Sunday, November 16, 2008

choose the means, not the ends

As Americans, we are constantly being trained to be driven by desire--so many of us believe that in order to exist in the world, we must strive to get ahead: to decide what it is we want and lock our attention on the goal of winning the object of our desire. We are encouraged to use whatever means are necessary to get what we want.

As a result, many venerated successes have been achieved in this world through destructive means. Sometimes it seems like we are so addicted to getting what we want that we only see the getting, and close our eyes to the trail of destruction our grasping leaves behind. Even achieving something good is marred if it is reached by what Buddhists call "unskillful means." I would say that even spiritual enlightenment is darkened and stained if it is reached through cruelty and violence, either to others or to the sad old bag of bones that was its vehicle.

Let use choose our means before our ends. We will serve ourselves and others far better in the long run if we first decide on how we are going to go about living as a matter of informed principle, and then accept what comes of it. Instead of latching onto desire and allowing it to push us toward unethical actions, let us first choose moral, compassionate caring, even loving means, and then follow them where they take us.

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