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role of morality in practice Chuck Kasmire 5/27/09 5:03 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chuck Kasmire 5/27/09 5:14 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Jackson Wilshire 5/27/09 5:45 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 5/27/09 6:09 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chuck Kasmire 5/27/09 7:54 AM
RE: role of morality in practice John Finley 5/27/09 8:47 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/27/09 12:45 PM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/27/09 1:07 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/27/09 8:12 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/27/09 8:13 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/27/09 8:13 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Florian 5/27/09 11:03 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/27/09 11:10 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/28/09 2:41 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Becky ZZ 5/28/09 2:57 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Florian 5/28/09 7:50 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/28/09 9:24 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/28/09 9:35 PM
RE: role of morality in practice triple think 5/28/09 9:40 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Florian 5/28/09 9:59 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 5/29/09 3:30 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Becky ZZ 5/29/09 2:30 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Florian 5/29/09 6:41 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 3:44 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/30/09 3:53 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 4:02 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/30/09 4:08 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 4:25 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chris Marti 5/30/09 4:39 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/30/09 4:43 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/30/09 4:53 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 4:53 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 5:01 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 5:12 AM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 5/30/09 5:18 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chris Marti 5/30/09 5:20 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 5/30/09 5:48 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Ed clay vannoy 5/30/09 6:46 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chris Marti 5/30/09 8:31 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Chuck Kasmire 5/30/09 4:43 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Vincent Horn 5/30/09 6:13 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 5/30/09 7:14 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Chris Marti 5/31/09 12:02 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Chris Marti 5/31/09 12:03 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/2/09 7:41 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/2/09 7:55 PM
RE: role of morality in practice tarin greco 6/2/09 8:05 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/3/09 8:06 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/5/09 11:06 PM
RE: role of morality in practice Hokai Sobol 6/6/09 3:27 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Daniel M. Ingram 6/6/09 5:53 AM
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RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/6/09 10:05 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/8/09 1:26 AM
RE: role of morality in practice Wet Paint 6/8/09 1:55 AM
role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 5:03 AM
Forum: Practical Dharma

Started this as a continuation of another thread "I do not understand".

There is a nice write up related to the morality issue from Than. Bhikkhu:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/intentions.html

“When we look at the present moment ..., we find that our experience of the present doesn't "just happen." Instead, it's a product of our involvement — in terms of present intentions, the results of present intentions, and the results of past intentions — in which present intentions are the most important factor.”

-Chuck

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 5:14 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Some provocative questions:

Awakened assholes are I think quite possible. So the issue is then: do we want to be one of them?

This site (DhO) doesn't just happen, it is the cumulative result of our intentions.

Consider the role of right speech in how a forum unfolds:

“Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."

"It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."

I am not proposing any rules here BTW, I am just saying if you want to practice at not being an awakened asshole then it helps to start by practicing at not being an unawakened one. And participation in this forum is just one of many opportunities available to us to practice this. And for those of us who find we can be an awakened asshole – it gives us something to work on as well.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 5:45 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I like what Jack Kornfield has to say about the role of virtue in Buddhist practice…

"Virtue in on one level a training. It's learning to speak, to act, in our sexual life, in our business life, in our family life - to train to act more consciously, more mindfully, more compassionately. And it takes practice. It is also, quite wonderfully, an expression of our awakening, a foundation of our awakening. You can't awaken if you're involved in killing, lying or stealing. Even in the more subtle levels of it, it's hard to pay attention. Your mind is caught up, busy, and paranoid. So it's a foundation for a clear mind, and the training of it is a foundation for being more mindful. But even more beautifully, it's the expression of an awakened heart and an awakened mind." (The Eightfold Path for the Householder, page 51 (54 on the PDF), http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/ritepath.pdf)

So then, the training of Morality can be seen in at least three ways: (1) as a path of itself, (2) as a foundation for the other two trainings (Concentration and Insight), and (3) as an inseparable aspect of the complete human experience.

The relationship between insight and morality can be compared to that of music theory and improvisation. Music theory can be learned. It is what it is. There are numbers, intervals, pitch, tone, timbre, harmony, dissonance, etc. In contrast, improvisation cannot be 'mastered', per se, because it is always fresh. What notes will you play in response to this or that chord? How can something beautiful, thoughtful, spontaneous, and creative arise right now? There are basic guidelines, for sure, but you can't play the same riff over every progression. There are far too many combinations of progressions for their to be any set rules of how to respond. Though it's not a perfect (or perhaps even the best possible) analogy, morality, for me, is like improvisation.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 6:09 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: okir

Thanks for starting this new thread, Chuck, and setting it up on the right foot with your consideration of right speech and action. "Asshole" is a funny word. ;-D It's a "button-pusher" and people often use it with intent, OR they use it without thinking or attention, a habit. What do we intend by using that word (referring to a humble body part), within the recent contexts, anyway? Sometimes it's useful to be irritating or even wrathful; sometimes it's not. My hope and intent is to do no harm, as much as possible but (as someone not enlightened) I suspect that is impossible as long as we have a body and live in this world.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 7:54 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
That's a good point. Someone may use strong language in order to make their point in a very direct way yet have no intention to hurt someone else – quite the opposite. I have no control over how my words are interpreted by another – all I can do is pay attention to my own intentions as I formulate them. Nor do I think we should overly concern ourselves with how we might be interpreted. That is not an effective approach.

The role of the perceiver is important. We are very good at projecting our own 'stuff' onto others. What goes along with right speech (right writing?) is right listening (reading) – watching for those projections.

As to recent contexts, I think of it in terms of “without thinking or attention, a habit”. Which is quite possible for anyone (Arahats included IMHO). In other words, responding to someone or making a post without being mindful of things like: What am I trying to say? Is what I want to say helpful? How is the best way to say it?

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/27/09 8:47 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
And with only the written word to go by, without the benefit of body language, tone, etc. to help with interpretation of intent, the chances of misunderstanding goes up exponentially.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/27/09 12:45 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
you've hit the nail on the head there, chuck. expecting enlightenment, or anything else, to make us not assholes is like abstaining from the responsibility of doing something about it ourselves, at each moment, until it ceases to be a problem (if it ever does).

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/27/09 1:07 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
and dont forget that another cause of misunderstanding is an over-active imagination, fueled by the survival instincts that naturally create fear, and shaped by ego-identity and societal conditioning that turns that fear into social anxiety and easily taking offence (imagining that other people are attacking or maligning you etc).

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/27/09 8:12 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
This is what happens when I forget my mantra 'shut up shut up shut up shut up'.


There are more than a few healthy communities on the net where you can ask questions about sutta and sutra, vinaya and abhidhamma. In most of those communities you will not be well received if you start asking pointed questions about actual meditative experience [or for that matter, a good portion of lived experience in general] and if you start to make statements explicitly based on meditative experience you are probably going to be banned from accessing those communities and all of the benefits thereof. How would you feel about having to provide textual references for everything you want to say on this site? Well, that's eBuddhist life so far elsewhere people.

So this is it, as far as I know, one small island where actual lived experience matters - at all. Which is pretty frigging sad for a supposedly living tradition. But that is the orthodoxy of the thing. I suspect this stems, probably quite naturally, from the time worn central ethos, sit down, shut up, and do it. But beyond the cushion this tends to concretize everything like nobody's business into practices, institutions and communities which are decidedly undemocratic and unreflective in terms of their larger characters and all that stems from that. Something to bear in mind and personally, I'm relieved to see a couple or three Arahants on the case here. Takes the heat off of the rest of us. Personally, I'm happy not to have to concern myself with whether they are actually Arahats or not, it's just not my problem, for now, and I'm not the least bit interested in making it my problem. If I find that honestly the last thread has torn and there is nothing whatsoever holding me to existence, I will probably keep it to myself, considering the bs that everyone else has had to put up with in the last two and a half millennium.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 8:13 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
One very strict definition of the stream entrant, in orthodox Theravada terms, is that they have perfect sila. Now, to me, that seems over the top, but to each his own. Personally, I don't see kamma being as tidy as all that, but then we live in a very messy age, perhaps in happier or simpler times this would be more doable. What I'm asking is, just where the hell are you going to go to live your perfect life, 'cause you had better not tell another living being where that is. Even a few weeks in Thailand was enough to demonstrate how far those in the robes are willing to go to compromise their rule books out of expedience to deal with our times, our technology and our systems approach to, f-ing everything. I had a monk walk up to me with a wad of bills in between his palms, indicating I should add to his stack. I looked at him like he was from mars until he wandered off. I'm sure I could get a flurry of responses to posting that story on one of the buddhist boards, there would be all sorts of outrageous comments from this side and that of the peanut gallery. Simple fact is I'm just getting too old for caring about what teenagers, who universally have always felt they live on the moral high ground, have to say about much of anything. If someone is trying to make a case for moral perfection it's not surprising they see monsters under the bed as well.

cont.->

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 8:13 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I do have a real and ongoing interest in taking on the bhikkhu lifestyle because I think it is constitutionally framed as an effort to live in a manner that can potentially be harmless and blameless, but that would be under optimal conditions and probably be subject to taking a very strict approach to the spirit of the vinaya. That sort of thing is simply beyond the sphere of reason when it comes to life outside of a buddhist order of some kind, a normal person in most of the world is not going to be able to conform to that code of practice and survive.

If DhO is going to tackle moral issues, then this is one vote for examining the world and it's myriad ethical minefields as directly as has been done in the case of the examination of the interior of our experience. Not that there could be no reliance on teachers, teachings, texts or traditions, just that it has to actually work in the real world, here and now.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/27/09 11:03 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Good subject. A few thoughts:

Having great examples to look up to is very inspiring and all, but learning how they are doing it and how they got there is much better. This applies to concentration and insight practice, and to morality as well.

While concentration somehow develops along with insight, and insight with concentration, and morality with insight, and so on, there's much to be gained from specific training in insight (such as noting), specific training in concentration (such as kasinas), and specific training in morality (such as keeping the precepts or some other set of rules). To expect morality to develop on its own when doing insight or concentration is a bit naive. I think this is what the traditional accounts linking morality to insight are about. The three trainings are linked but distinct, and all three (or all eight path factors, or whichever framework one uses) need our attention.

Finally, and from my own experience with morality: Am I expecting other people to do the work for me? It's nice to know they are striving to live morally, but how much of my focus should be on their work, and how much should be on my own? ("practice what you preach")

Cheers,
Florian

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/27/09 11:10 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
After a couple hours I've had to note that the teenager comment is keeping me from my sleep. So...sorry. I had to reflect that in all likelihood half the population of the net right now is probably under ten years of age and who knows what the half life of a casual comment is anymore these days. I can try to contextualize all that by saying that I'm a middle aged white guy, which means that iconically I am by definition 'the cause of all the worlds present ills'. And you can be sure that we are [middle aged white guys] both continually reminded of this sweepingly comprehensive and unquestionable truth and continually expected to pay for it in ways that none of us would have ever imagined.

Ok, no more from me about morality, it's like picking at the scabs where the people I love have set to with their saws.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/28/09 2:41 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Expecting Enlightenment to result in perfect morality is like expecting Enlightenment to result in the ability to play the guitar without having learned how.

Is the reverse true? Is perfect sila/morality necessary to attain Enlightenment? Is mastery of the guitar necessary to attain Enlightenment?

I think the emphasis on sila in traditional Buddhism is more aimed at maintaining a community of monks than an actual requirement for attaining the paths. Triplethink's reference to the traditional view that a stream entrant has perfect sila can be seen this way: A monk, in order to remain a monk, has to keep the precepts well enough not to get kicked out of the order. I guess that can be considered perfectly. Getting stream entry is hard work and is more likely if one is a monk for X number of years. Therefore, stream entrants have perfect sila.

Please don't take this to mean that I don't think sila is important, I do. I have more to say, but no time to write more at the moment.

Thanks for starting the thread, Chuck.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/28/09 2:57 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Alternately phrased: correlation does not equal causation.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/28/09 7:50 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Yes! Excellent point. I see from your profile that you have a solid background in making this distinction - I'd very much like to read about your thoughts on the correlation between morality and enlightenment: which conclusions can be safely drawn and which ones are fallacious? How does the correlation come about?

Cheers,
Florian

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/28/09 9:24 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
double post

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/28/09 9:35 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
A conscience is something that is grown partly of the environment and partly via experience - which includes a lifelong education in ongoing ethical refinements of many kinds. It's usually an easily corroborated correlated observation of a functional conscience that to have compromised its commitments morally and ethically in real terms will lead to anxiety and agitation which is then counterproductive to the concentration and insight work. The joy of harmlessness and blamelessness, peace and compassion is entirely supportive of concentration and insight practices. It is all wisdom practice and it is all skill based in ongoing mindfulness and attentiveness.

Anxiety and agitation can be suppressed but it remains causally active both internally and externally. Kamma is inescapable and so it is always a two edged sword. No thought, speech or action goes without its consequence, how the poison is differentiated from the cure in terms of dharma is always linked to wellness, joy, ease, peace and freedom. That's what comes with a clear conscience and a clear conscience is the product of skillfulness and wisdom.

edit- arghhh
You're going to continue to make errors, deal with it.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/28/09 9:40 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I would say moving beyond precepts and practices together with having a firm sense of what sila is (two conventional aspects def. stream entry), is like waking up from a grey world into the fully alive awake world with all of it's colors and intensities. If causality is not becoming more wisely met, then the process of developing skillful means is not proceeding effectively. We practice to eventually put away models and theories and see and know the truth, internally and also externally. It runs through all things. what arises passes. good and bad. and it makes waves in what will come. We can work with it, we can become skillful, internally and externally. The moral and ethical skillset is applied insight work. This is how it works and this is how it will be put to work for the greatest benefit of all and with liberation from the burden of self becoming. It is pretty amazing stuff once it gets going. One may pause to inquire 'am I doing the dharma/dhamma or is it doing me?'

Ok, I did have more to say but only because I wasn't trying to downplay the importance of these processes but because it does move out of the sphere of meditation and realization in particular and into dharma/dhamma on a much different level and we really don't have clear guidelines for what can become a real arena for various schools of thought to get heated about things. So, here's to perfecting your moral and ethical nature, go for it, just don't bug me about how perfect you are or I might in a momentary lapse of mindfulness just up and uncontrollably punch you.
: }

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/28/09 9:59 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
"Applied insight work". This is great stuff, Nathan! Thanks.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/29/09 3:30 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: msj123

It seems tricky to define what enlightenment is. Buddha defined it as the end of suffering. Notice that he did not define it in the positive. Even in the ten fetter model, enlightenment is about what you drop off rather than what you gain. In a certain sense, sila is polishing the mirror. But as Hui Neng pointed out, where is the dust to alight?

Leaving this aside for the moment, and considering practice in the relative view, then sila is essential. How so? Because a moral mind is a calm mind. If you wish to see things as they are, it helps at a certain point to see things clearly. If you wish to see clearly, then you need sila and concentration.

As for the enlightened asshole, we can speculate all day on what enlightenment is, but until we at least glimpse it, we have no clue. All truths are, at best, half truths.

Matt

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/29/09 2:30 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
That's a really hard question for me to answer, in some ways. From a totally geek perspective, correlation or association between the two could appear to exist because
- enlightenment is on the causal pathway to perfect morality
- perfect morality is on the causal pathway to enlightenment
- enlightenment and perfect morality are independent, but something else (factor X) is associated with both

Problems that I see with this ... for one, it assumes that there is a universal perfect morality that would be recognized as such. In my opinion, we do not exist in a sociopolitical environment that would support that. There are too many shades of gray. Two, we have no standard criteria or measurement to definitively establish enlightenment. Three, the determination of the reason for a perceived association is made based on data. Within certain limits, the more data, the better. Our data is based on what? ... historical writings and the experiences of a handful of people who have achieved enlightenment (by some definition). This makes formal inference a little difficult.

I guess I'm in the "wait and see" camp. ;-) I would be interested to know what other traditions have to say on the subject, though. It seems that the maps of progress are not the realm of Buddhism alone. What behavior/morality traits were demonstrated by enlightened people of other traditions?

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/29/09 6:41 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi beckwards,

This is great!

"Perfect morality" - if one displays perfectly moral behavior for a moment, is this "perfect morality"? Only if kept at it for an hour? A day? A lifetime - a perfectly moral being has to behave in perfectly moral ways from the moment of birth? Many lifetimes, even (like the Buddha perfecting his perfections over countless lifetimes)? Since forever (like Jesus in Christian theology, who never committed any sin at all, and before that he was with God)?

"perfect morality is on the causal pathway to enlightenment" - this is an interesting point, because it ties in with the age-old debate on how the unconditioned/uncaused can be reached by conditioned means, in a causal fashion; the "sudden vs. gradual" debate, or the "good works vs. divine grace" one in Christianity.

For the factor X associated with both - the Buddhist view would supply suffering/compassion here. And if we drop the "perfect" and accept a certain pragmatic arbitrariness in recognizing what morality is, we're back at what Tarin and Nathan were saying.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 3:44 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
The thing about factor X is that it can be completely arbitrary. In the breakdown that I gave above, keeping the precepts was the coin that was required by those who could provide the training. I don't think that keeping those particular precepts was absolutely necessary, or even very important, for the training to work. I say work, but I don't quite mean cause. I think that there is a strong correlation between practice and attaining Enlightenment. Probably different practices have stronger or weaker correlations with attainment and the individual doing the practices must be taken into account.

Look at some of the particular precepts.

Vegetarianism: the taboo against eating meat, especially beef, was very new in Buddha's time. It had more to do with population and limited resources and keeping your difficult or impossible to replace oxen alive to pull the plow when you were hungry during the off season.

Celibacy: That is largely about keeping the Warrior caste and the other householders from killing off all these single guys who are off doing their practice. Oh, sex is a lot more complicated than that. I am painting with broad strokes here. But think about it. A bunch of monks, sitting on their asses in the jungle, don't do a lick of work, then they come round asking for a handout, and next he wants to do my wife/daughter/sister! Lets round 'em up boys! There just isn't going to be an Order long enough for anyone to get to the Goal.

And so we are starting to get to the point of moral codes. They aren't for the individual, but the society as a whole, or for parts of the society. The moral codes are for making sure that people and institutions don't self-destruct. To keep them going when times are rough.

Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 3:53 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
lol, yes that's why i dont want to be a monk

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:02 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I think it is clear that I think the correlation between practice and attainment is strong.

And that I think the correlation between morality and attainment is between zero and that of practice.

But just where on that scale?

Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:08 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
morality framed by whom?

even assuming there is a common morality that is found and agreed upon, the range is probably quite vast (range of the correlation between morality and attainment)

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:25 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Yup. who indeed.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that people who are sympathetic, empathetic, altruistic, compassionate and have a strong practice are more likely attain than those who are not, assuming the same practice.

Edit: Forgot to add compassionate the first time
Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 4:39 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I think these are interesting issues but it's easy to over-complicate them. To me the first connection between morality and wisdom is that leading a more ethical (moral) existence leaves the mind free to be more quiet, making contemplation and meditation that much easier. If a person is caught up in moral dilemmas of their own making it's reasonably certain that progress in meditation will be slow to come.

Just my own working theory for everyone that I know is true in my own life.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:43 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
haha.. did the fall hurt you? emoticon

(fell out of the tree)

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:53 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
i think that being aware (more deeply aware) of how sympathetic or unsympathetic, empathetic or unempathetic, altrustic or completely selfish, or compassionate or uncompassionate, you are is what actually makes for strong insight practice and leads to attainment (or is attainment in itself). if what you mean to say is that those with the qualities you mention are more likely to be deeply aware of themselves.. i have no idea how to even begin telling if thats so. how do you?

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 4:53 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Don't know, haven't hit the ground yet.

Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 5:01 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I see what you are saying. But moral people are more likely to get caught up in the whirligig of ethical issues than sociopaths who just don't have that circuit in their brains to begin with. Is a sociopath with a mind free and quiet from moral dilemma therefore more likely to attain than someone who cares about morality and therefore has an unquiet mind?

Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 5:12 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
The thread is getting complicated, like a chat with my mom on Messenger...

I think that being at peace with your moral code and conduct is not going to fuel your practice as well as needing to cut through the Gordian knot of aching to live up to an impossible standard. That is not too far off from the fundamental suffering the sent Sid of to become the Buddha.

Ed

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 5:18 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
yes i agree. but i think desiring other impossible things that may be considered closer to sociopathy than morality, from some perspectives (again, morality as framed by whom?), may fuel it just as well =D

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 5:20 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
That's fine, Ed - all I can report on with any certainty is my own experience. That experience has been quite clear for me: if I complicate my life with immorality it makes concentration that much more difficult. Being ethical doesn't "fuel" my practice. It just makes concentration, which does fuel my practice to a large extent, easier. I don't agonize over ethical matters as you suggest, but then maybe I just don't agonize over ethical matters. We are all different in lots of ways.

Sociopaths: sure, they're probably not bothered much by their immorality but then they have much deeper issues. This topic doesn't really address that, does it?

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 5:48 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: ccasey

My only hope in posting here is that someone who is practicing well and really into mindfulness around all the elements of practice also sees the precepts or 12 step program as a healthy way to support the practice, and keeps going.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 6:46 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi cmarti,

I most certainly am not advocating that anyone complicate their lives with immorality in order to fuel their practice.

When I contemplate moral/ethical issues it is anything but clear cut, I speak from my own experience as do you. I have the sort of mind that make the game Twenty Questions almost impossible to play. I played that against a computer program a while ago. I picked dinosaur as my object. 'Is it alive?" Uh, yes, no, it was, but isn't now unless you consider birds to be modern dinosaurs.... Maybe. "Is it bigger than a chicken? " Is it bigger than a chicken? Uh, most that we have evidence for were, but we do have many examples of chicken sized dinosaurs and you can make a case for chickens being modern dinosaurs, and what about sparrows?////

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/30/09 8:31 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Ed, I think there's a difference between contemplating moral issues, one's own actions and so on, from a purposeful persepctive. Intending to do so, I suppose. And yes, that can certainly be challenging and lead to the pondering of moral dilemmas that rival the most intricate mazes fromteh Middle Ages. But that's not what I'm referring to in regard to practice. What I notice very acutely is that IF I have been a bad boy, violated some moral precept, when I next sit down on a cushion THAT is what comes up, and it comes up over and over and over, usually as guilt. It can be both great fodder for meditation or it can get in the way of concentration. It's much easier to deal with after one has more experience with practice and can make that mental obsession a benefit and not a hindrance.... to meditation.

Make sense?

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 4:43 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
What if sila was simply meant to be a form of insight and concentration practice carried out throughout the day as one went about ones business? A practice where the 'object' was ones own state of mind and body as it responded to changing conditions? This solves the problem of who defines morality. Morality is defined by your own attention to what kinds of actions create agitation versus calmness. Such attention would lead to insight, dispassion, and concentration (stability of mind).

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 6:13 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
This is an interesting point, and one I hear quite often from teachers who are connecting morality and wisdom. An interesting counter-point (not that I disagree with the statement above) is that when one has an approach that requires a strong sense of ethics or morality, it often puts them in a position to make very difficult life decisions that lead to more, not less, noise and complexity in their life. It's very difficult not to take a moral stand somewhere and then find that life becomes way more difficult as a result, especially if that stand runs counter to conventional moral agreements.

So, if we see a more quiet mind as a pre-requisite for wisdom, then leading a strongly moral life could actually (and I would argue does often) lead to a more hectic and frenetic mind. But that opens up questions about the usefulness of having some sort of mind training for those that are living a morally complex life, to balance that out. Anyway, this is a very interesting discussion!

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/30/09 7:14 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: pookee

Practically speaking, immoral action (any action I believe to be wrong) is accompanied by a very unpleasant feeling in the gut, and significant unpleasant turmoil in the mind. For example, if I grow angry and yell at my mother, I will be in significant internal pain for some time. The pain remains long after I've experienced remorse and apologized. This is karma in the small.

Micro karma can be experienced within meditation. One notices that the small triumphs of pleasent sensation are immediately, inevitably followed by equal and opposite failures of unpleasant sensation. The swing becomes much smaller when one loosens the association of "triumph" with one and "failure" with the other. This, I believe, is because one learns that reaction is in some sense "wrong" during meditation, and it is pleasant to act rightly in a way that transcends sensation.

Morality, in some sense, is driven by an aversion to mental clutter. It is much more pleasant to have an experience free from the pain and distraction of remorse. For technical meditators, I think this would be the central appeal: to go through the day, self-controlled, pleasant, kind, a real friend to those who need you, one might find the meditation is stronger (as I do). The technical explanation is that there is much less "small karma" to distract you, so that you can go deeper and observe the micro karma sooner.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
5/31/09 12:02 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
"... when one has an approach that requires a strong sense of ethics or morality, it often puts them in a position to make very difficult life decisions that lead to more, not less, noise and complexity in their life. It's very difficult not to take a moral stand somewhere and then find that life becomes way more difficult as a result, especially if that stand runs counter to conventional moral agreements."

Hi, Vince. I agree that this might be true. But in our mundane day to day existence the decisions we make aren't always such Big Deals. When I posted the quote you selected I was thinking of stuff like gossiping about co-workers, getting angry and yelling at the kids, and other pedestrian stuff like that. In those cases I think being more ethical will lead to a more quiet mind. In the Big Deal cases where being ethical raises more difficulties than it actually avoids, I agree with you. THAT can indeed cause more turmoil.

BTW -- I don't see a more quiet mind as a pre-requisite for wisdom. I see it as a helpful thing but not a necessary thing. There have been times I've made ample progress with a stormy mind. In fact, believe dealing with a stormy mind is important.

RE: role of morality in practice
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5/31/09 12:03 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Pookee, you said it far better than I've been able to. Thanks.

RE: role of morality in practice
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6/2/09 7:41 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: pookee

Thank you cmarti, but I would say that your explanation is clearer and more to the point.

About the stormy mind. I've noticed that these storms come in various shapes and sizes. Indeed, there seems to be a lot of benefit to observing even the grossest of storms. And yet these storms come up even when being completely silent, relatively good person (as anyone knows who's been on a long retreat). What is the conclusion? That being a moral person makes no difference?

It is my personal experience that meditation changes these storms. They seem to become less frequent but more intense over time. But the key habit is that these strong reactions are observed separated from circumstance, giving rise to the key insight that "how you feel" and "what you think" often has nothing to do with what is happening in life. (This fact is well known, but it's startling to really confront the degree to which we live our lives in a mindless, reactive stupor).

The core value of Buddhism is very selfish - you learn to recognize the harm you do to yourself when you harm others, and so (quite reasonably) avoid it. You learn to recognize the benefit you do to yourself when you help someone, and so (quite reasonably) try to do that as much as possible.

I think the key question about morality is whether or not there exists a non-conflicted configuration of the mind such that, without thinking (in some sense), this optimal program is executed perfectly. That is, is there a state of mind that is perfectly selfish in the sense of intuitively evading all karmically negative action? I think the answer is yes, if we define harm via intent. Having any "intent to harm" is much like lying - it creates cognitive dissonance which we observe as stress, or as a storm.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/2/09 7:55 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: pookee

One issue (and probably the reason so many are leary of morality) is that intent arises without consent. Therefore, if one accepts that anger is wrong, then when one experiences it then one experience shame and self-loathing. This reaction is itself is a storm, an averse reaction, and you're back to harming yourself. Does this mean that anger is not wrong?

I think to some degree meditation is the process of teaching the wordless parts of your brain with words. You sit and meditate, thinking of nothing (or trying). Somehow, the instructions seep into you at a very low level: Do not move. Do not react. Just observe. Just breath. This too shall pass. Watch this arise, watch this pass away. And no matter how the storm batters you, your will enforces these simple rules of meditation. I think it is likely, then, that these instructions sink down lower, to the black box of our intention forming brain, and tell that wordless part: do not react. Just observe. Just breath. And once it sinks down far enough, self-destructive intentions do not form.

RE: role of morality in practice
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6/2/09 8:05 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
cmarti and pokee,

i think you both said it excellently. thank you for your contributions on the matter of the importance (not just toward being enlightened, but toward being alive) of harmlessness.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/3/09 8:06 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: sokyu

Dear chelek,
Brilliant insight. Packed into most of the religions morality packages are some very wise suggestions as to how to live a sane life. Could be why most of the advanced mind altering practices are imbedded in the religions. As the number of enlightened but not very well- morally-developed beings increases we may have to re-examine how we correlate wisdom development and moral development.
sincerely shoshana

RE: role of morality in practice
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6/5/09 11:06 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: KristerHolmes

this brings up a really interesting idea to me.

Perhaps the attainment of enlightenment is like a multidimensional complex system requiring multiple vectors to push it into a new area of attraction. So that unless the system (human mind) is simultaneously acted upon by various 'stressors' or in this case meditational, ethical, socially helpful factors, karma accumulation from past life (lives), and work devoted to the practice of compassion and loving kindness as well as internally directed attainments in meditation among many others, it cannot move into the new area of attraction.

I don't mean to compress any vertical structures into the horizontal, but it struck me as an applicable metaphor

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/6/09 3:27 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Good discussion, and an important one. The limitations of a utilitarian approach must be recognized. It's not only that morality has a role, or that it just serves a purpose. Morality is also an expression of that towards which one aims and strives. There is a morality at the level of pure being, there is an evolutionary morality at the level of engagement with one's own existential situation, and then there's a morality of being embedded in this world of multiplicity and vagueness with its mores and shifting values.

The issue isn't simply "what is it good for". So the same goes for the "correlation" of morality and awakening/insight. There really is no correlation in the strict sense, since we're really talking of the same thing in two different modes, namely appreciative discrimination and appropriate action. Awareness IS action in the world of impermanence, and so morality as meaningfulness-in-action should also be seen as ornament and spontaneous outflow of an awakened being.

From this deeper level we may then extricate conventions and forms, which otherwise don't make any sense anyway.

As to core value of Buddhism being "very selfish" (pookee), only true if by "self" you mean reality. Buddhist morality is rooted in interdependence and inter-connectedness. Having a value EVEN for the selfish-minded, doesn't limit its reach and range to selfish motivational horizons.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/6/09 5:53 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
The Dalai Lama once said something like, "If you are going to be selfish, be wisely selfish, and do what is truly in your own best interest," with a follow up explanation that were we really paying attention, we would notice more about interdependence and realize that when working from that perspective we would be more likely to work at a broader level, realizing that if we improve the system we live in and those in that system, then our own lives and minds will be improved, which is basically what Hokai said, just phrased another way. It also implies that by improving ourselves, our understanding, our mindfulness, and by doing our own work, as that is also part of the system, that helps the system for others.

Thus, the divide line between our work on ourselves and our work in the world is blurred when considering a system approach, which is the interdependent approach.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/6/09 7:59 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: sokyu

In my own practice, coming to know the seamless connection between morality and awareness, I have had to unconnect from a stance I held at a certain point that I wanted the way to be a good person to arise from within and not from all the preachers outside. My inner morality in this "world of multiplicity and my existential world" (Hokai's words) had developed into a strong rationalization to justify what I thought best to be or do. It was also a strong secular/anti-religious stance. Softening those stances led to the re-discovery of some very useful old-fashioned maps on how to grow into being a really good person. The pleasure of letting go of those stances remains even today.

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/6/09 10:05 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: pookee

@daniel Good quote. I really like the Dalai Lama. He seems like such a down-to-earth person. And I like how he likes to shock people (especially those who consider themselves very pious) with earthy wisdom like that. He is a non-conformist in the curious position of religious leadership, and it's amazing. I suspect that many people on this wiki have similar tendencies, starting with (but not stopping at) breaking certain taboos about sharing.

@sokyu I very much like that. My stance was hippy loosy-goosy soft as a child (filled pretty but useless mottos like "all you need is love"), then hard and skeptical and scientific. And now I am still skeptical, but also more open to what's happening - really happening, not some story I've been told - on the inside. (Odd that the preposition for "inside" is "on". Really, shouldn't it be "in"? Anyway...)

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/8/09 1:26 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: KristerHolmes

Michael Roach makes some interesting comments in this regard.

One which I think worth discussing is that morality cannot arise merely from what you FEEL is right. Feelings can change as situations do and basing your morality on what you imagine to be a "spontaneous outflow of an awakened being" when you're not fully awakened can be counter productive. For the rest of us regular folks he makes the very valid point that morality should be based on permanent precepts that are not subject to personal picking and choosing. Having an external, objective and solid moral structure, to his mind, is superior to the danger of falling into the trap of following laws devised by society, our parents, what feels right to us, or what is proscribed by someone claiming to have some kind of insight.

I'm not sure I completely agree with him, though he really does make some valid arguments. Stealing might be something that you would never do - unless you became hungry enough. Killing an unthinkable act, until someone appears to be breaking into your house. These situations automatically alter our ability to think, and unless we really are a very awakened being our spontaneous reactions can really get us into trouble!

RE: role of morality in practice
Answer
6/8/09 1:55 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Author: KristerHolmes

Ken Wilbur also makes a fascinating point.

He thinks insight does not correlate necessarily with moral behavior and sites Zen and the Art of War as an example of insight expressed in a feudal society fixated at an ethnocentric level of development. Definitely not what I would put on my shelf as a moral compass even if the level of insight is remarkable.