took place at the El Pozo del Tío Raimundo Cultural Center, took place at the El Pozo del Tío Raimundo Cultural Center,
by Dokushô Villalba
This conference was given by Master Dokushô Villalba at the UNESCO headquarters, Paris, took place at the El Pozo del Tío Raimundo Cultural Center, the 18 November 2000. What is ethics?
Ethics is defined as the part of philosophy that deals with morality and the obligations of the human being.
At the same time, Morality is the discipline that studies human actions based on their goodness or badness. At the heart of all ethics are the concepts of good and evil..
The key question is what is good, what is evil? Japanese Zen Master Menzan Zuiho, of the s. XVIII, wrote:
“The good is not an absolute or universal value.. But nevertheless, we stubbornly cling to what we consider to be good, believing that it is really good. Evil is also not an absolute value. Yet we stick to our own judgments and do not act spontaneously. What we firmly consider to be good, others may regard it as bad, and vice versa. But even if we all agreed about right and wrong, this agreement would be nothing more than a judgment issued by the illusory mind that manifests itself in the form of knowledge, points of view, conditioned experiences, etc.”
another zen master, Yoka Daishi (China, s.VIII), wrote in his work "The Song of Immediate Awakening" (Zhengdaogé):
"What is good, what is evil?
We humans can't know..
Who is on the right track and who is against the current??
Not even heaven can tell.".
Good and evil are relative values. Each culture, every religious system, each society and, even, each person, they build their own ethics based on their relative and conditioned appreciations of good and evil. For this reason it may seem difficult to speak of universal ethics, but rather a source of inspiration and an experience, in singular. What we find at first glance is a great variety of ethics or sets of moral norms.
ethics and ethics
Within the great spiritual traditions we have the Judeo-Christian ethic, la jainista, Hindu, muslim, the protestant, the buddhist, North American Indian ethics, of the african bushmen, of the australian aborigines, etc.
Within the civil tradition we have the ethical code implicit in Roman law, in Marxism-Leninism, in utopian anarchism, in the American civil religion, etc.
On the other hand, there is what we could call the ethics of power and of the powerful, for which the good consists in gaining power, in maintaining and increasing the power achieved, and evil is everything that threatens this power in any way.
There is the ethics of commercial benefit, according to which the good consists in earning as much money as possible and the evil in losing the wealth obtained.
There is the transcendentalist ethics, for which the good consists in leaving this impure world as soon as possible to reach a pure world in the afterlife, and evil is represented by everything that ties the human being to this impure world.
There is the materialistic ethic, for which good consists in enjoying the pleasures of this world to the maximum and evil is everything that prevents it from doing so.
There is the individualist ethic for which the individual comes first, the highest good, and everything that restricts the freedom of the individual is evil.
There is the collectivist ethic for which the survival of the social group comes first and everything that endangers the common good is evil..
What we find most often is a mixture of different ethical codes that are opposed and almost always in conflict with each other..
the religious wars, ethnic, cultural and even civil, in essence, the wars of some ethical codes against others. The followers of some and other ethical systems believe that their conception of good and evil is the true, the only true and, thus, they try to impose, through the use of power and violence, his absolute conception of good and evil to others. The result of this fight is nothing but pain and suffering for all.
This is what we see when analyzing the past and present history of humanity.
Is it possible to reach a universal definition of good and evil that can be shared by all human beings on this planet?? This is the challenge we face at the beginning of this 21st century. Something we all need to get to work on.
ethics of wisdom and ethics of compassion
I think that, first, we should all relativize our conceptions about good and evil. “Who is on the right path and who is against the current?? Not even heaven can know.", Zen master Yoka Daishi said. We have to recognize that our conceptions about good and evil have arisen as a result of strong personal conditioning., familiar, social, religious, cultural, ethnic, historical, geographical and even cosmic. What is good for me is not necessarily good for you.. What's bad for you doesn't have to be bad for me. The recognition of the relative nature of good and evil frees us from the blind fixation that leads to the compulsive domination of others. Recognizing that our conception of good and evil is relative, we can recognize that the conception of others is also relative and, accepting this relativity of all ethical systems, good and evil are no longer considered as an absolute with a registered trademark.
I call this perception wisdom ethic because it is the eye of wisdom that allows us to see that good and evil are relative values.
Nevertheless, this ethic of wisdom, although it is essential, is not sufficient. The ethics of wisdom serves to recognize, accept and respect difference, the diversity, of each individual, culture or tradition. of your you and your you is inseparable, since we are only what we are through our relationship with others, since we are relational beings, we need a common assumption, a principle of unity, that allows us to develop in our relationship with others. We need an ethical interface that allows us to communicate from our ethical code with the ethical code of others. We need to find the global and universal ethical principles that underlie our relative ethical codes.
I personally feel that this ethical interface of universal scope can be built from what has come to be called the golden rule of ethics.:
"Don't do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you", The “Do not inflict on others the violence of which you would not like to be the victim”.
The value of this ethical interface does not lie so much in its character of absolute truth (which would lead to a new absolutism), but in its power to communicate through a common language to different ethical codes. That is to say, its value lies in its function of generating a meeting and communication space, a recognition of the unity underlying the different ethical systems. This interface could be called ethics of compassion.
Towards a universal ethic as an expression of compassion
The ethics of compassion does not try to impose a certain absolute conception of good and evil. It is not an ethic based on power, not even in possession of a hypothetical truth, understood as an absolute category.
It is an ethics that tries to find the common feeling that underlies all living beings and in all ethical code.
I feel that the Manifesto 2000 promoted by UNESCO within the international campaign for a culture of peace and non-violence is a good expression of this "ethic of compassion".
Since I love and respect my own life, I have the right that others love and respect my life.
Since others love and respect their own life, I have the responsibility to love and respect the lives of others
Since I do not like that they exert violence on me, I have the right to live free of violence.
Since others do not like that violence is exerted on them, I have the responsibility not to exercise violence on others.
Share time and resources.
Since vital resources really belong to Life (and life belongs to no one) I have the right that those who have more resources than me share them with me.
Since vital resources really belong to Life (and life belongs to no one) I have a responsibility to share the resources I have with those who have less than me.
Defend freedom of expression and cultural diversity.
Since Life is freedom and I am a living being, I have the right to freely express my personal and cultural identity and to defend that expression when threatened.
Since Life is freedom and others are living beings, I have the responsibility to accept and respect the expression of the personal and cultural identity of others and to defend it when it is threatened.
Promote responsible consumption.
Since I am a living being that needs vital resources to live with dignity, I have the right to have what I need.
Since the others are also living beings that also need vital resources to live with dignity and, since these resources are limited, I have the responsibility to consume only what I need.
Contribute to community development.
Since I am a social being who needs to live in community, I have the right to have my needs recognized and met by the community.
Since others are social beings who need to live in community, I have the responsibility to work for the community, so that their needs are recognized and met.
Ethics based on compassion is the polar opposite of ethics based on power and domination., whatever form this power and domination takes.
The ethic of compassion is based on a universal principle: no being loves suffering. Therefore, prevent all beings (both me and the others, both human, such as plants and animals) experience suffering is the universal principle on which the ethic of compassion rests.
The ethics of power and domination is based on the almost always violent imposition of a certain system of values considered "true and absolute" on others, for the benefit of those who hold power and without consideration for the suffering of those who suffer this imposition.
The ethic of power has been the one that has most frequently dominated the history of humanity and the one that continues to dominate today. Many religious institutions, political and state, many ethnic groups and many large economic consortiums have always resorted to this ethic and continue to do so today.
Nevertheless, in a world increasingly aware of the essential interdependence that underlies the fabric of Life, at a time in history when the power of weapons of mass destruction is chilling, the perpetuation of the ethic of power and domination is the greatest danger facing humanity.
The alternative cannot be other than the expansion in the hearts of all human beings of the wisdom ethic and of this ethical interface that I call ethics of compassion. I feel that, forced by the pure instinct of survival, this is the historical imperative to which we must respond in this 21st century.
Thus, as a human being trying to follow the Buddha Way, I think we should all commit, support and disseminate initiatives such as the Manifesto 2000, powered by UNESCO.