August 19, 2016

Keep Our Moral Conduct Clean

(continued from 30-7-2015)
“Calm is his thought, calm his speech and calm his deed, who, truly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly tranquil and wise.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 96). The father hates the child disobedience, the child hates the parents for not providing what he considers are his essential needs. In society, a person would show hate to another person because of the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that the particular person was a stumbling block to one’s aspiration and so on. In national and international relationships, one country would express hate for another country because of certain action against it. The hatred goes on. It leads to reprisals and in many instances, may even lead to war causing untold misery and destruction in lives and property.
“One should do what one teaches others to do, if one would train others, one should be well controlled oneself. Difficult, indeed, is self-control.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 159). The Buddha’s Noble Eight-fold Path or the middle way is projected into all our day-to-day human relationships, together with the exercise of Patience, Tolerance and Understanding. It will be observed that the word “Right” is contained in all the eight constituents of Ariya Path. Hence, if we follow the Noble Eight-fold Path, it will be the right path that we are taking to achieve peace and tranquillity. The Eight-fold Path is :- 1) Right Understanding; 2) Right Thought; 3) Right Livelihood; 4) Right Effort; 5) Right Speech; 6) Right Action; 7) Right Mindfulness; 8) Right Concentration.
“Not by mere eloquence nor by beauty of form does a man become accomplished, if he is jealous, selfish and deceitful.” (Dhammapada Verse No.262). Closely associated with the Noble Eight-fold Path, are the Five Precepts which are normally observed by all the Buddhist devotees in any religious meeting. They are:- 1) To abstain from killing; 2) To abstain from stealing; 3) To abstain from adultery; 4) To abstain from lying and loose speech; and 5) To abstain from intoxicants and drugs. These precepts are simple in their presentation and are likely, at times, to be taken for granted by devotees, without giving deep thought to the serious impact on our daily lives and to the peace and harmony of our society and country.
“Difficult is life for the modest one who always seeks purity, is detached and unassuming, clean in life, and discerning.” (Dhammapada verse No. 245). When these precepts were enunciated by the Buddha, He had in mind the unsettled conditions of society prevailing nearly twenty-six centuries ago in India. These conditions were caused by human failings such as anger which leads to killing, greed which leads to stealing, undue sexual impulses that lead to adultery, egoistic feelings that lead to telling falsehoods and the absence of self-control that leads to undue consumption of intoxicants or drugs.
Under the guidance of the teachings of the Buddha, we can definitely make our Right Living. From a Buddhist perspective, morality is based on purification of the mind. As our minds are purified, our actions are purified. As a result, not only do mental attitudes that are dissonant or harmful to the natural world disappear, but new mental states lead directly to more enlightened actions in relation to the natural world and more enlightened influence on others about the natural world. This was already apparent in the Buddha’s time. Buddhist monks and nuns vow to follow moral precepts that prohibit harming of the environment, including all the sentient beings who live in it. Buddhist monastic make vows for protecting the purity of the water; for not killing sentient beings who live in the earth; for not killing insects, birds, and animals; for not starting forest fires; and for respecting the life of trees, particularly ancient ones.
“Clearly understanding this excellence of heedfulness, the wise exult therein and enjoy the resort of the Noble Ones.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 22). For the peaceful co-existence of our human race, that every follower of Buddhism is requested to repeat these precepts (moral conduct), again and again as a daily habit to stay clear from the five evils that would cause pain and harm to anyone who fails to follow the precepts. These are norms for a good society. As human beings, we all value our lives, hence we should refrain from taking the lives of other beings. At times we may be subjected to very grave provocation, but despite whatever tribulations may be poured on us, we should maintain our cool and never allow our emotions, particularly anger, to get the better of us. Angry emotions can lead to deadly action. By instilling the noble spirit of love and compassion in our hearts, we should be able to maintain the precept to abstain from killing – to abstain from taking lives of other beings.
“The wise are controlled in thought, controlled in speech and controlled in bodily action. They are truly well-controlled.” (Dhammapada verse No. 234). One of the codes of a harmonious human society as taught by the Buddha and as contained in the second precept is to refrain from stealing. In our human society, each of us has to work to earn our living. With the money that we earn, we buy the necessities of life for our sustenance. We treasure these necessities because we obtained them through our own sweat and labour. We can part with them, if necessary, to help others in need, but we certainly would strongly object if our requirements were forcibly taken away from us through thieving or other means. Just as we do not like others to steal our possessions, we should all adopt the precept to “refrain from stealing” under any circumstances.
Clearly understand that “The doer of good delights here and hereafter; he delights in both the worlds. The thought, “Good have I done,” delights him, and he delights even more when gone to realms of bliss.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 18). In traditional cultures, taking what is not given was personal and direct. Everyone could identify it and see it happening, clearly and distinctly. The complicated nature of contemporary society, with its long, twisted, and often hidden chains of causes and effects, very often makes it difficult to identify this category of exploitation directly and personally. Buddhist teachings can act as an aid in clarifying and magnifying such muddled situations and can encourage us to try to clarify and shorten the causal chains of the everyday transactions of contemporary daily life.
“Let a man guard himself against irritability in bodily action; let him be controlled in deed. Abandoning bodily misconduct, let him practise good conduct in deed.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 231). From the past to the present day, many happy families have been broken up or disrupted due to man’s inordinate sexual desires. Man should control his animal passions and behave in a decent and ethical manner. Hence the Buddha enjoined all human beings to refrain from committing adultery. Every man must know the fact that “Four misfortunes befall the reckless man who consorts with another’s wife: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, ill-repute and (rebirth in) states of woe.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 309). In film, on video, and on the Internet, the norm has become portrayal of casual sex without mention of its dangers — pregnancy, disease, social disruption, and deep personal suffering. Clear explanation by Buddhist teachers of the meaning and importance of this precept for the Buddhist laity and exhortation for them to make vows to follow this precept can be a strong force to heal this dangerous rent in the social fabric.
Everybody must learn the verse that “Let a man guard himself against irritability in speech; let him be controlled in speech. Abandoning verbal misconduct, let him practise good conduct in speech.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 232). One of the most difficult precepts to follow in this modern era is the precept to abstain from lying or telling falsehoods. For fear of punishment, a child would at once deny that is has committed a misdeed. In a court of law, a witness would be prepared to tell a deliberate lie in order to save a friend or a relative. However, lying is an obnoxious deed, particularly if a person were to create deliberate lies in order to put someone in trouble. Another very distasteful act of lying is to slander by spreading unfounded lies in order to smear the good name of another person. The Buddha has enjoined us as good Buddhists to refrain from telling lies. We should uphold the truth. We should honour this precept and refrain from indulging in falsehoods.
“All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.” (Dhammapada Verse No. 130). Profound personal honesty is absolutely essential for progress on the Buddhist Path. If we cannot be true to ourselves, we cannot be trustworthy in social relationships. Yet deception and dishonesty is the widespread currency of contemporary society. This begins with deceiving others about the appearance of our bodies, includes phony representations of people and products in advertising, and is exemplified by widespread cheating on examinations, lying on resumes, and falsifying data in scientific papers. Given recent technological developments, documents, photographs, and videos can now be easily altered in ways that are extremely difficult if not impossible to detect. People are routinely deceived and harmed by other people who use false identities and misrepresentations on the Internet. Using the lens of this precept, it easily becomes clear where corrective action needs to be taken.
“Not the sweet smell of flowers, not even the fragrance of sandal, tagara or jasmine blows against the wind. But the fragrance of the virtuous blows against the wind. Truly, the virtuous man pervades all directions with the fragrance of his virtue.” (Dhammapada verse No. 54). Many good families have been broken and upset through the inordinate use of intoxicants and drugs. Intoxicants or drugs have the effect of lulling the consumer into a state of false happiness. A drunkard loses his self-control and does not realise what he is doing. He becomes boisterous and is prepared to challenge everybody to a scuffle. A drunkard often loses his self respect. Under the influence of liquor, a drunkard would do things which he would normally do if he is sober. The drug addict is also a curse to the society. Many crimes in the country are caused by drug addicts. We should all observe the precept to refrain from taking liquor and drugs.
Reference:  Morality (Sila), by Kaba-Aye Sayadaw Ashin Panna Dipa, 4.4.85; MORAL AND ETHICAL CONDUCT OF A BUDDHIST by Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda.; Dhammapada SARPAYLAWKA (The Literary World) January 2007.


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