Date: Thu, 05 Oct 1995 02:42:55 -0400
From: "Tim Testu" [email protected]
Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
The discussion on rights could also be considered from two points of view: 1. Monastic Buddhism (Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Shrameneras, Shramenerikas) 2. Lay Buddhism (Upasikas, Upasakas)
Those involved in Traditional Monastic Buddhism probably don’t spend much time thinking about the concept of "rights." Normally they have enough work to do seeking enlightenment for themselves and for all living beings. They help themselves by studying, contemplating, meditating, and living an ascetic life. They benefit others by translating and explaining Sutras and Shastras, maintaining and displaying the awesome manner, and making the teachings and practices of Buddhism accessible.
Since the very beginning of "Buddhism" Shakyamuni Buddha himself has maintained that members of the left-home Sangha have the right to a reasonably peaceful place to practice (Bodhimandala), and a right to be treated with dignity and respect by their fellow cultivators of the Way. Nowadays the Abbot of a monastery ensures these rights (harmony in the Sangha) by utilizing monastic codes of the past, and by enacting new rules in accordance with present needs–as one participant so aptly wrote, "to protect the weak from the strong." Thus, Buddhism has a long history of preserving and protecting the rights of the left-home Sangha and anyone else who directly participates in the religious community.
Lay Buddhist’s, on the other hand, have no limits on their involvement with "rights," human and otherwise. The five lay precepts do suggest a basic guideline for self-respect and respect for all living beings. From there, with a mind free of hatred and selfish greed, one can "assert with love," fighting for the rights of others. Is this not the Bodhisattva Way? Buddhists have been far too passive in the past. Why not speak out for what we believe in? We have a right to create change and to make a difference! For example,if we don’t take an occasional time-out from staring at our navels and start standing up for the (rights of) the environment (which is incapable of speaking for itself) there isn’t going to be one–witness the clearcuts all around this particular area. Caring for living beings and the planet is not apart from Buddhism.
As Damien Keown’s post says … "Rights are claims made on other rational agents to do what justice requires (treat others fairly). I think this is not really so different from asking people to respect the precepts (e.g. not to kill me is to respect my right to life) something which Buddhism certainly calls on everyone to do. Since Buddhism makes this universal appeal through its precepts, it seems to be calling for universal respect for basic rights. Its teachings are thus in harmony with modern human rights manifestos."
Right on! If people simply followed the Buddha’s precepts, there’d be no need for rights.
A venerable teacher often said:
"Why are their rules? Because people don’t follow the rules."
"Why is their Wisdom? Because the stupid make their mark."
Date: Thu, 05 Oct 1995 21:41:44 -0700
From: "Ken O’Neill" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Rights and Responsibilities
The discussion on rights could also be considered from two points of view: 11. Monastic Buddhism (Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Shrameneras, Shramenerikas) 2. Lay Buddhism (Upasikas, Upasakas)
Such a distinction is useful, but we must not confuse parts with wholes. Later streams of Buddhism’s development evolved beyond the earlier dualism separating monastics from laiety, instead stressing that we are all "neither monk nor layperson", just fellow seekers in quest of illumination.
Secondly, those movements today advocating human rights in Asian countries seem to be doing so across the board since depotism doesn’t distinquish between monastics and laiety, so equal rights to life (eg, Tibet) are fundamental. Setting the monastics up as separate from others, it can be argued, has done Buddhist tradition a lot of damage by creating unnecessary hierarchies.
Date: Fri, 06 Oct 1995 11:53:14 -0400
From: "Kimberley C Falk" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Rights and Responsibilities
This is essentially my problem with only dealing with human rights, for in focusing on humans too, are we not creating a hierarchy of human beings? This greatly concerns me as a female Buddhist, as it worries me that some could argue (albeit in an extreme stance) that we should only deal with rights for men (who in Buddhism remain tradionally in the top of the hierarchy).
To move away from this concern with definitions, I do like very much the ideas being circulated about "inter-being" and interrelatedness and human rights, as these ideas seem key to working toward peace and compassion, and can be applied on a number of social levels (from the individual’s engagement with and response to others all the way up to levels of nation states). This potentially leads us to places where we can talk about practice. (But maybe that’s next week’s topic?). — Kim