Buddhist Ethics

  • Place of Ethics: In the perspective of the four noble truths ethical is not for its own sake but it is an essential ingrediant on the path to the final goal - Moral development is the basis for the cultivation of medication (samadhi) and wisdom (panna)
  • Dharma: to live a moral life is to live a life in accordance to the Dharma. Living in accordance with Dharma leads to happiness (Nirvana) It has many meanings:
    • The underlying idea is of a universal law, governing the physical and moral order of the universe
    • Natural law - principle of order and regularity in the behaviour of natural phenomena
    • Universal moral laws- dharma is manifest in the law of karma which governs the way moral deeds affect individuals in present and future lives.
  • Aim of moral virtue: moral virtue (sila) aims to restrain the external expression of defilements. Meditation (samadhi) aims to undermine active defilements in the mind.
    • Insight (panna) facilitated by meditative calm, aims to destroy defilements in the form of latent tendencies.
  • Three poisons: defilements or conditioned states such as greed, hatred and delusion are seen to exist in the form of unwholesome activities of body, speech and thought and the latent tendencies of unwholesome activities left in the mind are the root of all these and shape karma.
  • Stages of icreasing insight (wisdom): Purity of virtue - purity of mind - purity of view - through various stages of insight - utter Nirvana without attachment - unshakable freedom of mind.
    • the cultivation of one leads naturally to the nest so that the component of the path suppirt one another and interact to form a harmonious whole.
      • 'The basis for them all, however, like the earth for plants or a foundation for a building, is moral virtue' - Milindapanha 33-4 King Milindas questions
  • What makes an action good or bad?:
    • motives or intentions (deontology)
    • results of the actions (teleology)
    • an actions contribution to spiritual development, culminating in Nirvana.
  • Motives or intentions: In buddhist ethics the intention or motivation behing an action is of crucial significance in karma
    • Akusala Karma: A bad action is akusala or unskilful 'unwholesome' = apunna 'demerit' - lead to negative results (vipaka or fruits 'phala') or demerit.
    • Kusala Karma: are the xpression of positive states of mind: loving kindness (metta), generosity (dana) and compassion (karuna)
  • Results of the action: Deciding on what actions are unwholesome or wholesome concerns the anticipatable direct effect of the action in terms of causing suffering or happiness.
    • The buddha advises that one should reflect before, during and after any action of body, speech or thought, to consider whether it might lead to the harm of ones self of others or both.
    • 'If one sees that the action harms neither oneself nor others, nor both, it can be seen to be unwholesome, with a happy result'
  • An actions contribution to spiritual development:
    • Wholesome actions arising from a state of mide which is virtuous as judged by the actions motive and the knowledge of likely harm or benefit. Its


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