[Buddha-l] angels

r.g.morrison sgrmti at hotmail.com
Thu May 26 15:49:06 MDT 2005

Thus Spake Gad:

: Levinas' "God" is nothing other than the primordial obligation that arises
: for a human being to do his/her utmost, and more, for the other.  The
: command comes from what Levinas calls "the face of the Other".  I am
: suggesting that Sakyamuni's enlightenment experience per se was not enough
: to lead him to teach.He would  also have had to be confronted with the
: command coming from the face of the other--all suffering beings. I would
: like to read the story of his being "begged" by Brahma or Whoever as an
: indication or premonition of this .

You can read it as the devil having fun - that's up to you.  But if you 
really want to try and understand these passages, you could start by 
studying buddhism on its own terms, and leaving your own theistic issues to 
one side for the time being.

: Levinas can help Buddhists finally deal with the question of Ethics . in a
: manner that might satisfy Judaeo-Christian-Islamic objections to Buddhism 
: demoting the ethical from the level of absolute truth to the level of
: conventional truth.  Thus I read Masao Abe arguing that

The first thing I tell students when we come to study Buddhist Ethics is 
that if they really want to understand where the Buddhists come from, then 
best to forget all about Judeo-Christian ethics.  Reading Plato and 
Aristotle and the Stoics will at least lead you in the right direction.  AS 
for this distinction between the conventional [sa.mv.rtti] and the so-called 
'absolute' [paramaartha] in regard to ethics, once again reading the Pali 
suttas gives one a clue (even though, as far as I'm aware, there is no such 
distinction regarding sa.mvtti and paramaartha in the suttas). The 
Mahaacattaariisaka Sutta distinguishes three kinds of ethical 'action' 
(kammanta): 'wrong action' (micchaa-kammanta), and two kinds of 'right 
action' (sammaa-kammanta). There is 'right action' which is 'affected by the 
biases' (sa-aasava), which is 'involved in [creating] merit' 
(puññaa-bhaagiya), and which 'ripens in future rebecoming' (upadhi-vepakka). 
And there is 'right action' that is 'noble' (ariya), is 'without the biases' 
(anaasava), and is 'beyond the mundane world' (lokuttara)'. [M iii. 74]. 
This latter kind of action is said to be non-karmic, and being such will not 
produce the karmic effects that would ripen within sa.msaara. Thus we can 
see that there is what might be called 'conventional' ethical action, which 
creates merit, helps one become a more ethical individual, etc. and there is 
ethical action which is of a different order, and could correspond, roughly, 
to 'absolute' ethical action (although In think the term 'absolute' is 
misleading in Buddhism).

This distinction is also found in other contexts.  When asked 'where do 
skilful moral actions (kusala-siilas) cease without remainder?', the Buddha 
replies when one 'possesses virtue (siilavant), not when one is regulated by 
virtue (siilamaya)'. [M ii. 27] In other words, there is a kind of skilful 
action equivalent to the first kind of 'right action', which is regulated by 
and dependent upon moral guidelines as to what is skilful and what is not. 
But, having practised the first kind of 'right action', one can eventually 
become a 'virtuous person', a siilavant, one who is free from being affected 
by the 'biases', free from acting ethically for ulterior motives, even 
skilful ones. Such a person's actions are *naturally* virtuous and skilful, 
and are not dependent upon any moral guidelines (and certainly not any 
COMMANDS, a thoroughly unBuddhist notion). This second kind of skilful 
action therefore has to be distinguished from the kind of skilful action 
'regulated by virtue', i.e. that is dependent upon the conscious effort to 
restrain unskilful actions, and develop skilful actions. When the Buddha is 
saidd to be a siilavant, this means that his actions, being no longer 
dependent on or regulated by any moral guidelines or rules, are naturally 
skilful.  They simply express what he is - an Awakened being.  And going 
back to old Brahma Sahampati, his compassion is simply a natural expression 
of his Awakening, but, as suggested elswhere, can be given dramatic 
colouring by personifying it as Brahma Sahampati (or using Brahma Sahampati 
to satirize the brahmins).

As far as the Buddhists learning about ethics from the three theistic 
religions from the Middle East, I think it is probably the other way round. 
And they can start by trying to seeing the animal kingdom as fellow living 
creatures, rather than as mere things to butcher for food, a practice I find 
utterly barbaric.  At least that would be a beginning.

Robert Morrison

Robert Morrison

: "Auscwitz" though very reprehensible conventionally, is absolutely 
: nothing at all.  Christians have been fascinated with Levinas--andso has
: Derrida-- for decades.  Time for you Buddhists to discover something new 
: the "West"
: all.
: ----- Original Message ----- 
: From: "jkirk" <jkirk at spro.net>
: To: "Buddhist discussion forum" <buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com>
: Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:38 AM
: Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] angels
: > That sounds good to me except for the insistence on using the "God"
: concept.
: > If one insists on that, one is not writing about Buddhism, IMO.
: > Otherwise, many religions proclaim duties to humankind similar to those
: > found in Buddhism. Somewhere in one of the suttas there is also found 
: > "golden rule."  But the Buddha did not claim that what he was teaching 
: > God or gods, or came from him/her or them.
: >
: >  Joanna
: > =========================================
: >
: > ----- Original Message -----
: > From: "Gad Horowitz" <horowitz at chass.utoronto.ca>
: >
: >
: > > thats all very well, but for Levinas"s Judaism "God" refers to our
: > > obligation to do our utmost and more for the other.  Does the Buddha 
: > > relate to such an obligation?  Why then does he teach?
: >
: >
: >
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