A mind besotted by drink will lack the alertness required for meditative training and certainly won't be able to make the fine distinctions between good and bad mental qualities needed to develop wisdom. Therefore, Ananda, kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture for beings obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving to be established in a new realm of existence, either low (sense-sphere middling (form-sphere or high (formless-sphere).". This aspect of the Buddhist teaching on rebirth will be explored more fully in the third part of this essay. Instead it takes the concrete fact of living experience, with all its buzzing confusion of contrasts and tensions, as its starting point and framework, within which it attempts to diagnose the central problem at the core of human existence and to offer a way. The conduct of the ideal Buddhist sage, the arahant, necessarily embodies the highest standards of moral rectitude both in the spirit and in the letter, and for him conformity to the letter is spontaneous and natural. For the Ariyan Dhamma, the distinction between the two types of conduct, moral and immoral, is sharp and clear, and this distinction persists all the way through to the consummation of the path: "Bodily conduct is twofold, I say, to be cultivated and not. or a metaphysical zero (Sunyata, the Void Nature of Mind, etc.). This "something else" is the need to remain grounded in actuality. The use of alcohol blunts the sense of shame and moral dread and thus leads almost inevitably to a breach of the other precepts. Thereby the round of existence keeps turning from one life to the next, as the stream of consciousness, swept along by craving and steered by kamma, assumes successive modes of embodiment.
The bridge between the old existence and the new is, as we said above, the evolving stream of consciousness. It is precisely these antitheses of good and evil, suffering and happiness, wisdom and ignorance that make the quest for enlightenment and deliverance such a vitally crucial concern. The Buddha himself does not try to found ethics on the ideas of kamma and rebirth, but uses a purely naturalistic type of moral reasoning that does not presuppose personal survival or the working of kamma. It points us, rather, toward actuality as the final sphere of comprehension, toward things as they really are (yathabhuta). The levels of order that we have access to by direct inspection or scientific investigation do not exhaust all the levels of cosmic order. For his lay followers the Buddha has prescribed five precepts as the minimal moral observance: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicants.
At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts. By this rule the Buddha shows that he has understood well the subtle, pernicious nature of addiction. Where I think the teaching of the Buddha, as preserved in the Theravada tradition, surpasses all other attempts to resolve the spiritual dilemmas of humanity is in its persistent refusal to sacrifice actuality for unity. It is gnawing away at the delicate fabric of Buddhist values on every level personal, family, and social.
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