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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 88 the interpretation of these cases is complex, but what i think we see in the Buddha’s reaction to them is compassion for those who cannot endure suffering and are driven to desperate measures. this is not to say, however, that such actions were approved or condoned. Buddhist teach- ings on ahimsa, or nonharming, strongly oppose the taking of any life, including one’s own, and regardless of the compas- sionate motivation to end suffering, the first precept, not to kill, weighs heavily in the scales when any life-threatening action is contemplated. the final value mentioned by west is dignity, for which there is no obvi- ous Buddhist equivalent. however, Bud- dhism certainly recognizes and respects human dignity. we see this in the belief that humans have a special capacity to attain enlightenment, and in the notion that a “precious human rebirth” is a great blessing. some schools locate this dignity in the possession of buddhanature, the inherent capacity for buddhahood in all living beings. if this is what dignity means for Buddhists, then it is objective and an attribute that can never be lost. it is con- stant in sickness and in health, in youth and old age, and from one life to the next. subjectively, we may feel that it fluctuates as independence is lost and our physical and mental faculties deteriorate. But why should dependence on others imply a loss of dignity if, in reality, we are all inescap- ably interdependent? perhaps what is at issue here is not so much dignity, but van- ity. we do not like to think of ourselves as vulnerable, or as a burden on others, In the four noble truths, death is identified as the problem, rather than the solution. To see death as a solution to suffering, as in the case of assisted suicide, gets things backwards. UPCOMING RETREATS AUGUST 25 – SEPTEMBER 1 Living Dharma Retreat Sally Clough Armstrong, Mary Grace Orr and Donald Rothberg SEPTEMBER 23 – SEPTEMBER 30 Meditation and the Spirit of Creativity Anna Douglas, Wes Nisker, Barbara Kaufman (painting) and Susan Moon (writing) Spirit Rock Meditation Center An Insight Meditation center dedicated to the classical teachings of the Buddha P.O. BOX 169 W OODACRE, CA 94973 415-488-0164 spiritrock.org