After having studied Buddhism for a while, I have come to some ideas about the philosophy and in particular its’ relation to morality. For westerners especially, Buddhism seems to be paradoxical and difficult to really categorize. I can accept that some things cannot be controlled, that man cannot directly choose his circumstances all the time. However, Buddhism, in particular Zen, which is influenced by Taoism has, throughout its’ teachings a kind of ‘whatever happens, happens’ kind of ideal. It seems to me that this could be fatalistic. If life is out of our control, then what about morality. If bad things just ‘ happen’ and chaos to order, order to chaos is inevitable, doesn’t that destroy our notion of choice? This can also create a kind of unclarity in one’s mind about what is right, what is wrong and can be used as an excuse for surrender to responsibility for one’s own life.
My own chief complaint with Taoism is that it is seems passive in the extreme. Buddhism isn’t quite so passive, however. Yes, it teaches us to accept what comes by not grasping at expectations, but that’s not the same is being helpless to control ones own fate.
Bad things do sometimes just happen. So do good things. We need to learn to roll with the punches and deal with things as they happen. A great deal of suffering and unhappiness results from broken expectations and unpleasant surprises. Learn to see past all that.
This all relates to bad things that come from outside sources, not our own choice to do good or bad. If a truck runs off the road and drives through your house, is there anything you can do about that? No. Yet, if you continually hang around negative, discouraging, “toxic” people, is it likely that you will grow to take that point of view? Yes. You do have control over that sort of thing. You have control over who you call a friend. You have control over the food you eat. You have control over the words you speak and the choice of entertainment you enjoy. Most importantly, you have the choice and the control over your own actions, and this is where the Buddhist ideas of morality come into play. You do in fact have control over your thoughts and actions, and that’s really the only thing you do have control over.
We all need to learn the difference between the things you have control over and the things you do not, and focus your energies on changing the thngs we can. There’s an old prayer (not Buddhist) that goes like this:
‚ÄúLord, grant me patience to bear the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.‚Äù