2009.01.14 13:00 - "What gives compassion its moral value???"

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    The Guardian for this session was Genesis Zhangsun. The comments below are hers.

    genesis Zhangsun: Hey Scat
    Scathach Rhiadra: what is the fire out there?
    genesis Zhangsun: I don't really know
    genesis Zhangsun: Hows it going?
    Scathach Rhiadra: fine, and how are you?
    genesis Zhangsun: tons of Kira related stuff to do and meanwhile attempting to keep my cool doing them all
    genesis Zhangsun: its easy to lose
    genesis Zhangsun: you?
    Scathach Rhiadra: ah, work is ok this week, but have 2 big implementations coming up, so I have a lot of testing to do
    Scathach Rhiadra: that can get very stressful:)
    genesis Zhangsun: what do you do may I ask?
    Scathach Rhiadra: I work for a bank, in operations, mostly system changes, testing
    genesis Zhangsun: so you are a techie?
    genesis Zhangsun: as probably most of this is IT these days?
    Scathach Rhiadra: I'm on the business side, user testing and requirements, though you pick up a lot of techie knowledge along the way
    genesis Zhangsun: sorry from my screen it looks like you are constantly typing so not sure went to respond :)

    At this point I crashed and then was able to log back in...

    genesis Zhangsun: damn visata
    genesis Zhangsun: *vista
    Scathach Rhiadra: I think it might be SL:)
    genesis Zhangsun: I like to blame vista for all of my problems keeps things simple
    genesis Zhangsun: :)
    Scathach Rhiadra: :))
    Thoughts on the dialogue between Pema and Stim the other day...
    genesis Zhangsun: so did you enjoy the dialogue yesterday?
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes, it was very nice to hear Stim explaining some of the traditional ways of looking at being
    genesis Zhangsun: yes you being Buddhist it must be interesting to see how PaB relates to that framework
    genesis Zhangsun: how terms correspond and such
    Scathach Rhiadra nods
    Scathach Rhiadra: it can clear up misunderstandings that creep in when using unfamiliar terms
    genesis Zhangsun: for example?
    Scathach Rhiadra: oh, sometimes I've wondered if people were thinking of Being as 'a' Being
    genesis Zhangsun: oh right like Being=god?
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes
    Scathach Rhiadra: though I'm sure everyone has their own understanding of Being, and it is great to hear so many different views
    genesis Zhangsun: yes indeed words are so tricky though
    genesis Zhangsun: this stuff is just so subtle
    Scathach Rhiadra: but it certainly makes me think about how I use words myself
    genesis Zhangsun: yes how so?
    Scathach Rhiadra: well, realising not everyone is Buddhist, so my words can be just as 'different', for want of a better word, to them
    Scathach Rhiadra: have to try to get behind the words:)
    genesis Zhangsun: yes indeed I guess it makes you review what you really understand behind that word?
    genesis Zhangsun: as others may be speaking about the same thing but using different words?
    Scathach Rhiadra: exactly:)

    Seeing as Scat was a Buddhist I decided to ask her about a term that came up in the dialogue...

    genesis Zhangsun: What do you make of suchness?
    genesis Zhangsun: it is a concept in Buddhism that confuses me a bit
    genesis Zhangsun: Stim equates suchness with "Is"
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes, it is sometimes called Dharmata, usually explained as 'reality', how things truely are, so 'Is' is a very good word:)
    genesis Zhangsun: for some reason I have understood suchness to mean appreciation
    genesis Zhangsun: which may just be getting into more detail in how one reason engages with "Is"
    genesis Zhangsun: it is difficult for one to see suchness without an appreciation for each moment
    Scathach Rhiadra: I agree, and traditionally suchness can only be experienced, when you have an awakened view, so you would really see and appreciate appearances as they truelly are
    genesis Zhangsun: so perhaps I am equating the act of seeing reality with appreciation as it is only a type of reality that can be experienced subjectively
    genesis Zhangsun: that gave me a little headache to write so sorry if it gives you a headache to read :)
    Scathach Rhiadra: :))
    Samuel, whom I had seen at the last Kira Cafe Phenomenology meeting appeared...
    Samuel Okelly: hello folks :)
    genesis Zhangsun: Hey Samuel
    Scathach Rhiadra: well, maybe it is as Pema says, we play as being, and appreciate appearances as being playing
    genesis Zhangsun: yes thanks Scat that clears the headache
    genesis Zhangsun: Have you been here before Samuel?
    Scathach Rhiadra: Hello Samuel
    Samuel Okelly: no, this is my first time gen
    Samuel Okelly: im sorry if i am interupting you two
    genesis Zhangsun: I have seen you in the Kira Cafe though I think
    genesis Zhangsun: no that is fine this is an open meeting
    Samuel Okelly: yes, i have recently discovered Kira
    Samuel Okelly: my friend Mook introduced me to it
    genesis Zhangsun: great! well if you want to learn more about this meeting Play as Being
    genesis Zhangsun: take a notecard at the information stand
    genesis Zhangsun: or we are happy to tell you more too
    genesis Zhangsun: these meetings take place every six hours
    Samuel Okelly: do you mind if i join you for a hile?
    Samuel Okelly: while
    genesis Zhangsun: sure!
    Samuel Okelly: every 6 hours eh?
    genesis Zhangsun: I would just like to make you aware though that you will become part of a public log posted on our wiki http://playasbeing.wik.is/
    genesis Zhangsun: yes it has been going on since last April pretty amazing
    Samuel Okelly: sure ... trhats fine with me :)
    Samuel Okelly: thats
    Samuel Okelly: do even the typos get posted too? ;-)
    Scathach Rhiadra: :)
    I was still curious about suchness so I brought the conversation back...
    genesis Zhangsun: Oh yes even typos unfortunately for me...so Scat and are discussing the Buddhist concept of "suchness"
    genesis Zhangsun: and it connection to the way we in Play as Being have described this but in different words
    genesis Zhangsun: Samuel are you still interested?
    Samuel Okelly: buddism is something i know very little about so i will be interested to hear what you have to say
    genesis Zhangsun: :)
    genesis Zhangsun: Scathach Rhiadra: yes, it is sometimes called Dharmata, usually explained as 'reality', how things truely are, so 'Is' is a very good word:)
    [13:28] genesis Zhangsun: for some reason I have understood suchness to mean appreciation
    Samuel Okelly: though any contributions of mine will be limited and, i should point out, from a theistic perspective
    genesis Zhangsun: theistic?
    genesis Zhangsun: specifically?
    Samuel Okelly: a beliefe in God eg mono theistic
    genesis Zhangsun: any particular religion you follow?
    Samuel Okelly: i understand that buddism is pantheistic in the sense that the creator is in all that is created ... is that right?
    Scathach Rhiadra: well, it doesn't speadk of a creator at ll really:)
    Samuel Okelly: i am more than happy to share my religious faith but do not wish to distract from the main topic
    Scathach Rhiadra: its more concerned with our understanding and experience of reality
    Scathach Rhiadra: no, please do:)
    Samuel Okelly: and reincarnation?
    genesis Zhangsun: yes in this way it could be characterized as a science of mind
    Samuel Okelly: all creation is to be respected?
    Scathach Rhiadra: reincarnation is a given in Buddhism, in the sense that it was a normal part of the world view in the time of the Buddha
    Scathach Rhiadra: not all Buddhists believe in it though
    genesis Zhangsun: so would you say it is a cultural contribution as opposed to fundamental tenet
    Scathach Rhiadra: hmmm, both really. it is never really explained in the scriptures, because it was taken for granted , just the way things are, so to speak
    Scathach Rhiadra: but there is a lot of beleif in gaining merit to ensure a better incarnation, not the real goal of Buddhism

    I was curious about Samuel's faith, it had been awhile since I had any exchanges with someone who believed in God (I live in Northern California).

    genesis Zhangsun: so share with us Samuel!
    genesis Zhangsun: what is your belief as to the nature of ultimate reality?
    Samuel Okelly: my beliefs are what is widely understood
    Samuel Okelly: to be Christian
    genesis Zhangsun: so just pretend I know nothing about what is widely understood and explain to me what you believe :)
    Samuel Okelly: if i were to do that i think i would need much more than the 6 hours ;-)
    genesis Zhangsun: hehe see you get why we need these every six hours!
    Scathach Rhiadra: :)
    genesis Zhangsun: its a complex topic :)
    genesis Zhangsun: well take a stab at it!
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes, please do:)
    Samuel Okelly: at the moment i am looking at "objective reality" and how this relates to the formation of ethics...
    Samuel Okelly: maybe you would like to comment on how you view "ethics" being established from a non-theistic viewpoint?
    Samuel Okelly: "No God = No Good"?
    genesis Zhangsun: well could you say perhaps a bit more about the relation between a montheistic view of reality and ethics?
    Samuel Okelly: sure
    Samuel Okelly: the theistic view takes the form of a duty based ethics that obliges each of us to adhere to a predetermined plan of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust
    genesis Zhangsun: right so from a non dualistic point of view how could there be ethics?
    genesis Zhangsun: if there is no good or bad that is predetermined how can one form any notion about ethics
    genesis Zhangsun: is this your question Samuel?
    genesis Zhangsun: (bye the way Scat I am counting on you as my ideas about ethics and buddhism are a bit fuzzy though I could take a stab at it)
    Just as I said this Scat suddenly crashed and I was left on my own to speak for the Buddhist perspective...
    genesis Zhangsun: Oh yikes!
    genesis Zhangsun: I guess it is up to me
    Samuel Okelly: i am intentionaly trying to be provocative (in a non-aggresive way) but yes that is it..., i am asking where do our ethics come from without a will of God?
    genesis Zhangsun: well from what I understand Samuel (and I am no expert on buddhism, Scat would be a much better in answering this) but Buddhist believe in what they call "buddha nature" or instrinsic goodness
    genesis Zhangsun: this goodness than produces ethical behavior
    genesis Zhangsun: because it is closest to what our true nature truly is
    genesis Zhangsun: and therefore if we are aligned with that true nature then our actions would also align with that goodness
    genesis Zhangsun: now that notion of "goodness" is again nondualistic
    Samuel Okelly: how is such goodness recognised or defined?
    genesis Zhangsun: so there are actions which may be considered "good" from a buddhist standpoint which are sinful from a Christian standpoint
    genesis Zhangsun: from what I understand that goodness is something each person must seek on their own
    genesis Zhangsun: in earnest
    Samuel Okelly: buddism advocates a kind of moral relativism then?
    genesis Zhangsun: and perhaps it is the very acting of seeking in earnest which makes it recognizable
    genesis Zhangsun: hmm seems to go beyond all dualism so even relative v. absolute is not a concept accepted by buddhists
    genesis Zhangsun: but I get your point
    genesis Zhangsun: so yes in some ways the personal quest for goodness is also the universal sense of goodness
    Scat to my relief returned...
    genesis Zhangsun: yeah Scat!
    Samuel Okelly: wb scat
    genesis Zhangsun: you have to help me here
    Scathach Rhiadra: crashed:)
    genesis Zhangsun: what is the buddhist position on ethics
    Scathach Rhiadra: very strong:)
    genesis Zhangsun: (we'll see how much what I just said is bs :)
    Samuel Okelly: :)
    Buddhism and ethics...
    Scathach Rhiadra: Buddhists have a very strong ethical code, based around precepts and vows
    Scathach Rhiadra: the highest value is to practice for the good of all, to wish happiness and enligthenment for all
    Scathach Rhiadra: and at the least we should live in a manner that harms no living creatures
    Samuel Okelly: in response to that my question would be where does the understanding of "goodness" originate from?
    genesis Zhangsun: yes Samuel was wondering (and I also seem to be confused about this) how can one be "good" from a buddhist standpoint when buddhism is non dualistic?
    genesis Zhangsun: How does one differentiate between "good" and "bad" if there is no predetermined notion of what those things are
    Samuel Okelly: (that is as opposed to "what is it?" )
    Scathach Rhiadra: you mean good and bad being two sides of the same coin, so to speak?
    genesis Zhangsun: yes so does buddhism embrace moral relativism (asked by Samuel earlier)
    Scathach Rhiadra: Buddhism views all as interrelated dependant arisings, (sorry I can't think of other words to explain that), the ultimate reality is non-dualistic...
    Scathach Rhiadra: but we live in a world we view as dualistic,
    Samuel Okelly: "to do good" (and thus inferring an idea of that which is not good) AND hold a non-dualistic view appears to be a contradiction
    Scathach Rhiadra: so the aim of Buddhism , in living in this world is to remove suffering
    genesis Zhangsun: yes very tricky Samuel I agree
    genesis Zhangsun: I think may have to do with the limitations of language
    Scathach Rhiadra: I suppose you could say we view anything that causes suffering as bad, and anything that releives suffering as good
    Samuel Okelly: sure that is ok... but putting that to one side ...
    From where does the concept of "goodness" originate in Buddhism?  How is it defined?  Interesting questions!
    Samuel Okelly: i am interested to know "how" good is decided... what is it that makes the eleveation of suffering an act of moral worth and goodness?
    genesis Zhangsun: when it is done truly selflessly
    Scathach Rhiadra nods:)
    genesis Zhangsun: from what I understand a core concept of Buddhism is about "no self"
    Samuel Okelly: and the same question then applies to "an act which is done truly selflessly"..????
    Scathach Rhiadra: that would be an act done from true compassion, not out of self-clinging
    genesis Zhangsun: well it might naturally follow that if something is done "truly selflessly" then who is the actor?
    genesis Zhangsun: and if there is no actor then there can be no judgment as to whether it was good or bad
    Samuel Okelly: i do not wish to be pedantic or like the child who keeps asking "why?" but my question remains... what gives "compassion" its moral value?
    It seemed that we were speaking in two different laguages, morality as far as I could tell doesn't play a role at all in Eastern religions while it seems quite central to Western religion...to make a pretty wide generalization.
    Scathach Rhiadra: realising that we are all in the same boat, all equal, we all desire happiness, so why would my happiness be more important than someone else's?
    genesis Zhangsun: perhaps the Buddhist notion of compassion is not concerned with a moral value in the sense that morality involves a judgment as to right or wrong
    genesis Zhangsun: so perhaps compassion in the buddhist sense is relativistic
    genesis Zhangsun: what is compassionate in one situation is not in another
    genesis Zhangsun: what do you think Scat?
    Scathach Rhiadra: true, real compassion is non-judgemental
    genesis Zhangsun: good questions Samuel
    Scathach Rhiadra: you can judge the act but not the actor
    Samuel Okelly: we are still left with the question of where the moral worth of "equality" originates
    genesis Zhangsun: I have to get going
    genesis Zhangsun: but please feel free to come back anytime Samuel
    genesis Zhangsun: Stim Morane
    Samuel Okelly: tc gen :)
    Samuel Okelly: thank you gen
    genesis Zhangsun: who has taught Buddhism for 40 years
    Samuel Okelly: i will try :)
    genesis Zhangsun: would be a good person to answer these questions
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes, thank you for a great discussion
    genesis Zhangsun: his session I believe is Mondays at 1pm
    Samuel Okelly: thank you too scat
    Scathach Rhiadra: yes, I wish Stim was here tonight:))
    Samuel Okelly: its been a pleasure meeting you both :)
    genesis Zhangsun: He is also starting a workshop in the Kira Cafe every Thursday at 2pm
    genesis Zhangsun: yes a pleasure
    Scathach Rhiadra: and nice meeting you Samuel
    Samuel Okelly: tc :) namaste!
    genesis Zhangsun: home to see you around Samuel
    Scathach Rhiadra: namasté
    Samuel Okelly: cheerio for now :)
    genesis Zhangsun: bye Scat
    Scathach Rhiadra: bye Gen:)
    Refreshing conversation!

    genesis Zhangsun: that was interesting to have a religious type interested in moral issues
    genesis Zhangsun: to question Buddhist precepts
    genesis Zhangsun: doesn't happen often here
    Scathach Rhiadra: it sure was!, very hard to answer though:))
    genesis Zhangsun: kind of refreshing
    genesis Zhangsun: yes true
    genesis Zhangsun: :)
    genesis Zhangsun: bye
    Scathach Rhiadra: night

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