involve ourselves with some people even though it is not wise to do so. One should avoid becoming a good-hearted fool, but also must not be hard-hearted. Mindfulness may lead us to ascertain the right balance, but it’s easier said than done. But I think it’s important to note that being compassionate doesn’t mean you should allow yourself be a sucker. I am reminded of the Sermon On The Mount, and when I re-read that lately I realized that the advice in that sermon was great if you’re worried about getting to heaven, but might not lead to a successful life here on earth. There is something in-between.

The second part of the Eightfold Noble Path is Right Speech. Sometimes this is also a challenge, although at first glance it may seem simple. It’s easy to know you should not tell lies…at least most of the time (there are lies of kindness). Avoiding backbiting and slander can be a challenge, particularly where tempers are short. Avoiding saying things that bring about hatred, enmity, disunity, and disharmony among individuals or groups…that may seem easy, but there are topics that one must stand on the right side of and speak out forcefully about…topics such as racism, slavery, and so forth. It’s also sometimes difficult to not be harsh, rude, impolite, malicious, and abusive, particularly when difficult conversations turn to important issues. And in this I try to remember that passivity is often not a wise course of action. I think the issue comes down to not speaking carelessly. Be mindful of what type of speech seems most appropriate in a particular situation.

The third of the Eightfold Noble Path is Right Action. Right action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and usually peaceful conduct. I, again, say ‘usually’, because sometimes to be on the right side of an issue and to solve problems one must be forceful. Not most of the time, but some of the time.

Right livelihood was not a factor in my life. Teaching and being a school administrator was clearly “right livelihood”.

Right effort is working to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising.

Right mindfulness is important because it allows one to set himself up for a positive interlude or a negative interlude. I don’t practice real meditation often at all, but I often practice focusing on a particular situation, thinking the situation through, and that is part of ‘right mindfulness’. I also see right concentration as part of right mindfulness.

Another aspect of this is “Right Thought”, and for me that has usually comes to mean that I am open to what is different. I am open, for example, to different cultures, people of different heritage, and so forth. But that is not to say that all things of other cultures are good and acceptable.

And that brings me to the third major component of Buddhism, at least to me – the Five Precepts. These are somewhat like the Ten Commandments…except they are not commandments. They are suggestions as to how to reduce your suffering.

The first precept is, perhaps, the most difficult. Do not kill any living being. I believe we have to be reasonable with this precept. I cannot not eat meat, but I can reduce my consumption of meat, to restrict it to one meal per day. That’s the best I can do, and I recall very clearly that virtually every Buddhist monk I saw eating in Thailand was eating meat. I don’t kill an animal of any kind, including insects, unless it is necessary.

The second precept seems rather easy to me: Don’t steal.

The third precept is to refrain from selfish and meaningless sensual pleasure. At least that’s how I read it. I can’t say I was always very good at this. I’ve gotten better at it…but maybe that’s just because I’m old now.

The fourth precept is to refrain from wrong speech. Some define this simply as not lying, but I think it’s about being mindful of what comes out of your mouth. I don’t think that means one has to be passive, as I suggested above. But I think it does mean that one should consider the consequences of what one says.

The fifth precept is to refrain from intoxicants. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, so that’s pretty well covered.

Two questions that commonly come up are regarding past lives and nibbana. I personally believe in the concept of past lives due to an experience of my own, but I cannot provide any definitive evidence about the concept. Each person will have to decide for themselves. In regard to nibbana…maybe, maybe not. Seems unlikely to me, but I’ll remain open-minded about it. Regardless of whether or not there is such a thing as nibanna, we can still use Buddhist principles to reduce suffering.

This is a first draft of my creed. I don’t ask or expect anyone else to agree with or follow my creed.
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  1. Old Comment
    Evil is easy to identify when speaking on murder or theft. To steal from somebody is to take what they had coming to them whether or not you agree. It is a sense of murder as they will not live with what you stole from them.

    I think raising children who are not raised to be love seeking is important...but how you explain that is another story.
    Posted 04-15-2022 at 05:11 AM by Squidlife Squidlife is offline

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