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What Would Buddha Do?

MindGateMindGate United States Veteran
edited January 2011 in Buddhism Basics
Christians have the ten commandments. Many many many Americans believe these to be the word of God. You always hear parents saying, "Don't ever lie." or "Don't ever steal." or "Don't hurt anybody." These rules all seem to be set in stone (literally, according to the Bible) and parents/society doesn't seem to point out that there are times where rules need to be broken (or at least thats how I believe.)

Recently I got a book called "What Would Buddha Do," and honestly, I don't like it. Why? Its perception of Buddha doesn't seem to coincide with mine. It clearly states that Buddha would never ever ever lie because its bad. It also says he would never ever ever kill because thats bad, yet he will always always always eat meat because thats okay (contradictory?).

So,

1) Would Buddha ever lie?
If he was hiding Jews in his attic during Nazi-controlled Germany and the Gestapo came to his door asking is he was hiding any Jews, would he lie and say no?

2) Would Buddha ever kill?
If Buddha's family is running out of food, on the brink of starvation, would he sacrifice himself and his family rather than hunting to get food to feed them?

3) Would Buddha ALWAYS eat meat?
I heard that Buddha only ate meat if it was killed my natural causes or if someone else served it to him (he was a visitor, or was given it as a gift.) What is the truth?

Thank you. :D

Comments

  • Too much thinking for me. You know what to do. Just do what's right.
  • 1. yes
    2. yes
    3. no

    Buddha's rule is that the meat must not be killed specifically for him. if he even suspected it was he couldn't eat it. he could also not see the animal before it was killed. those were the rules. those are the rules followed by most Theravada monasteries.

    Buddha would probably kill, I believe Buddha was consequentialist and intentionalist at heart. he believed that only the intentions and the consequences mattered. but he set precepts to guide people so that they would not kill steal or lie for the wrong reasons.

    say you were in a room with a man who was about to launch all the nuclear bombs in the world and you had a gun to his head. if you knew that if you didn't shoot the world would end would you do it? obviously you would. the only possible reason not to do that would be the belief that if you did it you would go to hell. which is why i hold that Christianity and its pals are the only possible ways to make good people do terrible things.

    karma is based on consequences and intentions, nothing about precepts. precepts are a guideline, the rules of karma are the real ethical theory.

    now why Buddha chose his specific ethical theory is something i've thought alot about and it would take pages to explain and people would take offense and it would be futile.

    I'll give you one hint in the form of a question. Why did Buddha say people must not see the animal that was killed for their meal?

    remember ethics are just a system to pursue certain values.
  • edited January 2011
    1. My family was Jewish. My great-grandmother and great-aunt on my mother's side were refugees who came to America from Poland. Would have Buddha lied to save them? What kind of question is that, really? The Buddha passed into parinibbana long before WW2. However, my guess is that he wouldn't have idly sat by to watch them suffer.

    2. Although the first precept is to refrain from killing, isn't Lin Chi famous for saying, "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha"? Also, before his enlightenment, the bodhisatta sacrificed himself for others in the Pannasa Jataka.There is also this story which tells of a ferry captain whose boat was carrying 500 Bodhisattvas in the guise of merchants. A certain stowaway planned to kill everyone on board and pirate the ship's cargo.

    The captain, a Bodhisattva himself, saw the man's murderous intent and realized this crime would result in eons of torment for the murderer. In his impartial compassion, the captain was willing to take hellish torment upon himself by killing the man to prevent karmic suffering that would be infinitely greater than the suffering of the murdered victims. He acted for the greatest good, regardless of the consequences he was bringing upon himself. His motivation was selfless.

    3. Although the first precept is to refrain from killing, Buddhism - in contrast to contemporary teachings such as Jainism, does not require one to be a vegetarian but it is encouraged. The Buddha never prohibited meat-eating, but only prohibited against eating human, elephant, horse, dog, snake, lion, tiger, leopard, bear, and hyena flesh. The Buddha allowed his monks to eat pork, chicken, beef and fish if the animal was not killed for the purpose of providing food for monks.
  • edited January 2011
    3000 thousands years ago, meats were luxury because it is not easy to obtain meats due to lack of equipment and people were poor as well. So, offering meats specifically killed for Buddha / monks were unlikely and foods that offered were mostly affordable staples like rice, flour, corn foods etc. In todays world, sacrificing / killing of animals are too abundant until it directly / indirectly causing severe side effect to the environment and health of people. So it is advisable to go green for yourself and the environment :thumbsup:
  • badge in, get high, go green...
  • What would Buddha do?

    When hungry, he would eat. If he saw you were hungry, he would give you food.

    He saw the whole world suffering, so he used all his wisdom and talents to help.

    There are many people that refuse to kill, and that does not make them a Buddha.

    There are many people that refuse to lie, and that does not make them a Buddha.

    There are certainly many vegetarians, and that does not make them a Buddha.

    What would Buddha do? Try to help.
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited January 2011
    1) No. The Buddha would not lie because in the language of ultimate truth, there is no such thing as a "Jew". Buddhism advises us a Buddha never lies because the language of ultimate truth may be interpreted differently by the common world (and visa versa). Buddha would protect the Jews but not lie.

    2) No. The Buddha would not hunt for food to feed his family.

    3) Yes. Buddha would always eat meat, as long as it was not suspected or known to be killed especially for him or the monks. The Buddha is a beggar for food. Being such, he does not place demands on people, such as: "Please only give me organic brown rice with miso & tofu". A Buddhist monk must be easy to look after. Buddha eats whatever the people eat.

    :)
  • It clearly states that Buddha would never ever ever lie because its bad.
    Buddha's attitude towards telling lies is at this link:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html

    :)
    In the same way, Rahula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do.

    Thus, Rahula, you should train yourself, 'I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.'




  • There is no precept to say that we cannot disagree with Buddha's teaching. After all, he was a fallible human like the rest of us.

    On eating meat, I think Buddha may have a different opinion in the 21st century. Ethics whether it is Buddhist, Christian or Muslim is never straight forward.

    In a minority of cases for instance, telling a lie will result in reducing suffering rather than increasing it. Intention is key here i.e. is our aim to deceive for self-gain or is the intention to help relive the suffering of others.

    We can get too caught up in the dogmas of certain traditions. Maybe a better question to ask is "are our actions influenced by dogma or teachings which may not be wholly relevant to the situation we find ourselves in?".
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited January 2011
    Some interesting speculation.

    Let's see poster's answer to this koan:

    Once the Buddha was engaged in solitary meditation in the woods, when he saw a rabbit run down the path, acting like it was running for its life. The rabbit saw some bushes next to the Buddha and hid inside them, just as a man came running down the same path, carrying a bow and arrow. The man stopped, panting, looked at the diverging paths, then turned to the Buddha.

    "Please, kind stranger," the man said, "do you know where the rabbit went to? My child is sick and weak and starving, and the doctor says unless we feed him meat broth soon, he will certainly die. This rabbit is the only meat I have found in days of hunting. Please, tell me which path the rabbit took!"

    If the Buddha tells the man that the rabbit is in the bushes, he is responsible for the death of the rabbit and breaks the precept against killing. If the Buddha points the desperate father down the wrong path, he is lying. If the Buddha tells the man he does not know where the rabbit is hiding, he is lying. If the Buddha stays silent, he is still responsible for the death of a child and breaks the precept against killing.

    What does the Buddha say or do?



  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 2011
    Buddha might lie and kill. Shakyamuni was a nirmanakaya buddha that appears for the benefit of all beings. He would not lie or kill unless it benefited all beings including those he lied to and killed.

    I think he made his own death a teaching.
  • I will have a go at this one then.

    What would Buddha do in the above?

    I don't think he would tell the man where the rabbit went because he would then be assisting someone in their effort to kill another.

    He would not be responsible for the child's death by not telling the man where the rabbit went.

    It is a nonsense to say that the only thing that will save the child is meat broth, vegetable broth is good food.

    Buddha may help the man by taking him to someone who could provide food for his sick child.

  • To answer the question about whether Buddha would lie if asked by the Gestapo if he was hiding Jews (when he was). I think he would definately lie and say he was not hiding jews. Otherwise, he would be assisting the Gestapo in killing/harming others. In this case, the lie saves others lives and therefore the good karma from this act would override any negative karma from the lie.

    Buddha also tells us that we must apply wisdom to the teachings :)
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited January 2011
    I will have a go at this one then.

    What would Buddha do in the above?

    I don't think he would tell the man where the rabbit went because he would then be assisting someone in their effort to kill another.

    He would not be responsible for the child's death by not telling the man where the rabbit went.

    It is a nonsense to say that the only thing that will save the child is meat broth, vegetable broth is good food.

    Buddha may help the man by taking him to someone who could provide food for his sick child.

    Thank you for being willing to try an answer. It's a brave thing to do.

    So the Buddha tries to tell the man that he doesn't need to kill the rabbit to save his child?

    The man yells, "You're not a doctor! You know nothing about my child's sickness! I don't have time to listen to your arguments. The rabbit is escaping while you lecture me. You think the rabbit's life is worth more than my child's life. I must save my child!"

    And the man runs down one of the paths, never finds the rabbit, and his child dies.

    So, is there a better answer to the koan? This answer the Buddha tries to give ends with a dead child.

  • This is the age-old precepts question (see previous threads on observing the precepts). Your book is wrong. The precepts aren't commandments. They can be broken when to break them serves a higher good. Intention is everything.
  • yes, if buddhism forces me into a system of moral imperative I'm not a Buddhist.
    The Buddha would lie or kill in the right circumstances. I believe he'd even kill a man given the right situation. And he said that monks could eat meat.

    the precepts should be followed, the one on killing very strictly. but in a situation where both of your options include death you pick the option with less death. if you let a man blow up a building when you could have stopped him by killing him your responsible for many deaths instead of just one. you can say that it was the man's fault, but the fact is one of your actions would have caused one death, the other would have caused hundreds.
  • edited January 2011
    What would the Buddha do?

    I'm not sure whether we should concern ourselves with what the Buddha would do in a given circumstance. He did not hand down any commandments. Instead, He advised his disciples find out for themselves what is skillfull and what is unskillfull, and act accordingly. Maybe we should just do that.

    That said, I see no harm in contemplating what the Buddha would do. But be mindfull that, most of the time, we are not going to arrive at conclusive answers. :)
  • TandaTanda Explorer
    Quote "Let's see poster's answer to this koan"

    The koan is essentially what they call in modern legal parlance as conflict of interest. Modern ethics demands that, in such situations, one should either disclose his/ her stake in the decision he/she is making, or refrain from making the decision. (I am citing corporate situations). But the question as to what one should do if an action or inaction in such situation will be detrimental or suicidal oneself or when there is a gradation of importance of parties who will be affected by the action/inaction.
    I am not able to find and answer in MN 061. After all our life situations are not set in Bamboo groves. Some one throw light please.
  • Quote "Let's see poster's answer to this koan"

    The koan is essentially what they call in modern legal parlance as conflict of interest. Modern ethics demands that, in such situations, one should either disclose his/ her stake in the decision he/she is making, or refrain from making the decision. (I am citing corporate situations). But the question as to what one should do if an action or inaction in such situation will be detrimental or suicidal oneself or when there is a gradation of importance of parties who will be affected by the action/inaction.
    I am not able to find and answer in MN 061. After all our life situations are not set in Bamboo groves. Some one throw light please.
    I have never heard the koan discussed from a legal standpoint before. I thought I'd heard it attacked from every angle, but just goes to show. Thanks for showing me something new.

    All I can say to everyone is, the koan is penetrated only if you shift your focus from the choice between breaking or not breaking the precepts, to seeing the correct situation and correct action. This koan forces you to question your assumptions, and then you find the answer.

    The Buddha helps both rabbit and child.
    What does the Buddha do?


  • Cinorjer, :)

    You are taking Love&Peace's answer too literally.

    Love&Peace never said that the buddha would say out loud the hunter's child did not need meat broth. Love&Peace merely said that meat broth was only one of the available means to an end. What Love&Peace also suggested was that the buddha might take the hunter with him and go find some meat at a local market for his child(assuming this is the only solution to the child's problem of course).

    My answer to this koan would be that the buddha would likely carry on meditating as if neither the hunter nor the rabbit had passed by for a number of simple reasons.

    1. There is no guarantee the hunter wouldn't reacquire the rabbit's trail if the buddha had not gotten involved at all.

    2. There is no guarantee that the child will not die a) before the father arrives home with the rabbit once it was found or b) after the hunter arrives home but before the broth can be made.

    3. There is no guarantee that the hunter would not find other suitable game to meet his "needs" even if he never found the same rabbit again.

    There are, no doubt, endless other possibilities that could happen in this hypothetical situation. I have only outlined a few that come to my mind.

    Respectfully
    Nanimo :coffee:
  • The buddha could kill the hunter who is an evil hunter and then feed him to his child. Just kidding.
  • Asking someone to answer a koan over a board is not really fair, of course. If you struggle with koans as part of your practice, you know all those logical answers are not penetrating the koan. There are several similar koans that involve choices such as this, another famous one involves cutting a kitten in half, if you believe it. All of these type koans are basically asking, what would Buddha (you) do?

    To say Buddha would or would not kill, would or would not lie, etc, is focusing on the precepts instead of the clear mind the precepts are meant to foster. That's easier said than done.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Christians have the ten commandments. Many many many Americans believe these to be the word of God. You always hear parents saying, "Don't ever lie." or "Don't ever steal." or "Don't hurt anybody." These rules all seem to be set in stone (literally, according to the Bible) and parents/society doesn't seem to point out that there are times where rules need to be broken (or at least thats how I believe.)

    Recently I got a book called "What Would Buddha Do," and honestly, I don't like it. Why? Its perception of Buddha doesn't seem to coincide with mine. It clearly states that Buddha would never ever ever lie because its bad. It also says he would never ever ever kill because thats bad, yet he will always always always eat meat because thats okay (contradictory?).

    So,

    1) Would Buddha ever lie?
    If he was hiding Jews in his attic during Nazi-controlled Germany and the Gestapo came to his door asking is he was hiding any Jews, would he lie and say no?
    He would most certainly say no to prevent them from taking those people away and killing them.

    2) Would Buddha ever kill?
    If Buddha's family is running out of food, on the brink of starvation, would he sacrifice himself and his family rather than hunting to get food to feed them?
    Would he kill another human being and eat them if he and his family were starving to death? The Buddha did not make distinctions with regards to species of living beings concerning the act of killing.

    3) Would Buddha ALWAYS eat meat?
    I heard that Buddha only ate meat if it was killed my natural causes or if someone else served it to him (he was a visitor, or was given it as a gift.) What is the truth?

    Thank you. :D
    No, not always. If it was seen, heard or suspected that the animal was killed specifically for him or his followers, it would not be eaten and was prohibited from being eaten. He also advised that there were grave karmic consequences for the laity if they were to kill an animal for the purpose of feeding the monks.

  • JakbobJakbob Explorer
    Quote "Let's see poster's answer to this koan"

    The koan is essentially what they call in modern legal parlance as conflict of interest. Modern ethics demands that, in such situations, one should either disclose his/ her stake in the decision he/she is making, or refrain from making the decision. (I am citing corporate situations). But the question as to what one should do if an action or inaction in such situation will be detrimental or suicidal oneself or when there is a gradation of importance of parties who will be affected by the action/inaction.
    I am not able to find and answer in MN 061. After all our life situations are not set in Bamboo groves. Some one throw light please.
    I have never heard the koan discussed from a legal standpoint before. I thought I'd heard it attacked from every angle, but just goes to show. Thanks for showing me something new.

    All I can say to everyone is, the koan is penetrated only if you shift your focus from the choice between breaking or not breaking the precepts, to seeing the correct situation and correct action. This koan forces you to question your assumptions, and then you find the answer.

    The Buddha helps both rabbit and child.
    What does the Buddha do?


    The Buddha would tell the man where the rabbit was, but not specify which bushes maybe? He is not deceiving the man for ill will or personal gain, he is doing it to protect the rabbit. But the man still has a chance to find the rabbit and save his child, and the Buddha, did what he could to spare it. Who knows however, maybe if the Buddha told the man where it was, the man may find the rabbit has already fled ;).
  • In my case, the answer I finally gave was to thrust out my arm and say, "I have given you broth!" The Teacher replied, "I don't see it." I replied, "Then the child has already drank it!"

    Zen shorthand for, The Buddha asks to borrow the man's knife, cuts off his own arm, and tells the man to make broth out of it to save the child's life.

    The Buddha helps both rabbit and child. By focusing on the false dilemma of breaking precepts and choosing between lies and truth or who dies so the other can live, you neglect to see the proper situation. The hunter doesn't need a dead rabbit, he needs broth to save his child. If you pointed to the rabbit, then maybe the man could catch the rabbit, maybe it gets away again and he continues to chase it while his child dies.

    Did it cross anyone's mind that a Buddha would sacrifice an arm to save a stranger's dying child? If it was your own child or loved one, certainly. People put themselves in danger to help save the life of strangers all the time, and sometimes die trying to help. But, we will never do so because of a list of rules. It takes acting out of compassion.

    That's the lesson of this koan. Don't focus on the precepts or what you think you should or should not do. Give what is needed to help all beings.

    What would Buddha do? Try to help.

  • I cannot speak for Buddha so I really cannot answer your questions, and indeed nobody can except Buddha. But for what its worth, speaking of myself I would say
    1:Yes
    2:Not intentionally
    3:Not intentionally

    Metta to all sentient beings
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2011
    Interesting questions. I'll take a stab at answering them.
    1) Would Buddha ever lie?
    If he was hiding Jews in his attic during Nazi-controlled Germany and the Gestapo came to his door asking is he was hiding any Jews, would he lie and say no?
    I don't know for sure, but Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes that throughout the 550 birth stories contained in the Jakata, the precept against lying is the only precept the Buddha doesn't break. Moreover, the Buddha appears to hold truthfulness in pretty high regard (see examples of his words on truthfulness here).

    As for your question regarding Jews in the attic, it assumes that lying is the only way to protect these people. For example, one could preemptively befriend local Nazis, having a few drinks with them or whatnot, so that they wouldn't even be suspected of harbouring Jews in the first place. Or, if confronted unexpectedly, one could simply invite them in, offer them a drink and say, "Have a look if you want." It'd be the equivalent of saying "I've got nothing to hide" without actually having to lie.

    Either way, there's not much one could do to prevent them from searching one's home if that's what they had in mind to do; although they probably wouldn't look as hard if they didn't feel suspicious. And having an open and friendly attitude would probably help.
    2) Would Buddha ever kill?
    If Buddha's family is running out of food, on the brink of starvation, would he sacrifice himself and his family rather than hunting to get food to feed them?
    Again, I don't know for sure, but I can't imagine the Buddha would intentional kill anything for any reason. Having rid himself of ill-will, I can't see him killing out of anger to revenge. Nor out of greed for that matter.

    As for the question of feeding his starving family, this assumes that killing is the only way to acquire food. However, I'm sure he could just as easily beg for food, or even forage, as he could hunt an animal. And if push came to shove, having relinquished selfishness and craving in all its forms, I could see him committing suicide and offering himself as food before taking the life of another sentient being.
    3) Would Buddha ALWAYS eat meat?
    I heard that Buddha only ate meat if it was killed my natural causes or if someone else served it to him (he was a visitor, or was given it as a gift.) What is the truth?
    According to the discourses in the Pali Canon, the Buddha and his disciples did eat meat as long as it was pure in three ways, but I sincerely doubt that he would've minded eating only vegetarian meals if that's what was offered. If you're interested, you can find some of my thoughts about this topic here and here. (But the short version is, more important than what you eat is how you eat.)
  • edited January 2011

    As for the question of feeding his starving family, this assumes that killing is the only way to acquire food. However, I'm sure he could just as easily beg for food, or even forage, as he could hunt an animal. And if push came to shove, having relinquished selfishness and craving in all its forms, I could see him committing suicide and offering himself as food before taking the life of another sentient being.
    There is a story in the Pannasa Jataka where the bodhisatta sacrificed himself for others. There are plenty of stories like these about bodhisatt(v)as, but they are not Buddhas. Nobody could really say for certain what a Buddha would do unless they have also attained to that kind of awakening, but I'm certainly inclined to agree with you.

    There is also the Matakabhatta Jataka, in which the Buddha stated that "No good ever comes from taking life, not even when it is for the purpose of providing a Feast for the Dead." Then he relates the story of a goat, in its final rebirth as an animal, that was once a brahmin that sacrificed a goat as an offering for a Feast for the Dead. Because of killing that single goat, he was reborn and had his head cut off around 500 times. The goat explained this to the brahmin that was going to sacrifice it, so the brahmin decided to spare its life instead. However, the goat insisted that it really didn't matter because the goat could not escape the consequences of its own past actions. Later that same day the goat was browsing near a rock. Suddenly, the rock was struck by lightning and a large splinter cut off the goat's head.

    I also believe that the Buddha once said that the only thing worth killing, was anger. [SN 7.1]
  • Cinorjer, what would you say the goal of that koan was? To help to see clearly and contemplate a question?
  • The goal, as any koan, is to learn to see a situation with a clear mind. It presents a puzzle that on the surface is impossible to solve, and lets your mind exhaust itself chasing its own tail. Only then, the answer to the koan becomes clear when your mind becomes clear. Correct situation, correct response.



  • Lie/truth, kill/don't kill: aren't these dualistic perceptions of reality?

    To ask if the Buddha would lie already frames the answer into a highly abstracted view of reality. The abstraction of the situation we are talking about is not beneficial because it is delusory.
  • The buddha would lie for the greater good. He probably doesnt like killing and he eats meat under certain rules.
  • 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

    Once the Buddha was engaged in solitary meditation in the woods, when he saw a rabbit run down the path, acting like it was running for its life. The rabbit saw some bushes next to the Buddha and hid inside them, just as a man came running down the same path, carrying a bow and arrow. The man stopped, panting, looked at the diverging paths, then turned to the Buddha.

    "Please, kind stranger," the man said, "do you know where the rabbit went to? My child is sick and weak and starving, and the doctor says unless we feed him meat broth soon, he will certainly die. This rabbit is the only meat I have found in days of hunting. Please, tell me which path the rabbit took!"

    If the Buddha tells the man that the rabbit is in the bushes, he is responsible for the death of the rabbit and breaks the precept against killing. If the Buddha points the desperate father down the wrong path, he is lying. If the Buddha tells the man he does not know where the rabbit is hiding, he is lying. If the Buddha stays silent, he is still responsible for the death of a child and breaks the precept against killing.

    What does the Buddha say or do?
    The Buddha replied,
    "I cannot tell you where the rabbit went, because if I do so, it would mean condoning your action of killing, and I cannot now, as an Enlightened being, accumulate negative kamma by directing you to kill. Neither can I encourage you to accumulate negative kamma by giving you access to killing.
    However, what your doctors have told you may have been with good intention, but they are incorrect. Your son does not require a meat broth, necessarily. If you are desperate for meat, ask one of your neighbours to lend you any meat they have, and use that. Even a little may be beneficial at this stage.
    But a good vegetable broth, with beans, barley and other available produce, will be easier on his stomach, and provide him with the nutrients he requires.
    If you have been hunting for several days, this may mean your son is now weaker.
    By giving him vegetable broth, one of two things will happen: he will either regain strength, or he may die, because he is beyond being helped by any kind of intake.
    I will not lie to you. I am trying to guide you.
    So please go and do as I advise.
    If you need further help, come to me. I will guide you Mindfully."

    The man, unable to counter the Buddha's wisdom, returned home quickly.


  • 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
    I actually Meditated on this, and it's all I could come up with. But if the scenario is plausible, then so is the Buddha's response, above.
  • edited January 2011
    What would Buddha do?
    Monks, there are these four courses of action. Which four? There is the course of action that is unpleasant to do and that, when done, leads to what is unprofitable. There is the course of action that is unpleasant to do but that, when done, leads to what is profitable. There is the course of action that is pleasant to do but that, when done, leads to what is unprofitable. There is the course of action that is pleasant to do and that, when done, leads to what is profitable. AN 4.115

    I absolutely abhor hypotheticals though. Like, the "Would you push a fat man onto the train tracks to save 5 kids" type questions. Ugggh. And this is because I think WISDOM is a spontaneous appropriate reaction to a situation, it is not methodical or deliberated upon.

    Also, we seem to ignore when imagining what the Buddha would do that he had SUPER POWERS. I mean, in one story he is being pursued by a serial killer seeking his 100th kill. The killer runs as fast as he can toward the Buddha who is walking ahead of him on the path.

    Quick: what would you do if you were Buddha??

    Well, the Buddha performed a SUPER POWER. He kept walking the same slow pace, but no matter how fast the killer ran he could not catch up with the Buddha.

    So the Buddha wouldn't have to lie to the person seeking the fugitive in his attic. He could stop time and shit.
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited January 2011
    Federica, you picked the correct way to use the koan, by meditating. But koans are little role playing skits, and plausible doesn't enter into it. You gotta accept the conditions of the koan. One koan has a man hanging by his teeth from the top of a flagpole. How did he get up there, and why doesn't he just climb down? Not the point. He's up the flagpole and hanging by his teeth. So OK, what's the question? Koans are fascinating like that. So, you have to accept that the child needs meat broth to live.

    There is a famous story of the founder of my school, Master Seung Sahn, who was invited to a Dharma debate with a Theravadan Master at some college. He sat down on stage in front of the other Master, held out an orange, and asked, "What is this?" (This is the traditional start of a Zen duel, and the other monk was supposed to take whatever object is held out and do something like use it or eat it, not give a verbal answer)

    Instead, the Theravadan Master turned to his translator, and asked, "Hasn't this poor man seen an orange before?"

    The debate didn't go so well.

    Different techniques, different practices.

    But consider my answer to the koan from several posts before. A Zen Master would simply tell you to continue to meditate. If nothing else, it should tell you the direction Zen tries to take us.
  • I wish I could find the original story, but I remember reading about a Zen abbot, who took in three fugitives that were running from some Samurai who had vowed to kill them.
    When the Samurai showed up at the temple, they demanded that the abbot give the fugitives up, so they could be killed.
    The abbot met them at the gate with a jug of wine. When the Samurai threatened his own life if he did not give up the fugitives, the abbot replied, "this bottle of wine was given to me by my teacher, and I have been saving it for a special occasion. I think I will drink it now." Whereupon he did so, with great enjoyment.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I know this is old but since it came up, I read it and found it interesting. My thoughts are that Buddha was much more intelligent (especially as Buddha) than our simple "Would he lie to hide the Jews?" I don't think Buddha would have to lie, because he had enough power (within himself not to exert over others) to be able to change the minds of those who came to the door without needing to lie to save those he was protecting. Isn't there a story about how Buddha stopped a war by talking to both sides and getting in the middle of them to convince them to change their ways? I thought I read something about that.

    So, I think it is at the same time both simpler, and more complex, than we can really rationalize with our unenlightened minds. Buddha would have answers we can't imagine trying because we aren't there yet.
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