September 06, 2010
From novice Tendai priest Innen Parchelo, in the Ottawa Citizen's "Ask the Religion Experts":
Q: What is the relation between religious laws and state law?
A: There is no parallel between the teaching of the Buddha and the traditions of the Old or New Testaments or the Koran as "God's Law." Dharma declares "the way things are," not a statement of rules or an invocation to behave in some particular way. ...
Buddhists, then, are encouraged to relate to national or local systems of legal structures in a combination of good citizenship and spiritual conscience. We must evaluate any conflict between our obligations as good citizens and good Buddhists and make "in the moment" decisions about our actions.
Yet on what basis do we evaluate? How different are the Buddhist precepts from other religious injunctions? With all the talk of whether Buddhism is a religion, or what it shares with the monotheistic faiths and doesn't, it's worth considering.
Why do we take the precepts? And do we take them for the same reasons that a Christian, Jew or Muslim follows God's law? Wouldn't a monotheist say that God's law is also "the way things are"?
For Innen Parchelo, Buddhism's dharma, or "the way things are," has little to do with God's law. For the rest of his concise response, click here.
Image: Panch Sila, Mindful Living Journal