Sep 22nd, 2020
When I first started to explore and examine this precept, my first inclination was to feel guilt for taking paper clips from work or printing things for personal uses on my work computer. Funny, that I found ways around it Like buying a ream of paper to replace the 40 pages I used. I started to make sure I paid for all of my Trax rides.
I did start to examine some of my motivations for doing what I was doing, but for me, most of these simple practices were very superficial and more a residual of my old relationships with the Judeo- Christian commandments. Again, we do not practice the precepts to appease a deity, or because it makes us a good Buddhist, but to help us gain insight into the mindset of an awakened being, a state of mind that is grounded in contentment.
A practice-based on any kind of checklist is just a checklist and ultimately non-transformative. There is a much deeper meaning in the second precept than simply not taking something that belongs to someone else. That is a legalistic approach.
Buddhism teaches that there are 10 fetters - mental chains that keep us bound - one of them is the dependence on moral rules and religious observances as an end in themselves – Being circumspect and never “stealing” even paperclips may be laudable but is it transformative in itself. Maybe.
From my life experience, the end of the second precept is not simply about not stealing, about observance a rule but about how we perceive the world and our place in it. It is about cultivating a state of mind of contentment, of enoughness. Gyomay Kubose Sensei teaches us that an agitated mind cannot see things as they are, only a calm mind can. A continual sense of lack, a subtle greed, creates great and subtle waves of agitation. And over time this creates a subtle and pernicious sense of entitlement.
At the heart of the second precept is an antidote to this continual refrain and rationalization of taking something not freely given, “I deserve this” or I deserve more than I am being given. These are all manifestations of the poison of greed."