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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
61 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly century, King Langdarma was systemically stamping out and destroying dharma in Tibet to the point of near elimination. At that point, a monk named Palkyi Dorje took on the karma of killing the king. He’s seen as a hero because when the great- est good for the greatest number of people supersedes one of the precepts, it would be self-centered to not break a rule. But one must be willing to bear the difficult karma that may ensue if one does break a precept. aNdrew oleNdzki: I don’t disagree with you, but I do worry about the slippery slope that that sets up. If we start thinking it’s all about doing the highest good for the highest number of people, it’s a kind of utilitarianism. There are stories about people in Southeast Asia who executed their wounded friends so they would not be tortured by the enemy. That kind of situ- ation, and what Palden mentioned, are magnificent examples of courage and fortitude, but there’s not a sense that the law of karma has been altered. If for a greater good someone is willing to spend incarnations in hell to pay for it, that can be a noble sacrifice. But it’s very different from saying that killing is therefore right in some cases. Buddhadharma: It’s delusion to think that the preordained right- ness of an action removes you from the chain of causality. lama PaldeN: That’s a key point. Sila is not about rules given by a divine authority who also can grant dispensation. It’s about deeply understanding the laws of cause and effect. aNdrew oleNdzki: These are descriptive laws of nature not prescriptive laws of a higher authority. Something is unwhole- some or unhealthy by definition if it leads to suffering for self or others, and leads away from seeing things clearly; and it’s by definition wholesome or healthy if it does the opposite. Sila describes the quality of the event and its effect, rather than saying what you should or should not do. NormaN Fischer: There is a famous koan called Baizhang’s Fox that illustrates that no one is immune to the law of causality. The enlightened person finds freedom in embracing causality rather than feeling causality as a restriction. If there’s a bad action and there are strong consequences, can we accept and embrace those consequences rather than try to deny them or resist them—and delight in the fact that the world works that way? photo todd klassy