Amongst the Thorns, She Fights!

The Good, The Bad and the Wrong

Those who know me, know that I’m not overly religious. I follow the Buddhist philosophy, and I stick to the principles identified within that framework, with a vengeance at times. This, however, also leaves me in a bit of disarray, as Buddhism being a philosophy turned religion (in the minds of the people (that is,  followers, practitioners, inter alia), it has evolved from a mere way of life to what I would call a business (because save for a few religious heads, it is JUST that).

One thing that always happens around religious times and when I visit temple, is where I get extremely puzzled on my life and how it has turned out to be. See my life hasn’t been a bed of roses or a walk in the park to say the least, and along the way, this person who used to breathe Buddhism as a religion and follow it quite well (because that was I was brought up that way by my grandparents, despite the Christian learnings I’ve had to partake in whilst I was abroad), I stuck to my guns and I was religious. When I used to give thanks at the table and my mother wanted me to be more Buddhist, I did so without being asked twice (though I was confused as my Catholic cousins would carry onto). Now, I was always a curious child and every questioning (which was often reciprocated with a yell of frustration or smack (cos I tend to ask the darndest things ya know?)). Anyways, when it came to matter of religious following, I didn’t question my mother on it, but did as I was told.  BUT, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t confused about the dynamics of it all.

To me, Christianity and Buddhism basically carried the same principles, which was not to do wrong (often killing, lying, inter alia). The only difference in my opinion at that time (I was nine), was that with Christianity you would ask for forgiveness but with Buddhism there was the ever rolling karmic cycle, which I was truly afraid off. I first learnt about “what goes around comes around” when I was about five years of age, whilst reading one of Enid Blyton’s Short Stories (either Bedtime, Fun Times, Fireside and Everyday Tales & Stories). Now in this story, it talked about this boy who was bad (I think it started with him screaming at his mother, which caused a chain reaction, and where it went through the entire village and came back to him, biting him in the ass. So, I was truly scared of doing any misdeeds since, though I was often manipulated into doing things I didn’t really know I was getting into. When you’re a kid, you don’t understand these things and looking back, I wish those things didn’t happen to me. But, I always tried to stick to what’s right, and I was shit scared of my mother, cos her lashings were truly something (don’t you just love Sri Lankan disciplinary punishments?).

Anyways, so getting back to where I was heading towards, wrong I tried not to do, but ended up getting myself into without knowing it cos let’s face it the world’s a shitty place to live in. There are people who don’t have a conscience who can easily commit a crime and wake away from it, head held high. I can never do that. Even if the wrong was done to me, I spend ages reminiscing, eating away at my guts and I would regret ever getting myself into the situations. Now, in my life there have been a few instances where I believe I have been wronged by others and at times when I should have just walked away (but didn’t have the sense to). For these, the memories, they haunt me and I have tried to deal with it as much as I could and I have come to terms with it. There is Karma right? What goes around comes around. What they did will come and bite them in the ass some day.

Now, back to Karma. How do you define a person being bad or how do you define what’s wrong? Especially when the root of these teaching  of most of the religious in this world are millennia old. How do you say that this is what this religion set out to be, how do you know whether it hasn’t evolved or changed itself to fit the needs of that era (a little omission here, a little addition there, etcetera). And what about the definition of people of what’s bad and what’s wrong. Buddhism says “don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t commit adultery” as it’s five precepts. Now, when it comes to accidentally stepping on the poor ant who happened to be walking on the ground, or the white lie who tell when you tell a person that they are going to be alright when you know that things can’t possibly ever alright, or when you inhale the smoke of another person, when you bite into a cake that had touches of substance (deemed as alcohol) or when you are perceived to be adulterous when you are merely platonic counterparts. What happens then? I’m not questioning what are religion is, I’m merely asking  where do we draw the line about what it actually means.

Some of us have defined this to fit our conscience. We can very well say that all the above mention reasons have been said over and over to make up for the fact that we indeed don’t know what or where we draw the line, because indeed as Buddhism is, it IS a philosophy and can be perceived. Personal belief. Yes? I think so, I truly think so. What I find appalling is how people judge you because you dare to say this. I dare, I DARE to say that people don’t need to showcase how many times they visit temple or how loudly they recite their prayers, especially when the come back home only to break all the recited promises or pledges in the prayers. I think going to temple is a peaceful act that should be private and inward satisfying. Be honest to yourself.

As for the matter of what is wrong and what is bad, I think the fundamental principle is not to cause harm unto others. Therefore, Wrong or Bad equals causing harm to somebody (with malicious intent). So,  whatever misdeed you partake in, make sure that others aren’t held in any harm or light where they would  be caused grievances. Ensure that that when responsible for another’s  life, treasure and cherish it, more than your own. Your life is equally important, but I know I wouldn’t want to carry the act of being responsible for harming someone in my conscience, for the rest of my life. So, that’s where I draw my boundary.

This is what happened when I was at Naga VIhare the other day, I started on this train of thought, where I have now concluded. My life is what it is, and I know that I haven’t caused anyone harm intentionally (because frankly I couldn’t live with it, even if it meant the smallest of deeds).

7 responses

  1. hmm…kind of the same questions( and a woman) that led me away from being a priest. well you probably did what your mother told you because of obedience to her, which is a virtue in any religion. as for the good or bad thing, it’s all up to you! 🙂 because each persons conscience i guess is unique to them. what’s wrong to me, is right to you sorta thing..so don’t give a shit about what those visibly pious people say, they are just as imperfect, if your conscience gives you the green light on a thought or deed, then that’s all that matters 🙂
    that’s just my two cents.i’m just saying

    May 29, 2010 at 10:39 am

  2. techboi

    I agree completely.

    I feel that there are certain things that are universally wrong (I.E. Killing someone, rape, etc…) but then other than that there are little little things that are only wrong/right in relation to you as a person. For an example, stepping on the poor little ant, at face value would be wrong, and it is a sinful thing as far as Buddhism is concerned, but even in Buddhism as stated in Abidhama, there are varying degrees of sin, and maliciously stepping on a wee little ant, knowing it is there, and wanting to kill it, is far different from accidentally stepping on it and not even realizing it.

    The list of examples goes on and on, but I shall stop simply by saying (once again) that I could not agree more completely with this POV, and what matters is that you do right by yourself, and your conscience.

    May 29, 2010 at 11:04 am

  3. Sweetie I think you’ve got the whole point nailed down pretty well. From what I have learnt, it is the intention that determines whether the thoughts, words or actions are sinful or not (“Cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami” – Anguttara Nikaya 6.63 [5]). So in terms of daily life, inadvertently stepping on an ant would not be considered a ‘sin’. Lying to protect someone is a bit more complex, because you’re actively hiding the true nature of the world from someone and denying them the chance to face the consequences. I know we say it’s for their own good, but I think in the long term we do them (and us) more harm than good.

    As for the people who judge us, remember “empty vessels make the most noise” 🙂

    May 29, 2010 at 3:51 pm

  4. It’s all about your intentions, I agree 😀 If you have a clear conscience thats all that matters 😀
    Well said 🙂

    Cheers!

    May 29, 2010 at 11:19 pm

  5. Whacko

    i think when we talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ we are talking completely subjectively. what is good for you and bad for me stems from what our fundamental beliefs are, and these beliefs don’t necessarily have to come from what is ‘scientifically rational’ at all. in fact at the root of all ethics lies philosophy and faith. ask an atheist why killing people is bad and he will come up with a totally philosophical and unscientific answer that will be subjective to his beliefs. since all our beliefs seem to point in a general direction of goodness we can come up with certain objective truths like ‘killing is bad’ as techboi mentioned. But in grayer areas, conflict can arise due to conflicts in what we believe in.

    Thanks for that thought provoking post!

    May 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm

  6. Chavie

    Well, Pseudo’s summed up my thoughts on the matter pretty well up there, and I’d just like to add that the basic principle is not to hurt others (and not to hurt yourself, since that would hurt others as well) and be kind towards all. 🙂

    May 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm

  7. Stephen Isabirye

    That is news to me to hear that you learnt the phrase “what goes around comes around” from an Enid Blyton book. Talking of Enid Blyton, I am glad to inform you that I have written and published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.sbisabirye.blogspot.com, http://www.thefamousfiveapersonalanecdotage.blogspot.com, http://www.bbotw.com)

    June 8, 2010 at 8:52 am

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