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The Buddhist bane of social obligation

  1. Mar 16, 2004 #1
    Buddhists consider "social duty" a sin, antithetical to acts of compassion toward others. Do you find this position somewhat contradictory, a koan of sorts? Is the crux here actually between selfishness and selflessness?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2004 #2
    I'm not sure what you mean... but doing your 'social duty' seems like you are doing the act, not out of compassion for the cause, but because you must.

    Is this sort of like the difference between someone saying "It is my duty to do so", and another saying "I want to do so" ?
  4. Mar 22, 2004 #3
    Hello Booda,
    Would you tell me the reference? Because I don't seem to have ever come across such a view.
  5. Mar 23, 2004 #4
    Nor me.
  6. Mar 23, 2004 #5
    I too have not heard of this position, but admit I'm not an expert on Buddhism by any means. But as for doing good deeds out of compassion vs. social duty I have some thoughts...

    It seems to me that the ideal would be that individuals do good out of having a good character. But there is a functional purpose for humanity as to why we want "good" deeds to be done in general. And, given that individuals vary in their level of "good character" then it is important for society to reinforce the value of certain behaviors through concepts such as "duty". This presents a net of sorts for those who may be lacking in personal character and increases the likelihood of such people doing good. So, it's good for society. Secondly, it also shows by example that this is something important and children need to see that example growing up. Later as they mature, such duties become "internalized" by properly maturing people and at that point take on more of a personal meaning.

    In fact, I'd say that the position of being against "moral duty" is itself a red herring. Because when you think about how such a child would be raised in that system, they would simply being saying in effect that it is your "duty" not to do things out of duty but out of compassion. This is true, and incidentally happens to reinforce the importance of the concept of duty as well - funny.
  7. Mar 23, 2004 #6
    Maybe "social conformity" is one of five or six cardinal sins in Buddhism? I can't recall the source.
  8. Mar 23, 2004 #7
    Just as a good person with good thinking does not need laws, regulations or commandments to do good a good person with right thinking does not do good because of duty but because it is the natural thing that s/he would do. It is not a matter of even doing good for goods sake but a good person will always do good or the right thing naturally with out thought or purpose. In a very real sense s/he would have no choice in the matter as to do other than good would be unnatural or uncharacteristic.
    Being and doing what is and comes naturally without thought or purpose is the "goal" of the Buddhist. As a true Buddhist is good and has good thinking all of the time it is only natural that s/he would do good with or without duty or law.
    Being compelled to act a certain way for whatever reason is the bain of Buddhist as it should be for all of us.
    I don't know the source of this either but this is my understanding of it.
  9. Mar 23, 2004 #8
    Nice post.

    The source of this sense of right behaviour is purported or affirmed to be a certain knowledge of the truth about who we really are. This truth is said to entail a way of being and behaving. Whether this is true I suppose everyone has to decide for themself.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2004
  10. Mar 23, 2004 #9
    According to Buddhist teaching once one reaches enlightenment there is no behaving or acting only being. One is who s/he is and simply does without thought or purpose as all actions would be being true to ones self and ones being.
    There is of course varying degrees of enlightenment along the way and at first it is a matter of self discipline in controlling ones thoughts and actions until they become habit and natural. This is supposedly changing ones self as one gains in enlightenment and grows toward knowing and becoming one with the Buddha within, of becoming and being one's true self.
    There are of course as many ways to this enlightenment as there are Buddhists sects and in my opinion religions in the world. Buddhism is just one way. I have found that virtually every major and a lot of minor religions use and encourage meditation to achieve the same thing which amounts to enlightenment, inner peace, knowledge of ones true self and become one within with this true self that some Christians believe to be their soul or the spirit of God.
    My point being that, like golf, what ever works for you is the right way for you.
  11. Apr 10, 2004 #10
    Actually, according to Joseph Campbell, the Buddha underwent three temptations, one of which was social duty ("doing what you are told").
  12. Apr 10, 2004 #11
    I think that's the wrong way to look at it. With enlightenment comes a particular kind of behaviour, derived from the truths which enlightenment reveals.
  13. Apr 10, 2004 #12
    Yes and no. In the moment of giving it may or may not have been born out of a response to give which may or may not been influenced by a social mandate, but like buddism itself, it can lead to a deadening form life perception. This can be true of any social formation or preset acts toward a predetermined end. If the mind of the individual exists where it is when it is, it is satisfied. If it is not, would it be satisfied even if there was none, if you can answer this question, lighting will move in slow motion for you.
  14. Apr 10, 2004 #13
    Sorry - don't understand that.
  15. Apr 11, 2004 #14
    From what I understand Buddhism is mostly about seeing through the fog of subjective existence and seek and become an objective existence. To behold and be rather than to see your own reflected subjective image but the objective image of yourself being that of the entire universe.

    Of course like all theosophies it can become restricted by traditional and cultural ideologies that can prove counter productive to the ideal. Thus "throwing off" of the societal responsibilities is part of "purifying" the path by reducing the distractions that normal life present.

    Material possessions, money, social duty, lust, even personal loves, comforts, or anything that distracts from the objective ideal...

    This is my take on it anyway....
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2004
  16. Apr 11, 2004 #15
    Our understandings are different. It may be merely semantics. One of the aspects of enlightenment is living in the moment. Behavior is usually considered learned or in a sense contrived or influenced by the past and therefore may not be relevent or appropriate to the moment.

    Being in the moment is free of these restraints or learning and an enlightened person does whatever is appropriate for the situation of the moment. This is not considered behaving or acting but more in line with reacting to the reality of the moment.

    This is why social obligation is the bane of buddhism. It is not free, unconstrained, unihibited action in the moment. Social obligations makes one a slave to its society. Society's demands reduces our freedom, the more severe and strict the demands the more our freedom is reduced and the less we are allowed or able to be ourselves, being, in the moment. Some societies demand all, everything, from its members and they are thus literally slaves to their society.
  17. Apr 11, 2004 #16
    Again I may be disagreeing only with your choice of words or semantics.
    If by objective existence you mean physical material existence then I could not disagree more as the Buddhist think that the objective material universe is the illusion and subjective, and to some the spiritual, reality is the true reality. As to the being one with and of the entire universe you are IMHO correct.

    I have yet to figure out how Buddhist can believe the above yet not believe in spirit or soul. It is possible that they simply do not address it and refuse to discuss it as it is not relevant to living life in the moment on this world.
  18. Apr 12, 2004 #17
    There's some truth in that, but it is an oversimplification. If you notice Buddhists do not ignore their social obligations.
  19. Apr 12, 2004 #18
    Our present society demands in a subtle way, a conditioning way, a relentless way. We are all part of the system of destruction, the walls are a mile high, is there a way out? We need not worry of weapons of mass destruction, the structure and fuctioning of modern day soceity all ready has all the components.
  20. Apr 12, 2004 #19

    WE all have at our fingertips the ability to destroy, to deconstruct, to kill, to mutilate, to disintergrate, we also have the ability to create, to improve, to enhance and to transcend.....It is up to you which ability you wish to employ.

    The fact is "it is a hell of a lot easier to destroy something than to create something"

    It takes centuries to build a city and less than 5 seconds to destroy it.
  21. Apr 12, 2004 #20
    I don't think it's right to say they are illusions as such... Because, they exist kinda...- But what Buddhists try to do is to grasp their true nature...

    Like, for example (in reference to no spirit), we are told that what we perceive to be "self" (soul/spirit) is in fact composed of something called the Five Aggregates... None of these aggregates along constitute a self, but their combination results in a perceived-self...

    Think of it like... a book... You have basically, atoms and bonds... lots of them too.. No single atom by itself, can be said to be a/the book... but putting them all together, you get something that we do call a "book"

    My two cents.. =)
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