Keep Our Moral Conduct Clean


Knowledge is power. “He is indeed virtuous, wise ad righteous who neither for his own sake nor for the sake of another (does any wrong), who does not crave for sons, wealth or kingdom, and does not desire success by unjust means.” (Dhammapada Verse No.84). In Buddhism there are three grades of defilement; namely 1). The grade to transgression or gross degree of defilement (vitikkama kilesa); 2). The grade of obsession or the intermediary degree of defilement (priyutthana kilesa); and 3). The grade of latent or inherent tendency, or the instinctive degree of defilement (anusaya kilesa). Just as there are three grade of defilement, so there are also three stages of knowledge of mental development in order to object to and cast off the defilements. In the Dhammapada the Buddha taught thus:- “Just as a tree though cut down, sprouts up again if its roots remain uncut and firm, even so, until the craving that lies dormant is rooted out, suffering springs up again and again” (Dhammapada Verse No. 338).
“Easy is life for the shameless one who is as impudent as a crow, is backbiting and forward, arrogant and corrupt”. (Dhammapada Verse No. 244). Here the first grade , that of transgression similar to branches or leaves of a tree, can only be suppressed and dispelled by moral conduct or virtue (sila); second grade, that of obsession like the trunk, by concentration (Samadhi) and the third grade, that of latent tendency like the roots, by wisdom (panna). As a first step, the practitioner is therefore to abstain from all vicious and sinful deeds, and to be perfect in well-establishment of his moral purity. This is called the purity of virtue (silavisuddhi), which actually means good morality and pure conduct of one’s deeds.
“Exert yourself, O holy man! Cut off the stream (of craving), and discard sense desires. Knowing the destruction of all conditioned things, become, O holy man, the knower of the Uncreate (Nibanna)!”. (Dhammapada Verse No. 383). As a matter of fact, the moral purity is so vitally important for one that is indispensable, and therefore the Buddha emphatically taught about this virtue in the Dhammapada. 1). “Of little account is the fragrance of rosebay (Tagara) or sandal, but the fragrance of virtue which pervades even amongst the gods is supreme” (verse No. 56); 2) “Though one should live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled, yet better indeed is a single day’s life of one who is moral and meditative” (verse No.110); 3)   “Whose is perfect in virtue and insight, is established in the Dhamma, has realized the Truth and fulfils his own duties, people do hold him dear”. (verse No. 217); 4). “He who is full of faith and virtue, possessed of fame and wealth, he is honoured everywhere, in whatever land he travels”. (verse No.303); 5). “Happy is virtue till old age, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil”. (verse No. 333).
Putting Morality First is our urgent priority and is a requisite for the building of a developed, advanced, modernized and happy Nation. “People hold dear him who embodies virtue and insight, who is principled, has realized the truth, and who himself does what he ought to be doing” (Dhammapada Verse No. 217). In the Five Precepts and the Noble Eight-fold Path the Buddha gave us spiritual guidelines on how to conduct a decent Buddhist way of life. The other important injunctions of the Buddha’s to do good, to avoid evil, to purify one’s mind,  to practise loving kindness, to radiate compassion (in action), to endowed with appreciative joy (gladness) and equanimity must be added. This is most essential. The practice of Brahmavihara, radiating loving kindness and compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity, is the very essence of the Buddhist Teachings or way of life.
“Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth”. (Dhammapada Verse 223). “One should give up anger, renounce pride, and overcome all fetters. Suffering never befalls him who clings not to mind and body and is detached.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 221).”. “One who destroys life, utters lies, takes what is not given, goes to another man’s wife, and is addicted to intoxicating drinks— such a man digs up his own root even in this very world.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 246-247).  The Buddha also taught, in the Majjhima Nikaya. “If a Bikkhu should wish, “may I be dear to my fellows in the life of purity and loved by them, held in respect and honoured by them,” let him perfect the virtues.
Understanding the Dhamma and practising the teachings of the Buddha can be giving a practical guide to the Right Living. The sad state of affairs prevails today because man has chosen to take the wrong path in developing modern civilization. Man has defined materialism in the mistaken belief that materialism alone can bring happiness. This is a fallacy. Man has gone wrong because he has wilfully chosen to ignore the invaluable advice given by our spiritual leaders over the centuries. Whilst it is admitted that science can produce quick results and a measure of material gain, the resultant benefits from such material gain are illusory and short-lived. As against such illusory and short-lived gains, the benefits that we derive by following the noble teachings of our noble religious leaders are those of real lasting happiness and not illusory.
“Riches ruin only the foolish, not those in quest of the Beyond. By craving for riches the witless man ruins himself as well as others.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 355). Material gain without spiritual solace does not provide true and lasting happiness. Spiritual backing is absolutely necessary for man’s spiritual upliftment, leading to tranquillity of mind and everlasting happiness. If we study world history concerning man’s behaviour in the past, we will readily agree that modern man’s moral conduct is not better than that of his ancestors although we pretend to glorify our civilization.
“Month after month a fool may eat his food with the tip of a blade of grass, but he still is not worth a sixteenth part of those who have comprehended the Truth.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 70). Some modern thinkers are of the opinion that evil is a natural part of man’s make-up and trying to make him good and pure is simply an impractical and futile task. They point to the terrifying evil actions of murder, violence, rape, pillage carried out by all types of people. They argue that in spite of efforts to “civilize” man, we have continued to witness the horrors of persecution in almost every country. Sometimes, we wonder how the small element of goodness has prevailed for so long in the face of so much evil.
“One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 160). Buddhism accepts that there is evil in man, but it teaches that this evil can be eradicated by understanding and determination. Because people, especially government leaders and educationists, fail to understand the true nature of life, they do not attempt to teach their young the right values. In this century, education is based on the Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest and of course this philosophy tends to lead the young to be suspicious, greedy, aggressive and self-seeking.
Realizing that “Wisdom never becomes perfect in one whose mind is not steadfast, who knows not the Good Teaching and whose faith wavers.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 38). In a lovely book “Island” by Aldous Huxley we are shown that there is an alternative to the present education system where we are shown that survival is not guaranteed by selfishness but by sharing and giving. Our modern education system which aims at the material progress is responsible for the turning of the young to be aggressive and self-seeking. What we urgently need today is a code of ethics and morality which will guide people not to blindly seek material progress alone but to look for spiritual enlightenment, not just for self aggrandizement but for the common wealth.
“A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks himself wise is called a fool indeed.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 63). It is a positive quality of the enlightened mind which promotes a healthy ethical attitude. A person who extends to his fellow beings the love and affection similar to that extended by a mother to her only child and says with sincerity and feeling “May all beings be well and happy”, finds no place in his mind for malice, hate, jealousy and envy. By the practise of loving kindness, he becomes incapable of indulging in killing, stealing, lying, slandering or using harsh and unseemly language. Not only does he avoid doing harm to others whether by thought, speech or action, but he also develops the tendency to do good, to be kind and compassionate and to engage himself in the task of relieving others of suffering and agony.
“Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one’s own acts, done and undone.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 50). The perennial problems that beset human beings are due to our inability to subdue our emotions like hatred and to replace them with love and compassion. In practically every aspect of our lives, in family circles, in society, in communal, national and even international affairs, we find the ugly word “hatred” looming large in our vocabulary and in our dealings with one another.
(To be continued)

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