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Dharma PhD (the podcast) Episode 3!

Dharma PhD podcast Episode 3, hit the airwaves this morning. Yay! Come and have a listen while Co-host and I talk about John Peacock’s “Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 2”. We riff on various definitions of ethics, talk about how how I started to become disenchanted with pop-mindfulness, and explore translations of the precepts.

If you’d like to explore further, a link to Peacock’s talk and the transcript to that talk are here. If you have any feedback or comments, I’d love to hear from you!

John Peacock's "Buddhism Before the Theravada" Part 4 – EP5 Dharma PhD

Welcome to Dharma PhD! In this episode we talk about John Peacocks' talk, "Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 4". We talk about how our experience is troubled because we misunderstand how our minds work (avijjā) and how much of our daily activities are actually more habit than will (sankhāra). A few things referred to: Dr. Judson Brewer (drjud.com) and his book The Craving Mind. (https://tinyurl.com/y4hs8vmm) The concept of Learning in Public. (https://www.swyx.io/learn-in-public/) Hedonic Tone, also called "feeling tone" is my preferred translation of the Pāli word "vedanā". I talked about it over on my other podcast in a few episodes: https://www.buddha-bites-podcast.com/episode/buddha-bites-ep23 The Google ad we were referring to was titled "Reunion". (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHGDN9-oFJE) A random Tumblr search for you: https://www.tumblr.com/search/grogu/recent. Michael Gazzaniga's amazing book Who's in Charge. (https://tinyurl.com/y2kyaxpa) Dr. BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits program. (https://www.tinyhabits.com/) and finally, Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit. (https://tinyurl.com/y3qt2vtc) A transcript of and link to John Peacock's talk is available here: https://dharmaphd.com/2021/01/07/john-peacock-buddhism-before-the-theravada-part-4-2011-09-03/ And a transcript of this podcast episode is available here: https://dharmaphd.com/2021/01/08/dharma-phd-the-podcast-episode-5/ Want to get in touch? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at hello@dharmaphd.com.

Following is a mostly-AI-produced transcript of the podcast episode, if that’s of interest…

Intro (00:00)

Shannon: Greetings, Friendlies. Welcome to Dharma PhD: conversations about the science, philosophy, and culture of Mindfulness and Secular Buddhism. I’m your host, Shannon M Whitaker; in today’s episode, my cohost, Jeff street, and I will be talking about John Peacock’s talk, “Buddhism before the Theravada, Part Two.”

We highlight how Peacock addresses ethics, and we talk about ethics in pop mindfulness culture and ethics in Secular Buddhism. We go through some definitions. We talk about how ethics led to my disenchantment with pop mindfulness culture. And we talk about how different translations of the precepts can affect how one approaches practice and daily life.

I hope you enjoy.

Welcome (00:48)

Shannon: Welcome Jeff

Jeff: Hello it’s a pleasure to be here as always What kind of podcast adventure are we going to have today?

Shannon: I thought we might begin [00:01:00] with some response to listener comments I’ve received some loving and generous response from our listeners and from my cohost one of the points being that the introduction could use a little workshopping and I thought since we have someone here who has some ideas about how that might go

Jeff: I feel like I would like something that gives me a little more I’ll say this the sort of introduction that you created does give an insight into who you are Because you sat down And you said what are the things we will cover? And you made a list and then you refined the list I thought it might be interesting to have an introduction that tells us a little bit about It tells us a little bit about the idea of where Dharma PhD comes from and where it’s going a story sort of introduction something like the schools wouldn’t teach it So I’m a rebel student making my own Dharma witches brew over here.Something like [00:02:00] thatthat describes your journey a little bit.

Shannon: Okay. Okay.

Jeff: Is this an idea that you’re open to?

Shannon: I’m open to it

Jeff: As usual I haven’t prepared anything for this I’ve arrived with an open mind

Shannon: Yeah Yeah Okay maybe we’ll workshop it Behind the scenes and see if we have any fantastic ideas for next time

Jeff: Okay

Shannon: And listeners if you have if you have ideas, write in.

Jeff: What’s the next segment we’re going to talk about?

Shannon: Today we’re going to talk about the second in a series of six talks given by John Peacock. The title of the series is “Buddhism Before the Theravada”. We talked a little about what that means in the last episode

I’d like to take a moment here and do what I failed to do in the last episode, which is encourage our listeners to actually go and listen to the talk.

Jeff: Because the original is available

Shannon: Yeah Peacock’s talk is available, there’s a link in the show notes. I don’t think of this [00:03:00] podcast as Cliff Notes. We’re not summarizing what the talk said and we’re not going to take every point of the talk and dissect it because that would take seven episodes.

The idea I have is something more like: putting this talk in context, talking about what’s important to me and what, I feel like I used this word a lot in the last episode, what really resonated with me, talking about how these talks lend themselves to the project of human flourishing.

Jeff: Great.

Jeff: Is this one of those talks that you’ve transcribed?

Okay So they could read the talk.

Shannon: Yes Thank you the transcription is on the website

Jeff: It’s one of those multimodal modal learning if you receive the information two ways then you learn it three times as much

Shannon: yeah so I would like to encourage our listeners to go and have a listen you can pause this talk right now and we will wait right here

Jeff: Do do do do do do

Shannon: Okay Welcome back

Jeff: Feel free listeners to chop out [00:04:00] that bit of singing and make it your ringtone.

I’m not sure we’ll put that on the website in the show notes but if you write in it can happen.

Getting Started (04:11)

Shannon: Are you ready to jump into the actual material? Okay. So we’re talking about this Dharma talk, given by John Peacock, “Buddhism before the Theravada, Part Two”. In this particular talk he begins with a Q & A; I said it wasn’t Cliff Notes, but a quick Cliff Notes, he begins with a Q & A and he reiterates a few of the points that we discussed last time.

The two main points being first that Gotama was not trying to start a religion, that he was interested in exploring and developing what I’m calling a pragmatic philosophy of human flourishing. And second, Gotama was a social critic that he was intensively engaged with his culture and that we should do the same. Then he talks this is a little teaser, he talks about the concept of [00:05:00] considering rebirth… we were talking last time I think about rebirth We addressed it briefly

Jeff: It sounded like it was one of those things that was part of the culture

Shannon: at the time.

Yeah And he talked about how in secular Buddhism people consider this rebirth concept as a moment to moment experience instead of life to life.

Jeff: I’m not sure what the difference between those two is.

 Shannon: I think this might be its own episode, this idea of rebirth as a moment to moment experience versus rebirth as a life to life lifetime to lifetime experience. And then he talks quite a bit about the fact that the trouble is coming in with translations. He actually goes through and lists a bunch of faulty translations.

Jeff: Peacock does?

Shannon: Peacock does, yeah. In the talk So go have a listen if you haven’t yet. It’s amazing; you will not be disappointed.

Ethics (05:51)

But the part that I want to highlight today in our talk is, Peacock introduces the concept of [00:06:00] ethics. And he claims that Gotama’s teaching is grounded in ethics. I think this falls under the point Gotama was not trying to create a religion but he was trying to create a philosophy of flourishing. But now I want to drill down a little bit more into this claim about Gotamas teachings Being based on ethics. Peacock says that the teachings are grounded in ethics. So they come from an ethical base This word ethics is a little squirrely And so I thought we might start with some definitions

Jeff: Let’s jump right in.

Shannon: I went to Wikipedia because that’s where people get their knowledge…

Jeff: The source of all truth and a collective agreement

Shannon: And I brought three definitions to discuss I thought I’d list them And then we go through them one at a time. The first definition from Wikipedia that I’m offering is that ethics is the exploration of right and wrong behavior. [00:07:00] The second is pointing out Etymologically the word “ethics” comes from an Ancient Greek word that meant “relating to one’s character” So the first one…

Jeff: what you do your actions And then the second one has to do with one’s character. and the nature of a person. Yeah.

Shannon: The third one is ethics as a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps and what behavior harms sentient creatures.

Jeff: Sentient creatures is really broad.

Shannon: Yeah Yeah Shall we dive in Okay

Ethics Definition One (06:50)

So the first definition: ethics is the exploration of right and wrong behavior. And I’m curious because I’ve already read this I’m curious How does that land for you?

Jeff: It lands as the word exploration is surprising because I think of ethics as A [00:08:00] system of you would do something I’m not sure what the verb is you would do something and then you would arrive at an ethics a system of ethics which would advise you as to what you ought to do or what the nature of a person or some set of like rules or principles you would arrive there. And that would be the ethics of John Peacock would be it would be a list This definition makes it sound like ethics is an active thing: we’re investigating, we’re learning, we’re revising and that seems appropriate because the Greeks they did some ethical exploration. But today we have new situations; things have changed. And so it’s good that this definition points out that we might update our understanding.

Shannon: It’s interesting that you’re highlighting that point because they didn’t use the word exploration in Wikipedia I added that word.

Jeff: You’re very smart So

thing that you have a podcast that people can hear this kind of stuff.

Shannon: I hadn’t realized that would be the thing that would be the most important was the fact that it’s an exploration versus a given. [00:09:00] Is that right? That in the one hand ethics as a given a system that’s already in place that we use as a reference, in the other point it’s an exploration It’s something that we’re actively doing Is that what I heard you say

Jeff: we’re updating the system in the one case it’s maybe the 10 commandments are not a system of ethics but it’s kind of some rules right? So you have some commandments, thou shalt not, all thisand in the other case you might say we’ve figured out some new ways to misbehave; we may need a few more commandments.

You know, one’s a fixed and ones a living system and another interesting point about this first definition is that it focuses on behavior Whereas the second focuses on properties of a person.

Shannon: Yeah Yeah for me there were two parts that seemed I guess three because I changed the word to exploration but I just did that And didn’t

Jeff: You just improved it a little bit.

Shannon: I just improved it a little bit but you had said behavior the fact that it’s about behavior and not about [00:10:00] intention in that first definition I thought that was interesting because there are these different ethical frameworks and some of them are based on behavior and some of them are based on intention The other part that I thought was interesting about this definition is that ituses the words right and wrong which has a particular connotation

Jeff: Sure Yeah

Shannon: I thought it might be interesting to say and now we’re starting to get into ground that I’m a little bit is a little more slippery for me because from what I know so far my understanding is that Gotama doesn’t use the terms right and wrong.

Jeff: Okay. That’s interesting.

Shannon: and the reason I think that is is because right and wrong implies this metaphysical right and wrongness. It implies that there is a being or a standard of rightness and wrongness against which everything else is being compared.

Jeff: Yeah it does There’s kind of a ledger or some a set of criteria. [00:11:00]

Shannon:

 last time we talked about one of the pillars the Four Noble Truths and we talked about how there are scholars who believe that may not be a skillful translation.

Jeff: Okay.

Shannon: Another one of the pillars is called the Eight Fold Path. And the Eight… you know about this?

Jeff: You’ve mentioned it I’ve heard it probably from you, let’s be honest. Maybe out in the world.

Shannon: I think that one way to explain it might be that it’s a sort of delineation of the domains of human experience that one cultivates if one wants to live a life of human flourishing. If one wants to follow the teachings of Gotama. It includes things like speech like how you how you speak. Action. What kinds of actions you take. Livelihood how you make a living

Jeff: Okay So these are like areas of life.

Shannon: Yeah Areas domains of life It also includes more subjective concepts like views and opinions what your views are what your opinions are and intention.

And this is within this thing of the Eightfold Path.

the [00:12:00] popular way to translate these aspects of the Eightfold Path are to say “right” before each of the domains so “right speech”, “right action”, “right livelihood”. And then it gets really sketchy right because it becomes “right view” and “right intention”.

Jeff: Okay.

Shannon:

Jeff: Does peacock comment on this particular translation?

Shannon: not in this particular talk of this series I’m not sure if he does later but other Bodhi college teachers Akincano, for example, Steven Batchelor, they definitely do.

 In one of Steven Batchelors books I believe it was _After Buddhism_, he says that the word “samma” which is usually translated as “right” technically the word means “complete”. So you would say complete a literal translation would be complete. So he says imagine the difference between right view I have right view and I have complete view.

Jeff: Yeah. Big difference.

Shannon: Big difference, right? And [00:13:00] it’s really easy to say I have the right view It’s a lot harder for the most deluded moments to say I have the complete view. I understand all the things all the aspects of this experience I understand everyone’s position and where they’re coming from that’s a

Jeff: They’re Significantly different.

Shannon: Yeah It’s a lot harder to claim.

Other teachers use the word “appropriate” and I’ve heard that Peacock uses appropriate but not in this talk. So even that “right speech” versus “appropriate speech”.

Jeff: Appropriate maybe even goes a step beyond complete because appropriate implies that I’ve considered them all and this is the one I guess the most generous interpretation of right Also implies the same thing but in practice

um especially in a divisive political environment that we have today many people strongly say I have the right view here.

Shannon: And crucially you have the wrong view right that sort of

Jeff: Right, it implies the contrasting other views

are wrong.

Shannon: Yeah Anybody else’s [00:14:00] view because I have the right one any other view is wrong. Whereas We can both have appropriate speech that is different.

Jeff: Sure. Our contexts are different.

Shannon: And with Gotama’s teaching it brings in so much more of this nuance and it removes this metaphysical “There is one kind of right.” It’s about what is appropriate in this moment, as you said, given contexts, given

Jeff: given that the history of a certain situation perhaps Yeah

Shannon: we’ve all had the experience of knowing that the thing that you want to say is right and knowing that now is not the right time

to say it.

Jeff: Ah this is

a good example because in that case the appropriate speech is no speech.

Probably

Shannon: no speech It’s probably I’m going to go to the bathroom

Jeff:

Shannon: some later speech

It’s my sense that in the West we have this idea of rightness and we really want to translate this as rightness because we have this metaphysical [00:15:00] understanding that we’re answering to this omnipotent god.

Jeff: The Judeo- Christian tradition.

Shannon: The Judeo Christian tradition and then in our philosophical history we have for instance Kant, Kantian ethics, I don’t know how much you know about that but it’s very much based on things are right or wrong based on a set of rules.

Jeff: Okay. Does Kant advance a set of rules and are they Kant’s ethics? Yes Okay

Shannon:

Jeff: So we’ve we’ve adopted this thing the idea that there are some rules you measure a thing against those rules and it comes down either as a right thing or a wrong thing or action or whatever it is and the those rules are up for debate.

Shannon: Yes Well some people don’t think so.

Jeff: sure but culturally this this structure we’ve adopted though we may differ on the rules themselves.

Yeah totally And this speaks to the first definition

Yes Yeah we’re still talking about the first definition.

Ethics Definition Two (15:57)

Shannon: So moving onto the second quote-unquote [00:16:00] definition was this etymological point that ethics the word “ethics” comes from the ancient Greek word “éthikos” which means “relating to one’s character.”

Jeff: Which seems like a fairly vague definition?

Shannon: Sure Yeah

Jeff: Like how does one

Shannon: it’s not a definition it’s more of a point, The difference between right and wrong behavior versus relating to character. Is that different? Is it the same? I’m curious again how it lands for you.

Jeff: the things you can do with that definition are a little different. Like it doesn’t suggest right or wrongness. It doesn’t suggest interaction? It’s more having to do, what is it, a person’s character?

Shannon: Yeah the word itself comes from a word that means relating to one’s character because how do we know what character is right is it how someone behaves?

Jeff: Is it how someone behaves or is it something in their nature the Greeks may have believed that a character might’ve been different from the influences of the various gods might have on a person So a person’s tendency towards optimism or [00:17:00] pessimism might not be having to do with their character but rather influenced by an external force like a god or something. I don’t know what the Greeks thought about character.

Shannon: That’s a really good point Yeah That’s a really good point that you know we’re kind of throwing these concepts around without maybe again having the complete complete understanding.

Jeff: Sure. Yeah So I guess I don’t really know what to do with the second one, I would say. What do you think about it?

Shannon: I I thought that I kind of wanted to talk about what is character made up of? Is it just behavior or is it also intention

I’ll jump into this story that

Jeff:

Shannon: that I thought it was illuminating There’s a story from, again the Pali Canon, this series of texts that that I’m particularly interested in and that Peacock is talking about, where Gotama is talking with a person named King Pasenadi and he and King Pasenadi are like sitting around one day and a bunch of wise men approach.

Jeff: It seems like they were a big part of the cast in this story. Yeah, we’re hanging around and then guess what!

Shannon: A bunch of wise men come in. [00:18:00] So King Pasenadi pays the wise men homage and then the King says to Gotama, I’m paraphrasing, but he says, “These men are saints. Isn’t it true that these men are saints?” And Gotama says, again I’m paraphrasing, “It is difficult to know if someone is a Saint. It is only by living with someone for a long time that their virtue can be known. It is only by dealing with them for a long time that their honesty can be known. And it is only after long adversity that a person’s fortitude can be known. It is only after long discussion with someone that their wisdom can be known.

Jeff: That’s true how did they arrive, “Hello! We are wise men!”

Shannon: Yeah well they showed up looking like you know dressed like wander… mendicants…

Jeff: You’ll notice our beards are

Shannon: beards long They actually talk about long fingernails long hair dirty art I think they said long hair under their armpits

Jeff: That’s a little too specific

Shannon: Then King Pasenadi says to Gotama he says, [00:19:00] “Well said. Those men are actually my spies. They disguise themselves as saints and wander the country collecting information. They are not saints”

Jeff: In fact near the opposite some might say.

Ethics Definition Three (19:14)

Shannon: The third definition was ethics as a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps and what behavior harms sentient beings. How does this one land for you?

Jeff: the first bit fits the Kantian structure we were talking about a little while ago. We have a set of rules of principles that we measure things against. And then the last bit about sentient beings is the thing we’re trying to optimize for. Yeah. So we we propose action, we measure it against our criteria and the metric we’re interested in is outcome or effect on sentient beings. And we try to choose the maximal good or the minimum harm or there are different ways of putting that, I think.

[00:20:00] Shannon: Yeah totally. Yeah And they’re different Maximum good versus minimal harm are two The Hippocratic oath is not maximum good It’s minimal harm.

Jeff: So that one seems familiar in that way. The idea of optimizing for all sentient beings that seems consistent with the Buddhism that I’m familiar with. It’s not a thing I’ve encountered in other ethics I’ve studied in the past It’s ahhh, it’s human beings we’re not worried about other… yeah. And it gets more complicated right you bring in more things you’re optimizing for

and

are they weighted equally? Various things have various degrees of things like self awareness there are different levels of consciousness I think is the right word, maybe not? People have different theories about what level of self awareness do ants have versus like on a dog or a cat versus a cow versus a there’s

Shannon: Versus a human …

Jeff: Sure. Right up there at the top. Yeah people do some systems thinking rank these things. Some systems I would imagine would characterize all [00:21:00] sentience as fairly equivalent and yeah so then it would be much easier cause all sentient beings are equivalent and that’s that.

Shannon: Yeah Yeah And I also like how this ties in a little bit with what we said earlier about complete view complete you knowwhen we talk about should we make it a hierarchy or not to an ant like that ant probably doesn’t want to get stepped on probably doesn’t want to get burned with a magnifying lens, whatever it is that people do to ants. I don’t know if that’s a thing that people actually do or if it’s just on cartoon strips

Jeff: I’ve seen it in cartoon strips.

Shannon: Okay. So it must be true.

Jeff: I’ve never done it myself I tried to light paper on fire. I thought I think being on fire would be cooler than like just at ant stopping walking.

Shannon: Yeah.

Jeff: unsuccessfully with the paper also.

Shannon: Awit’s cause you lived in Seattle and it was never sunny there It

was just you were

Jeff: it’s a pretty wet paper

Shannon: Yeah

I really like this definition. You didn’t ask but this is a podcast I would

Jeff: you yeah consider it implied

Shannon: I [00:22:00] really like this definition or I’m really interested in it because one it’s about behavior And

Jeff: in contrast to intention or thoughts

Shannon: Yeah Yup And that’s probably a thing for another episode entirely behavior behaviorism versus different psychological things What were you going to say

Jeff: One on the differentiation between behavior and thought it might also be interesting to differentiate between a behavior and and or intention and outcome. For example, you might have an incomplete understandng of a situation and perform some action with the intention and maybe all the information you have will lead you to a certain conclusion but it’s not a complete understanding.

Shannon: Yes. Yeah. You have just served it up so well for me because the thing I wanted to talk about here is again the way that Gotama addresses how to determine whether or not one should take an action or not. My sense of being brought [00:23:00] up in a Western tradition, and I’m interested to know if it’s different for you because we had different religious upbringings. And if it’s interesting to know mine was a loosely Protestant and but mostly spiritual but not even a ton spiritual and not much religion

Jeff: and mine was really Catholic down the line

Shannon: Yeah So if that’s

Jeff: Catholic Catholic family and schools but through college Yeah

Shannon:

Jeff:

Shannon: my sense I have of my Western upbringing was In order to determine whether or not an action is appropriate let’s say or right or wrong you think about it and you say is this action right or

wrong

You carefully consider it And

Jeff: compare it against the rules you evaluate

Shannon: Yeah And then you do it or not and then you were right or wrong I want to contrast that specifically with how Gotama teaches his son how to consider action. So there’s a sutta where he’s talking to his son, Rahula, and instead of just saying think about it ponder deeply beforehand he says that you should reflect [00:24:00] beforehand, during, and after taking an action. And that felt so much more complete to me It felt like such a better way to train the mind. So he says

sorry I’m just pulling it up right now So he tells his son, ” You should reflect on your action before doing it, while doing it, and after doing it. Before taking an action you ask yourself, will it lead to affliction for myself or others? Is it skillful or unskillful? Will it lead to pleasant or painful results. And if upon reflection you decide that the action will lead to affliction, that is unskillful, that it will have painful results, then it is unfit for you to do.” There’s a couple of different translations of all these different words but you get the idea and then if it will not lead to affliction if the action is skillful if it will lead to pleasant results then it is fit for you to do so far So good That marries up with

Jeff: Kantian

Shannon: yeah my Western understanding…

Jeff: Am I pushing Kantian too much [00:25:00] by characterizing that way is there a better way to say it?

Shannon: Yeah I think I So if my philosophy professors are listening I don’t have enough recollection of Kantian to say yes or no. I’m talking about my own from my own experience. Like my experience of being brought up as a westerner was to think about it first and then hope for the best and then beg for forgiveness

Jeff: make your best judgment as you can with the information with the time with the

Shannon: but the judgment is almost always before

Jeff:

Shannon:

 I guess the main point I want is to contrast that idea of think about it beforehand with think about it beforehand during and after because the second thing he says to Rahula is you should reflect while taking the action. This action that I’m in the middle of doing is it leading to a affliction for myself for others? Is it skillful or unskillful? Will it lead to pleasant or painful results? And if you decide affliction unskillful painful,

Same Criteria.

 Yeah you should stop doing it And then he goes one step further and he says you should reflect after having taken an action. Did the action lead [00:26:00] to affliction? Was it unskillful? Did it have painful results? And if you decide that it was harmful you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open and having done so exercise restraint in the future.

Jeff: if you’ve done something wrong fix it and learn from it

Shannon: Yeah tell everybody or tell the people who are appropriate and then exercise restraint in the future which feels much more holistic to me then think about it beforehand Then do it and then feel guilty about it or ask for forgiveness or something Cause this isn’t about like asking for forgiveness It’s saying Hey I made a mistake and here’s what the mistake was And that way people can learn from it

Jeff: cause he does not say ask for forgiveness

Shannon: Yeah there’s a teacher in particular Gil Fronsdal who says that forgiveness is not a part of Buddhism there isn’t forgiveness in the way that we have forgiveness in the Christian tradition.

Jeff: Yeah there’s a big this big tradition of forgiveness

Shannon: Forgiveness is a pretty big part of

Jeff: Yeah I feel like feeling bad about things asking for forgiveness for those things [00:27:00] Yeah Interesting It’s not part of Buddhism that’s interesting point as

Shannon: yeah we may maybe we should do an episode on that

Jeff: It’s a long list

of future episodes

Shannon: it’s building

Jeff: here

so long

Shannon: Something that I think is really important about this sort of three-fold approach to behavior and determining rightness or wrongness or appropriateness or inappropriateness is that what I’m learning about habit formation and addiction, from a neurological perspective, this three-fold approach absolutely coincides with work that’s coming out of neuroscientific studies, particularly Dr Judson Brewer. He’s working with habits and addictions and particularly with mindfulness-based habit change. And he talks about how important it is to pay attention before during and after taking an action. And that is how we train our brains. Because if we only pay attention before doing the action, we can’t always teach our brains to break a habit [00:28:00] If we don’t pay attention to the results of the action.

Jeff: Do we give some by paying attention to the results Do we give some feedback?

Shannon: Yes

Jeff: Thing happened It was good I think happened it was desirable to do again or not desirable to do again.

Shannon: Yeah

Ethics Definition Four (28:15)

So one more thing I wanted to say about this Wikipedia and ethics definitional game that we’re playing: the article made a point that was really helpful for me which is that many people confuse ethics with behavior that is in accordance with social conventions religious beliefs or the law Yeah So people say Oh ethics is about doing what’s legal but ethics as it is defined on Wikipedia

Jeff: the source of all truth and righteousness in our modern civilization

Shannon: is a separate concept from what is legal

Jeff: So specifically certain behaviors are prohibited by law or prohibited by the [00:29:00] commandments and these are not ethical systems these are not systems of ethics

Shannon: They they might they might be but but they’re not necessarily it could be someone could have a law that is you don’t get to kill other people in your neighborhood

Jeff: or other places

Shannon: But that’s not what our law says our law says we get to kill people in other places

Jeff: or there might be a war for example and that’s a time when you can okay

Shannon: Or maybe somebody gave a forged $20 bill and it becomes legal to kill that person

Jeff: So what is the difference between a law and a system of ethics I don’t I don’t think I understand that part

Is ethics how you decide whether or not a thing should be a law

Shannon: I think for many people Yes but not always Some people will think that something should be a law because it profits them personally

Jeff: Okay

Shannon: law can be anything Law can be based on a religion It can be based on social norms It can be based on a dictator’s whim And then it is a law [00:30:00] but ethics

Jeff: So you could have for example an unethical law

Shannon: Absolutely not only could you but you

Jeff: and we’ve seen some

Shannon: it exists Yeah It absolutely exists

Jeff: So the

idea for example that some people are prohibited from voting in various ways Some of those ways might be ethical and some of those ways may not be ethical

Shannon: right Slavery was legal

Jeff: Sure

Shannon: and I think that there’s an argument that slavery is unethical

Jeff: Oh I think that understates the case Okay so then we might be using one one system of ethics to create our laws and then maybe our ethics evolved a bit and then we need to change our laws to catch up with it

Or we may when it come to understand a greater definition of equality In various

Shannon: yeah absolutely

Jeff: and that would be incorporated into our ethical systems And then we would make an effort to incorporate into our legal system

Shannon: Yeah And the problem is that social norms and laws [00:31:00] if people think that those are ethically correct like whatever the law says is ethical then no one tries to change it where you

get conflict especially in movements that we see that are civil disobedience is that the people think this law is unethical And I will not be bound by it and I will do what is necessary to move in the direction of change

Jeff: Well it’s equally true that desire for change can come from a variety of places

just to be complete Certainly the idea that a law is unethical But also the idea that if these property boundaries were drawn a little bit differently than I could make some more money the desire for all the same things that that bring laws into being for better or worse all those same factors would drive the desire to change

Shannon: Right for me the third definition that we used of ethics let me scroll to it Ethics as a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps and [00:32:00] harms sentient beings That for me was the most powerful definition because it does address these legal issues where someone might say well let’s create a law to change this boundary well how does that help And how does that harm

Jeff: How should we evaluate this proposal

Shannon: So does that help clear up the question about legal versus

Jeff: yeah

I guess the commandments are a little fuzzier There seems to be some overlap there right through there there’s a set of principles but also their fairly specific and actionable

Shannon: absolutely And for some cultures they are the law I’m not enough of a religious scholar generally to make that point

Jeff: well especially Orthodox communities for

Shannon: yes exactly Yeah one point I wanted to make You had asked the question about the difference between law and ethics and a paradigmatic case of this these two things running into each other is have you heard of the tradition of Sati So it’s a tradition amongst certain Hindu sects in which a widow [00:33:00] when her husband dies would throw herself onto the husband’s funeral

Jeff: pyre

I’ve heard of this Okay I didn’t know what the name was Yeah

Shannon: So the trouble that you run into right is that This is a person saying this is a choice I’m making I’m doing this But when you look at how much brainwashing would have had to happen over the course of a person’s life to have them think I’m going to commit suicide by burning myself on a dead human beings fire for many people

That feels like a religious norm that is not ethical convincing someone that that is a good idea does not feel ethical Genital modification of infants is another one where it’s a religious and social norm

but but it’s not always clear that there is

that

Jeff: there’s is there a system of some [00:34:00] ethics that propose that these things should be left in a natural state

Shannon: Yep Yeah absolutely

Ethics Summary (34:07)

so just to sum up the definitions that we talked about for ethics were one that ethics could be ethics as an exploration of right and wrong behavior, Two the fact that the word ethics comes from the ancient Greek word éthikos, which means relating to one’s character and three my favorite ethics has

Jeff: listeners write in right into vote for your favorite as

Shannon: yeah of course It’s my favorite It’s the longest one ethics as an exploration of what behavior helps and harms sentient beings Is there anything that you wanted to recap about that

Jeff: I guess I should decide which one is my favorite

Shannon: Oh you don’t have to it’s okay It’s good enough that I have right View

Jeff: Oh now that you’ve told us what the right view is then I will simply subscribe to it I don’t need to, no decisions are needed

Shannon: Mmm

Jeff: I see how podcast is [00:35:00] gonna go.

Yeah

It is the one that connects with me the most strongly and matches maybe most closely my internal idea of what ethics are Maybe that’s a way to say it with the expansion of applying to all sentient beings Whereas previously if you had asked me just off the cuff Hey what’s ethics I would have focused on humans

Shannon: Yeah

Why Ethics Matters to Shannon (35:24)

I thought it might be interesting for you I feel it’s weird to talk about me but my sense is that you enjoy hearing why these things are important to me

Jeff: Yeah I really do I think that’s fantastic

Shannon: Okay So I thought it might be interesting to talk about why ethics in Gotama’s Teachings are so important to me why is this the thing in this particular talk that I really glommed onto because you know he does talk about faulty translations which you know are near and dear to my

heart

So why ethics it is because Ethics is what led to my disenchantment with the modern pop mindfulness culture

[00:36:00] Yeah

Jeff: How did it happen

Shannon: Last time we talked a little about mindfulness with a capital M I think you had said mindfulness trademark

Peacock says in this talk that ethics are quote falling short in Western Dharma circles Unquote And I’m not so sure about Dharma circles but I certainly feel that way about pop mindfulness culture

Arguments Against Mindfulness (36:24)

There are objections that come up about mindfulness I don’t know if you’ve heard of any of these but there are a couple the first one is that mindfulness can just make a better sniper People say mindfulness is bad because mindfulness is just about you can make better snipers with it

Jeff: It helps you to do whatever the thing is You’re going to be doing

Shannon: all we’re doing is teaching people how to use their minds more effectively and that efficacy can be pointed in any direction even a harmful one And this particular point man even just saying this I can feel my belly getting tight [00:37:00] This point is really salient for me right now I have a very dear friend whom you know who is in the U S military and is in charge of deploying nuclear weapons And this person once said to me I don’t know their position now but they once said to me that they were weaponizing mindfulness just saying that

Jeff: does thinking about science in the same way help you to or does thinking about science as a parallel to mindfulness here Does it give you the same feeling The idea that science can also be weaponized for example that’s how nuclear weapons came about

Shannon: Yeah

I don’t that’s an interesting question Yes And maybe I don’t know why right in this moment No Right right In this moment saying science can be used to weaponize it’s such a truism that I am like Yes of course it can

Jeff:

been a thing that we’ve been exposed to for quite some time yeah

Shannon: the thing that was distressing for me with this particular [00:38:00] interaction was that in my opinion it points to a systematic failure in the way that mindfulness is being deployed the way that it’s being taught in our culture an example of this is that I’ve heard mindfulness teachers say they will not teach soldiers They will not teach police forces because they don’t want to make them more effective killers And again this is my opinion And some people won’t like the thing I’m about to say but in my opinion that stance is worse than the case of our nuclear weapon soldier Because in the latter case it is the teacher who believes that the thing that they are teaching is insufficiently grounded in ethics that they are teaching something that can be used in a harmful way And in my opinion that teacher should stop teaching everybody if they don’t feel that the thing they’re teaching is for the good whether it’s policemen soldier candlestick maker

Jeff: don’t cross a [00:39:00] candlestick maker

Shannon: candle stick maker. It was in that clue game for a reason candlesticks dangerous But if I as a teacher Don’t think that what I’m bringing is skillful and wholesome again that’s just my opinion I should stop teaching it

Jeff: I feel like this is a I don’t know if I agree with that stance because if we try to apply it to the to a science teacher for example you can use science for all kinds of things You can also maybe here’s the parallel So with the teaching of science you can also impart a wonder about the world a sense of beauty a sense of Exploration

And maybe there’s a parallel with mindfulness

Shannon: Yeah

 you and I were both trained in the sciences and I don’t remember there being any ethical teachings In my science upbringing in my college years I don’t remember there being ethical training as a requirement

Jeff: There’s a whole nother whole different [00:40:00] class

Shannon: It was a whole different department

Jeff: I did go to a university that required you to take a a survey of courses no matter the discipline you took you were required to take some science You required to take some philosophy some ethics

Shannon: Okay Yeah I never took an ethics class that I know I’d have to go again It’s been awhile so I’d have to go and check my

Jeff: I’m just bringing this up because it may be a way that the university deals with this question they may say this is an important thing for us to do to give our students this perspective and while we’re dissecting frogs we should focus on that But in a separate class we can address these other questions Yeah

Shannon: some people might say let’s look at what did Gotama do? And Gotama taught People who were Kings and warriors who put people to death and engaged in war because he believed that the thing that he was teaching led people to be better human beings led people to lives of flourishing

Jeff: which might include not engaging in war

Shannon: yeah

There’s [00:41:00] one sutta where he’s talking to a King who’s just killed his own father in order to become the King and Gotama has to be very careful with politicsOh I can’t remember if Peacock talks about it in this talk or another one in the series but he talks about how Gotama talks to this guy and tries to very gently bring him around to an understanding of what he has done but he never says I’m not going to teach a soldier He believes that it is leading to I guess that word I just said believe might be the thing right Like maybe I’m delusional maybe but I would have no problem teaching policemen or soldiers They may not be interested in what I’m teaching Like I may start and they may say I’m not interested in this This is too much There’s too much ethics here

Jeff: Because the thing that you would be teaching you’re saying includes some ethics Yes Okay

Shannon: talking about this disconnect between pop mindfulness culture [00:42:00] you and I spoke But I think before we started this podcast you had asked me is the thing that you want to do is to become a mindfulness teacher or something because I was already teaching Yeah cause I was already teaching MBSR and I said no I said maybe a Dharma teacher but not a mindfulness teacher And you had asked me what the difference was And at the time I didn’t have a good answer but this ethical aspect I think Right now in this moment on September 27th at three 15 and the after two 15 in the

Jeff: and send it to yourself and get the postmark on there

Shannon: All right in this moment That is the difference for me is that the Dharma is grounded in ethics Whereas In my opinion pop mindfulness culture has taken some distance from ethics And there are people who disagree with me on this but then there are teachers who say I won’t teach policemen or soldiers And I say well then that’s because your teaching is insufficiently [00:43:00] grounded in ethics

Jeff: Whereas if it did include some ethics it might address the questions of what should one do Yeah Ethical questions

Second Argument Against Mindfulness (43:11)

Shannon: absolutelylet’s go to the second argument that some people in our culture have against mindfulness which is that mindfulness is about subduing people It’s about subjugating students It’s about subjugating people in corporate world and making them willing to tolerate bad conditions And again I think this is unfounded because At least from the teachings of Gotama position it within mindfulness there might be some argument there but

Jeff: you seem to be equating mindfulness and the teachings of Gotama Is that what you’re trying to do Or you’re trying to contrast them because Gotama included ethics

Shannon: Yes This is the second thing I’m saying that I think that pop mindfulness has distanced itself from ethics because ethics are not popular and it has made a choice to do that not everybody but [00:44:00] This argument that mindfulness can be used to subdue The masses is not possible If the thing that you’re doing is teaching ethics In my opinion you’re not subduing anyone

Jeff: because within the idea of ethics is the idea of let’s choose what we’re going to

Shannon: Yeah

Is

his

Jeff: the thing that one does of their if they’re subdued

Shannon: a great example of this is that I was at an education conference using mindfulness And one of the educators said that her principal had come to her and said I want my students to be obedient I don’t know if he used the word obedient or if he use the word behaved but he said I want my students to be obedient And she said I’m not teaching them to be obedient I’m trying to teach them how to be wise how to use their own wisdom And that to me is the difference in my opinion the teachings of Gotama certainly and mindfulness should not be about obedience It’s about learning how to tap into one’s own wisdom And sometimes one’s own wisdom [00:45:00] says now is the time to be obedient Now is a time to just do what the nice person says and practice smiling and practice letting go of your anger but it’s not about just being obedient I know lots of people who were in the corporate world took a mindfulness class And then realized I have to stop being in the corporate world This is not good for me anymore it’s not about making people obedient It’s not about making people suck it up and feel better It’s about helping them to find their own wisdom and make wise decisions that lead again to human flourishing

Jeff: it all comes back around

Shannon: that all comes back around does that make how does that land

Jeff: It feels like if you were to if you were to teach a mindfulness class Maybe you would teach what we could call mindfulness Plus we’ve got to brand it a little bit And so mindfulness is fine I hear you saying [00:46:00] but it’s missing a little it’s missing a little special sauce It’s missing an aspect which is ethics

Shannon: That has been my experience There will be people who will very much disagree with this because for them that has not been their experience So I’m offering my experience which is I began to move away from mindfulness because pop mindfulness didn’t have enough of an ethical ground I didn’t know how to say that at the time but that is what was happening for me

Jeff: Can I ask you a question to generalize this a little bit We’ve been talking about the example of science It feels like in our lives we might desire to have an influence of ethics what should I do And it feels like there might be some areas of education in which ethics is a necessary component and then other areas where it’s not so for example you can think about mathematics Maybe mathematics should include ethics Maybe it [00:47:00] shouldn’t the same for science Same for

Shannon: The Pythagoreans would say for sure

Jeff: they’ve been doing great work for a long time, the Pythagoreans, that could beis this how you’re thinking about are you thinking they’re a group of things That when they’re taught they should include ethics And mindfulness is one of those And there are some others or are you really focused on mindfulness here and have maybe not generalized this yet

Shannon: I haven’t generalized it

Jeff: Maybe you’re not interested too

Shannon: I don’t have any kids so that makes it easier because I don’t have to try to decide how I want to help someone become a human being

I’m just taking a moment to think about your question Yeah There’s recently been a case where a young person and I believe in high school said that they would not kill a frog to do a dissection And I think it went to the state court or something

Jeff: Oh they were going to flunk them or

Shannon: Yes And this person said no it’s against my morals I won’t kill a frog And [00:48:00] then the final decision I don’t know semantics of how this came about but the final decision was we will get frogs who have died natural deaths and you will dissect that frog and that became an acceptable position So now there’s a bunch of school administrators at the swamp trying to find

Jeff: looking for dead frogs Oh man In various States of decay Gross

But it seems a clear application of an ethical principle

Shannon: Yes And I’m not sure where ethics doesn’t fit I’m not sure where it doesn’t fit in our lives

I was taking a cognitive science class at Johns Hopkins university And one of the papers that we were supposed to read was by someone who had been called out in the me too movement

And we spent 15 minutes of class which is precious time discussing whether or not we should even talk about this paper [00:49:00] because here is a person who has made

behaved in an

Jeff: unethical way

Shannon: Right behaved in an unethical way Should we remove their name from the paper Should we remove the paper from the journal Should we not even address the paper is the knowledge worth what that person’s victims went through does that answer your question I there’s

Yes there are some very abstract concepts like mathematical theorems that maybe aren’t ethical but the people do maybe that’s it The people doing the math are imbued with ethics And so I don’t see how you can separate the two Maybe that’s the thing I want to say.

Jeff: The point I was going to wrap around to was something like in a math class the math class that I’ve been in we don’t talk about ethics in an explicit way but my parents chose for me to go to Catholic school And part of the reason they did that is It may be maybe the environment

[00:50:00] and part of the reason to go to do your learning at a certain school to learn about drones from the Jeff street school of drones is the implied ethics that you get along with the rest of the curriculum So even though your mathematics class may not have ethics explicitly you may go to a school that requires you to take an ethics class at a separate hour of the day or a separate year of your education a separate a separate time period that’s focused on ethics and so that you will then have that knowledge You can apply it to the rest of your life And so a way that a way to apply that in the area of mindfulness might be to to convey that knowledge in a context maybe we don’t modify the mindfulness trademark curriculum to include a day on ethics, Maybe that’s not the implementation The implementation may be a it would be taking a mindfulness course and an ethics course or you’ll be [00:51:00] taking it from a person who or in a as part of a school that Offers these things in an implied way But there’s also some value too to hitting the nail on the head there’s if you leave it up to the students to make a very implied sort of connection Oh I should be ethical all the time Not just in philosophy class there’s a value to being a little more explicit about ideas

Shannon: absolutely And that is one of the this argument about pop mindfulness not necessarily always being imbued with ethics I raised this once to a MBSR teacher in a generation above mine who has been teaching longer than I have And that person said absolutely it is Implicit in everything we do but I wanted it to be explicit And I think that people that I am interested in teaching want it to be explicit And so for me the implicit nature wasn’t enough in the same way that all the other [00:52:00] students for the last several hundred years who have been dissecting frogs killing and dissecting frogs even if they had ethical Concerns may not have felt that it was an appropriate realm They may have said no this is a separate realm And my position now as a you know my position as a as a middle aged

Jeff: adult person

Shannon: yeah As an adult person has become there is not a realm in which ethics do not apply because I’m a human and humans are imbued with ethics And so there’s no way that I can bring myself to any subject matter whether mathematics or science or anything else without bringing my ethical position with me

Jeff: as Gotama teaches us sometimes you have to tread carefully as you’re doing that right there They’re different They’re different ways to do it There are different there’s a skillful way There’s an unskillful way There’s a right way There’s a wrong way is not the thing we would say because we’re a little more skillful than that but there are appropriate ways to do it effective skillful [00:53:00] A ways to do it but the thing that you’re insisting on is that should be an explicit part of one’s perspective

Shannon: Yeah absolutely I was

Jeff: That makes a lot of sense to me Okay

Shannon: Yeah I was so proud of the professor that I was working with at Hopkins When they said we’re going to address this issue of me too And I want to know what you as students in this class how you want to handle it I was so proud

Jeff: let’s talk about it in explicit

way

said okay

Shannon: I thought that was brilliant.

Jeff: you are a fan of doing things in an explicit way. We always say, between the two of us, that subtlety is

overrated And this seems like a perfect example of that

Shannon: Yeah

Precepts (53:37)

So you’ll be thrilled to know I’m ready to talk briefly again about Peacock

Jeff: I don’t believe it I’ll believe it when I see it

Shannon: [00:54:00] In this talk as I mentioned earlier he actually goes through a whole list of translations that he considers faulty Aye What we might do is maybe have an entire episode on faulty translations make it like a series seven in the talks but there was one Translational issue that I did think was important and and was discussing ethics to briefly quote Peacock on this

Jeff:

Shannon:

 “the Dharma is rooted in ethics It’s rooted in that practice of everyday-ness how you’re acting every day”. And I really liked that because it points out again that it’s not about some metaphysical rightness or wrongness It’s how we’re acting in every moment of every day Are we moving towards skillfulness Are we moving towards helping ourselves and others or are we moving away And I really liked that There’s another you won’t be

Jeff: ethics applied to everyday things Not not not big questions of

Shannon: If you have three people [00:55:00] lying on one railroad track and one person lying on another railroad track do you flip the switch It’s how do I meet my former friend who has a different political position than I do And how do I decide that I’m going to interact with that person And am I being skillful And am I helping that person or am I harming both of us in my interactions Yeah

Jeff: Okay

Shannon: There’s another pillar

Jeff: It’s a very well supported pediment

Shannon: it’s called the precepts and the precepts

Jeff: no number how many are we dealing with here Five Okay

Shannon: The precepts are ever so vaguely analogous to the commandments of the Judeo Christian tradition and actually this vaguely analogous position is problematic in the translation Remember last time we were talking about how the translations were originally made by colonial white male judges and lawyers And [00:56:00] so they and they

Jeff: Translations of the suttas

Shannon:

Jeff: Just wanted to clarify We weren’t talking about translations of the Bible

Shannon: Oh yeah No thank you for clarifying And might call paths of liberation They assumed they were religious and used religious type languages And Peacock says “we can get led into a religiosity simply by the language that we use which isn’t present in the early texts”

Jeff: Okay He was not trying to create a religion Gotama Wasn’t

Shannon: So hitting that bell again

Jeff: but the translators were like I know about religions This is religious Okay Yeah sure

Shannon: Yeah So here we have these things they’re called the precepts Again there’s they’re vaguely analogous to the commandments except there’s only five of them And the first one is very frequently translated I abstain from killing So sounds [00:57:00] familiar thou shall not kill for those who don’t know the commandment I’m talking about But right off the bat even with this translation there is a difference between the Judeo Christian tradition and Gotama’s Teachings Because now I’m saying I abstain this is a choice that I am making This is not something that is handed to me that I

Jeff: imposed upon you

Shannon: right It’s not imposed upon me

And I did make a note to remind myself to say I am not a Christian scholar And if thou shalt not kill is not a good translation of that commandment I’m very open to hearing

Jeff: it’s for sure A common one

Shannon: It’s a common one for sure Yeah So we start off with I abstain from I’m making a choice but then Peacock says That rather than I abstain from killing a more appropriate translation is “I undertake a rule of training to refrain from harming living beings” So it’s long So we’ll unpack it a little, the fact that I undertake a rule of training it’s about training myself, It’s not about right or wrong [00:58:00]

So I undertake a rule of training to refrain from harming living beings And what I really like about this one and Peacock highlights this he says it’s more interesting than don’t kill It’s saying And this is a quote from Peacock to refrain from harming living things means to actually engage in an inquiry into all my relationships of harm including harm to oneself

Jeff: We jumped back to the first part for a minute The rule of training part is that kind of like Saying I would like to build a habit or a pattern of behavior or acknowledging that I will make mistakes acknowledging that I will fall short of this Whereas the commandments are quite absolute

Shannon: Yes Yeah Thanks for pointing that out you have articulated and how I felt about it Very well Thank you

Jeff: You’re welcome I’m glad to have earned my earned my keep for this one Yeah

Okay That’s [00:59:00] interesting I’m glad I got it

Shannon: Yes Thank you

Jeff: And now to the second part

Shannon: Okay so yeah to refrain from harming living things and again what Peacock says is it means you’re engaging in an inquiry into your relationships of harm including harm to yourself It’s practical It’s an invitation to investigate your experience How might I be doing harm and not even know it

Jeff: sure in a broad way beyond killing

 Shannon: as I was preparing for this podcast I was thinking about all kinds of metaphors or stories to tell and one is Buying a beef hamburger at a fast food restaurant if the question one asks is am I doing harm by this the animal’s already dead I’m not killing anything I’m just going to go get this thing and eat it And as long as I’m not doing that too much I’m not even harming myself It’s not bad for me is this okay or not Is this right or wrong But then if you look at a much bigger if you look at the interconnectivity of all of the aspects of how that [01:00:00] burger got where it is you’ve got the cow that was killed You’ve got the person whose job it is to slaughter lots of animals in order to feed this I’m

Jeff: Yeah The different people that work in the meat

Shannon: in the meat processing Yeah And I’m saying all of this as a meat eater so I’m not Vegetarian but these are the things that are part of this interconnected web You have the environmental issues of the cattle industry and how it’s affecting the environment Then you have the possibility that you are shopping at a fast food restaurant where the people who are employed there are not being paid a living wage

 there’s this huge web of harm that’s crystallized in this moment of interaction where I walk into the store and make a purchase And again I’m not saying that people shouldn’t eat Hamburgers or fast food restaurants but there’s in again in the teachings of Gotama there is an insistence that one reflect on the results of one’s actions and that [01:01:00] one refrain from causing harm And frankly I think that’s enough right there I don’t know that we need any other precepts like that one if it’s taken in that broad understanding I mean what else

Jeff: I’m curious now what are the

Shannon: yeah Okay I wasn’t going to list all of them Cause

Jeff: if you’re going to make the point that we don’t need them I think we should give them a

Shannon: hearing.

Okay All right So I undertake the training rule to abstain from harming living beings I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given is the second one And this is one that I did want to unpack a little it’s often again translated I abstain from stealing but again the richness of I abstain from taking what is not given because stealing is an obvious thing but we can take a person’s attention popup ads right Rebuild your websites and remove popup ads

Jeff: should have subscribed to this precept

Shannon: we can take someone’s sense of self worth We can take away someone’s sense of safety On a personal level on a systemic national level we can take in ways that do not [01:02:00] involve stealing an object the yeah That aren’t petty theft or whatever we can take in ways taking life right killing an ant is just taking something that is not being freely offered And again it’s so much more complex

Jeff: I see your point here This one does have a fair amount of overlap with what the first one because you can argue if you take what is not given that diminishes the wellbeing of whomever it was taken from

Shannon: the third one is I undertake the training rule to abstain from sensual misconduct This one’s interesting because it’s often translated I abstain from sexual misconduct but it’s sensual misconduct So imagine all the ways we abuse our senses the ice cream example or the as Brewer calls them the weapons of mass distraction in our pockets your phones too much YouTube an unhealthy relationship to Magazine subscriptions whatever Yeah the ways [01:03:00] that we misuse our senses it’s so much more complex and again falls under not harming it can get wrapped up into that I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech I’m not a hundred percent sure about that translation I’ll need to look into that one And then I undertake the training rule to abstain from liquors wines and other intoxicants which are the basis for headlessness.

Jeff: It really takes it a next step and that one as compared to the previous the other precepts

Shannon: What I like about again I’m not completely sure about this translation This is not Peacock’s translation This is Wikipedia’s translation So I’m a little skeptical but one thing I really like about this precept is it says intoxicants So how are the ways that we can become intoxicated again with things like social media we can become intoxicated by our addictions to things

we can develop these intoxicants that don’t have to be drugs and [01:04:00] alcohol a lot of the translations are abstain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs but but this idea of heedlessness what causes heedlessness Yeah intoxicants heedlessness these addictive patterns I really like the precepts how are they landing for you What is what are you hearing as I’m saying all this

Jeff: The idea of a training rule is interesting

I like the idea because it coincides with the way that I think about my life right now when I think about wanting to change the way that I am I think about it in terms of patterns right now And that seems to be what this is speaking to as well

Shannon: something that’s been really interesting For me personally is to watch over the past few years as I have become more and more of a Dharma practitioner how I have submitted to the precepts which is interesting because I never submitted to the commandments I always felt strong [01:05:00] aversion to the commandments And I’m I apologize if that’s offensive to anyone but that’s that was my experience because I was being told I had to behave in a particular way And there was no like you mentioned if I am undertaking a training rule and I make a mistake then the thing I do as we talked about earlier is I confess it I lay it open and I promised to try not to do it again Whereas thou shalt not

Jeff: Christian scholars would argue back that That in the Christian tradition there are the commandments and then they do have a whole process for dealing with making mistakes You have a confession and so on but I do feel the same way the Christians are often divided into old Testament Christians and new Testament Christians old Testament is a fire and brimstone and new Testament is the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. It’s very it’s very touchy feely

Shannon: I thought that was like Judaism versus Christianity but Christians can also be divided in this way

Jeff: the old Testament is the Jewish Torah And so they get a fair amount of fire and brimstone there [01:06:00] too I had the same reaction that you did to the commandments and the whole process of confession and so on I felt like there are nice people trying to do this thing but it’s there’s really an element of fire and brimstone there that seeps in

Shannon: And there was so much for me there was so much hypocrisy I was being told not to do these things by people thou shall not kill by people who were promoting war I was like how was that How are we handling that And then the first three commandments right that put a sour taste in my mouth this jealous god yeah Anyway what’s been really touching for me And again it’s probably just because I’m getting old is how

Jeff: well it coincides with the things we’ve learned about how people build habits how people it coincides with the neuroscience if you want to build a pattern of behavior there’s a way to do that And it is through things like building a habit if you’ve made a mistake going through the process that you described earlier to give yourself some negative feedback to change your behavior

Shannon: Yeah and for [01:07:00] me the invitation in the precepts is so much more promoting flourishing it’s promoting agency it’s promoting exploration right It’s not thou shall not do a thing It’s I’m undertaking this training rule Well how do I do that I don’t know I’ll go try some stuff

Jeff: And it speaks to the goals of that rule because the goal is to do this

Shannon: Yeah

as I was coming up with this this idea came up to me of how I have submitted to the precepts and thinking about how I was as a young person I had a lot of anger And I caused a lot of harm when I look back at the young person who had so much ill will and caused so much harm I’m so sad for her I wonder how she would have responded maybe she was just a wild thing And she was

Jeff: I see what these precepts are Are there rules that are they’re disguised behind some

Shannon: words

Right but I really I’m really sad [01:08:00] for the sadness and anger that I felt as a young person and the harm that I did because I felt like I was trapped in a box and

Jeff: anything to get out of the box

Shannon: I was just striking out to get out of the box Yeah So it’s been really touching to sort of examine that as I was preparing this material and yeah if you’re listening and I’ve hurt you I’m sorry I’m trying to get better now

Jeff: you’re building a pattern

Shannon: Yeah

Jeff: It’s interesting to hear you use just the word submitted when you’re describing your relationship to the precepts because one of the objections that you noted to the commandments was that they are imposed And submitted is a word that is oftentimes used to describe what happens when one when a thing is imposed successfully [01:09:00] whereas you could also use a word like adopted I’ve adopted the precepts which implies a more active or embraced for example Was there any pre-thought behind that word or is this the word that you came out

Shannon: maybe it came out because it was so starkly contrasted with the way that I responded to the commandments which was no and pushing away and a digging in And I’m not this is yes A complete rejection And this is okay this This feels right for me and I yeah adoption it does feel a little even softer than that though It does feel like a submission

yeah I don’t know It’s an interesting question that you raised I’m not sure but that was the word that felt appropriate at the time Yeah

Out-ro (1:09:45)

So I’m curious how has this episode landed for you It’s been a doozy

Jeff: Well there there are some new precepts and so it’s good to know that the Pantheon of pillars is really

Shannon: proliferating

Jeff: there you go Thanks very much Could we reach can we reach for a [01:10:00] high five Excellent So it’s been really good from that perspective it’s interesting too to talk about I haven’t personally revisited the definition of ethics in awhile it’s interesting to do that as well and I really liked the way that the that the precepts are framed the idea of building patterns the idea of a training that’s a training what A training program a rule of training

Shannon:

Jeff: I really liked that they framed the precepts in terms of a rule of training

Shannon: Yeah me too

Jeff: Yeah I think that might be the I don’t know the most impactful point for me from this episode

Shannon: Interesting It’s always so interesting to hear what lands for you

Jeff:

Shannon: Awesome once again thank you so much for being my amazing cohost

Jeff: it’s a pleasure as always

Shannon:

Jeff: throughout this episode we’ve asked for feedback on a variety of subjects from the listeners And yeah I think it’d be really fun It’s really great that people are writing it and they’re giving some [01:11:00] feedback on the podcast I think that’s fantastic

Shannon: absolutely. So please, if you want to get in touch we’re available at hello at dharmaphd.com. There’s a website DharmaPhD.com where I’ve been posting. Transcriptions of some of these talks and links to the talks and links to the episodes and other fun things like the word cliticize. If you want to go look that up.

You’re welcome. I don’t know what else we’re supposed to say. Maybe thank our sponsors. We don’t have any.

Jeff: no. we were thankful that we don’t have any that’s the thing to do

Shannon: All right. thanks so much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed this very much

Jeff: it’s been a good discussion

Shannon: and thanks to our listeners. Yeah. May you be well.

Outtakes (1:11:46)

Jeff: soundcheck,

Shannon: soundcheck, soundcheck, I don’t know how to I don’t know how to talk. Why don’t I know how to talk as soon as I sit down in front of a microphone?

It’s tough to

Jeff: be a podcaster without talking. [01:12:00] Did you know, graham crackers are designed, claimed by the inventor, graham crackers are claimed to reduce one’s sex drive. I hope it doesn’t work. Do do do do do do

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