So the past few weeks I’ve been trying to make my virtue more steadfast, and I’ve heard some others in the buddhist community who are being just as diligent. I always knew that the principles that these hardcore kids had to be straight edge were wholesome(refusing more than just refraining from: drugs, alcohol, sexual misconduct, gender and race acceptance among all other good liberal principles) and vegan (refusing meat, dairy, leathers, honey, any byproducts, entertainments involving animals, vivisection, breeding of animals and whatever else i may have forgotten.) These are all very good for the world around us, and wish i had half the determination of most of these people. My question would be, are these wholesome attitudes, and what about calling out people of wrongdoing? sometimes I feel “oh they’re just being austere like the Jains were, and the Buddha was against that” but also at the same time even in the Buddhist community there’s so much wrongdoing that needs to be addressed. Everything from gender bias, recent sexual misconduct from a reputable meditation teacher, the drugs that certain Buddhist organizations endrose, the violence in Burma, and everything else in between. What am I supposed to do? Does death contemplation help us stay militant? When is that big insight into Hiri-Ottapa going to happen? I have a lot of work to do, but does pride in labels such as standing for veganism and being straight edge help our progress to an extent? I know in the EBTs karma is made on our own behalf, even though there’s many influences around us that attempt to mold us. Personality-wise (or not so wise) I tend to be easy going, relatable, and shmooze with people around me even if it ends in my own detriment. Is it necessary to put up more of a fight on my behalf and “try more”? To what extent does being proud of doing the right thing help our development of the Eightfold Path? Open for discussion, just throwing some ideas out there.
Hi Paul @Westbury08
It’s very commendable that you are working hard to improve your virtue. Sadhu sadhu sadhu!
There’s a lot going on in your post. I’m not sure you’ll find the answers you’re looking for to some of your questions on an EBT forum like this, but I’ll try to help a bit. It sounds like you’re trying to find your place in the world of spirituality and have been looking around at the what’s out there and are both inspired and repulsed, what a mess!
The Buddha said that our ethical behaviour is wholesome if it is not harmful to us and not harmful to others. So that’s nice and simple. Phew.
I think you’re referring to the Dhammapunx/ Against the Stream straight-edge groups in your post? Their straight-edge pride thing has a lot to do with the need for people who have/had addiction issues setting up positive self-esteem, healthy role models of sobriety, along with strong boundaries and accountability, which are beneficial things for a community of recovering addicts or people who have been affected by addiction. The pride element is about taking control of their lives and responsibility for their actions. This strong self image and identification is a strategy of self that prevents them from doing unwholesome actions that they understand with wisdom from experience will detrimentally affect them (and others). Seeing the danger and recognising cause and effect, and wanting to avoid it in future, is a kind of hiri otappa.
The veganism is about seeing actions that are harmful to other beings and understanding the role of our consumption in the system that perpetuates cruelty to animals. So that makes sense too from a Buddhist point of view in that it is about the wellbeing of other beings and that people can do something about it.
…how does a person practice to benefit both themselves and others?
It’s when a person practices to remove their own greed, hate, and delusion, and encourages others to remove theirs.
In AN4.95 there is the person who is like a shit covered cremation log and the person who is like ghee - some of my favourite images from the suttas
In the Sutta that immediately follows this set, the Potaliya Sutta AN4.100, the Buddha says that we should praise that which is praiseworthy and criticise that which is worthy of criticism (with special clauses of course.)
“Potaliya, of these four people, it is the person who criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively; and praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively.
But we should be very careful that we don’t get stuck in dogmatic doctrinal views and avoid getting too judgey or involved in real life/ online discussions that go nowhere, as this sutta on quarelling shows.
A sutta that gives a slightly different perspective, tempering haughty pride in one’s practice, is AN4.28
Although this sutta is a really about contentment, we can learn a lot about the right attitude to practice, and maybe even apply it to our pride in own practice of virtue or morality.
“Here, a bhikkhu is content with any kind of robe, and he speaks in praise of contentment with any kind of robe, and he does not engage in a wrong search, in what is improper, for the sake of a robe. If he does not get a robe he is not agitated, and if he gets one he uses it without being tied to it, infatuated with it, and blindly absorbed in it, seeing the danger in it and understanding the escape from it. Yet he does not extol himself or disparage others because of this. Any bhikkhu who is skillful in this, diligent, clearly comprehending and ever mindful, is said to be standing in an ancient, primal noble lineage.
One other Sutta that comes to mind is the Cetana Sutta AN10.2 which points out that the purpose of practicing morality is to have no-regret or remorse in the mind, to be clear and pure hearted about ones activities. This is a vital support to developing joy and wisdom in our meditation. Rather than getting attached to the precepts or other abstentions for their own sake, or to forming an identity around them, maybe understanding the results of being blameless is a more positive way to look at our practice of ethical conduct?
“Bhikkhus, for a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous, no volition need be exerted: ‘Let non-regret arise in me.’ It is natural that non-regret arises in a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous…
Thus, bhikkhus, (9)–(10) the knowledge and vision of liberation is the purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion; (8) disenchantment and dispassion are the purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are; (7) the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is the purpose and benefit of concentration; (6) concentration is the purpose and benefit of pleasure; (5) pleasure is the purpose and benefit of tranquility; (4) tranquility is the purpose and benefit of rapture; (3) rapture is the purpose and benefit of joy; (2) joy is the purpose and benefit of non-regret; and (1) non-regret is the purpose and benefit of virtuous behavior
Being a good person is a blessing in itself and an inspiration to others. The practices of sīlanussati and cāgānussati are positive ways that we can cultivate rejoicing in our goodness and kindness, creating a feedback loop of being good, seeing the results and benefits of being good, and then wanting to do more in the future. This is intention, this is kamma, and seeing it’s results. Practicing in this way is what will really take our spiritual life to the next level.
Hope this helps.