DHARMA THE CAT: EPISODE 13 "Skillful Means"
by David Lourie
Do the ends justify the means?  Should I follow accepted rules of conduct or my own conscience?  These issues will always part of that quandary called the human condition.  Are there answers to these questions?  If there are any
definitive "answers" they would not be coming from me, since I am not a guru.  However, I have had to deal with these issues repeatedly in my own life, and in my own unenlightened layman's way I have gained some insight -- or perhaps more accurately, I have formed some opinions -- on this subject, so I will offer my thoughts to you as they relate to the cartoon strip. This is a rare episode in which Dharma The Cat actually has an agenda, which
is to get Siam The Mouse to stop raiding the pantry.  Dharma has been sent on this mission by the young monk Bodhi, who is master of the house.  Bodhi's plan is that Dharma bring a nice offering from Bodhi -- a big block of cheese.  This should keep Siam well fed and in no need to raid the pantry -- theoretically.  But Dharma knows Siam too well.  The mischievous mouse will still be dead keen on going into the pantry --  just on general principles, to be cheeky or to get a bit of variety in his diet.  So Dharma, always being the Realist, decides to takes Human Nature into account in achieving the agenda -- though in this case it's Mouse Nature that must be reckoned with.  Dharma solution is to play on Siam's conscience to sell the deal.    Dharma deftly places the label of "compassion" on Bodhi's offering, and then describes the "no pantry" part of the deal as being for Siam's convenience, as if it were yet another generous aspect of Bodhi's offering. However, Siam is every bit Dharma's equal in being a realist. He immediately recognizes the
benefit to Bodhi from all this, and rejects Dharma's sales pitch that the offering represents Bodhi's compassion and generosity.   In fact Siam has no hesitation in calling it a bribe. Naturally Dharma cannot deny Siam's point of view -- but the whole business of putting a label on Bodhi's deal is irrelevant to Dharma, because his agenda does not involve labels, it only involves producing a result that is beneficial to all parties. And that is the guideline, based on ones
intention, which defines appropriate conduct from inappropriate conduct.  That is, what is your intention -- is it
beneficial to all parties concerned?  If so, and if your conduct actually produces the desired benefits to all parties, then what you have exercised is Skilful Means.  Note that skilful means is any method that comprises a beneficial intention and a beneficial result.  And also note that nothing in the above guideline refers to "rules" -- only to intentions and
results.  I have offered as much as I can on the subject --  there is nothing more in my pantry!  -- David Lourie