Facing Power and Conventions

1601dqThe Dharma is descriptive, never prescriptive. It merely describes conditions, causes, and effects, and presents us with choices. Rather than reacting habitually, we can decide how to act, how to respond.

Now, saying “A Buddhist does not harm sentient beings intentionally” is descriptive, not prescriptive. It merely states that s/he has right thought (compassion) and right conduct (non-harming). It is purely descriptive indeed, because without this thought and this conduct, one is not a Buddhist.

On the other hand, to say “A Buddhist should not harm beings” is not only prescriptive, it is false, since there is no Buddhist who harms beings intentionally. It is like stating that water should be moist, or that fire should burn. If water were not moist, it would not be water. If fire did not burn, it would not be fire.

There is a fine line between self-righteous pride, which is an afflicted emotion, and fear (doubt, connivance), but we must learn to walk it, for the benefit of all. It is not only the “victims” of wrongdoing, but also the “perpetrators”, who suffer.

Cultivate radical universal compassion, without pride or fear.

Revering and trusting in the Buddha, we will wear the armor of patient endurance.

We will cherish neither our bodies nor our lives, but care only for the unexcelled Way.

Repeatedly we will be driven out and exiled from our monasteries and stupas.

Remembering the words of the Buddha, we will endure all harms.

We will go everywhere to share the Dharma entrusted to us by the Buddha.

We are the apostles of the World-Honored One.

Facing multitudes without fear, we will teach His Dharma well.

—Lotus Sutra, Ch. 13

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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2 Responses to Facing Power and Conventions

  1. Laurent Okumo says:

    The more we (I) learn from science how intelligent and sentient all beings are, including plants that intercommunicate, the more difficult it is (for me) to cause no harm. We must eat organic molecules. But even trees suffer and protect themselves from harm. How does one clearly draw the line around what organic beings are eaten by an observant Buddhist, and which are not?

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      We strive to REDUCE suffering. It is not possible to live without causing harm, but it is possible to reduce it. Consuming only plants reduces harm. Farmed animals consume more plants than humans, so even if you ascribe sentiency to plants, it is more compassionate to reduce their suffering by eliminating animal agriculture.

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