2021-05-24 Kusala (1 of 10): Wholesome and Unwholesome - Introduction
2:54PM May 24, 2021
The two I'm going to tell a semi story that is the beginning of this. And I call it a semi story, because we often find in the discourses of the Buddha is we find the context is set up for the Buddha to teach. And that context is a little story about who the Buddha encounters and their situation what they asked him. And, and then the Buddha responds. And so it's not really a full blown story, but exactly but but so the semi story that begins up begins this teaching, that initiates this teaching is the people of Colombia, the Buddha is is very famous texts called the kalama suta. And some, for some people, it's their absolute favorite discourse of the Buddha. And there was a wonderful Zen teacher by the name of Yvonne Rand, who, now dead, but she was very much involved in trying to address the ethical issues in western Buddhism in United States here in the 70s 80s 90s, a very ethical, wonderful teacher. And she made a rather dramatic statement, that this particular discourse, the, the kalama, suta, as should everyone should have it tattooed on the inside of their eyes, eyelids. So she wanted it to people to always know it and have it close by. And one of the reasons for this is that what I'm going to teach you in a moment, is a protection against some of the more dangerous ways that people can adhere to religious teachings. Doesn't have to be dangerous, but it again, historically, in human history, there's people that are here for these reasons, can create tremendous problems. So anyway, the Buddha is in the territory of the Colombo's, and they come out to see him. And they asked him a question, they say, in our town, lots of different religious teachers of different kinds come through. And they all kind of are saying, This is the truth, this is the truth, and whatever everybody else is saying is not true. And how is it Buddho? That we can discern know, which of these teachers is teaching the truth? And which of them is not? So what criteria can we use for, for understanding who's teaching the truth or not? And, and so, the Buddha first offers criteria that we should not use for this purpose. And, and then he does a very interesting thing. He changes directions, or he, he puts aside this question about truth and untruth to offer something, which for him is more primary. So anyway, so the criteria that you should not go by, you should not use for deciding what is true and, and false is to go by tradition, the religious tradition that you're part of the teaching lineage. So you shouldn't go because it's traditional, the lineage, you know, your particular teacher linnet, your teacher and your teachers teacher, just because you're adhere to this particular lineage, political party, whatever it might be. Don't take that as automatically as true. Don't go by true because it's popular, it's the common view of the times. Don't go, don't take it as true because it's in the scriptures sacred texts. Don't take it as a criteria criteria for what is true, because it's logical, you've worked it out logically, and therefore it must be this way. Used reason. Don't go by intuition. Preferences, and don't go by the reason of competence of the speaker. So a speaker who is very competent and eloquent and clear and, and seems to really understand what's happening. Don't just simply believe it, because you think that speaker knows. And then finally, I don't believe something's true or untrue, because the person is saying it is your teacher.
So At this moment, I'm your teacher, in the sense, I'm teaching and you're listening. So please don't take what I'm saying, as either true or false. Just because I say it is not a reliable source of to, to really know for yourself this is true or false. And, and in replying this way before you replies this way, the Buddha says to the Colombia's, it's reasonable that you should have doubts about what is true and not true. So he really appreciates them, they're coming to him with this question. So he gives us list of things, what not to go by. And then he, he offers his own criteria. And so here, not the criteria for what is maybe what is true or not true, but maybe this is implied. But probably what the Buddha is doing here is he's, if that's the case, he's changing the whole, either changing what is defined what he means what's meant by truth? Or is his as his own idea of what truth is, which he doesn't explain that text, or he simply changing the flow the conversation, to be what he emphasizes, instead of focusing on what is true and not true. That what is religiously true and religiously not true? As statements, as believes is something a little bit outside of oneself, that that's not his interest? And, and Rather, he says that the here's the Buddha's criteria, is that, is it harmful or beneficial? Both in an in and of itself? And also he says, does it lead to harm? Or does it lead to welfare? Is it a wholesome or unwholesome? and end to the people who you think are wise? Are they critical of this or not critical in this? So it doesn't mean that you take what the wives say is being true, but you do have respect for what they their point of view? And if they're critical of something, then maybe it's time to look more carefully, and then pause? And is it praised by the wise? And then maybe you don't necessarily believe it then either, but maybe that is worthy of further investigation. So with the core, the core thing here, is it is it harmful or beneficial. And I can't underscore how much and how I think, wonderfully, this is the central kind of pivot or orientation that the Buddha has. He's not so interested in religious truth, religious doctrine, but rather, he's interested in what we can know for ourselves, that is harmful, that brings harm or brings welfare. And to is a radical thing, to fully brought all forms of harming to an end in ourselves. I mean, what a fantastic thing. You look at what read the newspapers and see how much harm human beings are inflicting on each other. And then there's, you know, vast mouth more harm that never makes it into the newspapers, into the news. And, and to, to be a person who doesn't inflict harm on themselves or someone else is a phenomenal thing. I think it's like, you know, gymnast at the gymnastics, you know, some it's such a beautiful, such an amazing thing, to have worked through and found a way where there's no inclination, no tendency to cause harm, and maybe the opposite. We are inclined to do what's beneficial, what brings welfare to ourselves and to someone else. And so there are all kinds of lofty religious states we can attain. There's all kinds of wonderful perspectives on life and experiences we can have that people say are spiritual or religious. And these aren't to be devalued
in and of themselves, but I think in these criteria that Buddha has, one wants to be careful not to assume that get that gives us a privileged access to what is true and what is false. Unless it has taught us something of from the Buddhist point of view To Be very careful, for the Buddha, those states also are evaluated, looked at, what does this teach us about how to live a life that is beneficial. that avoids harm. Over and over again, that's what the Buddha is interested in. So you could in modern English ideas, say the Buddha is more interested in ethics than he is in religion. He's interested in how people act and how people behave. And, and, and, and to do so both behave with our bodies, our speech and also in our minds that don't cause any harm. But what makes it kind of beyond ethics, is that is the thoroughness in which the Buddha points to that it's possible to do this, that that level of peace, that level of, of well being and happiness, that level of freedom, that's possible, when there's no inclination to cause any harm is a is an experience of radical, non clinging, non compulsion, or freedom and liberation. And so this potential, this possibility, which is kind of a phenomenal human capacity and possibility. But it doesn't matter if we so much if we take the Buddhist path all the way to his end, what matters is that we're practicing a life of doing what is beneficial, avoiding what is harmful, and to do it in a beneficial way. So part of this teaching then, also is not only beneficial and harmful, but also to really make a distinction between what is unwholesome and wholesome. And that is going to be the theme for the next couple of weeks on these 7am sittings and teachings is I want to look at this very important topic that the Buddha concept of the Buddha of wholesome wholesomeness and unwholesomeness. This week, it will be that and there's an alternative translation for this Pali word akusala, KUSU, view LA. So sometimes it's translated as wholesome and unwholesome and sometimes it's translated as skillful and unskillful. And for this first week, I want to look at it as wholesome and unwholesome and next week is skillful and unskillful. And this is a, a pivotal orientation for all of the Buddha's teachings. And to really understand this idea of kusala and akusala. And understand it well gives you access to really begin kind of, it's like the key to understanding so much of what the Buddho is about. And if you understand these two, the two things together, the avoidance of harm and doing what is beneficial, and the notion of wholesome and unwholesome, then you're well on the way to discover what the Buddha is all about, independent of feeling that you have to know what is ultimately religiously and doctrinally true, you're on the way to become a person who is true, true in that they're free of the causes of harm, and filled with these beneficial ways of being in the world. So that's introduction for what's coming up and I look forward to our time together and thank you