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Good Causes — 5 Comments

  1. Why do we need to build fences between the Dhamma and good causes? Recognition of the universality of suffering leads to compassion for the suffering of others. It is too easy to fall into the trap of depending on rebirth to solve the problems in this life. I agree that Buddhism is not defined by the good causes Buddhists support, but no Buddhist taking the five precepts can ignore suffering and injustice in this world.

  2. Hi,

    Yes, the aim of Buddhism is Enlightenment. Put another way, enlightenment is to see things for what and how they really are. This will, automatically, give rise to compassion.

    Living in compassion and wisdom, the ‘good cause’ at any given moment will be obvious.

    But, of course, our delusions get in the way. So we need to return, again and again, to Buddhism. Good causes, alone, don’t get you there, Buddhism does.


    PS – and, on a more arguementative streak (!), perhaps here I ought to mention vegetarianism…..! That for me is a clear of example of doing the right thing, and the more I practice, the more I could never again stomach the idea of eating the flesh of another sentient being.

  3. To use Will’s words, is Phra Pandit building a fence between Dhamma and good causes? I would not speak for Phra Pandit but for me what I took from the article was not a fence of separation but an emphasis for Buddhists that “The aim of Buddhism is ultimate enlightenment”.

    This is an issue I have often considered. Before retirement I worked in what could be seen as a “good cause” – teaching. In my later years I was drawn more and more into conflict because I was into the good cause and the institutions were into profiteering and careerism. At the same time the demands of the good cause produced in myself an almost schizophrenic lifestyle of working for the good cause with its stresses and demands and in holidays studying Buddhism. Again using Will’s words, for me the good cause built a fence between it and the Dhamma. Now of course not all good causes are as corrupted as teaching has become, and one could argue that it might be possible for someone in teaching to be emphasising the Buddhist aim – sadly I was never able to.

    Good causes bring with them attachments, the pain of the Aids sufferer etc., and for myself I was never truly able to detach myself from the pain the children suffered within the careerist and profiteering aims that dominated the teaching institutions I worked in. Can the attachments of good causes be a distraction from the “aim of ultimate enlightenment”?

    Reference to Mother Teresa raised questions for me:-

    1) Would Mother Teresa have been able to work for ultimate enlightenment?

    Or perhaps even:-

    2) Was Mother Teresa already an enlightened being because she devoted herself 100% to the caring for others?

    For me this further follows into a difference noted by HH Phakchok Rinpoche, quoting his handout:-


    Hinayana – Renunciation, and the wish to attain freedom from samsara and arhatship for one’s own benefit.

    Vajrayana – Bodhicitta, the wish to attain enlightenment of all sentient beings, and pure perception. ….”

    I want to focus on comparing two phrases “for one’s own benefit” and “for the benefit of all sentient beings”. On the Path is there a difference? I cannot see how someone who has worked towards freeing themselves from samsara possibly not be benefitting all sentient beings. In my own case however, it made me introduce the phrase “for the benefit of all sentient beings” into my approach to avoid a perspective that might be too introspective.

  4. Compassion in Theravada is more about one of the good qualities of mind you develop, along with metta, wisdom, morality etc..

    Compassion in Mahayana soely refers to making the determination not to enter final nibbana, but to keep coming back to the world in successive births until all beings are enlightened. The compassion is leading others to nibbana, since it is the only real solution to suffering.

    Even in the mahayana view then, enlightenment is the goal of this life.

    I actually met Mother Tereas, and she put her hand on my head. After she passed away her diaries showed she had a lot of doubts – which is kind of reassuring. I can’t see in that Christian group any awareness of Enlightenment or the inner path. At the same time I was disappointed in my own reaction of fear and retreat when I witnessed the torment and suffering there.

  5. “The present situation of our world is so full of poverty, distrust, diseases, strife, that there seems to be no end. Hundreds and thousands of great men admired as saints and sages have appeared in the world in the past, and they have devoted their lives for the betterment of the world. Human suffering and unhappiness, however, do not seem to have decreased or ended. Over and over again they repeatedly, thanklessly endeavoured to fill up the well with snow. The true life of Zen is found here, when we all become true Great Fools and calmly and nonchalantly keep on doing our best, realizing well that our efforts will never be rewarded.”

    – From: “A Flower does not Talk”, Zen Essays by Abbot Zenkei Shibayama