Right Action

We have come to Right Action in the Ethics Training, or sila, in the Noble Eight-fold Path. Sila, which means a state of normalcy. So when we practice sila, we return to our own basic goodness, our Buddha-nature. We train in preserving our true nature, not allowing it to be modified or overpowered by negative forces.  These precepts are a means to an end, they’re observed for a specific objective.  On the personal level, they serve as the foundation for the spiritual path. Without ethics or morality, we can’t attain our highest spiritual goals, and they are the foundation for a peaceful and secure society.  Most of the problems in society today are connected, directly or indirectly, with a lack of good ethical conduct.

For our lives to be meaningful these issues must not remain theory, they have to be translated into practice. We are asked to give up those things that will harm others and be of benefit to others. It’s not enough to know what’s good or what’s not, we also need to take action around them. We need concrete guidelines to follow. Every spiritual practice has them and the Buddha-Dharma is not different. These are provided by the Five Lay Precepts. The precepts help us to live our ideals; they teach us to do the beneficial things and to avoid the harmful.  The basis of the Five Lay Precepts is mindfulnessThey teach us to have reverence for life, demonstrate generosity, practice sexual responsibility, practice Right Speech and deep listening, and practice mindful consumption.  They are formally explained as:

  1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living beings.
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not offered.
  3. … to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. … to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. … to refrain from the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to heedlessness.

The Buddha gave these Precepts to laypeople as recommendations, that are voluntarily observed, by those who want to lead a peaceful life while contributing to the happiness of family and society. They aren’t commandments that are about sinning or punishment. Breaking a precept is seen as an “unskillful act” due to the lack of Wisdom. AND we’re never encouraged to disregard circumstances and follow them blindly without wisdom and understanding; there are times when upholding them might create more suffering for others. At these times, a precept might have to be bent. (For instance, we might have to lie to protect someone in danger – this is “bending” the Fourth Precept which is against lying. Think of the four people who helped the Frank family and all they had to do to protect those lives.) But we need to remember that whenever any of the Five Precepts is not upheld, it should only be for the welfare of others and not for selfish gain.

We have come to Right Action in the Ethics Training, or sila, in the Noble Eight-fold Path. Sila, which means a state of normalcy. So when we practice sila, we return to our own basic goodness, our Buddha-nature. We train in preserving our true nature, not allowing it to be modified or overpowered by negative forces.  These precepts are a means to an end, they’re observed for a specific objective.  On the personal level, they serve as the foundation for the spiritual path. Without ethics or morality, we can’t attain our highest spiritual goals, and they are the foundation for a peaceful and secure society.  Most of the problems in society today are connected, directly or indirectly, with a lack of good ethical conduct.

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