Monday, March 10, 2008

Buddhism Homework

Below, is a completed “homework” assignment given to me by my Sensei Monshin Naamon from the Karuna Tendai Dharma Center. This is my work, and has not been sanctioned or adopted by the Karuna Tendai Dharma Center. I believe it would be beneficial to all if we could adopt, some, or all of these responsibilities as members of our global society.

Responsibilities for the Members of the Karuna Tendai Dharma Center

1) Members of the Tendai Buddhist Institute will be a group that practices love and compassion for all beings. To achieve this aim, members will be mindful of their impact on those they come in contact with. Showing patience, love and respect for others. They will be mindful of the environment by not consuming energy or food resources unnecessarily above and beyond their physical needs, and by doing the least amount of harm to non-human animals. Members will work to promote peace in their community, nationally and globally.

2) Members will be active participants with-in their Sangha by being students of the Dharma, by attending meditation services, Sangha events and retreats whenever possible. Members will also support the Sensei in his/her pastoral duties when called upon to service. Also, members will give financially, what they can afford to the Tendai Buddhist Institute, so that it may carry out the purposes of its mission statement.

3) Members will practice non-attachment to the physical and nonphysical world. Members will not be influenced by wealth and fame, or by the desire for things that others may be perceived to have. Members should understand that all things are impermanent, so therefore there is no ownership of any material, living or spiritual objects in which to possess.

4) Members will practice being in the present moment at all times, knowing that the future and the past do not exist. Members will not attempt to escape the present moment by using drugs and alcohol, but always being sober and clear headed. Also, Members will practice the realization that all one sees is their own perception of the world. Therefore, Members will not be stringent or self-righteous in the way they conduct their daily lives, but will be filled with humility, understanding and loving-kindness when engaging other people.

5) Members have the responsibility for seeking there own enlightenment, and praying for the enlightenment of every sentient being.

This second part, is another "homework" assignment that I wrote, concerning the First Cardinal Precept in Buddhist philosophy.

The First Cardinal Precept: Not To Deprive Any Being of Life

Sentient beings are defined as, “characterized by sensation and consciousness” by, this attempts to qualify one form of life: life that is aware of its own existence. I would presume these specific life forms are the “Life” one is not to deprive from any other being. Microscopic bacteria, viruses, insects, parasites etc. can and are killed by our very existence. As humans, we have not been able to perceive any ability by these organisms to suffer from real or imagined pain. Certain religious groups such as the Jains seek to do no harm to any living organism, but to deny ourselves life would be the only way to not participate in their demise. The most important work on this subject, I believe, is Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” which goes beyond non human animals “rights”, but to their capacity to suffer. Since it is the nature of every sentient being to: One, live and Two, to live without needless pain or suffering, it would seem to be an axiom for a Buddhist to not contradict these natural laws.

It has been perceived wisdom for some Buddhists for many, many years, from what I understand, that the precept covers specifically the person doing the killing. That is, one is not responsible for the depriving of life from any being as long as it was not done by ones own hands. Consequently, one may go to the grocery store and buy the packaged meat, fowl or fish and not be in violation of the precept. Or more so, it is not in violation of the precept to accept food prepared by someone who killed or purchased meat, fowl, or fish. This way of thinking would make it acceptable if someone contracted a killing for a person, and that killing resulted in a benefit to the contractor, but as long as that person did not get their ‘hands dirty’ per se., there would be no violation to the precept. I believe, that any person partaking of meat, fowl or fish is responsible for the life that was deprived by their decision to eat that living being. In fact, it has been calculated that a vegetarian saves approximately one hundred lives a year just by refusing to eat non human animals. The butcher does not kill regardless to the demand of his efforts.

Another important aspect of not depriving life to humans and non humans are environmental concerns. Some of these, such as: Global warming, pollution, toxic dumping etc. are direct violent attacks on life. Indeed, there is a concern to environmentalists that the planet will suffer mass extinctions in the near future due to human influence. We can make the same argument as before, that a certain amount of environmental suffering will take place just by our very existence. The building of a house will up-root trees and may destroy underground homes of various non human animals. The wood to build the house may have devastated a forest, and perhaps the wood was treated with a poison that pollutes the soil and water where it was made. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Buddhist to be sensitive to the environment by buying products that do not pollute, by conserving energy, and by recycling used products.

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