|Forest Sangha Newsletter||January 1996|
Sutta Class: Morals and Ethics
This is the Teaching of the Buddhas. [Dh.183]
This means purifying the mind of selfishness - of all tendencies and references to self or selfhood. This is accomplished through the sequential development of morality, which gives rise to collectedness of mind, which in turn gives rise to liberation.
Ananda, kusala sila (wholesome conduct) gives freedom from remorse as its gain and advantage; freedom from remorse gives delight as its gain and advantage; delight gives joy; joy gives tranquillity; tranquillity gives well- being; well-being gives collectedness; collectedness gives knowledge and vision of things as they really are; knowledge and vision of things as they really are gives disenchantment and dispassion; disenchantment and dispassion gives knowledge and vision of liberation as its gain and advantage.
Although technically only the three qualities of Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood are grouped under the heading of morality - sila, in practice all eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path function as supports for morality.
Thus there are different forms of moral training, which are voluntarily undertaken - depending upon individual circumstances, abilities and determination - by those seeking to be free of suffering. They are not absolute commandments from some higher power, who then stands in judgement over them instilling a fear of punishment; such an approach inevitably gives rise to guilt, since human beings invariably fail to live up to ideal standards of perfection. It is interesting that guilt is unknown in Buddhist countries, whereas remorse, a perfectly natural response to wrong-doing, is recognised as an important moral force - its penetrating sting prevents the repeating of unwholesome behaviour. The impersonal and automatic Law of Kamma is what judges a Buddhist's actions, so rather than trying to cover up wrong-doing, the most that can be done is to do good actions to counteract the wrong.
Supports For Good Conduct:
From this follows:
Personal & Social Conscience - hiri-ottappa|
Ignorance, bhikkhus, precedes and gives rise to unwholesome states, lack of personal and social conscience follows after. Knowledge, bhikkhus, precedes and gives rise to wholesome states, personal and social conscience follows after.[It.Vut.40]
Personal and social conscience are called in the Pali Canon the world protectors [It.Vut.42;A.I,50].
Personal conscience - hiri is that moral quality which is founded upon personal integrity; it aims at preserving an honourable and praiseworthy standard of conduct, which we can feel comfortable with within ourselves. A further explanation is that:
Social conscience - ottappa is that moral quality which is concerned with maintaining an honourable and blameless reputation in society, free from other people's recrimination and criticism.
The Noble Eightfold Path:
During the Buddha-to-be's striving for Awakening, he divided his thoughts - vitakka, into two categories: thoughts of sensual desire, ill-will and cruelty, and thoughts of renunciation, non-ill- will and non-cruelty. He then reflected upon such thoughts, thus:
This thought of sensual desire has arisen in me. This leads to my own affliction, to other's affliction, and to the affliction of both; it obstructs wisdom, causes difficulties, and leads away from Nibbana.
When he thus considered, the thoughts of sensual desire subsided. Whenever they did arise, he abandoned and did away with them - and similarly with thoughts of ill-will and cruelty:
Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desires, he has abandoned the thought of renunciation to cultivate the thought of sensual desire, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of sensual desire.
Likewise with thoughts of ill-will and cruelty. Contrariwise, thoughts of renunciation, non-ill-will and non-cruelty do not lead to affliction but to Nibbana. [M.I,114f]
He is able to make himself, his parents, family and friends happy; is able to ward off misfortune; is able to make the fivefold offering to relatives, guests, the departed, leaders and celestials; is able to make offerings to noble religious persons which lead to heaven. cf. [A.II,67-8; III,45]
This is how wealth is properly used.
Wrong livelihood is generally explained as:
Scheming, talking, hinting, belittling, pursuing gain with gain. [M.III,75 = MLDB,p.938]
Right Livelihood is explicitly detailed as:
The five trades which should not be plied by any lay-follower are:
Further Practices of Good Conduct: