I'm looking at the Sallekha Sutta.
What's the rationale or logic behind the precepts? Does fairness come into it?
Maybe the rationale is 'effacement', a.k.a. removal of personal defilements.
Are the list of precepts ever expanded to accommodate changing contexts?
The Sallekha Sutta seems to do that, by including 44 items:
- Starting with being harmful or harmless
- Then four of the traditional precepts (killing, stealing, lying, and unchastity)
- Different types of wrong speech (false, malicious, harsh, gossip)
- Each of the eightfold way (wrong view etc.)
- Various other defilements and fetters (agitation, doubt, anger, envy, arrogance, bad friends, etc.)
For example, employees of large corporations often feel lied to, even cheated when they are laid off by their employer because of new management policy. Yet, these are explicitly the terms of most employment contracts.
People lose their jobs, even permanent jobs are impermanent (in France they're not called "temporary job" and "permanent job", they're called "defined duration contract" and "indefinite duration contact").
However because that is "explicitly the terms of most employment contracts" so I'm not sure why a person should "feel lied to".
In the past I've tried to negotiate "fairness" in my own employment contract, e.g. when the contract says that the employer can end the contract by giving X amount (e.g. 2 weeks or 6 weeks) of notice, I asked that I be allowed to give the same X amount of notice for me to be allowed to end the contract.
Unrelated to Buddhism, Wikipedia's Contract article (including the related articles in the sidebar) implies that law has made an effort to promote and regulate "fairness" in contracts -- so that although some people/parties are richer than others they have (in theory) equal or equitable legal rights.
Yet, this too is an agreed upon constraint because one party operates from a position of power.
It's asymmetrical: one bank has thousands of clients.
Modern life relies on governments, corporations and other faceless institutions to a large degree, and they do wield a great deal of power, so a lot of their transgressions fall afoul of the fairness test, though technically none of them are lies. This has to be a large source of misery in this world today. Yet, going by the precepts, at least to me, such behaviour doesn't seem to be overtly criticised. Does Buddhism have anything to say to such scenarios?
There's some advice in the Sigalovada Sutta, for example,
In five ways should workers and servants as the lower direction be
respected by an employer: by allocating work according to aptitude,
providing wages and food, looking after the sick, sharing special
treats, and giving reasonable time off work.
"And, workers and servants so respected reciprocate with compassion in
five ways: being willing to start early and finish late when
necessary, taking only what is given, doing work well, and promoting a
"In this way, the lower direction is protected and made peaceful and
I don't know but that might have been advice for a feudal society, a society with less labour mobility (i.e. where people had fewer employers, perhaps only one).
Buddhism I suppose has been applied to lots of different societies: monarchies, feudal systems, etc.
See also How compatible are Buddhism and Communism?
IMO Buddhism isn't very responsible for the state of society or modern society. It's more responsible for (and has a lot more to say about, see e.g. the Vinaya) Buddhist monastic society: so far as I know the Buddha put more into organizing the Sangha than into organizing society-at-large. I don't know whether you consider monastic life "fair" or "unfair".