.... Our voluble correspondent, George, seriously mistakes the Buddhist view of happiness if he believes "there are many crack dealers... that are happy doing what they do." Not to mention the child molesters. The Buddhist view insists on the primacy of doing no harm--to oneself or others--a condition that hardly applies to either crack dealers or child molesters. True happiness, as I understand it, in the Buddhist view, is achieved by doing the hard work needed in order to learn to relinquish all attachments to passing pleasures and satisfactions, as well as all aversions to unpleasantness and pain. Happiness, then, has nothing whatsover to do with the illusory pleasures of material life or the satisfaction of desires. Happiness is precisely about liberation from such things.
That said, I have no wish to get into the argument about the relative value (or "truth") of different religions. It's not particularly useful or productive to argue about beliefs--especially those that are so passionately held. I'm with James in making a case for tolerance and mutual respect. And I react quite negatively when I get the sense that someone is trying to shove THEIR belief down my disbelieving throat. In a word, I gag. Otherwise, if a person wants to believe that the world was created in seven days (or six, if you discount the day of rest) six thousand years ago, so be it. He's welcome to his belief. I happen to think that such a person is willfully blinding himself to a universe of fascinating science and impoverishing his access to the wealth of human knowledge. Too bad. In such a case, I have to say that while I respect that person's right to believe whatever he chooses, I reserve the right to disrespect the content of his belief. By analogy to what some Christians profess: love the sinner, hate the sin. Except that, I see it, willful ignorance is not sin. It's just willful ignorance.
Which brings me to morality. First, do no harm. Everything fall in place behind that single tenet. I don't believe that morals are "established by God." But I hope and believe that God would agree with me on that general principle. Think about it.
Ah, yes. My sit today. I returned to my Sunday sitting group for the first time in several weeks--and brought my cough along with me. Within two minutes, I was disturbing everyone else's peace along with my own, but Ricola rode to the rescue and kept me quiet for the rest of the hour. A wandering mind, of course, brought more or less successfully back on track by renewing attention on the breath. This Buddhist meditation practice is hard work, I promise you. No wonder that Bhanta-Ji, our visiting monk from India, talks so often about "effort." Don't know about you, but I find it hard to discipline my unruly mind!