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Right & Wrong??

edited April 2006 in Philosophy
Everyone,

I was reading through several different posts & threads and noticed that the words "right & wrong" keep coming up a lot. My question would be: What is everyone’s idea of “right & wrong”?
For me when I use to hear these words I automatically put labels on the word they were describing. Now, I try instead to look at the word as just that a “label”.

There’s a lot more I could get into about relative and absolute truth (important, but much too serious for now :crazy: ), instead I would just like to hear everyone’s opinion on this.
-Dawn

Comments

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited April 2006
    " There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
    William Shakespeare
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited April 2006
    It's probably just us using verbiage that we're accustomed to and grew up with.

    Although... even Buddha used the terms "right". Buddha also condemned or looked unfavorably on certain actions, conditions, thoughts, perceptions, etc.

    We also use it in the terms of "you are right" as "you are correct" or "what you say is true".

    Other than that, I don't put too much worry into using labels such as "right" and "wrong". Although.... aren't there actions that are "right and good" and actions/conditions/perceptions that are "wrong and harmful"?

    -bf
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited April 2006
    Maybe better would be a better word to use....

    100. Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word, hearing which one attains peace.

    101. Better than a thousand useless verses is one useful verse, hearing which one attains peace.

    102. Better than reciting a hundred meaningless verses is the reciting of one verse of Dhamma, hearing which one attains peace.

    103. Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself.

    104-105. Self-conquest is far better then the conquest of others. Not even a god, an angel, Mara or Brahma can turn into defeat the victory of a person who is self-subdued and ever restrained in conduct. 12

    106. Though month after month for a hundred years one should offer sacrifices by the thousands, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds that honor is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

    107. Though for a hundred years one should tend the sacrificial fire in the forest, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds, that worship is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

    108. Whatever gifts and oblations one seeking merit might offer in this world for a whole year, all that is not worth one fourth of the merit gained by revering the Upright Ones, which is truly excellent.

    109. To one ever eager to revere and serve the elders, these four blessing accrue: long life and beauty, happiness and power.

    110. Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled.

    111. Better it is to live one day wise and meditative than to live a hundred years foolish and uncontrolled.

    112. Better it is to live one day strenuous and resolute than to live a hundred years sluggish and dissipated.

    113. Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live as hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.

    114. Better it is to live one day seeing the Deathless than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Deathless.

    115. Better it is to live one day seeing the Supreme Truth than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Supreme Truth.


    -bf
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited April 2006
    I prefer the terms kusala vs akusala:
    The mental objects, called cetasikas, are of fifty-two types. These fall under two categories: kusala (wholesome) or akusala (unwholesome). A dharma qualifies to be called kusala if carrying it in the mind proves beneficial to its carrier, and it qualifies to be called akusala if carrying it in the mind proves otherwise (See Figure 1).
    http://www.vri.dhamma.org/research/95sem/sem9505c.html

    They provide a good working definition and have a different connotation than 'right' and 'wrong' do. Anyway, wholesome (kusala) vs unwholesome (akusala) actions are dependent upon results. In the context of the dhamma, all actions can have wholesome results for a sincere and dedicated practitioner, as the buddhism makes use of all experiences, adding and subtracting nothing.

    However, for those not on the path, we cannot be so certain that all of our actions will bring about the awakening of other individuals. That is why we practice right speech, right actions and right livelihood. This means acting in a way which will lead to the most positive effect possible on those the action affects. As our discernment and wisdom increase, and we are able to read the disposition of those we interact with, acting in a way which is not conventionally considered 'wholesome' may actually bring about the more positive result. For example, some individuals of the more jaded variety, consider niceness to be a weakness and will not take any advice seriously that comes in a fluffy-bunny exterior. On the other hand some individuals are very sensitive and cannot handle advice that doesn't come in a fluffy-bunny exterior. Hmm... is this answering the question any more? I guess I got into a ramble about skillful means.

    Back to the topic, I judge right and wrong by intention, firstly, and effect, secondly. The intention tells us about the spirit of the act, while the the effect tells about the level wisdom of the actor. Since kamma can be defined as volitional action, the intention is of primary importance in determining right and wrong. However, the effect (vipaka) is of great significance as well. Because people generally are affected negatively by certain reactions, those actions are regarded as wrong. That is how moral codes get defined, for the most part.

    okay. that's enough for now I guess

    _/\_
    metta
  • edited April 2006
    federica wrote:
    " There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
    William Shakespeare

    Very wise that Shakespeare was!! Thanks Fede

    BF, that was very pleasant what you said. All of it. I think "better" does fit more appropriately.

    Since there are so many perceptions and since one moment to the next we are completely different people, it's easy to get caught up in labels and trying to pin down ideas. I have a completely different view now then I did 10 minutes ago (heck 1 min. ago), therefore in my humble opinion (me getting caught up again :-/ ) I can never be right/wrong/good/bad, only different.

    -Dawn
  • edited April 2006
    not1not2 wrote:
    The intention tells us about the spirit of the act, while the the effect tells about the level wisdom of the actor.

    Not1Not2, I had posted before I got to read what you said, sorry.

    You make a lot of good points and I have heard those terms before and have thought they were more applicable. It's just in most of our environment these terms would not quite be understood by the general population, but hey you should learn something new everyday I say!

    -Dawn
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited April 2006
    Very wise that Shakespeare was!! Thanks Fede

    What I'd like to know is.... Where did he get it from?
    Shakespeare has made more contribution to idiomatic content of the English language than any other playwright or author... incidences in everyday speech of phrases that are ctually taken - or directly quoted - from his works are incalculable.

    Just where did he get all his stuff rom?

    Wise old bird indeed!
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited April 2006
    federica wrote:
    What I'd like to know is.... Where did he get it from?
    ...


    Like we say at work when someone comes out with something we've never heard before...

    "Did you just pull that out of your ass?"

    -bf
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited April 2006
    buddhafoot wrote:
    Like we say at work when someone comes out with something we've never heard before...

    "Did you just pull that out of your ass?"

    -bf

    I never find anything that interesting in my ass. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.

    _/\_
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited April 2006
    Dawn and Mike,

    For me it's easy: In the Buddhist context, right actions lead to happiness for oneself and for others; wrong actions lead to suffering for oneself and for others. The right path leads to Nibbana; the wrong path does not. These two words are simply used in relation to a desired outcome.

    That's my view.

    Jason
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran
    edited April 2006
    not1not2 wrote:
    I never find anything that interesting in my ass. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.

    _/\_

    LOL!!


    I see "Right" and "Wrong" as simplified labels that are essential as pointers for the unenlightened. There are still plenty of beings on this planet who do not even understand their difference, much less the higher reality of "Absolute Truth" in which the terms don't apply.

    As Buddhists, we straddle two perspectives; our everyday experience (the conventional, relative or conditioned reality) and the the perspective of the true insight into the ultimate nature of reality (the absolute truth of emptiness) and use whatever means are wholesome in the lower reality in order to come to an understanding of the higher reality.

    Being unenlightened myself and having only a partial intellectual understanding of the ultimate nature of reality (emptiness), all I have to work with is my experiential understanding of right and wrong intention and the effects of actions based on both.

    But one of my exercises in Buddhism is to keep a flexible mind. So as I view right and wrong intentions and actions I have to, at the same time, keep in mind that these are only guides or tools in the dream world reality in which I currently live and don't apply to ultimate reality.

    Also as a Buddhist I do view The Noble Eightfold Path as a moral code, but not with the judgment that a Christian might view morality. I consider morality simply to be skillful or unskillful intentions and actions, and not a judgment of the person as a sinner. I see the being as a Buddha in a realm of delusion and their intentions and actions as different levels of their delusion or their understanding.

    Brigid
  • edited April 2006
    Brigid,

    I think you make an excellent point! I see it much in the same way, but I think you're right (haha) in that we do have to deal with those two realities and sometimes it's hard for me at least to separate them. I guess for me it's easy to get caught up in all that surrounds you, and I still need much guidance and help with my mindfullness.
    -Dawn
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited April 2006
    Brigid wrote:
    Being unenlightened myself and having only a partial intellectual understanding of the ultimate nature of reality (emptiness), all I have to work with is my experiential understanding of right and wrong intention and the effects of actions based on both.

    Well, I have a complete and total understanding...I also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.... :crazy: :D

    Actually, this is an excellent post Brigid, and (I'm sure you don't mind) have copied and pasted it into a document I reserve for 'words that smack between the eyes'.

    Thank you. Very insightful. :)
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran
    edited April 2006
    Really? Wow! Thanks. I was afraid I wasn't expressing myself very well. Glad to be understood. When I was talking about the two truths with my dad he had a vacant look in his eyes that spoke volumes. LOL! I can't believe someone saved something that I wrote. I'm well chuffed! LOL!

    Brigid
  • edited April 2006
    Zenmonk Genryu recently quoted the Buddha as saying: "I look upon the judgement of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon".

    I don't know where the quote is from, but I work as a Mediator, (trying to) help parties who are in dispute find a resolution to their disputes without going to court, and the comment has a particular resonance for me. I am struck time and again by how people of (I believe) good faith and sincere conviction can have fiercley and diametrically opposed views of what is "right" and "wrong" . I can almost see the dragon's serpentine dance through my offices in the early stages of the Mediaiton in the way each party takes the other's points and reinterprets them as being in their favour.

    Mostly, the only thing they agree on is that there is a "right" and a "wrong". I used to think that this shared conviction that there is some moral standard outside of ourselves to refer to was a positive, something shared to build on in the Mediation, and maybe a pointer to the existence of something beyond our selves. We may not agree on what "good" is, but the fact we agree that there is a "good" is itself significant, I once thought. Now, I'm less sure that it's anything other than the posturing of the ego. The overwhelming majority of my Mediations do result in a settlement, often with parties who were ready to fight each other to the bitter end finding a new accommodation. We find that settlement, not because of anything I do or say as Mediator, but because, actually, the parties themselves don't want to fight, once we manage to stop the dragon dancing and to start talking about something other than "right" and "wrong" and to look at things without the gloss of a value judgement.

    Martin.
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran
    edited April 2006
    Martin,

    Yes, I think the problem in situations like this is that the individuals are judging and feeling judged by their respective "Right" or "Wrong" actions. In these cases intentions and actions become attached to the individual instead of staying separate. That's why an objective moderator is brought in in order to keep thinks flexible and non-judgmental. I think you're very right, Martin, when you say the trouble starts with the egos involved. When this is the case, "Right" and "Wrong" become perverted by the perceived need to defend oneself and protect one's interests. The parties involved can't separate themselves from the judgment and thus feel compelled to twist the meanings of "Right" and "Wrong" in order to display themselves in a better light.

    You have a wonderful job for a Buddhist, Martin. Talk about "Right Employment"! I bet you're really good at it, too.

    Brigid
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