“Through mindfulness may I stop actions without virtue, and only complete virtuous actions, always being aware of the causes and effects of kind acts and harmful acts“
If we consider that since beginningless times we have, due to ignorance, been perpetrating more negative actions than positive, it seems an obvious starting point, if we want to try and free ourselves from this cycle of “suffering”, that we make a firm commitment to do all we can to readdress this balance.
Due to the infallible law of cause and effect, or “karma”, all that we do, say or think has a consequence, just as in the same way all phenomena in the universe arise from “causes and conditions”. It would seem rather arrogant, or short sighted, of us to think that while we can see and understand how the principle of cause and effect works in nature and the wider universe, it somehow doesn’t effect the actions taken by us as “conscious beings”! While that is a discussion for another time, Quantum Physics is starting to open the door to how we, as conscious beings, as “observers”, do indeed have an important effect on all that we interact with (every day science and Buddhist philosophy seem to get ever closer!)
But to ensure we choose appropriate actions, and avoid negative ones, we clearly need to understand what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Most religions have their advice on such matters and, in that respects, Buddhism is no different, although we need to make an important distinction. In most of the main religions of the world there is a belief in a “God” or divine “Creator”, some sort of “judge” that can not only pass judgment on what is “sinful”, and what is not, but can also mete out some form of “punishment” (usually at the end of ones life). In Buddhism there is no “God” and thus there is no “judge”, save “ourselves”, and thus no punishment (consequences yes, but not punishment)!
“We” are the interested party, due to the law of karma!! If we want to be happy, and free of suffering, we need to pursue virtuous actions and avoid non virtues now, as these are the seeds that we sow and that in the future we will reap! We are the creators of our future, no one else!
So what are the 10 positive / virtuous actions (and their opposites – the 10 unwholesome actions)? Note: I have added one or two clarifying notes (in italics).
- To renounce killing, and instead protect life (we should have in mind all “life”, including non human life)
- To renounce taking what is not given to us, and instead practice generosity (generosity in Buddhism is a wide term used to include all giving, not just material)
- To renounce sexual misconduct (in the main we are talking about fidelity to a partner) and instead follow the rules of discipline
- To renounce lying and instead to tell the truth
- To give up sowing discord, and instead reconcile disputes
- To abandon harsh speech and instead speak pleasantly
- To renounce worthless chatter and instead recite and contemplate texts to help change the habitual patters of the mind from negative to positive (there is no time like the present and no time to lose!)
- To renounce covetousness and instead learn to be generous (“attachment” is one of the 3 “poisons” in Buddhism and thus it’s defeat critical to achieving lasting happiness)
- To give up wishing harm on others and instead cultivate the desire to help them (the ultimate goal is “equanimity” ie seeing ALL sentient beings equally)
- To put an end to wrong views and instead establish in yourself the true and authentic view of phenomena (here we are talking, in the main, about accepting the law of karma and that of “emptiness” ie the reality that ALL phenomena are impermanent and empty of intrinsic existence)
In up coming articles we will explore these 10 points in more detail, but the starting point is to understand that only by pursuing positive actions are we going to find what we all want, happiness” and relief from “suffering”. Nothing outside us, as much as our materialistic society would wish to make us believe, can grant us anything more than momentary “happiness” (or “relief from suffering”) and that if we want lasting peace of mind or true mental stability, we need to look “within”, both to the afflictive emotions (that is for another day!!) and ALL our actions, words and thoughts!
And how do we do that? A good starting point is “mindfulness” – becoming “conscious” of what we are doing, saying and thinking in the “here and now”. We are creatures of habit and it is thus critical to think before we act or talk, and thus to start to break these habitual negative behaviours and then begin to replace them with new positive ones.
This article contains my humble opinions and thoughts and should not be mistaken for the wisdom of my teacher, the Venerable Geshe Tsering Palden, or any other fully qualified Buddhist teacher or Guru. My only aim in writing this Blog is to try and train my mind in the path of the Buddha and if by so doing I am able to benefit others I dedicate all merits for the relief of suffering of all sentient beings.
Note: Any error in this text is entirely attributable to me, and only to me, and should never be attributable to the perfect teachings of Dharma. I sincerely apologise for any mistakes.