Today I want to talk about my meditations on maintaining Right Action in difficult times. This is another set of prohibitions. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. And don’t engage in sexual misconduct.
Some interpret these as total abstentions, which is where the trope about Buddhists being vegetarians comes from, and why monks are celibate. Because the Noble Eightfold Path overall tends to be about moderation, I interpret things situationally. We all know the parable of the man who served 19 years in prison for stealing bread to feed his family, after all. That wasn’t just, it wasn’t right, and strict adherence to a “no stealing” rule certainly wasn’t compassionate.
If you think that having a looser interpretation is just lazy, or providing loopholes, it’s not. It’s a lot easier to adhere to a narrowly-defined rule. Having to put thought into the ethics of individual circumstances is a lot harder. It requires compassion and critical thinking, rather than blind and regimented obedience.
I could try to analyze whether the actions of others during these difficult times were Right Actions. We all know that the world is in this state right now because they decidedly were not. The question is what my actions should be. How can I help those who have been killed, who have been stolen from, and who are coming forward with their stories of abuse and assault? At what point not helping, when you could, an act of complicity? If I didn’t do it, but I also didn’t do anything to stop is, did I engage in Right Action?
These are the kinds of difficult questions that we all need to be asking ourselves. Not just about the three prohibitions, but about every issue on the table right now. Don’t allow others to be harmed. Don’t allow others to go homeless and hungry so they might resort to stealing. And allow abusers to continue their sexual misconduct.
May we all be well, happy and peaceful, may no harm come to us, may we all also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.
Right Action in Difficult Times
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