Title

Ethics

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2016

Department

Religion

Language

English

Publication Title

The Buddhist World

Abstract

Many religions vaue perfect faith or submission to God or gods. Buddhism is a nontheistic religion whose ideal is human perfection, described as a state of contentment, happiness, wisdom, love, and compassion. Because this ideal involves the perfection of virtue as well as attainment of insight, ethics (sīla) in Buddhism are particularly important. As Damien Keown writes, "Buddhism is a response to what is fundamentally an ethical problem - the perennial problem of the best kind of life for man to lead" (1992: 1).
According to the Path of Virtue (Dhammapada), a popular collection of the Buddha's aphorisms from the Pāli canon of Theravāda Buddhism, the practice of perfection is simply this: to abstain from all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one's mind (verse 183). A Buddhist needs to know initially how to distinguish right from wrong, and then how to cultivate virtue. In the end, he or she should become the sort of person who, having purified his or her mind, no longer needs to follow rules, having been transformed by the path into someone who naturally embodies virtue. This transformation has implications not only for the transformed individual but also for the society in which he or she is located.

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