I begin my day in meditation. Or at least that is my intention. Most days, my hour of practice is spent chasing my mind like a dog and his tail. This itself can be interesting when an effort is made to note all the places the minds wants to go that day.
This morning, while I follow my thoughts, I find my mind wants to bash Christianity. This is an issue with me, one I try to keep off this blog: such is not the way to enlightenment.
Nonetheless, my thoughts travel to the core of my issue - values and actions. I ponder the Ten Commandments and how our Christian nation has abandoned them. Let’s look at them. As familiar as we are to the texts, I will not list them here. Its fascinating to me that they are open to interpretation, succinctly worded as they are…
I note, for a prominent example, that our president, who ran a campaign openly professing his allegiance to Jesus, has promoted policies which violate many of the highest laws to which a Christian is supposed to be beholden. I will dispense from enumerating the wrongful actions of our administration. My point is to note how little the commandments factor into the lives of modern Christians
I mention this only in contrast to a Buddhist teaching that an outsider might liken to the Judeo-Christian commandments. These are the Ten Precepts that children and novice Buddhists learn, known as the Dasa-sikkapada.
1. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from killing.
2. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from stealing.
3. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from lying.
5. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from liquor that causes intoxication and heedlessness.
6. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from untimely eating.
7. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from dancing, singing, music, and visiting unseemly shows.
8. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from the use of garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, and embellishments.
9. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds.
10. I undertake to abide by the precept to abstain from accepting gold and silver.
Note the similarities: killing, stealing, lying and sexual misconduct are covered. Intoxicants are prohibited. Cultural moors defined proper times for monks to eat, usually in mornings. Since Buddhism is not hampered by a concept of a divine being, there is room for more directives of behavior. I would categorize these latter precepts into the realm of frivolous entertainments. One focus on enlightenment is to eschew materialism in favor of spiritualistic pursuits, to refrain from distractions of flesh and reduce influence of the many permutations of ego, such as pride, lust, greed and power.
These last points, I find, are completely absent from Christian teachings. At least my layman’s understanding has not uncovered such wisdom. While they are also culturally bound, and next to impossible to participate while in Western civilization, we can at least maintain awareness of their negative influence and abstain as much as we can.
Taken in whole, I find the Dasa-sikkapada more useful as a guide to life, a path to wisdom. To me, life is already too complicated to bother with improvable arguments of God. Let us instead concern ourselves with what we can master, what we have the power to address in this life to bring about positive change in ourselves and those around us. Thus we can change the world.