Buddhism and society

Alfredo Garcia Galvan's picture

Being a lawyer is considered in the Dighanikaya as a wrong....

I'm reading right now that the Dighanikaya lists as one of the many wrong livelihood some "low arts" such as advising on customary law, do you think that in our time that can be something that applies to regular lawyers?? Will they be in the same level of a butcher?

Suicide and euthanasia from Buddhist perspectives

Suicides and euthanasia is not a highly research topic in Buddhism and the subject has been viewed differently by different schools throughout the Buddhist history. From the Theravada Buddhist perspective, it is the person's right to die but to die in a peaceful state of mind at the time of death is most important.

Buddhism sees death as not an end to life, but simply a transition from this life to the next life. The last moment of death can be influential in determining the quality of the next rebirth.

In Buddhism, suicide and euthanasia is a violation against the principles of 'ahimsa' towards living beings even though it is a good death with compassion and without pain as in the case of euthanasia, voluntary or involuntary. Taking a life is condemned in the Canonical and non Canonical sources as it goes against the stream of the Buddhist moral teachings and is rejected by the Buddha. Example, in the Kandaraka Sutta (2000:443), Buddha says, 'One who seeks delight in suffering is not freed from suffering. One who does not seek delight in suffering is freed from suffering'.

In the Samyutta Nikaya, there were instances of suicides committed by monks who were painfully ill with irreversible sickness. In view of their positive attitude towards religious suicide, these arahants are depicted as people who are virtually incapable of commiting any deeds that are wrong. The suicide were committed without any attachments, free from hate, anger or fear and therefore selfless. Here it is interpreted that the Buddha condoned suicide except only for arahants.

In the Mahayana texts (Avadana and Jatakas), it is common to find passages that support the practices of suicide as a form of religious sacrifice by teaching that the best form of sacrifice is abandoning one's existence as in the practices of a bodhisattva.

The views of taking one life in early Buddhist history and modern times has varied considerably when we examined Buddhism. From a Buddhist perspective, human life is rare and precious, taking a life prevent one from performing good deeds and saving others. But if a person has to die, it is the person's right to die, with dignity and the peaceful state of mind at the time of death is important. Euthanasia is ethically immoral, as it goes against 'right action'.

In the Buddhist attitude towards death and suicide, we have to think of:-
1. Life is precious and we do not want to waste our precious human life
2. Avoiding harm - parajika in the case for monks, for the laity, practice the five precepts and the principle of ahimsa
3. Concept of Karma mentioned that death as a transition into the next rebirth, we destroy the body but not the karma.
4. Mental state is important, the thoughts should be selfless and enlightened, free from anger,
hate and fear.

Alfredo Garcia Galvan's picture

Suicide in Buddhism

I belive that the Buddhist point of view in avoiding harm to sentient beings includes one self, so suicide can be a form of harming and therefore should be avoided.

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Majjhima Nikaya

In the Buddha's teaching to his young son he discusses skillful acts in general with regard to self, others and both. This is a helpful reminder that the unskillful acts we perform have effects on others as well.

"Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with happy consequences, happy results, then any bodily act of that sort is fit for you to do.

"While you are performing a bodily act, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily act I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to affliction of others, or both... you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not... you may continue with it.

"Having performed a bodily act, you should reflect on it... If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with happy consequences, happy results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities.

Ref: Access to Insight.org MN 61

Use of psychotropics for enlightening purposes

Recently a discussion aroused in one of my groups for there is a famous movie producer in Mexico who is using his talents to develop a non dual consciense in the country.

But his spiritual experience stems from the use of Peyote.

Peyote is a plant, a cactus used by tribes in Mexico to have access to different dimensions and states of consciousness.

Even though his ideas are colorful and powerful a part of the group discarded them on the basis of the origin in an experience with Peyote.

Wonder if there is anything like that in the Buddhist world?

A substance is forbiden for it clouds the mind what if it clears the mind or enhances its natural powers?

Denis Wallez's picture

clarity or the illusion of it?

"What if it clears the mind" is too prone to illusion of clarity though...

How would you know it is clarity rather than over-simplicity due to diminished abilities due to the substance?

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Rational Analysis

The Buddha is a Vibhajyavadin to the extent that he used a rational and analytical approach to attain liberation.

There may be clarity, vision, insight, direct experience through other paths - be they psychedelic (mescaline/peyote, psilocybin/"magic mushroom", banisteropsis caapi/ayahuasa, san pedro, and so on) or non-psychedelic (aboriginal dream work, kundalini yoga, tantric and Taoist sexual practices, etc.).

Fortunately there is a reasonable body of work available on psychotropic plants and their derivatives (may start with Harvard Educated ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who takes a much more grounded and scientific approach than, say, Terrence McKenna with regard to psychedelics).

This may allow you to get some insight into the potential experiences, realizations, etc., without some of the substantial risk that goes along with personal experimentation.

The Middle Path would seem, by comparison, a safer path to tread.
For those seeking liberation in this life - there's always the Vajrayana.