Apr 17, 2007

Right Speech and the Internet

Good news, since I reluctantly activated moderated comments, I've only had to delete one post. Bad news, that was a piece of spam for some financial scam, so the spam bots are finding their way past Blogspot's letter-code entry system.

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It was unfortunate, but all too common, the way the comments threads had started as an intelligent discussion and degenerated into a peta-realm of insults and trolls. We've all seen this kind of thing far too often on the internet. Is there something about the medium? The anonymity is a factor, no doubt, and also the casual ease of posting which means a person can upload something in a bad mood they might later regret.

But remember, Buddhists, there is karma attached to speech. Speech is a power we have of inserting dhammas directly into another being's mind-stream. The internet if anything multiplies this power, and the karmic repurcussions.

One of the formulas for right speech is the four-fold one of what speech a Tathagata would utter. A Tathagata only speaks (a) that which is true, (b) beneficial, (c) meaningful and (d) either pleasant or if unpleasant, spoken at the right time. In the context of the internet, and of this blog, I take (d) as permission to disagree but with respect and care.

Another point, and one I've addressed before, is that I occassionally get criticized for raising political questions here. Although I may sometimes slip up, I try to do so with discretion and care. Buddhism, and Buddhist ethics, ought to practical and relevant to real-life. And it seems to me that there are two very important areas of concern, war and climate-change, that could urgently use the application of Buddhist ethics. If we can't apply those ethics to the momentous issues of the day, then they are only museum relics. So, I don't intend to stop.

12 comments:

Prince Roy said...

I'm curious as to what the Vinaya actually instructs as to a Buddhist monstic's involvement with politics. Might you address this?

Yuttadhammo said...

Bhante,

Just a short comment about politics, war and climate change. I can see the point that Buddhism has to be relevant to the issues of today, but I think it most certainly can be so without having to take up a stand on those issues themselves. The great thing about Buddhism is that it gives people a way out, not simply out of the problems these issues cause, but of the causes of these issues themselves. If Buddhists put their focus on things like politics, war and climate change, I am afraid it might detract from our ability to teach people the way out of the root causes of all of these things. In the end, it is not any of those things which causes suffering. It is desire which causes suffering.

Namasakan,

Yuttadhammo

Barry said...

I disagree with Venerable Yuttadhammo. Desire is not what causes suffering. It is attachment which causes suffering. Desire can be both wholesome and unwholesome. This human form is built for desire. It is part of our very being. It is our relationship to it that matters.
Secondly, discussion on war and climate change are not apart from the experience of the mind. They arise directly from our ignorant relationship to conditions. If one steps back from the situation on this very Blog lately it is interesting to reflect on how people's reactions to unknown adversaries is typical of our habitual resistance of any experience of anything unpleasant or not to our liking.
I don't think this blog detracts from a Buddhist monk's ability to teach, on the contrary, it enhances it. I am drawn to think of the work of Ajahn Buddhadassa in this respect.

Ben 8) said...

Yuttadhammo,

If a person from the government came up and shot and killed Your Mom(loved one) what would You do?

I'm not sure what I would do, but
by bringing bad government behavior
to light may prevent that execution.

I doubt it but at least one has done something.

Yuttadhammo said...

@Barry - I guess it depends on your outlook on things. The Buddha didn't say attachment (upadana) is the cause of suffering, he said that desire (tanha) is the cause of suffering. Maybe desire is not how you would translate tanha, but it certainly wouldn't be translated as attachment.

It's funny how you say that the human form is built for desire, as though that were an excuse for desire. The truth is, it is desire which formed this body in the first place.

I agree, by stepping back from our obsession with conceptual things like war and politics, we can see what's going on in our minds at the time.

@Ben 8) - you seem to think it would upset me to see my mother die. I would say to myself "seeing, seeing, seeing", and start to prepare for her funeral :) You may not have realized it, but it doesn't make you any better just to have done "something". Better to do the wise thing, because:

"Both old and young and middle in years,
the fool and, eke, the wise;
For rich and poor, one end is sure -
each man among them dies."

-- The Buddha (Jat)

Barry said...

Yuttadhammo said: "The Buddha didn't say attachment (upadana) is the cause of suffering, he said that desire (tanha) is the cause of suffering."

Ajahn Sumedho said "It is the grasping of desire that is suffering. Desire does not cause suffering; the cause of suffering is the grasping of desire. This statement is for reflection and contemplation in terms of your individual experience.

You really have to investigate desire and know it for what it is. You have to know what is natural and necessary for survival and what is not necessary for survival. We can be very idealistic in thinking that even the need for food is some kind of desire we should not have. One can be quite ridiculous about it. But the Buddha was not an idealist and he was not a moralist. He was not trying to condemn anything. He was trying to awaken us to truth so that we could see things clearly...
When you really see the origin of suffering, you realise that the problem is the grasping of desire, not the desire itself. Grasping means being deluded by it, thinking it's really 'me' and 'mine': 'These desires are me and there is something wrong with me for having them'; or, 'I don't like the way I am now. I have to become something else'; or, 'I have to get rid of something before I can become what I want to be.' All this is desire. So you listen to it with bare attention not saying it's good or bad, but merely recognising it for what it is." Ajahn Sumedho 'Cittaviveka'

Personally I think your view takes one to an unhealthy denial and you get into annhilation - that desire is something that has to be gotten rid of.

I am not saying stepping away from politics and war allows one to see the mind. I am saying politics and war come straight out of the mind as soon as we take the self position.

gregory said...

Venerable Punnadhammo, may I kindly point out that the "anatta6" link in your 'Reading Suttas' post is no longer functional. Thank-you.

anonyrod said...

"All of the Dhamma principles of Buddhism can be summarized: upadana is the cause of dukkha; dukkha is born out of upadana. We all must understand this matter of upadana well. To make it easy to understand, we must see it clearly as being just like a prison -- a mental prison, a spiritual prison. We come to study Dhamma and develop samadhi (mental stability and calm) and vipassana (insight) in order to destroy upadana. Or, if we speak metaphorically, we study Dhamma and develop the mind in order to destroy the prison that now traps us."

From the Prison of Life, a classic
Ajarn Buddhadasa talk.

http://www.suanmokkh.org/archive/arts/ret/prison1.htm

Read all of it.

Yuttadhammo said...

@Prince Roy

You might find some stuff here:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/ch05.html

under Thanissaro's explanation of the 13th sanghadisesa, or here:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/dob/dob-01tx.htm

under majjhima-sila, where it says:

17. 'Or he might say: "Whereas some recluses and Brahmans, while living on food provided by the faithful, continue addicted to such low conversation as these:

Tales of kings, of robbers, of ministers of state; tales of war, of terrors, of battles; talk about foods and drinks, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes; talks about relationships, equipages, villages, town, cities, and countries; tales about women [8], and about heroes; gossip at street corners{3}, or places whence water is fetched; ghost stories{1}; desultory talk{2}; speculations about the creation of the land or sea{3}, or about existence and non-existence{4}--

Gotama the recluse holds aloof from such low conversation."


I don't know if it applies, but the Culavagga (V.33.2) says this:

Monks, metaphysics should not be learned ... [or] taught. Whoever should do so, there is a case of wrong-doing (dukkata).

Monks, worldly knowledge should not be learned ... [or] taught. Whoever should do so, there is a case of wrong-doing (dukkata)

Barry said...

Yuttadhammo said: "The Buddha didn't say attachment (upadana) is the cause of suffering, he said that desire (tanha) is the cause of suffering."

Ajahn Sumedho said "It is the grasping of desire that is suffering. Desire does not cause suffering; the cause of suffering is the grasping of desire. This statement is for reflection and contemplation in terms of your individual experience.

You really have to investigate desire and know it for what it is. You have to know what is natural and necessary for survival and what is not necessary for survival. We can be very idealistic in thinking that even the need for food is some kind of desire we should not have. One can be quite ridiculous about it. But the Buddha was not an idealist and he was not a moralist. He was not trying to condemn anything. He was trying to awaken us to truth so that we could see things clearly...
When you really see the origin of suffering, you realise that the problem is the grasping of desire, not the desire itself. Grasping means being deluded by it, thinking it's really 'me' and 'mine': 'These desires are me and there is something wrong with me for having them'; or, 'I don't like the way I am now. I have to become something else'; or, 'I have to get rid of something before I can become what I want to be.' All this is desire. So you listen to it with bare attention not saying it's good or bad, but merely recognising it for what it is." Ajahn Sumedho 'Cittaviveka'

Personally I think your view takes one to an unhealthy denial and you get into annihilation - that desire is something that has to be gotten rid of.

I am not saying stepping away from politics and war allows one to see the mind. I am saying politics and war come straight out of the mind as soon as we take the self position.

Yuttadhammo said...

Dear Barry,

I am sorry, I don’t share supreme faith in the words of Ajaan Sumedho, but of course I do follow the Buddha and his words:

Ida.m kho pana bhikkhave dukkhasamudayo ariyasacca.m:

Yaaya.m ta.nhaa ponobbhavikaa nandi-raaga-sahagataa tatra tatraabhinandinii,

Seyyathiida.m, Kaama-ta.nhaa bhava-ta.nhaa vibhava-ta.nhaa

(Dhammacakkappavatana Sutta)

Translate tanha as you will, it doesn’t mean attachment. It is said to be nandi-raaga-sahagataa = going together with delight (nandi) and lust (raaga). Of course, according to dependent origination, tanha is the cause for upadana (clinging), which in turn leads to suffering. So it is all how one looks at it.

Further, to quote the venerable blogmaster: "Let's remember that the Buddha was very clear in his formulation; the second noble truth says that the cause of suffering is desire (dukkha, tanha). I detect a little bit of wanting to have your cake and eat it too in attempts to shift the problem away from desire to attachment or something else."

Ha. I wish I had his way with words.

As for your statement that my ideas seem nihilistic, I totally agree - I believe in annihilation. As did the Lord Buddha:

6. “Ucchedavaado bhava.m gotamo”ti

“The revered Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation,” he said.

“Atthi khvesa, braahma.na, pariyaayo yena ma.m pariyaayena sammaa vadamaano vadeyya– ‘ucchedavaado sama.no gotamo’ti. Aha~nhi, braahma.na, uccheda.m vadaami raagassa dosassa mohassa. Anekavihitaana.m paapakaana.m akusalaana.m dhammaana.m uccheda.m vadaami. Aya.m kho, braahma.na, pariyaayo yena ma.m pariyaayena sammaa vadamaano vadeyya– ‘ucchedavaado sama.no gotamo’ti, no ca kho ya.m tva.m sandhaaya vadesii”ti.

“There is indeed, brahmin a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation. For I, brahmin, speak of the annihilation of passion, of hatred and of confusion; I speak of the annihilation of manifold evil and wrong states. This indeed, brahmin, is a way in which one speaking truly of me could say: The recluse Gotama professes the doctrine of annihilation. But surely you did not mean that.”

(Vinaya, Parajika)

And again, I agree that war and politics come from attachment to self, but I think it is fair to say that this goes much deeper than simply "taking the self position".

henrik said...

Maybe I am missing out on something here but isn't both grasping or desire is the cause of suffering?
I mean clinging is suffering, as described in the first noble truth (clinging to skhandas), while desire is the orign of this suffering as described in the second noble truth. This does allso make sense if you look at it from the perspective of the twelve causational links, where desire precedes clinging. In other words: desire -> clinging => suffering.

Henrik