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Friday, August 23, 2013

The first toolbox as right action

The Young Man volunteering at Grassroots Garden kitchen

An analysis of the four truths and eightfold way of Buddhism as a unified concept which could be expressed as Right Action. Discussion continued from a preceding note/post.

Primum non nocere, which which we ended that post, means, "First, do no harm."

It's rough out there.

That it's rough out there can be taken as a given. Some of us are insulated from the consequences of inappropriate action through the inequitable accumulation of resources, but the effect is temporary and I think a kind of self-harm accrues, to ourselves and our loved ones. Certainly harm comes to others.

Hence: "it's rough because we (whether ourselves or others) want things to be different than they are." We suffer when we have expectations or unrealistic intentions. Others suffer when we attempt, through action, to enforce our expectations. We take an inappropriate action.

"We can change our behavior," that is, we can learn to select appropriate actions.

So, "Right Action" could serve as the key concept for drawing the Buddhist and Permaculture toolboxes closer together.

Right view could be taken as observe clearly, which is a kind of action.

Right aspiration could be taken as a kind of action, in which one connects observation to volition. Separating appropriate desires from inappropriate desires, with an intent to manifest the appropriate desires, is an internal activity, but an important one. "Cessation from all desires" is a misleading concept in this context, as it lacks the qualifier "appropriate." If one fails to desire to breathe, no right actions will follow.

Right speech is certainly an action, through the choice to say or not say, as needed. A friend often says, before speaking, ask yourself: "is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?"

Hence, right action. And is your action kind? Is it true (correct)? Is it necessary? These three combined are what is meant by "appropriate" as used here.

Right livelihood is right action. If benefits accrue to you and others by your actions you already have right livelihood. Do not think this is limited by or to the earning of money.

Right action must be carried out, not merely thought of. One applies one's energy to the task. So right effort is about action.

Right mindfulness, also, does not just happen. To clear away obstacles and focus, though it occurs in the mind, is an internal action without which appropriate external activity will not occur.

Right concentration is what occurs in meditation, i..e., the suppression of distractions so as to observe directly. So we have come full circle in this exercise, as the finding that it's rough out there is an observation. You have taken the action to find that out, to discover the cause (which can be boiled down to selfishness) and the cure (which can be boiled down to selflessness).

"Ethics" need not be taught in a university, nor demanded in a church. It is as simple as breathing. When you rise up in the morning, set your face toward the doing of right action, that is, whatever is kind, true, and necessary.


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