On the day that England and Wales voted to leave the European Union, I am starting this group as a place for political comment. The aim is to create a space where all and any issue of current affairs in the world can be discussed from a spiritual perspective.

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  • Buddhist ethics are not fundamentally rule based.  The rules - precepts - that exist in Buddhism point out and describe the behaviour of a person of faith and can act as a yardstick by which one can judge where one’s faith has faltered, but the rules are not the foundation.  They are a secondary formation.

    Buddhist ethics are not consequentialist in the sense of utilitarianism, since they are not based on a calculation that the ego mind is capable of making. Consequentialism plays a part in a person finding faith through seeing the disadvantage of not doing so. Refuge springs from despairing of self. But this is not consequentialism in the normal sense.

    In terms of the common Western categories, Buddhist ethics could be seen as  closest to a virtue ethics system, but, in fact, the virtues do not really become the possession of the individual.  We can loosely say that this person is wise and compassionate, but the person him or herself does not feel so.  They simply rely upon their refuge faith.  

    We could, perhaps call them a "second nature ethics", since when one has despaired of self-justification and gone through the contrition of facing the consequences of self-centredness, one might truly take refuge, abandon self-power and find a new centre of gravity outside of oneself in which "the myriad dharmas come forth to enlighten one" unceasingly.  In that state (that in Japanese Buddhism is variously called shinjin, satori or kensho), behaviour that a third party observer might call ethical becomes second nature.

  • In a recent Saturday online (zoom) discussion, the issue of Buddhist approach to war and the use of violent force in protecting peoples (e.g., from genocides) was raised and discussed. I found this interesting and thought provoking.

    Two or three ethical approaches or philosophical positions were raised and briefly exposited, which in the terms of Western ethics can be categorised as follows:

    1) deontological (Rule-based ethics, as found with Kant) - that there is a fundamental Buddhist principle of not killing listed in the five precepts. Applying this leads Buddhists to pacifism.

    2) consequentialism (a utilitarian approach to ethics) that some genocides need to be prevents, as with National Socialists, in Rwanda (and Rohingya). We noted though that not all consequences can be known, but inaction may be a failure to apply the principle of no harm.

    3) virtue ethics (Aristotle) that we live intentionally, mindfully, shaped by the sangha,  and this forms our character, but that we then need to make difficult choices in future times from the practice of inhabiting virtuous ways. This may not lead to easy decisions, but prepares us to make them. This approach arises from a western philosophical framework, however, and tends towards being rather individualistIc.

    It may be that as Westerners we framed the discussion according to those categories, or maybe it was me who familiar with those frames of references was pigeonholing the positions others were outlining. I just wonder though are there non western approaches that differ from these.

    I know that within Christian ethics there has been the development of an ethics of a ‘liturgical theology’ that asks what sort of moral formation of the ‘Eucharistic community’ do the liturgical practices of welcoming, confessing, praising or celebrating, reading sacred writings, and giving thanks over bread and wine, of receiving these together to be shaped (re-membered) as the ‘body of Christ’. This approach has been enlightening in contemporary Christian critiques of Western Philosophical ethics, and so it made me wonder, therefore, how do Buddhist ritual, meditation, and the practice of nembutsu calling on the Buddha Amida give moral formation to the Buddhist sangha.

    Would anyone like to explore that question? Or is there another more Buddhist (non-Christian) Critique of Western philosophical approaches to ethics?

  • With a great sadness and a heart full of tears, I pray for all of those families, and people directly involved in this disgrace in Niza. I also pray for all of us, who are sharing this world nowadays, that the Light  guide  our pace.

    Namo Amida Bu

  • It is out of chaos that opportunity manifests...we just have to have the eyes to see it...

  • I feel shocked and saddened by the result of the referendum. Though I knew it would be a close vote, I really expected more from the UK. Europe certainly has its problems, but the way to deal with them is from the inside, remembering what the EU is about in its essence and how much has gone into its formation. The EU stands for a vision of peace and harmony. It was born out of the devastation of WWII, with countries broken from that horror looking towards a better future. I never thought Britain would turn its back on that vision. However, the result is the result, unfortunately. And though I believe it was the wrong choice, I’m heartened by the fact that nearly half the population voted to remain.

    Being in California for the summer, I watched the results come in from beginning to end, glued to the BBC on my phone. As I listened to the refrains repeated over and over by the “Leave” side, things like, “We want our country back.  We want to govern ourselves. We want our borders back,” I could not help remembering that only a few generations back this was the country that felt it had some kind of God-given mandate to govern much of the rest of the world.  Those were the days when “the sun never set on the British Empire”, when borders were stretched to encompass more lands to control. Much of the trouble in the world today, in the Middle East and other places, has its roots in the problems created by European colonialism. The history is complex, obviously, but the connection is there. Now it’s all coming home to roost. 

    I just hope the rest of Europe does not succumb to the far right, with its rhetoric of xenophobia and its desire to retreat into narrow nationalism. I see a similar phenomenon here in the USA too, with the popularity of Trump. Though his vulgar style sets him apart, his rhetoric mirrors much of what the “Leave” side stands for.  Rather, I hope the sad occasion of Brexit galvanises the rest of Europe to make our union of peace and friendship stronger and better than ever. We can’t let the vision die!

    Who knows what might happen next???? Maybe Scotland will vote to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU.  Maybe Northern Ireland will too, joining with the Republic to form at long last a United Ireland. With both Ireland and Scotland strongly European, maybe Dublin will take over London’s role as the English-speaking gateway to the continent, becoming a major centre for international finance and business. Maybe the island of Ireland, with its forward-looking youth and its tradition of the 100,000 welcomes, will become a major player in a prosperous new Europe! Then a few years later, perhaps the bit of Britain still left will wake up and wonder if it all wasn’t just a bad dream. 

  • I have been really distressed not only about our collapsing ecology, savage climate change and species cruelty but about how little concern people really seem to have as evident in how little change people make in their living or how passionately discussions are entered into.

    Evoke nationalism and their is plenty of passion.  Although I was born in Australia and live there I hold contempt for our political institutions.  We shared in the English plunder of the world and very much serve the English speaking warmongering currently lead by the us. I do not identify as a member of any such alliance.

    To me Britain has been used by the us as their deputy in Europe- To serve the us agenda of destabilising Russia primarily.  Europe may become more peaceable without Britain's presence; it may now grow much closer to Russia. A combined Europe and Russia is a far better prospect for world peace than what existed before yesterday.

    A power vacuum is frightening to those who feel reassurance from seeing hegemony working. Much needs to be undone, almost all of our political and economic institutions.  Europe, like all the wealthy western power systems, holds peoples goodwill through the greed of surplus wealth creation. We need to let go of much of that and hugely simplify how we all live.

  • Regarding Cecile's comment that "the voters decision is always right", I appreciate that one must follow constitutional rules, but voters are, in fact, often wrong. Firstly, there are plenty of examples, like the election of Hitler. Secondly, the electorate can never be full informed, especially on issues of international relations. Thirdly, votes depend upon who is included. It does appear that if the voting age had been two years of age lower the vote would have gone the other way. Broadly speaking, young people voted to remain and older people voted to leave. the problem wioth democracy is that one part of the population imposes its will on the other simply on the basis of numbers. This is why it does not work in tribal cultures, for instance, where the biggest tribe automatically wins. Unfortunately, there is no perfect system. In UK we now have a peculiar situation where the electorate has a majority of one course and the parliament has a majority for the other one. It is difficult to see how this can be resolved without another general election or by the future of the country being negotiated by a minority group within parliament that does nor command majority support in the House. Very difficult.

  • I think that a lot of people didn't understand the pros and cons. The people of the U.K. Have been let down by the politicians who should have been giving real statistics and arguments for staying and leaving. This would have empowered the people they are supposed to represent. A chance to give real choice where the democratic process could have been used to motivate and enable debate has been missed. It was replaced with egotistical career builders thinking of themselves. I hope that they may learn that to be a leader takes great skill and you must put the people you lead at the heart of what you do.
  • What a sad surprise!!...I also hoped that “Bremain” was the final result. It is really sad but it is also a sort of new that fits perfectly with the rest of things happening these last days and months everywhere…Problems with money and identity are exploding in our face. I feel our culture like a “waxwork”, with a solid appearance but also, with something old and tired burning inside, attracting chaos and turmoil.

    I think that this feeling of separation responds to that strong ego struggling for money, security and identity, which nowadays is showing its most obvious face. War and Peace together are bringing chaos and surely this represents our own dukkha. From chaos, sometimes, something new appears, from dukkha an opportunity appears… It is a time of a great risk. Even here, in politics, a more hearted approach (or” full of heart”, I am not sure how it is said) would be needed

    Thanks for the invite.

  • Responding to Annie's comment... I don't think that what I said is broadly inaccurate. It is generalised, of course, yes - what else could it be? However, I have been struck by the way that in the campaign there was hardly anything about the fundamental purpose of the EU which was to prevent war. How many people in Britain even know that the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Very, very few.  The really big issues of alliance and international power were hardly ever mentioned by either side. Nearly all of the debate was about the economic prospects and immigration. Those on the leave side had more passion than those on the remain side. The latter were often somewhat apologetic. Almost nobody made speeches about the EU simply being a good thing. Of course, I am not saying this lack of understanding applies without exception to every English or British person - that would be silly.

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