10 Ethical Commitments According to Buddhism
Buddhists take a very different approach to life than the Western world. However, the contrast is less evident when it comes to ethical commitments. There are other non-Western countries with similar ideas. In fact, it seems that there’s a general agreement in most societies regarding moral behavior.
Ethical commitments are those behavior patterns that are desirable for all members of society. Freud stated that they indicate the advantage of repressing certain desires that, as humans, we all get bombarded with.
“Never hurt someone intentionally. It hurts you more in the end.”
Unlike other doctrines, in Buddhism, the issue of ethical commitments is a matter of intelligence. In fact, it’s considered a sign of incompetence not to comply with their guidelines of behavior. This is because it ultimately leads to self-harm. Here are the commitments.
1. Take no life
When Buddhists talk about life, they mean any form of life. This includes man and all other species. That’s why most Buddhists are vegetarians. In fact, some even insist on only eating non-essential parts of plants. It’s because they have complete respect for life. In addition, this discipline strengthens the spirit.
2. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you
This is one of the ethical commitments that promote spiritual evolution, according to Buddhists. However, the no stealing rule doesn’t just apply to other people’s possessions. In fact, it’s more a call for generosity and unselfishness. Taking away from others goes against these principles.
3. Don’t indulge in harmful sexual behaviors
Buddhists understand harmful sexual behaviors as those that cause damage or suffering in yourself, others, or both.
There isn’t a specific list of these behaviors. Instead, what Buddhists call for is a space for growth and evolution, not a practice that limits, degrades, or enslaves.
4. Refrain from lying
Buddhists attach great importance to words. They also place great value on silence. In fact, they believe that words shouldn’t be used indiscriminately but kept for what’s important.
Lying distances you from reality. Furthermore, it causes harm because it separates both you and others from the truth. For everyone who embarks on the path of spiritual growth, truth is the goal.
5. Refrain from speaking rudely
Speaking rudely or unkindly is a way of inflicting violence on the other person. Sincerity never involves crudeness or insensitivity.
When you’re angry, what you say loses its value. What remains isn’t the intention to communicate, but the desire to hurt or damage the other. Verbal violence is still violence.
6. Don’t indulge in small talk
Buddhists believe that communication should be useful. If it isn’t, then it’s better to stay silent. In fact, talking for the sake of it is a sign of a lack of attention, anxiety, or nervousness.
It’s much more difficult to achieve balance and inner peace when you don’t give words true value. Talking of nothing detracts from energy and blurs your communication with others.
7. Don’t speak ill of others
This is one of the most important ethical commitments of Buddhism. Speaking disparagingly of others when they’re not around, or giving them harmful information, is disrespectful. The goal of communication is to achieve understanding and harmony rather than destroying it.
8. Abandon greed
Greed is a great enemy of spiritual progress. Indeed, desiring more and more is contrary to the Buddhist principles of detachment. They promote detachment because being dependent on external things leads to suffering.
The more you want, the more you suffer. For this reason, whoever has a lot also accumulates reasons to suffer. Remember, nothing is forever and everything ceases to be yours at some point.
9. Discard hate
Compassion is one of the great pillars of Buddhism. They see it as the most evolved form of love. Hatred is at the other extreme. This indicates complete denial and total incomprehension towards others.
Buddhists believe that hatred makes you blind. In addition, it uses up a great deal of energy. Then, you become unbalanced and close your path to serenity and balance.
10. Purify the mind
This is one of the fundamental ethical commitments of Buddhism. In fact, it’s the ultimate goal for Buddhists.
Purifying the mind means transforming ignorance into wisdom. It involves a constant effort to banish all those factors that cloud your intellect and heart and prevent you from finding the truth. To be wise is to be pure. To be pure is to see.
As you can see, ethical commitments in Buddhism fundamentally seek to promote the growth of every human being. However, they aren’t restrictive commands. That’s because their goal isn’t to suggest punishment but rather to show how damaging certain behaviors can be. Indeed, the ultimate goal isn’t, in effect, to maintain social order. It’s to show a way of achieving harmony and, subsequently, happiness.
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- Jahr, F. (2013). Bio-ética: una perspectiva de las relaciones éticas de los seres humanos con los animales y las plantas (1927). Aesthethika. Revista Internacional sobre Subjetividad, Política y Arte, 8(2), 18-23.