Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rules, commandments and such

I want to reflect on the rules and commandments of Buddhism and Christianity/Judaism, because I find it fascinating to do this point-counterpoint. I know how many the Buddhists have, but I can't list them all from memory. Could I list the 10 commandments?

You will have no Gods before me; no idols; no false witness; no coveting; honor your parents; no adultery; no murder; no taking the Lord's name in vain; honor the sabbath; oh no, what's the last one? no stealing. See, 10 is a lot to remember.

While Jews and Christians have 10 "no" rules, Buddhism has only five. Woo-hoo, Buddhism definitely wins the short, sweet, simple contest there. They are the five whatever-they-are-called, of which I can list only no taking of life and no taking of intoxicating substances (drugs or alcohol), from memory. Probably no wrong thoughts. I should look these up. Hold on. The rest of the five precepts (practices): No taking of what is not given (I haven't listened to the Podcast on that one, so am clueless); no sexual misconduct; and no wrong speech, which follows from wrong thoughts, are the other three.

But here is the counterpoint. Buddhism has Four Noble Truths. Of which, I don't think I know any. Waaa. How about this: something to do with suffering and understanding it. attachment to desire and letting go of it. the cessation of suffering by not clinging. and the last noble truth really is eight-fold, so forget the idea of simplicity there! It's a bunch of "right" things to do in life to follow the right path. This gets pretty deep. You can sense, even from a superficial look, that Buddhism is thousands of years old, and Christianity is the new kid on the block. But I get confused about why compassion, or love, seems conspicuously absent from the Four Noble Truths. And, ironically, Buddhism seems very focused on self and self-improvement, yet the last stage (the fourth truth) involves becoming free from the trap of self-centeredness.

As far as the Jews go, I'm unsure of how many truths they have (or "yes" rules). But Christians? Jesus woops butt here! Only two!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the law and the prophets.

I love the simplicity of Jesus' statement, which is all-encompassing. But in a practical sense, I find I am getting more enrichment from the study of Buddhism. It explains to me how to live my life day to day, and how to nurture and advance my spiritual side in very concrete ways. For example, through mindfulness of the present moment at all times, in all situations. Through meditation. Through being aware of my thoughts, my words, my actions at all times and to see whether they are taking me down the right path or not.

Here is how a simple thing can lead to problems. Apparently, out of the five Buddhist precepts, avoiding intoxication is the orphan child, the one considered least important, perhaps. But there is a story about a monk (of course this is from Gil's Zencast) in a monastary who had to choose one precept to break. Just one. So he thought long and hard, and reasoned that four of the precepts involved other people and would hurt other people if he broke one of them. Except for intoxication, which would only hurt himself. So he drank and became quite intoxicated, whereupon he broke all of the other four rules!

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