K. Sri Dhammananda
Quang dịch Việt
Source-Nguồn: budsas.org, buddhanet.net, samanta.vn
Chapter 8 - Buddhist Morality and Practice
Man-made moral laws and customs do not form Buddhist Ethics.
The world today is in a state of turmoil; valuable ethics are being upturned. The forces of materialistic skepticism have turned their dissecting blades on the traditional concepts of what are considered humane qualities. Yet, any person who has a concern for culture and civilization will concern himself with practical, ethical issues. For ethics has to do with human conduct. It is concerned with our relationship with ourselves and with our fellow-men.
The need for ethics arises from the fact that man is not perfect by nature; he has to train himself to be good. Thus morality becomes the most important aspect of living.
Buddhist ethics are not arbitrary standards invented by man for his own utilitarian purpose. Nor are they arbitrarily imposed from without. Man-made laws and social customs do not form the basis of Buddhist ethics. For example, the styles of dress that are suitable for one climate, period or civilization may be considered indecent in another; but this is entirely a matter of social custom and does not in any way involve ethical considerations. Yet the artificialities of social conventions are continually confused with ethical principles that are valid and unchanging.
Buddhist ethics finds its foundation not on the changing social customs but rather on the unchanging laws of nature. Buddhist ethical values are intrinsically a part of nature, and the unchanging law of cause and effect (kamma). The simple fact that Buddhist ethics are rooted in natural law makes its principles both useful and acceptable to the modern world. The fact that the Buddhist ethical code was formulated over 2,500 years ago does not detract from its timeless character.
Morality in Buddhism is essentially practical in that it is only a means leading to the final goal of ultimate happiness. On the Buddhist path to Emancipation, each individual is considered responsible for his own fortunes and misfortunes. Each individual is expected to work his own deliverance by his understanding and effort. Buddhist salvation is the result of one's own moral development and can neither be imposed nor granted to one by some external agent. The Buddha's mission was to enlighten men as to the nature of existence and to advise them how best to act for their own happiness and for the benefit of others. Consequently, Buddhist ethics are not founded on any commandments which men are compelled to follow. The Buddha advised men on the conditions which were most wholesome and conducive to long term benefit for self and others. Rather than addressing sinners with such words as 'shameful', 'wicked', 'wretched', 'unworthy', and 'blasphemous' He would merely say, 'You are unwise in acting in such a way since this will bring sorrow upon yourselves and others.'
The theory of Buddhist ethics finds its practical expression in the various precepts. These precepts or disciplines are nothing but general guides to show the direction in which the Buddhist ought to turn to on his way to final salvation. Although many of these precepts are expressed in a negative form, we must not think that Buddhist morality, consists of abstaining from evil without the complement of doing good.
The morality found in all the precepts can be summarized in three simple principles?'To avoid evil; to do good, to purify the mind.' This is the advice given by all the Buddhas. --(Dhammapada, 183)
In Buddhism, the distinction between what is good and what is bad is very simple: all actions that have their roots in greed, hatred, and delusion that spring from selfishness foster the harmful delusion of selfhood. These action are demeritorious or unskillful or bad. They are called Akusala Kamma. All those actions which are rooted in the virtues of generosity, love and wisdom, are meritorious -- Kusala Kamma. The criteria of good and bad apply whether the actions are of thought, word or deed.
Buddhist ethics are based on intention or volition
'Kamma is volition,' says the Buddha. Action themselves are considered as neither good nor bad but 'only the intention and thought makes them so.' Yet Buddhist ethics does not maintain that a person may commit what are conventionally regarded as 'sins' provided that he does so with the best of intentions. Had this been its position, Buddhism would have confined itself to questions of psychology and left the uninteresting task of drawing up lists of ethical rules and framing codes of conducts to less emancipated teachings. The connection between thoughts and deeds, between mental and material action is an extension of thought. It is not possible to commit murder with a good heart because taking of life is simply the outward expression of a state of mind dominated by hate or greed. Deeds are condensations of thoughts just as rain is a condensation of vapor. Deeds proclaim from the rooftops of action only what has already been committed in the silent and secret chambers of the heart.
A person who commits an immoral act thereby declares that he is not free from unwholesome states of mind. Also, a person who has a purified and radiant mind, who has a mind empty of all defiled thoughts and feelings, is incapable of committing immoral actions.
Buddhist ethics also recognizes the objectivity of moral value. In other words, the kammic consequences of actions occur in accordance with natural kammic law, regardless of the attitude of the individual or regardless of social attitudes toward the act. For example, drunkenness has kammic consequences; it is evil since it promotes one's own unhappiness as well as the unhappiness of others. The kammic effects of drunkenness exist despite what the drunkard or his society may think about the habit of drinking. The prevailing opinions and attitudes do not in the least detract from the fact that drunkenness is objectively evil. The consequences -- psychological, social, and kammic -- make actions moral or immoral, regardless of the mental attitudes of those judging the act. Thus while ethical relativism is recognized, it is not considered as undermining the objectivity of values.
Vinaya is the disciplinary code for self training laid down by the Buddha for monks and nuns to observe. Vinaya plays a pivotal role in their monastic way of life.
The Buddha did not formulate the code of discipline in a single exercise. However, He instituted certain rules as and when the need arose. Vinaya Pitaka and its commentary contain many significant stories about how and why certain rules were laid down by the Buddha. According to the Buddha the best form of Vinaya was to discipline the mind, words and action. The early disciples of the Buddha were highly developed spiritually and they had little need for a set of rules to be imposed upon them. However, as the monastic order (the Sangha) grew in numbers, it attracted many others, some of whom were not so highly developed spiritually. There arose some problems regarding their conduct and way of life such as taking part in lay activities for their livelihood and yielding to temptation for sense pleasure. Owing to this situation, the Buddha had to lay down guidelines for the monks and nuns to follow so that they could distinguish the difference between the life of monks and laymen. The holy order of the monks and the nuns was a well-established religious order when compared with other existing acetic practices at that time.
The Buddha prescribed all the necessary guidance to maintain the holy order in every aspect of life. When the Buddha passed away, these rules were collated so that the Order could be organized around them. The code of conduct prescribed by the Buddha can be divided into two broad areas. These are Universal Moral Codes, Lokavajja, most of which are applicable to all members of the Order and lay people alike for leading a religious life. Certain other disciplinary codes or rules which can be instituted to meet the existing cultural and social constraints of the country at any one time are called Pannatti Vajja. In the first category are the Universal Laws which restricted all immoral and harmful evil deeds. The second category of rules applied almost directly to the monks and nuns in the observance of manners, traditions, duties, customs and etiquette. Breaking of moral codes pertaining to the Lokavajja create bad reputation as well as bad kamma, whereas violation of disciplinary codes based on social conditions do not necessarily create bad kamma. However, they are subject to criticism as violation in any form pollute the purity and dignity of the holy Order. These rules were largely based on the socio-cultural situation or way of life prevailing in India 25 centuries ago.
According to the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, the Buddha had proclaimed that some 'minor' rules could be altered or amended to accommodate changes due to time and environment, provided they do not encourage immoral or harmful behavior. In fact, during the Buddha's time itself, certain minor rules were amended by the monks with His permission. The Buddha also advocated that sick monks and nuns be exempted from certain Vinaya rules. However, once the rules had been enumerated by the disciples in the First Council, convened three months after the passing away of the Buddha, it was decided that all the rules should be maintained in toto because no one was certain as to which of the rules should be altered. Finally, the disciples decided to uphold all the precepts prescribed by the Buddha. As time went on however, the rules became fossilized and some orthodox disciples insisted that the rules should be followed strictly to the letter rather than in the spirit. It was precisely to prevent rigid adherence to mere rules of this kind that the Buddha did not appoint a successor to take over after Him. He had said that the understanding of the Dhamma and upholding of the Dhamma as the master should be enough to help one lead a holy life. Another reason why the early disciples did not agree to change any of the precepts was that there was no reason or occasion for them to do so within such a short period of time after the passing away of the Buddha. This was because, at that time, most of those who had renounced their worldly life had done so with sincerity and conviction. However, when the social conditions started to change and when Buddhism spread to many other parts of India and other countries, the decision made by the disciples not to change any precepts in the First Council became a very big problem because some of the rules could not be adapted to meet the political and economic changes under varying circumstances.
Development of Sangha Community
The Sangha community, in the course of time, evolved themselves into several sects, many of whom, while adhering to some major precepts as laid down by he Buddha, had, however, tended to ignore some of the minor rules. The Theravada sect appeared to be more orthodox, while the Mahayana and some other sects tended to be more liberal in their outlook and religious observances. The Theravada sect tried to observe the Vinaya to the very letter despite of changing circumstances and environment. Minor changes of the precepts had, however, taken place from time to time, but were not officially recognized even amongst the members of the Theravada sect. For instance, we can look at the rule regarding the partaking of food after the stipulated time of the day. The Theravada sect has not openly acknowledged the fact that certain variations could be allowed under special circumstances. Whilst members of other schools adapt themselves to the wearing of robes with appropriate colour and pattern, the Theravada sect has continued to adhere to the use of the original robes that were traditionally prescribed despite the changed social and climatic conditions. Many of practices of the monkhood are clearly understood only by those who are born into traditional Buddhist cultures.
At the other extreme, there are some monks who insist on observing the very letter of the Vinaya code rather than in its spirit, even though such action would embarrass the people around them. For example, more and more Buddhist monks are being invited to western countries where the culture of the people and the climatic conditions are so vastly different from that in Asia, but which could be regarded as strange and exotic elsewhere. Here again the monk must apply his common sense and try not to make a mockery of himself in the eyes of the people. The important rule to be observed is that no immoral, cruel, harmful and indecent acts are created and that the sensitivities of others are respected. If the monks can lead their lives as hones, kind, harmless and understanding human beings by maintaining their human dignity and disciplines, then such qualities will be appreciated in any part of the world. Maintaining the so-called traditions and customs of their respective countries of origin have little to do with the essence of the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha.
Then, there is another problem. Many people, especially those in the West who have accepted the Buddhist way of life, having read the Vinaya rules in the texts, think that the monks must follow all the rules in toto in any part of the world, in exactly the same manner as they were recorded in the texts. We must remember that some of these rules which were practised in Indian society 25 centuries ago are irrelevant even in Asia today. It must be clearly borne in mind that the Buddha instituted the rules only for the members of the Sangha community who lived in India, in fact in the region where He lived. Those monks never had any experience of the way of life in another country. Their main concern was with the spiritual development with the minimum of disruption and annoyance to the society where they lived. But if they lived today, they may experience many other new problems, if they strictly observe all the rules in a country where people cannot appreciate or understand them.
The disciplinary code for lay devotees show how a layman can live a virtuous and noble life without renouncing the worldly life. The Buddha's advice to lay people is contained in such discourses as the Mangala, Parabhava, Sigalovada, Vasala and Vygghapajja and many other discourses.
Many Vinaya rules apply only to those who have renounced the worldly life. Of course a layman may follow some of the rules if they help him to develop greater spirituality.
When society changes, monks cannot remain as traditionalists without adapting to the changes, although they have renounced the worldly life. People who cannot understand this situation criticize the behavior of certain monks because of those changes.
However, when the monks want to amend even certain minor precepts, they would have to do it with the sanction of a recognized Sangha Council. Individual monks are not at liberty to change any Vinaya rules according to their whims and fancies. Such a Council of Sangha members can also impose certain sanction against monks who have committed serious violations of the disciplinary code and whose behavior discredits the Sangha. The Buddha instituted the Council to help monks to prevent evil deeds and avoid temptation in a worldly life. The rules were guidelines rather than inviolable laws handed down by some divine authority.
In Asian countries particularly, monks are accorded great respect and reverence. Lay people respect them as teachers of the Dhamma and as men who have sacrificed the worldly life in order to lead a holy life. Monks devote themselves to the study and practice of the Dhamma and do not earn a living. Laymen, therefore, see to their material well-being while they in turn look to the monks for their spiritual needs.
As such, monks are expected to conduct themselves in such a way that will earn them the respect and reverence of the public. If, for example, a monk is seen in a disreputable place, he will be criticized even if he is not involved in any immoral action. Therefore, it is the duty of the monks to avoid certain uncongenial surroundings so as to maintain the dignity of the holy Order.
If a monk does not respect the feelings of his lay devotees and behaves according to what he alone thinks is right, then the lay devotees are not bound to look after his needs. There are many instances recorded in the Buddhist Texts that even during the Buddha's time, lay devotees had refused to look after arrogant, quarrelsome or irresponsible monks. Monks can be criticized for doing certain worldly things which only lay people are at liberty to do.
Dhamma and Vinaya
Many people have not yet realized that the Dhamma, the Truth expounded by the Buddha, is not changeable under any circumstances. Certain Vinaya rules are also included into the same category and they are not subject to change under any circumstances. But some other Vinaya rules are subject to change so as to prevent certain undue inconveniences. Dhamma and Vinaya are not the same. Some monks try to observe certain traditions rigidly as if they are important religious principles although others cannot find any religious significance or implication in their practices. At the same time some selfish and cunning persons may even try to maintain certain outward manifestations of purity, in order to mislead innocent devotees to regard them as pious and sincere monks. Many so-called Buddhist practices in Asian countries that monks and others follow are not necessarily religious precepts but traditional practices upheld by the people. On the other hand, certain manners introduced for monks to observe as disciplines truly maintain the dignity and serenity of the holy Order. Although religious traditions and customs can create a congenial atmosphere for spiritual development, some Vinaya rules need to be amended according to changing social conditions. If this is not done, monks will have to face numerous problems in the course of their survival and in their association with the public.
Some lay people criticize monks for handling money. It is difficult to carry out their religious activities and to be active in modern society without dealing with money. What a monk must do is to consider himself as unattached to the money or property as personal belongings. That is what the Buddha meant. Of course, there may be some who deliberately misinterpret the rules to suit their material gain. They will have to bear the consequences of their own inability to gain spiritual development.
However, those who choose to confine themselves to an isolated area for meditation for peace of mind, should be able to carry out their religious duties without hindrance from worldly things which can become burdensome. But they must first ensure that they have enough supporters to attend to their needs. While there can be such monks who wish to retire completely from society there must be enough monks in society to attend to the numerous religious needs of the general public. Otherwise, people may think that Buddhism cannot contribute very much in their day to day lives.
Characteristic of a Monk
Among the salient characteristics of a monk are purity, voluntary poverty, humility, simplicity, selfless service, self-control, patience, compassion and harmlessness. He is expected to observe the four kinds of Higher Morality, namely:
Patimokkha Sila -- The Fundamental Moral Code (major offenses related to immoral, cruel, harmful and selfish activities.)
Indriyasamvara Sila -- Morality pertaining to sense-restraint.
Ajivaparisuddhi Sila -- Morality pertaining to purity of livelihood.
Paccayasannissita Sila -- Morality pertaining to the use of requisites pertaining to life.
These four kinds of morality are collectively called Sila-Visuddhi (Purity of Virtue).
When a person enters the Order and receives his ordination he is called a Samanera _Novice Monk. He is bound to observe Ten Samanera Precepts with certain disciplinary codes for leading a monastic life until he receives his higher ordination?Upasampada _ to become a Bhikkhu or fully fledged monk.
A bhikkhu or monk is bound to observe the above-mentioned four kinds of higher morality which comprise 227 rules apart from several other minor ones. The four major ones which deal with celibacy and abstinence from stealing, murder, and false claims to higher spirituality must strictly be observed. If he violates any one of these, a monk is regarded as a defeated person in the Sangha community. He will be deprived of certain religious rights by the Sangha community. In the case of other rules which he violates, he has to face many other consequences and make amends according to the gravity of the offence.
A fortunate or unfortunate life depends on individual merits and demerits.
The performance of good actions gives rise to merit (punna), a quality which purifies and cleanses the mind. If the mind is unchecked, it has the tendency to be ruled by evil tendencies, leading one to perform bad deeds and getting into trouble. Merit purifies the mind of the evil tendencies of greed, hatred and delusion. The greedy mind encourages a person to desire, accumulate and hoard; the hating mind drags him to dislike and anger; and the deluded mind makes one become entangled in greed and hatred, thinking that these evil roots are right and worthy. Demeritorious deeds give rise to more suffering and reduce the opportunities for a person to know and practise the Dhamma.
Merit is important to help us along our journey through life. It is connected with what are good and beneficial to oneself and others, and can improve the quality of the mind. While the material wealth a person gathers can be lost by theft, flood, fire, confiscation, etc., the benefit of merits follows him from life to life and cannot be lost, although it can be exhausted if no attempts are made to perform more merits. A person will experience happiness here and now ass well as hereafter through the performance of merit.
Merit is a great facilitator: It opens the doors of opportunity everywhere. A meritorious person will succeed in whatever venture he puts his effort into. If he wishes to do business, he will meet with the right contacts and friends. If he wishes to be a scholar, he will be awarded with scholarships and supported by academic mentors. If he wishes to progress in meditation, he will meet with a skillful meditation teacher who guides him through his spiritual development. His dreams will be realized through the grace of his treasury of merit. It is merit which enables a person to be reborn in the heavens, and provides him with the right conditions and support for his attainment of Nibbana.
There are several rich fields of merit (recipients of the deed)which give rise to bountiful results to the performer of the good deed. Just as some soil can yield a better harvest (say black fertile soil compared to stony soil), a good deed performed to some persons can give rise to more merits than to others. The rich fields of merits include the Sangha or holy people, mother, father and needy. Good deeds performed to these persons will manifest in many ways and be the fountainhead of many wondrous results.
The Buddha taught ten meritorious deeds for us to perform in order to gain a happy and peaceful life as well as to develop knowledge and understanding. The ten meritorious deeds are:
Reverence or respect
Service in helping others
Sharing merits with others
Rejoicing in the merits of others
Preaching and teaching the Dhamma
Listening to the Dhamma
Straightening one's views
The performance of these ten meritorious deeds will not only benefit oneself, but others as well, besides giving benefits to the recipients. Moral conduct benefits all beings with whom one comes into contact. Mental culture brings peace to others and inspires them to practise the Dhamma. Reverence gives rise to harmony in society, while service improves the lives of others. Sharing merits with others shows that one is concerned about others' welfare, while rejoicing in others' merits encourages others to perform more merits. Teaching and listening to the Dhamma are important factors for happiness for both the teacher and listener, while encouraging both to live in line with Dhamma. Straightening one's views enables a person to show to others the beauty of Dhamma. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha taught:
'Should a person perform good,
He should do it again and again;
He should find pleasure therein;
For blissful is the accumulation of good.'
'Think not lightly of good, saying,
'It will not come near to me'?
Even by the falling of drops a water-jar is filled.
Likewise the wise man, gathering little by little,
Fills himself with good.'
Ten Evil Deeds
There are ten demeritorious deeds from which Buddhists are advised to keep away. These deeds are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion, and will bring suffering to others but especially to oneself in this life and later lives. When a person understands the Law of Kamma and realizes that bad deeds bring bad results, he will then practise Right Understanding and avoid performing these actions.
There are three bodily actions which are kammically unwholesome. They are: (1) Killing of living beings, (2) Stealing, and (3) Unlawful sexual intercourse. These bodily deeds correspond to the first three of the Five Precepts for people to follow.
The effects of killing to the performer of the deed are brevity of life, ill-health, constant grief due to the separation from the loved, and living in constant fear. The bad consequences of stealing are poverty, misery, disappointment, and a dependent livelihood. The bad consequences of sexual misconduct are having many enemies, always being hated, and union with undesirable wives and husbands.
Four verbal actions are kammically unwholesome, and they are as follows: (1) Lying, (2) Slander and tale-bearing, (3) Harsh speech, and (4) Frivolous and meaningless talk. Except for lying, the other unwholesome deeds performed by speech may be viewed as extensions of the Fourth Precept.
The bad consequences of lying to the one who performs the deed are being subject to abusive speech and vilification, untrustworthiness, and physical unpleasantness. The bad effect of slandering is losing one's friends without any sufficient cause. The results of harsh speech are being detested by others and having a harsh voice. The inevitable effects of frivolous talk are defective bodily organs and speech which no one believes.
The three other demeritorious deeds are performed by the mind, and they are as follows: (1) Covetousness, or eagerly desirous especially of things belonging to others, (2) Ill-will, and (3) Wrong view. These three deeds correspond to the three evil roots of greed, hatred and delusion. The non-observance of the Fifth Precept of abstention from intoxicants can not only lead to the performance of these three demeritorious mental actions after the mind is intoxicated, but also the other demeritorious deeds performed by body and speech.
The undesirable result of covetousness is the non-fulfillment of one's wishes. The consequences of ill-ill are ugliness, manifold diseases, and having a detestable nature. Finally, the consequences of false view are having gross desires, lack of wisdom, being of dull wit, having chronic diseases and blameworthy ideas.
A person should always perform good actions and restrain himself from doing evil actions. If, however, a person has performed an evil action, it is necessary for him to realize where he has done wrong and make an effort not to repeat the mistake. This is the true meaning of repentance, and in this way only will a person progress along the noble path to salvation.
Praying for forgiveness is meaningless if, after the prayer is made, a person repeats the veil action again and again. Who is there to 'wash away a person's sins' except he himself? This has to begin with realization, the wonderful cleansing agent. First, he realizes the nature of his deed and the extent of the harm incurred. Next, he realizes that this deed is unwholesome, learns from it, and makes the resolution not to repeat it. Then, he performs many good deeds to the affected party as well as to others, as much as possible. In this way, he overcomes the effect of bad deed with a shower of good deeds.
No wrong does, according to Buddhism, is beyond redemption or rehabilitation, especially with realization and Right Effort. To be seduced into believing that a person can 'wash away' his bad deeds through some other 'miraculous' way is not only a mere superstition, but worse, it is also not useful particularly to the spiritual development of the person himself. It will only cause him to continue to remain ignorant and morally complacent. This misplaced belief can, in fact, do a person much more harm than the effects of the wrong deed he feared so much.
By observing precepts, not only do you cultivate your moral strength, but you also perform the highest service to your fellow beings.
Every country or society has its code of what are considered to be moral actions within its social context. These codes are often linked to the society's interest and its code of law. An action is considered right so long as it does not break the law and transgress public or individual sensitivities. These man-made codes are flexible and amended from time to time to suit changing circumstances. Important as they are to society, these man-made standards cannot serve as a reliable guide to some principles of morality which can be applied universally.
By contrast, Buddhist morality is not the invention of human minds. Neither is it based on tribal ethics which are gradually being replaced by humanistic codes. It is based on the universal law of cause and effect (kamma), and considers a 'good' or 'bad' action in terms of the manner it affects oneself and others. An action, even if it brings benefit to oneself, cannot be considered a good action if it causes physical and mental pain to another being.
Buddhist morality addresses a very common, yet crucial question: How can we judge if an action is good or bad? The answer, according to Buddhism, is a simple one. The quality of an action hinges on the intention or motivation (cetana)from which it originates. If a person performs an action out of greed, hatred, and delusion, his action is considered to be unwholesome. On the other hand, if he performs and action out of love, charity, and wisdom, his action is a wholesome one. Greed, Hatred and Delusion are known as the 'Three Evil Root', while love, charity and wisdom as the 'Three Good Roots'. The word 'root' refers to the intention from which that action originates. Therefore, no matter how a person tries to disguise the nature of his action, the truth can be found by examining his thoughts which gave rise to that action. And the mind is the source of all our speech and action.
In Buddhism, a person's first duty is to cleanse himself of the mental defilements of greed, hatred and ignorance. The reason for doing this is not because of fear or desire to please some divine beings. If this is so, a person is still lacking in wisdom. He is only acting out of fear like the little child who is afraid of being punished for being naughty. A Buddhist should act out of understanding and wisdom. He performs wholesome deeds because he realizes that by so doing he develops his moral strength which provides the foundation for spiritual growth, leading to Liberation. In addition, he realizes that his happiness and suffering are self-created through the operation of the Law of Kamma. To minimize the occurrence of troubles and problems in his life, he makes the effort to refrain from doing evil. He performs good actions because he know that these will bring him peace and happiness. Since everyone seeks happiness in life, and since it is possible for him to provide the condition for happiness, then there is every reason for him to do good and avoid evil. Furthermore, the uprooting of these mental defilements, the source of all anti-social acts, will bring great benefits to others in society.
Lay Buddhist morality is embodies in the Five Precepts, which may be considered at two levels. First, it enables men to live together in civilized communities with mutual trust and respect. Second, it is the starting point for the spiritual journey towards Liberation. Unlike commandments, which are supposedly divine commands imposed on men, precepts are accepted voluntarily by the person himself, especially when he realizes the usefulness of adopting some training rules for disciplining his body, speech and mind. Understanding, rather than fear of punishment, is the reason for following the precepts. Good Buddhists should remind themselves to follow the Five Precepts daily. They are to refrain from:
- killing living creatures
- taking what is not given
- sexual misconduct
- false speech
- taking intoxicating drugs and liquor,
Besides understanding the Five Precepts merely as a set of rules of abstention, a Buddhist should remind himself that through the precepts he practices the Five Ennoblers as well. While the Five Precepts tells him what not to do, the Five Ennoblers tells him which qualities to cultivate, namely, loving kindness, renunciation, contentment, truthfulness, and mindfulness. When a person observes the First precept of not killing, he controls his hatred and cultivates loving kindness. In the Second Precept, he controls his greed and cultivates his renunciation or non-attachment. He controls sensual lust and cultivates his contentment in the Third Precept. In the Fourth Precept, he abstains from false speech and cultivates truthfulness, while he abstains from unwholesome mental excitement and develop mindfulness through the Fifth Precept. Therefore, when a person understands the ennoblers, he will realize that the observance of the Five Precepts does not cause him to be withdrawn, self-critical and negative, but to be a positive personality filled with love and care as well as other qualities accruing to one who leads a moral life.
The precepts are the basic practice in Buddhism. The purpose is to eliminate crude passions that are expressed through thought, word and deed. The precepts are also an indispensable basis for people who wish to cultivate their minds. Without some basic moral code, the power of meditation can often be applied for some wrong and selfish motive.
In many Buddhist countries, it is customary among the devotees to observe the Eight Precepts on certain days of the month, such as the full moon and new moon days. These devotees will come to the temple early in the morning and spend twenty-four hours in the temple, observing the precepts. By observing the Eight Precepts, they cut themselves off from their daily life which is bombarded with material and sensual demands. The purpose of observing the Eight Precepts is to develop relaxation and tranquillity, to train the mind, and to develop oneself spiritually.
During this period of observing the precepts, they spend their time reading religious books, listening to the Teachings of the Buddha, meditating, and also helping with the religious activities of the temple. The following morning, they change from Eight Precepts to the Five Precepts intended for daily observance, and return home to resume their normal life.
The Eight Precepts are to abstain from:
- Sexual acts;
- Taking food after the sun had crossed the zenith.
- Dancing, singing, music, unseemly shows, the use of garlands, perfumes, unguents and things that tend to beautify and adorn the person, and
- Using high and luxurious seats.
Some people find it hard to understand the significance of a few of these precepts. They think that Buddhists are against dancing, singing, music, the cinema, perfume, ornaments and luxurious things. There is no rule in Buddhism that states that every lay Buddhist must abstain from these things. The people who choose to abstain from these entertainments are devout Buddhists who observe these precepts only for a short period as a way of self discipline. The reason for keeping away from these entertainments and ornamentations is to calm down the senses even for a few hours and to train the mind so as not to be enslaved to sensual pleasures. These entertainments increase the passions of the mind and arouse emotions which hinder a person's spiritual development. By occasionally restraining himself from these entertainments, a person will make progress towards overcoming his weaknesses and exercise greater control over himself. However, Buddhists do not condemn these entertainments.
Observance of precepts (both the Five and Eight precepts) when performed with an earnest mind is certainly a meritorious act. It brings great benefits to this life and the lives hereafter. Therefore, a person should try his best to observe the precepts with understanding and as often as he can.
What is lacking in the world today is loving-kindness or goodwill.
In the world today, there is sufficient material wealth. There are very advanced intellectuals, brilliant writers, talented speaker, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, religious advisors, wonderful poets and powerful world leaders. In spite of these intellectuals, there is no real peace and security in the world today. Something must be lacking. What is lacking is loving-kindness or goodwill amongst mankind.
Material gain in itself can never bring lasting happiness and peace. Peace must first be established in man's own heart before he can bring peace to others and to the world at large. The real way to achieve peace is to follow the advice given by religious teachers.
In order to practise loving-kindness, one must first practise the Noble Principle of non-violence and must always be ready to overcome selfishness and to show the correct path to others. The fighting is not to be done with the physical body, because the wickedness of man is not in his body but in his mind. Non-violence is a more effective weapon to fight against evil than retaliation. The very nature of retaliation is to increase wickedness.
In order to practise loving-kindness, one must also be free from selfishness. Much of the love in this world of self-centered, only a love of one is own self:
'Not out of love for the husband loved; but the husband is loved for love of self. Children are loved by the parents, not out of love for the children, but for love of self. The gods are loved, not out of love for the gods, but for love for self. Not out of love is anybody loved, but for love of self are loved.'
Man should learn how to practise selfless love to maintain real peace and his own salvation. Just as suicide kills physically, selfishness kills spiritual progress. Loving-kindness in Buddhism is neither emotional or selfish. It is loving-kindness that radiates through the purified mind after eradicating hatred, jealousy, cruelty, enmity and grudges. According to the Buddha, Metta _ Loving-kindness is the most effective method to maintain purity of mind and to purify the mentally polluted atmosphere.
The word 'love' is used to cover a very wide range of emotions human beings experience. Emphasis on the base animal lust of one sex for another has much debased the concept of a feeling of amity towards another being. According to Buddhism, there are many types of emotions, all of which come under the general term 'love' First of all, there is selfish love and there is selfless love. One has selfish love when one is concerned only with the satisfaction to be derived for oneself without any consideration for the partner's needs or feelings. Jealousy is usually a symptom of selfish love. Selfless love, on the other hand, is felt when one person surrenders his whole being for the good of another _parents feel such love for their children. Usually human beings feel a mixture of both selfless and selfish love in their relationships with each other. For example, while parents make enormous sacrifices for their children, they usually expect something in return.
Another kind of love, but closely related to the above, is brotherly love or the love between friends. In a sense, this kind of love can also be considered selfish because the love is limited to particular people and does not encompass others. In another category we have sexual love, where partners are drawn towards each other through physical attraction. It is the kind that is most exploited by modern entertainment and it can cover anything from uncomplicated teenage infatuations to the most complex of relationships between adults.
On a scale far higher than these, is Universal Love or Metta. This all-embracing love is the great virtue expressed by the Buddha. Lord Buddha, for example, renounce His kingdom, family and pleasures so that He could strive to find a way to release mankind from an existence of suffering. In order to gain His Enlightenment, he had to struggle for many countless lives. A lesser being would have been disheartened, but not the Buddha-elect. It is for this He is called 'The Compassionate One'. The Buddha's boundless love extended not only to human beings but all living creatures. It was not emotional or selfish, but a love without frontiers, without discrimination. Unlike the other kinds of love, Universal love can never end in disappointment or frustration because it expects no reward. It creates more happiness and satisfaction. One who cultivates universal love will also cultivate sympathetic joy and equanimity and he will then have attained to the sublime state.
In this book, The Buddha's Ancient Path Ven. Piyadassi says:
'Love is an active force. Every act of the loving one is done with the stainless mind to help, to succor, to cheer, to make the paths of others easier, smoother and more adapted to the conquest of sorrow, the winning of the highest bliss.
'The way to develop love is through thinking out the evils of hate, and the advantages of non-hate; through thinking out according to actuality, according to karma, that really there is none to hate, that hate is a foolish way of feeling which breeds more and more darkness, that obstructs right understanding. Hate restricts; love release. Hatred strangles; love enfranchises. Hatred brings remorse; love brings peace. Hatred agitates; love quietens, stills, calms. Hatred divides; love unites. Hatred hardens; love softens. Hatred hinders; love helps. And thus through a correct study and appreciation of the effects of hatred and the benefits of love, should one develop love.'
In Metta Sutta, the Buddha has expounded the nature of love in Buddhism. 'Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let his thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world, above, below and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.'
You perform real charity if you can give freely without expecting anything in return.
The essence of true charity is to give something without expecting anything in return for the gift. If a person expects some material benefit to arise from his gift, he is only performing an act of bartering and not charity. A charitable person should not make other people feel indebted to him or use charity as a way of exercising control over them. He should not even expect others to be grateful, for most people are forgetful though not necessarily ungrateful. The act of true charity is wholesome, has no strings attached, and leaves both the giver and the recipient free.
The meritorious deed of charity is highly praised by every religion. Those who have enough to maintain themselves should think of others and extend their generosity deserving cases. Among people who practise charity, there are some who give as a means of attracting others into their religion or creed. Such an act of giving which is performed with the ulterior motive of conversion cannot really be said to be true charity.
The Buddhism views charity as an act to reduce personal greed which is an unwholesome mental state which hinders spiritual progress. A person who is on his way to spiritual growth must try to reduce his own selfishness and his strong desire for acquiring more and more. He should reduce his strong attachment to possessions which, if he is not mindful, can enslave him to greed. What he owns or has should instead be used for the benefit and happiness of others: his loved ones as well as those who need his help.
When giving, a person should not perform charity as an act of his body alone, but with his heart and mind as well. There must be joy in every act of giving. A distinction can be made between giving as a normal act of generosity and dana. In the normal act of generosity a person gives out of compassion and kindness when he realizes that someone else is in need of help, and he is in the position to offer the help. When a person performs dana, he gives as a means of cultivating charity as a virtue and of reducing his own selfishness and craving. He exercises wisdom when he recalls that dana is a very important quality to be practised by every Buddhist, and is the first perfection (paramita)practised by the Buddha in many of His previous births in search for Enlightenment. A person performs dana in appreciation of the great qualities and virtues of the Triple Gem.
There are many things which a person can give. He can give material things: food for the hungry, and money and clothes to the poor. He can also give his knowledge, skill, time, energy or effort to projects that can benefit others. He can provide a sympathetic ear and good counsel to a friend in trouble. He can restrain himself from killing other beings, and by so doing perform a gift of life to the helpless beings which would have otherwise been killed. He can also give a part of his body for the sake of others, such as donating his blood, eyes, kidney, etc. Some who seek to practise this virtue or are moved by great compassion or concern for others may also be prepared to sacrifice their own lives. In His previous births, the Bodhisatta had many a time given away parts of His body for the sake of others. He had also given up His life so that others might live, so great was His generosity and compassion.
But the greatest testimony to the Buddha's great compassion is His priceless gift to humanity?the Dhamma which can liberate all beings from suffering. To the Buddhist, the highest gift of all is the gift of Dhamma. This gift has great powers to change a life. When a person receives Dhamma with a pure mind and practices the Truth with earnestness, he cannot fail to change. He will experience greater happiness, peace and joy in his heart and mind. If he was once cruel, he becomes compassionate. If he was once revengeful, he becomes forgiving. Through Dhamma, the hateful becomes more compassionate, the greedy more generous, and the restless more serene. When a person has tasted Dhamma, not only will be experience happiness here and now, but also happiness in the lives hereafter as he journeys to Nibbana.
If we believe that animals were created by someone for men, it would follow that men were also created for animals since some animals do eat human flesh.
Animals are said to be conscious only of the present. They live with no concern for the past or future. Likewise, little children seem to have no notion of the future. They also live in the present until their faculties of memory and imagination are developed.
Men possesses the faculty of reasoning. The gap between man and animal widens only to the extent that man develops his reasoning faculty and acts accordingly. Buddhists accept that animals not only possesses instinctive power but also, to a lesser degree, thinking power.
In some respects, animals are superior to men. Dogs have a keener sense of hearing; insects have a keener sense of smell; hawks are speedier; eagles can see a greater distance. Undoubtedly, men are wiser; but men have so much to learn from the ants and bees. Much of the animal is still in us. But we also have much more: we have the potential of spiritual development.
Buddhism cannot accept that animals were created by someone for men; if animals were created for men then it could follow that men were also created for animals since there are some animals which eat human flesh.
Buddhists are encouraged to love all living beings and not to restrict their love only to human beings. They should practise loving kindness towards every living being. The Buddha's advice is that is not right for us to take away the life of any living being since every living being has a right to exist. Animals also have fear and pain as do human beings. It is wrong to take away their lives. We should not misuse our intelligence and strength to destroy animals even though they may sometimes be a nuisance to us. Animals need our sympathy. Destroying them is not the only method to get rid of them. Every living being is contributing something to maintain this world. It is unfair for us to deprive their living rights.
In his Handbook of reason, D. Runes says:
'We can hardly speak of morals in relation to creatures we systematically devour, mostly singed but sometimes raw. There are men and women who practise horse love, dog love, cat love. But these very same people would take a deer or a calf by its neck, slit its throat, drink the blood straight away or in a pudding, and bite off the flesh. And who is to say that a horse they cherish is nobler than a deer they feed on? Indeed, there are people who eat cats, dogs and horses but would use a cow only as a work animal.'
Some cry over a little bird or goldfish that expired; others travel long distances to catch fish on a nasty hook for food or mere pleasure or shooting birds for fun. Some go into deep jungle for hunting animals as a game while others spend a lot to keep the same animals at home as their pets.
Some keep frogs to foretell the weather; others cut off their legs and fry them. Some tenderly tend birds in gilded cages; others serve them for breakfast. It is all quite confusing. One thought stands out in a world where man clubs man for gain or sheer gore, there is hardly time to ponder over his morals in relation to animals.
Every religion advises us to love our fellow humans. Some even teach us to love them more if they belong to the same religion. But Buddhism is supreme in that it teaches us to show equal care and compassion for each and every creature in the universe. The destruction of any creature represents a disturbance of the Universal Order.
The Buddha was very clear in His teachings against any form of cruelty to any living being. One day the Buddha saw a man preparing to make a animal sacrifice. On being asked why he was going to kill innocent animals, the man replied that it was because it would please the gods. The Buddha then offered Himself as the sacrifice, saying that if the life of an animal would please the gods then the life of a human being, more valuable, would please the gods even more.
Man's cruelty towards animals is another expression of his uncontrolled greed. Today we destroy animals and deprive them of their natural rights so that we can expend our environments for our convenience. But we are already beginning to pay the price for this selfish and cruel act. Our environment is threatened and if we do not take stern measures for the survival of other creatures, our own existence on this earth may not be guaranteed. It is true that the existence of certain creatures is a threat to human existence. But we never consider that human are the greatest threat to every living being on this earth and in the air whereas the existence of other creatures is a threat only to certain living beings.
Since every creature contributes something for the maintenance of the planet and atmosphere, destroying them is not the solution to overcome our disturbances. We should take other measures to maintain the balance of nature.
'If a person foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my boundless love. The more evil that comes from him the more good will go from me. I will always give off only the fragrance of goodness.' (Buddha).
People today are restless, weary filled with fear and discontentment. They are intoxicated with the desire to gain fame, wealth and power. They crave for gratification of the senses. People are passing their days in fear, suspicion and insecurity. In this time of turmoil and crisis, it becomes difficult for people to coexist peacefully with their fellowmen. There is therefore, a great need for tolerance in the world today so that peaceful co-existence among the people of the world can be possible.
The world has bled and suffered from the disease of dogmatism and of intolerance. The land of many countries today are soaked with the blood spilled on the altar of various political struggles, as the skies of earlier millennia were covered with the smoke of burning martyrs of various faiths. Whether in religion or politics people have been conscious of a mission to bring humanity to their way of life and have been aggressive towards other ways of life. Indeed, the intolerance of the crusading spirit has spoiled the records of religions.
Let us look back on this present century of highly publicized 'Progress' -- a century of gadgets and inventions. The array of new scientific and technical inventions is dazzling - telephones, electric motors, airplanes, radios, television, computers, space ships, satellites and electronic devices etc. Yet in this same century the children of the earth who have developed all these inventions as the ultimate in progress, are the same people who have butchered millions of others by bayonets or bullets or gas. Amidst all the great 'progress', where does the spirit of tolerance stand?
Today man is interested in exploring outer space. But he is totally unable to live as man-to-man in peace and harmony. Man will eventually desecrate the moon and other planets.
For the sake of material gain, modern man violates nature. His mental activities are so preoccupied with his pleasure that he is unable to discover the purpose of life. This unnatural behavior of present mankind is the result of his wrong conception of human life and its ultimate aim. It is the cause of the frustration, fear, insecurity and intolerance of our present time.
In fact, today intolerance is still practised in the name of religion. People merely talk of religion and promise to provide short cuts to paradise, they are not interested in practising it. If Christianity live by the Sermon on the Mount, if Buddhists follow the Noble Eightfold path, if Muslims really follow the concept of Brotherhood and if the Hindus shape their life in oneness, definitely there will be peace and harmony in this world. Inspite of these invaluable Teachings of the great religious teachers, people have still not realized the value of tolerance. The intolerance that is practised in the name of religion is most disgraceful and deplorable.
The Buddha's advice is 'Let us live happily, not hating those who hate us. Among those who hate us, let us live free from hatred. Let us live happily and free from ailment. Let us live happily and be free from greed; among those who are greedy.' -- (Dhammapada 197-200)
A real Buddhist funeral is a simple, solemn and dignified religious service.
As practised in many Buddhist countries, a real Buddhist funeral is a simple, solemn and dignified ceremony. Unfortunately, some people have included many unnecessary, extraneous items and superstitious practices into the funeral rites. The extraneous items and practices vary according to the traditions and customs of the people. They were introduced in olden days by people who probably could not understand the nature of life, nature of death, and what life would be after death. When such ideas were incorporated into Buddhist practices, people tended to blame Buddhism for expensive funeral rites. If only the Buddhist public would approach proper persons who have studied the real Teachings of the Buddha and Buddhist tradition, they could receive advice on how to perform Buddhist funeral rites. It is most unfortunate that a bad impression has been created that Buddhism encourages people to waste their money and time on unnecessary practices. It must be clearly understood that Buddhism has nothing to do with such debased practices.
Buddhists are not very particular regarding the burial or cremation of a dead body. In many Buddhist countries, cremation is customary. For hygienic and economic reasons, it is advisable to cremate. Today, the population in the world is increasing and if we continue to have dead bodies occupying valuable land, then one day all remaining available land will be occupied by the dead and the living will have no place to live.
There are still some people who object to the cremation of dead bodies. They say that cremation is against god's law, in the same way they have objected to many other things in the past. It will take some time for such people to understand that cremation is much more appropriate and effective than burial.
On the other hand Buddhists do not believe that one day someone will come and awaken the departed persons spirits from their graveyards or the ashes from their urns and decide who should go to heaven and who should go to hell.
The consciousness or mental energy of the departed person has no connection with the body left behind or his skeleton or his ashes. Many people believe that if the deceased is not given a proper burial or if a sanctified tombstone is not placed on the grave, then the soul of the deceased will wander to the four corners of the world and weep and wail and sometimes even return to disturb the relatives. Such a belief cannot be found anywhere in Buddhism.
Buddhists believe that when a person dies, rebirth will take place somewhere else according to his good or bad actions. As long as the person possesses the craving for existence, he must experience rebirth. Only the Arahants, who have gone beyond all passions will have no more rebirths and so after their death, they will attain their final goal Nibbana.