Our ethical values

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Our Ethical Values

The basic code of ethics of Buddhism consists of the Five Principles (Pali: pañcasīlāni, Sanskrit: pañcaśīlāni) which aim to regulate the behavior of the mind. These are:

1. Abstaining from murder
in Pali: P āṇ iptip āt ā veramaṇ ī sikkh ṃpadaṃ sam ādiy āmi

2. Abstaining from theft
in Pali: Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

3. Abstinence from wrong sexual behavior
in Pali: Kāmesumicchācāra veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

4. Abstaining from the wrong speech
in Pali: Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

5. Abstinence from addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs
in Pali: Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

​​​The assumption and observance of the five ethical rules is based on the principle of non-harm, non-violence and non-cruelty (Pāli and Sanskrit: ahiṃsa). The Buddha advises us to compare ourselves with others, and on this basis, not to harm others. As he says, all beings are the same in that they want to be happy, not to suffer, and in that they are afraid of death. Comparing ourselves with others, we should not harm others, as we would not want anyone to harm us. This is a teaching in which the Buddha describes a kind of “golden rule” of comparing ourselves to others.

Also, compassion and belief in the karmic consequence of voluntary actions are the foundation of the five moral rules. Their ascension is part of the regular Buddhist practice, both at home and in the temple. A layman who observes them is described by the Buddha as a “jewel among the laity,” that is, one who brightens and adorns society.

In addition, these five rules and other higher rules of Buddhist ethics are described as the means of creating good karma (of good deeds).

The five moral rules are part of right speech, right action and right livelihood on the Noble Eight-Way, that is, the central teaching of Buddhism. They have been described as social values ​​that bring harmony to society, and violations of the rules are described as contrary to a harmonious society. Similarly, in Buddhist texts, the ideal, just society is one in which people follow the five moral rules. These rules have even been compared to human rights because of their universal nature, and some scholars argue that they can complement the concept of human rights. The founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies, Johan Galtung, describes the five rules as “Buddhism’s key contribution to peace.”

According to the principle of free will and the gradual standards of Buddhist ethics, the five rules are formulated and understood as “assumptions” and “exercises” instead of commands imposed by a moral principle. They are forms of temperance that are expressed in negative terms of “abstinence”, but are also accompanied by virtues and positive behaviors, which are cultivated through the practice of rules.

In complying with or violating the five rules, intent is vital. A rule is understood to be violated when the person violating it finds the object of the violation (eg an object to be stolen), is aware of the violation, has the intent to violate, actually acts with that intent, and does so successfully.

The five rules are also considered as principles that define a person as a person in body and mind. The Buddha describes the five rules as a means of avoiding harm to ourselves and others, but also as gifts for ourselves and others. In addition, he says that the people who respect them will have confidence in any gathering of people, will have a good reputation and will die peacefully, reborn in a pleasant world of existence. On the other hand, living a life that breaks the rules leads to rebirth in an unhappy world of existence.

This text was written by the Reverend monk Nyanadassana (Ioannis Tselios) in August 2019

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