Friday, 4 April 2014

So much to say

Some time ago, Helen asked me to write a blog on Buddhism. I've been unsure where to start because it's a large topic.  These days I feel comfortable declaring that I am Buddhist,  I certainly spend more time practicing Buddhism than anyone I know who subscribes to a theistic religion spends pursuing their beliefs.

I don't know when I finally became Buddhist, but for quite some time I have been following the five precepts:

1. Refrain from harming living creatures
2. Refrain from taking that which is not freely given (stealing)
3. Refrain from sexual misconduct
4. Refrain from speaking mistruths
5. Refrain from taking intoxicants

I've experienced that following the precepts leads to a clearer mind and reduces mental suffering. My early experimentations with being a vegan stemmed from the first precept (although I have many other reasons for being a vegan), and the move from occasionally drinking alcohol to completely abstaining also emerged from following the precepts.

Although I feel that my following of the precepts in general is going well,  I find the fourth precept to be the most difficult, and I doubt a day goes by when I don't break it.  It is sometimes written:

4. Refrain from lying, harsh speech, idle speech and slander

I believe that the best route to achieving the fourth precept is through cultivating Loving Kindness (mettā)


  1. I am surprised that you say hardly a day goes by without 'mistruths' (lying, harsh speech, idle speech and slander'. I think we are all guilty of those to a greater or lesser degree but I can happily say I have never known you lie - of course, that may simply mean you do it well :-) I think you, of all the people I know, are one of the least guilty of slandering, harsh speech or idle speech. One of the precepts should be not to be too hard on yourself while searching to practise your beliefs.

    1. The 4th precept is difficult!

      We slander the tabbies (is that correct grammar?) all the time!

      One of Ian's favourite sayings is "that's right", often unaccompanied by anything else. I suspect that would be considered idle speech.

      Wasn't it you who posted on facebook recently about lying (and the most frequent lie we tell is "I'm fine")?

    2. Thank you for the kind comments! I think in general I lie more to myself than to other people. The first step is awareness - knowing when you are doing it. I still vary a lot in how mindful I am.

      "not to be too hard on yourself while searching to practise your beliefs" is one of the most important lessons to learn. If you are striving for a particular outcome, or craving a state of mind (like happiness) - whilst believing that Buddhism is 'supposed' to just fix these things - then the striving and craving are the qualities that are making you suffer. It's like not seeing the forrest for the trees. When I am mindful, I am able to take a big step back, open up my mind and see everything the way it really is.

    3. Yes, Helen. I did think of the 'I'm fine' post when I wrote the above! I suppose it is the difference between a lie and a 'white lie' as Mum used to call them. In the Oxford dictionary Idle is equated with malicious, vain and other bad things as well as just worthless ones. And sometimes the little sayings like 'That's right' may serve a purpose in just letting people know that Ian is communicating with them and not just buried in his own little world. As with all these things there is always a problem that things get lost in translation. It reinforces what Ian says below about questioning what you are taught and getting back to the root.

  2. Helen asked an important question about the third precept, and whether homosexuality is considered wrong. The Buddha was only concerned with teaching "suffering and the end of suffering" - There is therefore no view on sexual preference - only misconduct and causing suffering to others.

    As Buddhism changed through the ages, some practitioners started to interpret the original meaning of the sutras and views on homosexuality (and other behaviours) emerged -

    The Buddha also taught that it is important to not blindly follow, but to question what you are taught and to find the truth for yourself, often the truth is hidden by many layers and somethings can appear wrong if you are unable to get all the way back to the root. It is important to find a good teacher who strips back the ages of tradition to expose the original teachings.

    1. I have to say it never occurred to me to think of homosexuality or bisexuality as misconduct. I am sure that the misconduct concerns disloyalty, excess, sadism, cruelty, rape or anything else that harms someone else. So the causing suffering to others would be the key in my mind.

  3. The blog is certainly fulfilling that of its purposes in informing your family of your thoughts and lifestyle and the like. This post also goes further, of course, in educating me (and I suspect I'm not alone) in the precepts of Buddhism. I can see its appeal and, of course, it appeals to me in that it is not theist. However I certainly cannot even start to pretend that I adhere to its teachings. It's interesting comparing that statement with the fact that I suspect I break fewer of the seven deadly sins than many avowed Christians do. (I wonder if that statement breaks the first of them?). This is a subject which is far too complex for a long discussion in this medium although I will return to make a few comments on individual and minor points. Would, however, that be or encourage idle speech? (That was a serious not a flippant question).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. nice—

    you may enjoy: