SuttaCentral

Could a person who entered the stream of the path ever do a bad deed?


#1

10.Sahāvassa dassanasampadāya, tayassu dhammā jahitā bhavanti;
Sakkāyadiṭṭhī vicikicchitañca, sīlabbataṃ vāpi yadatthi kiñci.

11.Catūhapāyehi ca vippamutto, chaccābhiṭhānāni abhabba kātuṃ ;
Idampi saṅghe ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ, etena saccena suvatthi hotu.

12.Kiñcāpi so kamma karoti pāpakaṃ, kāyena vācā uda cetasā vā;
Abhabba so tassa paṭicchadāya , abhabbatā diṭṭhapadassa vuttā;
Idampi saṅghe ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ, etena saccena suvatthi hotu.

According to 12th stanza in ratana sutta, there are sins that can be carried out by the one who entered the stream of the path (sotāpanna savaka).
What are those sins.
Translation of the highlighted part:

Any evil action he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path of Nibbana. (Kp 6)

Eventhough they are incapable of concealing their evil deeds, they might do some evil deeds.
What might be those sins?

According to MN 115 it’s impossible for a person who entered the stream of the path to carry out an ānantariyapapakamma such as killing mother, father or an enlightened one.

‘Aṭṭhānametaṃ anavakāso yaṃ diṭṭhisampanno puggalo mātaraṃ jīvitā voropeyya, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatī’…
It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to murder their mother… (MN115)

Commentary does not give a proper explaination to this stanza.
“Kiñcāpi so kamma karoti pāpaka”
Tassattho - so dassanasampanno kiñcāpi satisammosena pamādavihāraṃ āgamma yaṃ taṃ bhagavatā lokavajjaṃ sañciccātikkamanaṃ sandhāya vuttaṃ “Yaṃ mayā sāvakānaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ paññattaṃ, taṃ mama sāvakā jīvitahetupi nātikkamantī”ti (cūḷava· 385; udā· 45) taṃ ṭhapetvā aññaṃ kuṭikārasahaseyyādiṃ paṇṇattivajjavītikkamasaṅkhātaṃ buddhappatikuṭṭhaṃ kāyena pāpakammaṃ karoti, padasodhammauttarichappañcavācādhammadesanasamphappalāpapharusavacanādiṃ vā vācāya , uda cetasā vā katthaci lobhadosuppādanaṃ jātarūpādisādiyanaṃ cīvarādiparibhogesu apaccavekkhaṇādiṃ vā pāpakammaṃ karo Kiñcāpi sotigāthāvaṇṇanā.

According to above, the sins could not be lokavajjas; the deeds that make kammapatas (deeds that give rise to another birth) such as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, etc.

taṃ ṭhapetvā aññaṃ kuṭikārasahaseyyādiṃ paṇṇattivajjavītikkamasaṅkhātaṃ
Set aside those lokavajjas, they can break rules such as buliding a hut bigger than allowed, or without permission from the saṇga, sleeping with non-higher (upasampadā) ordinated person.
However, these paṇṇattivajjas are not considered as bad deeds.

Further, when we read second defeat rule of the vinaya, it is evident that king Bimbisāra, has ordered death penalty to thieves, according to the law. There are some other suttas about the war led by the king.

How to explain 12th stanza of ratanasutta?


#2

Have a look at MN 48. It gives details about noble disciples:

Furthermore, a noble disciple reflects, ‘Do I have the same nature as a person accomplished in view?’ And what, mendicants, is the nature of a person accomplished in view? This is the nature of a person accomplished in view. Though they may fall into a kind of offense for which rehabilitation has been laid down, they quickly disclose, clarify, and reveal it to the Teacher or a sensible spiritual companion. And having revealed it they restrain themselves in the future. Suppose there was a little baby boy. If he puts his hand or foot on a burning coal, he quickly pulls it back. In the same way, this is the nature of a person accomplished in view. Though they may still fall into a kind of offense for which rehabilitation has been laid down, they quickly reveal it to the Teacher or a sensible spiritual companion. And having revealed it they restrain themselves in the future. They understand, ‘I have the same nature as a person accomplished in view.’ This is their fourth knowledge …

So a monk or nun who has reached stream-entry could commit any offense except for the parajikas. But they would immediately confess it to another monastic.


#3

This sutta doesn’t give direct evidence about commiting offenses that are lokavajja. So your conclusion seems problematic. My concern is about those offenses.

Though they may fall into a kind of offense

What if these offenses are paṇṇattivajjas?


#4

Can you cite early sources to support your claim that after the attainment of first stage, King Bimbisara still undertook killing?
Is there any definitive evidence for this in the early sources?


#5

Kathañhi nāma mādiso samaṇaṃ vā brāhmaṇaṃ vā vijite vasantaṃ haneyya vā bandheyya vā pabbājeyya vā. Gaccha, bhante, lomena tvaṃ muttosi.

Haneyya -to kill or destroy


how could I presume to beat (might not be theexact meaning of haneyya), imprison, or banish an ascetic or a brahmin living in my kingdom?
Go, you’re free because of your status,
(The second training rule)

On King’s service
Now at that time there came to be a disturbance on the borderlands of King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha. Then King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha commanded the generals, the chief ministers, saying: “Go, good sirs, search the borderlands.”

“Very well, sire,” the generals, the chief ministers answered King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha in assent.

Then it occurred to (some) very distinguished warriors: “Because we delight in battle, we do evil and we engender much demerit. Now by what means could we refrain from evil and do what is good?” Then it occurred to these warriors: “These recluses, sons of the Sakyans are dhamma -farers, even-farers, Brahma-farers, they are truth-speakers, of moral habit, of good character. Now, if we were to go forth among these recluses, sons of the Sakyans, thus might we refrain from evil and do what is good.” Then these warriors, having approached (some) monks, asked for the going forth. The monks let them go forth, they ordained them.

The generals, the chief ministers, asked those in the King’s service: “How is it, good sirs, that the warriors, so and so and so and so, are not to be seen?”

“Sirs, the warriors, so and so and so and so, have gone forth among the monks.” The generals, the chief ministers … spread it about, saying: “How can these recluses, sons of the Sakyans, let one who is in the king’s service go forth?” The generals, the chief ministers told this matter to King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha. Then King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha asked the chief ministers of justice:

“Good sirs, what does he who lets one go forth who is in a king’s service engender (for himself)?”

“Sire, a preceptor’s head should be cut off, the tongue should be torn from the announcer of a proclamation, half the ribs of a (member of a) group should be broken.”

Then King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha approached the Lord; having approached, having greeted the lord, he sat down at a respectful distance. As he was sitting down at a respectful distance, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha spoke thus to the Lord: “There are, Lord, kings who are of no faith, not believing; these might harm monks even for a trifling matter. It were well, Lord, if the masters did not let one in a king’s service go forth.” Then the Lord gladdened … delighted King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha with talk on dhamma . Then King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, gladdened … delighted by the Lord with talk on dhamma , rising from his seat, having greeted the Lord, departed keeping his right side towards him. Then the Lord on this occasion, in this connection, having given reasoned talk, addressed the monks, saying:

“Monks, one in a king’s service should not be let go forth. Whoever should let (one such) go forth, there is an offence of wrong-doing.” (Mahākandhaka)

Read also…


#6

The one who entered the stream of the path has right view, and when someone has it,

Mendicants, when an individual has right view, whatever bodily, verbal, or mental deeds they undertake in line with that view, their intentions, aims, wishes, and choices all lead to what is likable, desirable, agreeable, beneficial, and pleasant. Why is that? Because their view is good. Suppose a seed of sugar cane, fine rice, or grape was planted in moist earth. Whatever nutrients it takes up from the earth and water would lead to its sweet, pleasant, and delicious taste. Why is that? Because the seed is good. In the same way, when an individual has right view, whatever bodily, verbal, or mental deeds they undertake in line with that view, their intentions, aims, wishes, and choices all lead to what is likable, desirable, agreeable, beneficial, and pleasant. Why is that? Because their view is good.

How to explain this?


#7

The statement is qualified. “whatever bodily, verbal, or mental deeds they undertake in line with that view”. It does not say simply “whatever bodily, verbal, or mental deeds they undertake”.


#8

Thank you for taking the time to identify/cite evidence!

I don’t see where any commitment of harmful actions has happened - the threat was definitely made and it definitely does seem to be a strong hint that such actions do happen, say elsewhere in the army. If that was the punishment for a monk who ordains a soldier, imagine how much worse it could be for a worse misdeed!

While the hint was there, there doesn’t seem to be any clear admission of wrong-doing - instead the King seems to take steps to avoid harm.

If the King has to ask his general, does that mean that the King did not create that policy? If not, since he is king, why didn’t he simply rescind and overrule that policy? :thinking:

Also, can this be said to have happened after he won stream-entry?

Maybe there is a difference between “never went to war” and “never went to war after becoming a stream winner”?


#9

Bhante,
I don’t fully understand the question, not being versed in the vinaya pitaka. But wouldn’t the ten fetters provide an explanation?
In a Sotapanna any ‘pamada’ due to the first three fetters is eradicated. But they still have seven remaining causing confusion?


#10

Can someone fight a war without any orders from the king?
As the king said that he could not kill a bhikku, he it is evident that he might have ordered to kill when he had to.
According to pabbajja sutta, bimbisāra the king met bodhisatta (before enlightenment). Ever since the first defeat rule was layed down after twenty years from the enlightenment, there is a higher chance of the king to attain stream of the path before the buddha refused to ordaination of soldiers.
Logically, it is not possible to lead a country without executing the law, where he may have had to lay kill orders.


#11

The Vinaya Piṭaka’s chronology of events seems to contradict the second possibility.

In the account of the fourth pārājika, when Bimbisāra is at war with the Licchavīs Moggallāna is already a monk, but in the Mahāvagga Bimbisāra’s attainment of stream-entry occurs before Sāriputta and Moggallāna had even gone forth.


#12

But not conclusive evidence? I’m not saying this doubt your conclusion, because you did gather quite a bit of supporting evidence. Just noting it though.

I disagree with this. People seem to claim or assume this as obvious and self-evident. I don’t think it is as “logical.”

I agree that it is extremely difficult. I disagree that it is impossible.

The Buddha’s ideal government is a king that rules in accordance with the Dhamma - i.e. does not harm, let alone kill.

This seems to say that it is possible for stream-winner to kill?

Is this your point?

Is there anywhere in the early sources that it says it is impossible for a stream-winner to intentionally kill at all? (I think it might have said this only for an Arahant?)


#13

Not at all, I am just asking.
Just questioning the possibility!
Thats why I collected evidence for both ways!


#14

Interesting thread. From my readings so far, the answer to the question posed by the OP does not seem that clear. Morality/sila seems a pretty core component of stream entry; the strong impression from, for example, the sotapanna section in the SN Mahavagga seems to be that holding to the five precepts is part of the “virtues dear to the noble ones” along with generosity etc. I think someone not holding to the five precepts in ordinary regular life would seem to rule out stream entry. The possibility of a lay stream entrant violating one of these in extremis is less clear to me though.

IMO violating a precept is almost invariably a symptom of underlying greed, hatred or delusion (underlying craving). It makes sense that later in the path when those are absent or greatly attenuated, the disciple will not break the five precepts just naturally. However, for a stream enterer, only right view has been established and the first three fetters eliminated. That’s probably a powerful motivator to keep the precepts. However, sensual lust and anger are still there. So maybe there’s some scope in extreme circumstances. Though hiri and ottappa (conscience and fear of wrong doing) should be well developed, so even if that is possible, there should be fairly immediate repentance and remorse.

War seems an even more ambiguous question to me. I do not see a Quaker-like pacifism in the suttas. In some ways, on this topic, I am reminded of the Christian New Testament. There, Jesus does make statements like if someone strikes you on the cheek then give him your other cheek. However, there are also passages where he gives advice to followers who are soldiers (to be happy with their pay and not use violence to extort money from others). He does not tell them to quit their profession. And, of course, there is the commandment “do not kill” in the Old Testament (though I’ve seen discussions of the original Hebrew words to this that say the particular word used for “kill” in this context does not cover situations like capital punishment by the state).

Similarly, the suttas have very pacifist sounding statements like in the simile of the saw in MN 21. And there’s the first precept, of course. However, there are many places in the suttas where the Buddha is advising or giving a talk to a king or general and nowhere can I recall him suggesting they give up soldiering or having an army. The manufacture and sale of weapons is listed as being against right livelihood, but soldiering isn’t though. There are passages where Khattiyas are praised (the Buddha was from Khattiya stock). I guess it would have been totally impractical for a kingdom of the day to disband its army. It’s an interesting question if being employed in an army, particularly if the army is just used defensively (Switzerland comes to mind), is still right livelihood. It’s probably quite a risky profession in terms of following the eight-fold path. Nonetheless, for a king, maintaining an army, and being prepared to use it was effectively essential for the well-being of their subjects (as long as they weren’t being aggressively expansionist etc.).

It is an interesting question, whether a king maintaining an army is actually a violation of the first precept and is wrong livelihood. The simile of the saw is addressed at monastics. The absence of an army back in the Buddha’s time would seem to have been incompatible with lay life (for the protection of one’s spouse, children, land etc.). That’s all attachment, of course. But attachment is still there in the early stages of the path.


#15

He might not tell them if he understands that they would not be receptive to his advice - but if he senses that they are, even reluctantly, he might refuse their request to be taught twice, perhaps so their mind is receptive, before conveying the harm of being a soldier:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn42/sn42.003.than.html

Having plunged into the western ocean and emerged again, it rolled towards the north, followed by the king together with his army of four divisions.
SuttaCentral

Perhaps there difference between “having an army and/or being a soldier” and “king ordering one’s army to kill and/or carry out the king’s order to kill as a soldier.”

The view that “army protects us from being killed” seems to have been hammered into our minds by those who teach Adhamma-Avinaya.

The Dhamma-Vinaya does have stages but does not seem to purport that the laws of the universe are different for different people depending on their current stage of development.

  1. "Here, student, some woman or man is a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. If, on the dissolution of the body, after death, instead of his reappearing in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, he comes to the human state, he is short-lived wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to short life, that is to say, to be a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.
  2. "But here some woman or man, having abandoned the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings, lays aside the rod and lays aside the knife, is considerate and merciful and dwells compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world. If, on the dissolution of the body, after death, instead of his reappearing in a happy destination, in the heavenly world, he comes to the human state, he is long-lived wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to long life, that is to say, to have abandoned the killing of living beings, to abstain from killing living beings, to lay aside the rod and lay aside the knife, to be considerate and merciful, and to dwell compassionate for the welfare of all living beings.
    Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta: The Shorter Exposition of Kamma

Having a title “king” or “soldier” does not seem to exempt them from reaping what they sow, even if the give an excuse, rationalization, or justification of “protecting themselves and others” - the Dhamma doesn’t seem to bend for anyone, neither for a King, nor a God, not even for the Buddha! The Buddha seems to be an embodiment of the Dhamma as opposed “transcending the Dhamma/laws of the universe.”

So then how, one may ask, can one protect oneself - without an army?

Near Sāvatthī. As he was sitting to one side, King Pasenadi Kosala said to the Blessed One: “Just now, lord, while I was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in my awareness: ‘Who have themselves protected, and who leave themselves unprotected?’ Then it occurred to me: …

“That’s the way it is, great king! That’s the way it is!
‘Those who engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct leave themselves unprotected.
Even though a squadron of elephant troops might protect them, a squadron of cavalry troops, a squadron of chariot troops, a squadron of infantry troops might protect them, still they leave themselves unprotected.
Why is that?
Because that’s an external protection, not an internal one.
Therefore they leave themselves unprotected.
But those who engage in good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct have themselves protected.
Even though neither a squadron of elephant troops, a squadron of cavalry troops, a squadron of chariot troops, nor a squadron of infantry troops might protect them, still they have themselves protected.
Why is that?
Because that’s an internal protection, not an external one. Therefore they have themselves protected.’”
SN 3:5  Atta-rakkhita Sutta | Self-protected

The Buddha basically states: it simply doesn’t matter whether an army protects you or not.
Harmfulness will lead to harm (in this case, non-protection).
Beneficialness will lead to benefit (in this case, protection).

Even the most powerful army in the world cannot protect anyone from the results of their own harmful and unbeneficial actions.

And this laws remain the same for all beings, female or male, lay or monastic, beginner or advanced.

Referencing the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole often helps clear up a lot of “apparent” (“not actual”) contradictions like this.

Even if the Buddha doesn’t teach one who is not receptive - it doesn’t mean the laws of the universe do not apply to them.

All it means is that the Buddha understood that mind of the being he was addressing was too unreceptive for them to benefit from his teaching them.

Even if he spent his precious time to teach them (when he could be using that time to teach someone more receptive and suitable to teach), they may disregard it anyway at best, or at worse, they may even get upset:

Bhikkhus, five kinds of talks are wrongly addressed varying from person to person. What five?

Bhikkhus,
a talk on faith is wrongly addressed to one without faith,
a talk on ethics is wrongly addressed to one who is unethical,
a talk on learnedness is wrongly addressed to one without learning,
a talk on generosity is wrongly addressed one who is stingy,
a talk on wisdom is wrongly addressed one who is foolish.

Bhikkhus, why is a talk on ethics wrongly addressed to one who is unethical?

Bhikkhus, an unethical one hearing a talk on ethics becomes upset, angry, retorts angrily, and shows aversion.
What is the reason?
He does not see the attainment of ethics in him and does not experience joy and delight on account of ethics.
Therefore, to one without ethics, a talk on ethics is wrongly addressed.

AN 5.157


#16

Thanks for SN42.3. That’s definitely relevant. I suppose that doesn’t sound too hopeful for the regular soldier.

Perhaps there difference between “having an army and/or being a soldier” and “king ordering one’s army to kill and/or carry out the king’s order to kill as a soldier.”

It does seem that there might be. Actually, a somewhat relevant passage I read recently in SN4.20 comes to mind:

At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Kosalans, in a wilderness hut on the slopes of the Himalayas.

Then as he was in private retreat this thought came to his mind, “I wonder if it’s possible to rule legitimately, without killing or having someone kill for you; without conquering or having someone conquer for you; without sorrowing or causing sorrow?”

And then Māra the Wicked, knowing what the Buddha was thinking, went up to him and said, “Rule, Blessed One! Rule, Holy One! Rule legitimately, without killing or having someone kill for you; without conquering or having someone conquer for you; without sorrowing or causing sorrow!”

Mara then does onto say the Buddha with his psychic powers he could do nearly anything, e.g. turn the Himalaya, the King of Mountains into a mountain of gold.

A Bhikkhu Bodhi footnote to this sutta is interesting:

At 51:10 (V 259,18–20 = DN II 103,23–26) it is said that one who has mastery over the four bases for spiritual power could, if he so desired, live on for an aeon or for the remainder of an aeon. Mara has made this appeal to the Buddha, not out of respect for his leadership ability, but because he wants to tempt him with lust for power and thereby keep him under his own control. It is interesting that the sutta does not offer an answer to the question whether righteous governance is possible, and this ambiguity pervades the Pali Canon as a whole. While some texts admit that righteous rulers do arise (the “wheel-turning monarchs”), the general consensus is that the exercise of rulership usually involves the use of violence and thus is hard to reconcile with perfect observance of the precepts. For an insightful discussion of the ambiguity, see Collins, Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities, pp. 419–36, 448–70.

I suppose there is also the problem of kings having to mete out punishment for crimes (I assume ancient kingdoms would not have had the resources or inclination to keep a murderer imprisoned courtesy of the state for decades).

And given the it was King Bimbisara’s son who deposed him, one has to assume that Bimbisara was a fully functioning ruler from whenever he became a stream enterer up until he was deposed (there’s no mention of him renouncing the crown I think). It’s hard to imagine that he was not wielding an army or supervising punishments for crimes during all this.

In MN 89, King Pasenadi meets the Buddha (both are 80 and at the end of their lives). Pasendai describes himself as:

Furthermore, as an anointed king I am able to execute, fine, or banish those who are guilty.

The Buddha does not call him out on this issue. Indeed at the end of the sutta, in response to his various insights on dhamma during the meeting, the Buddha says:

Soon after the king had left, the Buddha addressed the mendicants: “Mendicants, before he got up and left, King Pasenadi spoke shrines to the teaching. Learn these shrines to the teaching! Memorize these shrines to the teaching! Remember these shrines to the teaching! These shrines to the teaching are beneficial and relate to the fundamentals of the spiritual life.”

Your point is a good one about one not being protected from kamma even if one has an entire army at one’s disposal. Still, there is the practical matter of physical protection in a society. We still need police even today. That’s a somewhat less extreme example than a soldier. Can this be right livelihood even if sometimes violence (hopefully the minimum necessary) may be part of the job? Does a policeman necessarily have to think thoughts like

When a warrior strives and exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, and misdirected by the thought: ‘May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.’

in the course of his livelihood?

And to give an extreme example, if a male lay stream enterer is walking along the street with his wife and children and a brigand attacks them, what does he do? Try to restrain him with minimum force? What if the minimum needed force escalates to physical harm? So does he keep his virtue spotless and risk death or maiming for his family or lower himself somewhat to the level of the brigand and use physical force? The question is not so pertinent for the monastic stream entrant whose family members will all be under someone else’s protection. Protection (sometimes physical) does seem a fairly intrinsic part of lay society.

These are the kind of extreme circumstances I wonder about. I think spotless observance of the five precepts in regular lay life seems to be a given for a sotapanna. I wonder, though, is there room for a bit of ambiguity at the margins in extremis.


#17

Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful reply.

You seem to be conflating two separate issues:

  1. do beings do bad deeds hoping for a good outcome?
  2. does the bad deeds that beings do hoping for a good outcome actually lead to a good outcome?

I think the answer to the first point seems to be definitively yes.
I think the answer to the second point seems to be definitively no.

If you go through your reply, you can see examples of both of these - but the distinction is not made clear.

There seems to be a difference between what the Dhamma-Vinaya says and what beings (myself included) actually do - i.e. we don’t start out perfect and even when are trying, we make mistakes along the way. In Buddhism, it seems that killing is simply considered “just another mistake” - different only in degrees.

  1. do beings do bad deeds hoping for a good outcome?

All of these seem like examples of beings hoping for a good outcome through doing harmful actions.

But the Buddha seems to state that it is impossible for a good outcome to happen on account of bad/harmful actions:

“It is impossible, mendicants, it cannot happen for a likable, desirable, agreeable result to come from bad bodily conduct.
But it is possible for an unlikable, undesirable, disagreeable result to come from bad bodily conduct.”
“It is impossible, mendicants, it cannot happen for a likable, desirable, agreeable result to come from bad verbal … bad mental conduct.
But it is possible for an unlikable, undesirable, disagreeable result to come from bad verbal … bad mental conduct.”
SuttaCentral

If one was still unsure whether the Buddha is simply stating that this is the universal law, but not necessarily saying that harmful actions should not be done:

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “I say categorically, Ananda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done.”

“Given that the Blessed One has declared, lord, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, what drawbacks can one expect when doing what should not be done?”

"Given that I have declared, Ananda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, these are the drawbacks one can expect when doing what should not be done:
One can fault oneself;
observant people, on close examination, criticize one;
one’s bad reputation gets spread about;
one dies confused;
and — on the break-up of the body, after death — one reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.
Given that I have declared, Ananda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, these are the drawbacks one can expect when doing what should not be done.

“I say categorically, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done.”

“Given that the Blessed One has declared, lord, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, what rewards can one expect when doing what should be done?”

“Given that I have declared, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, these are the rewards one can expect when doing what should be done:
One doesn’t fault oneself;
observant people, on close examination, praise one;
one’s good reputation gets spread about;
one dies unconfused;
and — on the break-up of the body, after death — one reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.
Given that I have declared, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, these are the rewards one can expect when doing what should be done.”
Ekamsena Sutta: Categorically

If despite this, one thinks, “on what basis does the Buddha definitively say what should not and should be done?” Because it is possible to do so and leads to happiness…

"Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because it is possible to abandon what is unskillful, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’

“Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because it is possible to develop what is skillful, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’”
Kusala Sutta: Skillful

If one still wonders if the standards are different for laypeople and monastics with regard to these aforementioned principles, then one should read AN 2.40 which I cannot seem to locate online for the Buddha explicitly rejecting all harmful lay and monastics practices while explicitly accepting all beneficial lay and monastic practices.

Whether lay or monastic, it seems the according to the Buddha and the Dhamma-Vinaya, foolishness and wisdom can be observed on the basis of one’s bad and good actions, not current household or homeless status.

Practical seems to mean “what actually works.”
In society, this seems to mean, what actually works in the short-term.
“Kill the gunmen and the children are saved” - didn’t it “work?”
I think according to Buddhism, practical is not doing bad deeds and doing good deeds.
Why? Because doing bad deeds and not doing good deeds…simply does not work.
It seems to, but the Buddha seems to say that it definitively doesn’t.
And it is precisely because it seems to work that people do harmful actions.
If people didn’t think it worked, why would they do it?
The one’s whose ignorance has be completely and utterly uprooted, the Arahants, are absolutely incapable of killing, even at the cost of their own life.
Why? Maybe because it becomes crystal clear to them that it is impractical - that it just doesn’t work!

Hope this helps!


#18

Thanks for the reply!

To me your argument seems to presuppose a very black-and-white distinction between “bad” deeds and “good” deeds, using just a rule-based morality. In an extreme version, I might see some innocents being slaughtered and I could potentially stop this with some minimal necessary physical force, possibly causing harm, but I check my moral rule book, I see intervention is “bad” and, therefore, I let the situation proceed as is.

For four of the five precepts, I think that society could function perfectly adequately. I see some issues with absolutist applications of the first precept though. To de-escalate things down a notch from kings, soldiers and police, how about just ordinary farmers?

Farming, by definition, involves death. Fields are ploughed and worms and other insects are killed. Crops are harvested and birds and other small creatures are killed. Pests and vermin have to be controlled and creatures are killed. These are all violations of the first precept (non-human violations to be sure and Buddhism does have a type of consequentialist sliding scale of seriousness, but still). So if everyone was to suddenly follow an absolutist version of the first precept, farming would stop, and obviously humanity would quickly starve to death.

Can a farmer, an absolutely crucial occupation on which humanity depends, never be a stream enterer due to first precept violations? Is a farmer accumulating bad kamma? It would seem kind of unfortunate if a whole class of important workers (in many societies often poorer members of society with little choice as to their occupation) on which everyone else depends (including monastics who do not farm or are not even allowed to dig the ground) are getting a rather bum kammic deal.

I suppose I’m just a bit suspicious of absolutes. Of course, maybe there shouldn’t be a rush to see things too readily in greys rather than black and white, the whole interplay between Zen Buddhism and early 20th century Japanese militarism being in case in point.

On the lay/monastic distinction, I think the advantage of monastic life is that one has renounced the world and left behind a lot of this messiness/ambiguity and ties and worldly responsibilities. Of course, they are dependent on the laity who have to deal with this messiness on a daily basis in making a living and protecting those under their protection etc.


#19

In Buddhism, harmfulnessness and beneficialness seems to be really clearly defined:
To the extent that views and actions lead to the harm of oneself, others, or both oneself and others, to that extent they are harmful.
To the extent that views and actions that lead to the benefit of oneself, others, or both oneself and others, to that extent they are beneficial.

Perhaps the clarity of definition and understanding can appear to others as “absolutes” or “endorsing absolutes.”

You seemed to at least sense this:

(I’m not sure what you meant by “non-human” violations - it seems to apply to all violations.)

“They” are not getting a deal involuntarily - they are choosing their actions and reaping what they sow accordingly - it’s just an impersonal, invariable universal law - you can test it out for yourself.

If that seems to feel too impersonal or unfeeling, it could help to think the Buddha taught beings out of compassion about the laws of the universe to help them not act contrary to and in accordance with it to lead them to happiness, the ultimate happiness being Nibbana.


#20

After thinking about this some more, I’m beginning to think you are probably right in terms of Buddhist doctrine.

I suppose where some of my unease is coming from is that in many religions (including the one in which I was raised, Catholicism) the basic moral rules are not totally rigid. For example, in Christianity, there are the rules “do not steal” and “do not kill”. However, there’s some flexibility in extreme situations. For example, as a last resort, if a father steals food to feed his child then, depending on the circumstances, that may not be a sin. Or a person may be able to kill in self-defence or in defence of others and still not commit a sin.

That exists to some extent in Buddhism.

(I’m not sure what you meant by “non-human” violations - it seems to apply to all violations.)

Different types of killing have different kammic effects. There seems to be a hierarchy or scale of seriousness. For example, killings in the five great wrongs (killing a parent, arahant, or just harming a Buddha) entail immediate hell in the next life. Non-human killing seems less serious. For example, while a monk killing a human (or even more indirectly encouraging a person to take their own life) is a parajika offence with immediate defeat, a monk killing an animal or other creature is committing an offence where expiation is possible. I think there are Vinaya commentaries that develop such ideas in more detail. And I suppose kamma is very complex and intention is vital too (kamma effectively means intention anyway).

I think you do have a point in that I think in the suttas there’s really no such thing as a “mercy killing” or a “white lie” with a totally pure motive. Not all killings or lies are the same in terms of kammic seriousness but at best there will be a mix of dark and bright kamma (with always some dark kamma there).

Going back to parajika offences, I suppose it’s hard to conceive that a monastic could be defeated and simultaneously be a stream enterer, which was the point being made in post #2 in this thread quoting MN48. That partially covers some of the five precepts: the third precept, the second precept if more than 1/24 of troy ounce of gold is taken (looked this up out of curiosity and it’s about $60 at the moment), the fourth precept if referring to spiritual attainments, and the first precept on taking life if it specifically relates to human life. There’s a lot in terms of the five precepts that this doesn’t cover, but I suppose it rules out a lay stream enterer working in the police (well, a force where members carry lethal weapons like guns anyway). Maybe farmers are ok (it’s non-human life and they are not intentionally killing it anyway, more an unfortunate byproduct of their job). Though a monastic couldn’t order executions or command armies to go to war without committing a parajika, which still leaves us none the wiser regarding King Bimbisara.

If that seems to feel too impersonal or unfeeling, it could help to think the Buddha taught beings out of compassion about the laws of the universe to help them not act contrary to and in accordance with it to lead them to happiness, the ultimate happiness being Nibbana.

Going back to rigidity in moral laws, I suppose my unease is that if one says there is a being known as a stream enterer (who can be living lay life with a spouse and children) who absolutely cannot violate certain moral rules, then that inevitably leads to certain behaviours in more extreme circumstances that will seem cold/impersonal/unfeeling (as you say above), where children are left starve or innocents are not defended. Sure, you may be correct in what Buddhist doctrine says but that’s still the implication as far as I see.

Of course, the question whether it is impossible for a stream enterer to violate any of the five precepts is a bit murky. A sutta like AN 9.12 would indicate it’s not possible:

Furthermore, there’s a person who has fulfilled ethics, but has limited immersion and wisdom. With the ending of three fetters, they have at most seven rebirths. They will transmigrate at most seven times among gods and humans and then make an end of suffering. This is the ninth person …

However, MN 48 as quoted in post #2 seems somewhat inconsistent with that. Or the list in MN115 seems more limited too:

They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to murder their mother. But it’s possible for an ordinary person to murder their mother.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to murder their father … or murder a perfected one. But it’s possible for an ordinary person to murder their father … or a perfected one.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to injure a Realized One with malicious intent. But it’s possible for an ordinary person to injure a Realized One with malicious intent.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to cause a schism in the Saṅgha. But it’s possible for an ordinary person to cause a schism in the Saṅgha.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a person accomplished in view to acknowledge another teacher. But it’s possible for an ordinary person to acknowledge another teacher.’

I’m not sure the suttas are completely clear or consistent on this.