Theravada principles describe a monk has to pursue oneself the perfection of three aims, Sila (morals), Samadhi (unwavering mind), and Prajna (wisdom). We commonly agree that these three aims are like the rungs in a ladder; without the basic rung of perfect morals one cannot attain the virtue of unwavering moral courage, again without the latter one cannot climb up further for achieving his insight for wisdom.
The objection arises. Why the purpose of fulfilling morals is only for attaining the unwavering mind and cannot be for any other else? Should its practical purpose be for serving the welfare of all Buddhists or perhaps all beings? Why should the perfection of morals not be for the purpose of completing one’s and perhaps all others’ ultimate happiness? In this article, I will dive into the realm of metaphysics to dissect why both those appealing practical purpose and the purpose for happiness are NOT the reasons for which morals are obliged to be fulfilled first and foremost as a Buddhist monk. I will assure you that the morals of a monk are exclusively for the purpose of the unwavering mind to achieve for eliminating all kinds of prejudices. As an introduction of prejudices, prejudices are driving forces of human motive to action. Prejudices are mainly of two kinds which are interconnected, congruent and concentric counterparts, inclination and fear. Their fundamental nature is admixed and one kind of prejudice such as inclination is always reflexive upon another kind, fear or vice versa.
Concerning the perspective of dissecting from metaphysics, the first critique of morals is to inquire what types of actions can be definitely determined as the moral worth. Human affairs are non-understandably complex. A poison for one can be a medicinal for another. Alcohol is inhibited in five Buddha’s percepts but it is a curative means to save the lives of persons who suffer from methanol poisoning. Killing is inhibited in Buddhism, however, when a patient who suffers from terminal illness strictly demands mercy killing, there is no better moral mean for her doctor except for doing a lethal injection out of his utmost sympathy.
Therefore, how can a Buddhist person claim himself be moral if actions alone cannot be said to be moral enough. Suppose an irreparable criminal is cut his tongue and imprisoned for twenty years. Can we say that he is perfect in five percepts for twenty years since he has not been doing any killing, stealing, abusing sex, telling lies or drinking? It is evident that actions which are alone are not moral actions. At the same time, nobody can claim his moral worth without a moral action really asserted. The latter principle is evident. A doctor cannot claim his moral honor until he practically treats a patient with the intention of alleviating a patient’s suffering. We become honest people by doing honest. We become kind people by doing kind. We become noble people by doing noble. Definitely, there is no other way else.
While actions are essential to morals, actions alone are not enough for meeting the perfect criteria. In fact, no action in this world can be said as moral unless a person has a good will to perform it. So far, I have argued for what Buddha has clarified, “Good or bad will is your Karma”. Nevertheless, at this point I seriously need to alert that unskillful interpretation of this message can lead to horrible errors to our humanity. Good will shall not be ineptly confused with the desire, wishful thinking or sluggishness. Good will certainly shall not be confused with hope. The most dangerous interpretation is ones’ becoming confusing good will with the end. The claim of socialists for ultimate golden paradise, the incurious nature of our Burmese, and the recurrent justification of raw Burmese military regime for protection of the union’s stability are all based on the confusion that they are doing things with their good will. Human greed, unrealistic hope and untouchable arrogance, all come in the common term of good will, which certainly is not these evils’ worth.
We simply can sense that we definitely need to know what exactly the good will is since infinite number of confused evils can easily plug in for it in human mind, which to be confessed honestly is most often unstable with the material attractions, prejudices for wants and fear resulting in imprecisions and unsoundness for our moral judgment. In explaining what definitely can be called as good will, I must argue for two basic points. The first point is good will is universal. The second point is good will is based on the merit of beings as rational.
Proposing these two basic points, I have to elaborate further to eliminate two major counter arguments. The first counterargument is good will is not to be accepted to honor it as a universal consensus; perhaps it may not be even necessary to have a good will in this competitive age of struggles. Who knows what Heaven dislikes and why it dislikes? All different beings are fully entitled to liberty, life and happiness by their own different means. It is ridiculous to define a universal agreement for the universal necessity of good will because people have their own self-interest. This counter argument can also take the utilitarian’s stance, “as long as the total material gained by the whole society is a plus, various wills of different people for pursuing the materials in available means can sufficiently be said as moral”. I would term this first counter-argument as irrational moral relativism, in which morals need to vary with different empirical experiences, practically required action and the demands of most efficient means to accomplish or gain the enjoyable things.
The position of moral relativism, even though dangerously appealing to the popular opinion, can be easily be refuted simply because of the fact that its assumption is only at the superficial level of practical reason and not at the metaphysical level of pure reason. By gripping practical reasons, a moral relativist will say either good will is completely absurd for a practical reason or whatever will that produces target outputs can be defined as good will. We need to see that the point that an irrational moral liberalist is to say he is perfectly liberal with any kind of justification is the same point to state that no justification is necessary for any kind of practical reason, indispensably resulting in utter moral annihilation.
Since practical reasons of different beings are countlessly numerous, the moral relativist is cumbersome to prove every other of all practical reasons can justify many a good will in their own means or all every others don’t require justification of a good will. The only way he can prove these all means in his moral relativist framework is that everybody has a right to do his own business because anybody’s knowledge is too limited to act perfect. No supreme intelligent person has been born to this world to understand every others’ human problems. Therefore, people are fully entitled for taking liberty to do whatever they can do in whatever means they know in their limited available knowledge.
We must be careful about that all these supportive descriptions of the argument of the moral relativist are absolutely correct. Obviously, these are the existing human situations and human are fully entitled to wrestle with their human problems by their own affordable means and methods. I have no opportunity to find any fault in these arguments of the moral relativist. However, it is obvious that I can easily expose the moral relativist that he has no right to hold these true situations and universal rights to morally justify whatever he does. Pointing the practical problems and holding the cause of the practical reasons can by no means be enough for justifying any (other) arbitrary action as moral. I can repeat the only possible argument of the moral relativist as my counter-argument, “human beings are too limited in their knowledge. Therefore, human beings are too limited in knowing that his free action for achieving his target results merely can be justified as morally good no matter how much he thinks himself as a considerate person and well-versed learner”. Ironically, the only possible supporting argument of the moral relativist’s position is hunting back to kill its master. The moral relativist is trapped with his own poison. I should repeat to emphasize that all statements of the moral relativist are correct and acceptable. The only incorrectness is that he is exploiting these correct situations (human problems) and correct propositions (entitlement for freedom) to his irrationality which is completely unacceptable to rational beings who will certainly demand a rational consensus for all kinds of actions are human are to act for self-interest or some results. We should also aware that as rational beings as ourselves, we don’t demand at all that a person should not have a choice of his own because of universally binding moral constraints; instead we merely advise him that we all together should look for what pure reason is required for whatever he likes to choose to do as moral.
The second major counterargument I must eliminate is moral egocentrism. In contrast to irrational moral relativism, the requirement of good will in doing an action is fully accepted in this stance, however, it assumes that good will is the moral worth of the well-learned, worthy people who knows superior Dharma, and who are more skillful in developing the good will. Simply, moral ego-centrists observe that good will varies with skills, talent and learning. While moral relativism is conceptually based on unpredictable randomness of the universe, the stance of moral ego-centrism is deterministic assuming that y always definitely varies with a certain magnitude of x. This stance is much more difficult to be refuted than moral relativism because it is directly related with the essentialism of self. The essentialism of self, as a common notion of people, always supposes there are descriptively superior selves against inferior selves. Our olfactory nerves can now come to sniff that the assumption that only certain people are certain for good will is actually nothing but based on the essence of the self, all Buddhas have arisen to challenge it thoroughly.
At that point, we can also sense our inescapability of one self even if one is so much speaking of mere interdependent origination and self-less-ness. So long as one is still seeing y varies with multiple regressions of x, aggrandizement can never be stopped and one will be continually trapped with infinite regression. Dharma is noble and honest but man is deceitful and credulous oneself. What Buddha urged us is to see the absence of y while even the wisest ones are misled to think about y regressed on x even when they come to know from Dharmas, y is not the xs. This is a common Mahayanist still misled problem in their emphasis on dependent origination from co-arising. XIV Dalai Lama defended that Buddhism should not be regarded by people as reductionistic but viewing the emptiness as the interconnected whole can still be easily entrapped in moral egocentrism. A Theravada misperception is more ironic because by gripping the cause and effect, they feel true about the continuum of x and y and finally assume that y is simply the equivalent of the aggregates of xs. Ego thus is miserably never extinguished because they think all xs as essences to synergize to form the grand essence of y. Therefore, both prevailing philosophies of Mahayana and Theravada are still in the dirty mud of moral ego-centrism. Without a deeper analysis to our psychological strata of mind, one cannot easily aware that grand, grander, grandest we are entrapped again and again in the net of finesse of moral ego-centrism. This second case is obviously much more subtle than bluntly rude irrational moral relativism and much more difficult to be exposed.
While blunt irrational moral relativism certainly result in explosion of societies and anarchy, subtle moral ego-centrism is what long-lived with human history resulting in different means of oppression, dictatorship and totalitarianism or perhaps even pretend as civilization, culture and norms of polite people. Nevertheless, as irrational moral relativism, moral egocentrism, which even though is not based on the practical reason, is mightily rooted in empirical evidence and its position can also be refuted by elaboration in metaphysical depth. Certainly, moral egocentrism is what makes up Devadatta Sangha. To mathematically simplify, all kinds of human problems arise simply from the basic assumption that y varies with x. Man who is always thirsty for certainty in his life amply accept this connection (Mahayanists think this connection as reality while Theravadists think all x, y and the connection between regressors and the regressee as reality and one aggregate) as the basis of rationality, whose merit in in-depth analysis of metaphysics cannot be admitted to qualify as rational.
(To be updated)