With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
When I think about what I know of practical ethics, I admit I think of the fundamentals, don't be late, pay your way, study or work hard, treat others with respect. As they go, the picture of relationships from an ethical point of view in the fifties was very simple and maybe that is why they reside in my memory as the relief against which I measure myself. Yet, in truth, I think the ethic of the 50's Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver variety was actually quite corruptive of genuine ethics.
Genuine ethics must be pliable and human. We must understand rules as guides or principles rather than rigid measures of our conduct. Of course we must be respectful of others, but not because of the rule,, but rather because we are one. The rule is a means, not an end in itself.
Last night this came up in the discussion at the conclusion of my Dharma talk on the Six Perfections in Zen practice. One of the "paramitas" is morality or "precepts". I said Zen Buddhism has 16 and Judaism 613. We discussed the nature of a precept. My sense is that the translators of the Torah have done us a great disservice by using the word "commandments" which has the effect of fiat, rigid rule, or the like.
Some of us, even in Buddhism, understand the precepts in such a way, rules to live by, yet in so doing we miss completely the point of the rules. And this is the corruption. The meta message of a rule based ethic in a religious context is to join the Infinite. Jews talk about performing mitzvot as an aspect of partnering with God to repair the world, to make it perfect, one.
In Zen it is the same: we practice precepts in order to be the precepts for the sake of being One. Although in Zen we come at it slightly differently: its not the world that is broken, but rather our separation through delusion, hatred, and greed that is the cause of our suffering.
May you each be a blessing in the universe,