It’s become quite clear to me that Buddhism does not have rules. There is no divine punishment for bad behavior like many people are used to when dealing with deities. And after thinking about it, why should we fear them? Don't we want to spend eterntity with them? It sounds a little Stockholm Syndrome-like to me. There are, however, very clear guidelines on how to avoid punishing yourself. Acting ethically is really pushed. That being said, there is no clear way of acting ethically. Advice is given, sure, but to truly act ethically, you must be able to control your mind and –very simply put—use common sense.
Everything we do in life has a cause and a condition. If I lie, that lie will affect someone else and alter their condition. If I cheat, my dishonesty will perhaps hinder someone else’s honest effort and, therefore, alter their condition. At its core, humans act of out ignorance and that ignorance leads to impure thought and behavior which, in turn, causes suffering. Buddha exists to steer people from suffering.
Hard work; materialism; relationships, money; jobs; homes; cars; food; vices; games and every other aspect of life cause suffering of some sort.
He uses love because love is something all people desire in life. However, it’s not love that we want. Love in indefinable and often causes just as much pain as joy. Rather, humans need affection. Affection for each other. Affection for animals. Affection for life. True and honest affection does not lead to suffering.
If you have 50 loves, you have 50 woes.
He’s not saying “don’t love”. He’s saying that there is a way that you can avoid the woes of love. If you don’t wish to follow his advice, that’s fine, but be prepared to accept the suffering you are putting on yourself.
As I mentioned, there are no rules in Buddhism, just advice. Maybe I like to smoke from time to time. Buddha wouldn’t say that’s against the rules. He’d say, “Okay, smoke, but be prepared to accept the condition you’re creating for yourself.” –meaning that I could get sick or even cancer from smoking. Is that pleasure from a cigarette worth the suffering you’re sure to face because the desire you had was too strong for your mind to control?
The rituals I go through every day as a Buddhist are not punishment or even rules. They’re behavioral suggestions that are meant to reduce my desires and therefore, my suffering. It's a gift.
In my life, I have caused many people to deal with conditions which led to their suffering. We all have and that’s something we all try to avoid, but what about the conditions that lead to suffering within our own life?“There is no secret teaching, no hidden message; everything has been taught openly and clearly.”
This month I’ve given up drinking. I’ve never had a problem with drinking, but right there is the actual problem. I’ve personally never had a problem with my drinking. My drinking has caused a lot of suffering in others lives which, of course, has an effect on my life. When I drink too much, my wife has to deal with me. That causes her stress which increases her suffering. Why would I want my wife to suffer? She’s my wife! She should not be forced to suffer because I gave into my worldly desires and drank too much.
Another thing that comes to mind is politics. I really dislike American conservatism. In fact, I hate it. I believe that it represents all that is wrong with America and why America is sure to fall behind in the world. Yet, telling them I hate them is wrong. In fact, hating them is wrong because it creates suffering for me. My suffering creates suffering for my wife and her suffering causes suffering for other people as well.
You see how fast my hatred affected people across the world? One person’s distrust of an American ideology spread to another corner of the world and created suffering for people totally unrelated to the original cause.
This is what the Buddha has warned us about. The question is: Can I live by it?