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Your Perfect Compassion| Unfortunate Events| Chasing Wind| How Good Are You?| Meaning of Dhamma

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    TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 10/03/05 Get this newsletter | Get news-free version | TDE-Weekly Archive ______ Quote: Although the world is full of
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      TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 10/03/05

      Get this newsletter | Get news-free version | TDE-Weekly Archive

      Although the world is full of suffering,
      it is full also of the overcoming of it.

      -Helen Keller (pic:helenkeller.org)
      1st / 2nd Noble Truth: Life has many dissatisfactions  / caused by greed, hatred and delusion.
      3rd / 4th Noble Truth: The total end of dissatisfactions is Enlightenment / possible through the Noble Eightfold Path.

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      How Good Are You When No One is Watching?

       Are we really naughty or nice? 

      William Golding, the author of the modern classic "Lord of the Flies" (LOTF), once mentioned that whenever he, as a school-teacher, turns his back to his class at the blackboard, he imagines "chaos" taking over. Sounds like just a typical living nightmare for teachers? Or is it a microcosm of the world at large? Is this probably how disorderly street riots begin their evolution into organised international wars? Golding believes that society holds civilisation together, that without social norms, ideals, and values, the sense of right and wrong becomes muddled. In this sense, because everyone is keeping tabs on everyone, relatively few of us step beyond generally agreed boundaries. In fact, most crimes are committed when criminals assume no one was looking or keeping tabs. (Masks are used to prevent being "seen" too!)

      In a Jataka tale, a king offers half his kingdom to anyone who could steal anything without anyone discovering. Many turned up with various stolen goods, but the king rejected all, much to their confusion. However, one man turned up with nothing, saying it is impossible to steal anything without anyone knowing - because there is always at least one person who knows - oneself. The king was pleased to have finally found a wise heir. (This man was the Buddha in a past life.) The truth is, we cannot cheat our own mind. The others had neglected their conscience out of greed. They might be clever or crafty, but they were neither wise nor true - to others and themselves.

      LOTF is a precautionary tale of how a group of children stranded on an island gradually but easily made the transition from being civilised to being barbaric. Left to their own devices and defilements, evil ruled. It tells how man, without being rooted in a larger society, are likely to become savages through conflicting interests and allegiances. The story ends abruptly with the arrival of rescue soldiers (who represent peace and order) encountering the boys hunting each other for the kill in a final showdown. The duo discover each other in shock - as they become speechless, waking up to the horror of how things have become. It's like the reality TV gameshow "Survivor" gone all wrong! (It is interesting to note that cameras "watch" the game participants, while the boys were unwatched.)

      So are we fundamentally good or evil? LOTF seems to imply the latter, but the answer is otherwise. Deep down, we prefer a world of order and morality, even though we let our demons of greed and hatred rear their ugly heads sometimes. No sane person would want to live in chaos, though one might get a kick out of it for a while. Even when we are not good, we really want to be, because we know it is right, because it feels better to be good. Our goodness also makes others feel good too - and that makes all of us feel really good! As Stonepeace put it, "All wish to be good, though some forget to be, or do not know how to be."

      True goodness is not about being prim and proper for the world or anyone to see. The measure of how good we really are, or the acid test of our morality, is what we do behind closed doors - just as the measure of the "innocence" of the boys was how they behaved without their guardians. However, every individual has a personal set of subconcious precepts which he abides by - these are his self-imposed moral guardians. Buddhists see the Five Precepts (of not killing, stealing, having sexual misconduct, lying or losing mindfulness), as recommended by the Buddha, to be our best guardians. 

      When we guard against breaking the precepts, the precepts guard us, protecting one and all. Yes, the precepts serve to protect more than restrict. Think of them as a set of operating brakes in your car. Without them, driving would be hazardous to every driver and pedestrian! We know we prefer goodness because no one wants a world where all the precepts, which are the basis of social laws, are broken. In fact, it is believed that it is through the observance of the precepts in the past that we were reborn human in this life, as humane (not a misspelling) beings. Abandoning the precepts could mean losing our future precious human rebirths! So, how good are you when no one is watching? Good enough I hope. But can you be even better?
      -Shen Shi'an

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      Review: Response to "Sitting for My Final Exam" 

      Excerpt: The Meanings of Dhamma

      The Dhamma (Dharma) of life has four meanings:

      1. Nature itself,
      2. The law of nature,
      3. The duty that must be performed according to that law of nature,
      4. The fruits or benefits that arise from the performance of that duty.

      Always keep these four interrelated meanings in mind. Please investigate that Truth within yourselves, in this body and mind that you imagine to be yourselves. Within each of us are various natures compounded into a body, into a being. Then there is the law of nature that controls those natures. And there is the duty (Noble Eightfold Path) that must be performed correctly by and for all things regarding the law of nature. Lastly, there are the results of the performance of that duty. If the duty is performed correctly, the result will be well-being, tranquility and ease...

      ... life is made up of just these four meanings of nature. Now, however, we have yet to understand them correctly and completely. We have not truly penetrated into the secret of what we call life. We have not grasped the secret of Dhamma, so we are unable to practise in a way that gets the fullest benefit from life. Let us take the time to study the Dhamma and "secret of life" enough that we may take advantage of them.

      -Mindfulness with Breathing (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu) (pic:dhamma-art.de)
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