Putting Morality First


“You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way.
Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.
(Dhammapada, verse No. 276.)

Peace, Progress, Prosperity, Happiness and Harmony are what the People in this Planet want to enjoy for the Present and the Future. In the Buddha’s Teaching, morality or virtue (sila) is of vital importance, for only by laying the firm foundation of moral purity will one be able to proceed towards the attainment of the higher stages, namely, concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna) as it is said in the Visuddhimagga: “a wise man, after establishing well in virtue, develops consciousness and understanding.” An aspirant therefore specially needs purity of mind, purity of speech and purity of body (action). In the text, it is said that a person has been perfected with sila when he does not violate actions of body and actions of speech (silasampada).
Understanding right understanding (view) is of paramount importance for all Buddhists. Good in fact is usually done by way of actions through the door of mind or speech or body; reversely, evil is also done in the same manner. Why do we make sin or commit evil? In reality, it is not because of outside circumstances, nor a force existing apart from ourselves, but the unwholesome way we conduct ourselves on mind, speech and body, and all this has its roots in our mental processes, collectively called “mind”., as the Buddha taught in the Dhammapada:- “Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts, suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.” (Verse No. 1 and 2).
Teachings of the Buddha guide all Buddhists in the world how to become mindful, energetic and wise people. Be good to others. Keep our mind pure. Here, suffering consequently follows one because of one’s evil deeds, whereas happiness also follows one by virtue of one’s good deeds. In this respect the main task in gaining happiness and dispelling suffering is to avoid evil deeds (varitta sila) and do good moral deeds (caritta sila). As are prescribed by the Buddha. Such a behavior is called moral conduct of a man in Buddhism.
The term “sila” includes other similar terms, such as volition (cetana), mental factor (cetasikam), restraint (samvaro) and non-transgression (avitikkamo). Here, composing means non-inconsistency of verbal and bodily actions, or serving as a foundation of wholesome states. The characteristics of sila (lakkhana) are composing: its function (rasa) has a double sense: action to stop misconduct, and achievement as the quality of blamelessness; it is manifested (paccupatthana) as a pure state in all actions; and its proximate cause (padatthana) is a combination of shame and conscience.
Investigative and insight knowledge of Dhamma is of great importance for all Buddhists to learn and practise in order to produce beneficial results. Buddhism teaches man to live in peace and harmony. The Buddha exhorted His followers not to take His Teachings on blind faith but to accept them only after close investigation and inquiry as to whether the Teachings are really acceptable according to one’s own intelligence and experience. Even though Buddha wanted His followers to absorb the Dhamma, He did not want them to accept it without clarity of mind and complete understanding.
No external agents can help for one’s own moral development.   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.
Good moral conduct is therefore the very foundation of progress towards enlightenment or supreme wisdom, which means the real peace and happiness of man’s life. As  moral conduct or virtue (sila) is a practice to restrain the unwholesome acts of speech and body, when a person  is free from any sort of verbally and bodily misconduct, he is said to have kept or observed sila properly. In brief, that which is restraint from all vicious and sinful acts or evils is called sila.
Morality matters most. Without ethical principles or moral conduct, man normally descends to an animal level where there is no compassion and love, no tolerance and reasoning intellect, and no moral restraint in thoughts, words and deeds. Without moral character or restraint, any man or society or race or nation, in any place or home or town or country must, apparently, be engrossed someway or other with some kind of anguish arising from insecurity, instability, disunity, turmoil, conflicts, fights, battles, and even great wars.
“One for all and all for one” is the ultimate noble aim of the People in this Planet. The Buddha wanted all human beings to lead ideal lives – to be kind, compassionate and considerate to one another and to exercise patience, tolerance and understanding in all activities and relationships. The Buddha, with His supreme wisdom, realised that there were weaknesses and pit-falls in human society. He introduced the Buddha Dhamma in order to enlighten, emancipate and reform mankind to lead a meaningful life. His Teachings were clear and comprehensive – they covered the existence of a human being, from birth to the grave.
Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are the eight constituents of the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya Path) leading to the cessation of suffering (dukkha). The moral concepts in Buddhism (Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood) are in no sense “commandments”, for no one has commanded that one should keep them; the Buddha only advised or admonished us for our own happiness and for that of others that we should observe certain rules of morality (sila). For instance, whoever follows the moral precepts laid down by the Buddha has assuredly experienced a happy state of life; contrarily, whoever can’t observe them may positively find him /her in a state of misery.
“As kinsmen welcome a dear one on arrival even so his own good deeds will welcome the doer of good who has gone from this world to the next.” (Dhammapada verse No. 220). As Buddhists recognize no Supreme Being or God, there also cannot be commandments for their moral purity. They believe that moral purity can only be gained by the actual practice of restraint by oneself, not to violate one’s moral precepts mentally, verbally and bodily. Moral precepts are kept for the sake of the happiness of man. Happiness of course comes not only from maintaining a good standard of morality in this life, but also as the result of skilful actions in past existence.
Lifelong learning is a requisite for all Buddhists to develop their mind-centred and mindfulness-based practice to achieve their supreme results. Those who were unable to comprehend His Teachings or were not prepared to accept His Teachings, would rate His Teachings as too idealistic and incapable of achievement. Despite such assertions, His Teachings, if reduced to the simplest of terms, could be contained in just a few words. “Not to do any evil (pāpa) “To avoid all evil (akusala)), to cultivate the good (kuṡala), to purify one’s mind (citta); this is the teaching of the Buddhas.” (Dhammapada Verse 183) . These words were true during the Buddha’s time. These words are just as true and applicable for the present and the future. If everyone does what is good for oneself and for others as well and completely shuns evil, that would affect others as well as oneself and the world would definitely be a better place to live in.
“If by renouncing a lesser happiness one may realize a greater happiness, let the wise man renounce the lesser, having regard for the greater.” (Dhammapada verse No. 290). As the moral principles taught by the Buddha are universal for all men and women at all times, happiness or misery of man/woman therefore depends on himself/herself, how s/he can or cannot abide by the rules of moral discipline that should be kept by a moral person. Unless a basis of uprightness in moral matters has been made secure, it is impossible to realize the Supramundane Wisdom and so Freedom.
“Self-conquest is far better than the conquest of others. Not even a god, an angel, Mara or Brahma can turn into defeat the victory of such a person who is self-subdued and ever restrained in conduct.” (Dhammapada verse No.104-105). In Buddhism the moral precept is roughly divided into three categories; namely, moral precepts for 1). Laymen; 2). Novices (samanera); and 3). Monks (Bikkhu) and Nuns (Bikkhuni). An average layman/laywoman usually observes the Five Precepts (pancasila) or Eight Precepts (atthangasila), or Eight Precepts of Livelihood (ajivatthamaka sila), or Nine Precepts (navanga sila). Furthermore, a lay Buddhist should also abstain from committing the ten evil actions, but cultivate the Ten Meritorious Deeds (Punnakiriya) and Ten Perfections (parami). A novice (smanera) has to observe the Ten Precepts adhering to 75 Rule of Training (sekhiya).  A Buddhist monk (Bikkhu) has to observe 227 Rules of Discipline (patimokkha) in general or 91,805,036,000 minute rules all in detail, while a Buddhist nun (bikkhuni) observes 311 Rules of Discipline in general.
“Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself.”(Dhammapada verse No.103). The basis of all human society is the intricate relationship between parent and child. A mother’s duty is to love, care and protect the child, even at extreme cost. This is the self-sacrificing love that the Buddha taught. It is practical, caring and generous and it is selfless.  The world has never experienced such phenomenal material progress as it is realising in this age. However, despite this wonderful progress, it is most unfortunate that mankind tends to neglect its spiritual well-being. Mankind appears to have been blinded by material achievements thinking that materialism is the end of all things. Mankind has forgotten that materialism alone does not provide the true happiness or spiritual well-being sought after by mankind. Men must seek true happiness and spiritual well-being through their respective religions as an additional adjunct to materialism. Spiritual solace and materialism go hand in hand to provide true happiness for all. “The sun shines by day, the moon shines by night. The warrior shines in armour, the holy man shines in meditation. But the Buddha shines resplendent all day and all night”. (Dhammapada verse No. 387)
Reference: The Article “Morality (Sila), by Kaba-Aye Sayadaw Ashin Panna Dipa; MORAL AND ETHICAL CONDUCT OF A BUDDHIST by Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda.

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