Thursday, April 7, 2016

Abortion, suicide? What the Buddha taught

Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Seth Auberon, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; AP (via
Killer Michelle Carter in Juvenile Court, New Bedford (Peter Pereira/Standard Times/AP).
Court hears case of teen who sent beau texts urging suicide
BOSTON - The highest court in Massachusetts has been asked to dismiss a manslaughter case against a teenager accused of sending her boyfriend dozens of text messages encouraging him to kill himself.
Guns, money, and suicide mix well.
Michelle Carter listens to defense attorney Joseph P. Cataldo argue for charges against her to be dismissed at Juvenile Court in New Bedford, Mass. Carter, of Plainville, Mass., is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly pressuring Conrad Roy III, of Fairhaven, Mass., to commit suicide in 2014. Her lawyer will ask the Supreme Judicial Court Thursday, April 7, 2016, to overrule a lower court judge who refused to dismiss the youthful offender indictment against her, which makes her eligible for up to 20 years in prison instead of a lower sentence if she were prosecuted as a juvenile. More
The Buddha on not encouraging killing
The Buddha taught that encouraging others to kill themselves or kill others is killing, which violates the first of the Five Precepts.

The reason he made known the Five Precepts and the hundreds of guidelines in the Monastic Disciplinary Code was not because certain deeds (actions, karma) displeased him or went against his will.

He revealed them because he saw that they resulted in unpleasant, unwished for results. Those results and fruits (vipaka and phala) are usually not immediate; that is not what results and fruits means.

They come about when karma ripens, which is opportunistic, when an action (a karma) gets the chance, whether in this life, the immediate next life, or in some future life.

Some deeds fall away and do not bear fruit if they do not get the chance within this or the next life. Karma is complicated, working itself out in mysterious ways.

But according to the Vinaya, the Monastic Disciplinary Code, there are certain "defeat" (parajika) offenses, deeds/karma. One is immediately defeated and excluded from the monastic community by committing them.

How about abortion?
One of them is murder -- and it extends to encouraging abortion or commending suicide. One is self-judged guilty of killing (taking life) by speaking in praise of abortion or suicide or homicide which the person then goes on to perform even if that person was going to do it anyway. Because one may have been the cause, or tilted the scale, one is defeated.

Sexual intercourse, stealing, and making false claims of enlightenment are other defeat offenses. So this being the case, What is our karma when we encourage abortion? When we suggest to others that they kill themselves? When we sell guns or deal in weapons, poisons (drugs including pharmaceuticals of abuse), or the flesh trade (modern slavery, prostitution, sex trafficking)?

The Buddha by his insight knew-and-saw directly the unwished for results of such deeds. In the Noble Eightfold Path he therefore defined "right livelihood" as avoiding trade in certain things -- weapons, intoxicants, people, animals for slaughter... We may not like the truth made known to us, but we can profit greatly for looking into it.

The  Buddha had little to gain by making rules or talking about boring morality. The way to popularity is to give few rules, never judge or tell anyone else what's "moral" for them or "virtuous" or "good." So some may resent a spiritual teacher telling anyone what's "right" or "wrong," what's beneficial and harmful, to be pursued or abandoned, let go of or kept close to the heart.
  • Shouldn't everything be let go of? Nothing should be clung to. Sure, let it all go but not right away. In the Parable of the Raft (MN 22), the Buddha says that one is wise to gather material like reeds and lashes to make a raft to cross over from this dangerous side to that safe side of a river using one's own paddling hands and effort THEN letting go once that raft has served its purpose. The raft is the Dharma. It should be let go of, too, but only after it has served its purpose. You don't abandon the raft before you've crossed over to safety. You don't let go of the Doctrine and Discipline before achieving enlightenment and knowing-and-seeing for yourself.
It was because of just such a comment in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the sutra of "The Buddha's Last Days" (The Great Final-Nirvana of the Buddha Discourse, DN 16), that "Buddhism" began as a religion.

The Kalama sutra is a gradual teaching.
The Buddha did not create a religion. He taught a Dharma, a Doctrine-and-Discipline, a Teaching, made known a Path, a Way, to enlightenment. He was a mystic and a spiritual teacher, who was not interested in teaching people what he knew -- it's true. He was interested in teaching people how to know for themselves. People came to ask, What do you think?

And he turned it around and asked them, then helped them pursue a line of thought based on what they answered, giving a gradual teaching by asking them questions. He knew the answer, but "teaching" is about bringing others to their own direct-knowledge. He was a guide, not a judge, not a dictator, not a god or God (deva or brahma). So Buddhism is not a set of beliefs to believe or parrot; it is a path to pursue that leads to direct-knowledge. That Path is folded into the Noble Eightfold Path but it is more than that, like the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment, of which the Noble Eightfold Path is a part.
The enlightened elder, the Great Disciple Maha Kassapa (a Brahmin), formalized the teaching into a systematic "religion." He did this on his own after the Buddha's final nirvana because of the comment of a newcomer, an old man who had only recently become a monastic.

When the group of monastics Maha Kassapa was traveling with got news that the Buddha had passed away before they reached him, some (not yet enlightened) became very dejected and cried, threw themselves on the ground, wailed, lamented how they were now lost and so on. The enlightened kept their composure. This old man/new monk, Subhadda, encouraged them:

"Enough, friends! Do not grieve, do not lament! We are well rid of that great ascetic. Too long, friends, have we been oppressed by his saying, 'This is fitting for you; that is not fitting for you.' Now we shall be able to do as we wish, and what we do not wish, that we shall not do." 
Venerable Maha Kassapa addressed the monastics, saying: "Enough, friends! Do not grieve, do not lament! For has not the Blessed One declared that with all that is dear and beloved there must be change, separation, and severance? Of that which is born, come into being, compounded, subject to decay, how can one say: 'May it not come to dissolution!'?" (Part 6: Section 28)

By reminding them of impermanence -- and the suffering dependent on it -- he encouraged them to realize enlightenment and be freed of ignorance, clinging, and aversion. But he realized that people would say things just like this Subhadda. They would misrepresent the Dharma, misunderstand what the Buddha taught and why. So he later organized the First Council to agree on a canon of teachings, the teachings and the disciplinary code, so that it would last a long time.

Many of us, maybe without realizing it, are just like Subhadda, with our "modern" sensibility: Don't tell us what to do, and we won't tell you what to do. You do what you like, and I'll do what I like, and we'll all be cool. And anyone who tells us what to do or not do, what is fitting or not fitting, we foolishly think we're well rid of such a person. But that person would have been our guide (not our boss or god or slave-driver) leading us to the insight that opens into enlightenment.

One goal of the Buddha's Teachings is to go beyond needing a teacher. When we realize the Truth for ourselves then it doesn't matter who says it or does not say it, agrees or does not agree, because we directly see for ourselves. So the Buddha said, "This Dharma is inviting; it invites investigation." Come see, come test it for yourself, come see for yourself. It does no good just believing or not believing if we won't see for ourselves.

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