The other day I was giving a presentation on Buddhism to a seniors group at an area church. They were a wonderful audience, asked great questions and were genuinely engaged. I wish I could have lingered longer with them over the lunch, but I had to high-tail it to another commitment.
I had introduced them to the precepts as part of what it means to "become a Buddhist," and over lunch talk turned to the second precept. As we were exploring just how rich "not taking what is not given" is by comparison, say, to "don't steal," it struck me just how far this precept can go beyond material objects and the persons to whom they belong:
I may have an opinion on a matter, but if not asked, it is not mine to offer.
I may be able to do a job better, but it has not been given to me to do.
I might know the answer to a question, but I was not the one being asked.
I might deserve something, but it wasn't offered, so I don't insist on it.
I might think you should tell me something, but you won't, so that's that.
I may want your respect or trust, but I can't demand it of you.
There's a deadline, and it is not mine to extend.
Taking refuge in the Dharma means taking refuge in where the chips have fallen, seeking neither to skirt one's lot nor to tilt the board to one's advantage.