The Perfection Of Ethics

In the previous post, The Perfection of Generosity, we learned that the perfection of ethics was one of the paramitas taught by the Buddha. The paramitas are practices that take us to the other shore from ill-being to well-being. A common translation of the Sanskrit word, paramita, is perfection or completeness, as was stated previously.

The perfection of ethics

Calligraphy by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

The concept of ethical behavior is a characteristic of all religions. For example, they all have the idea of not to kill, steal, or commit adultery. Buddhism is certainly included in this list.

The practice of the perfection of ethics in Buddhism can be summed up in what has been called the five precepts. These are

  1. Not to kill.
  2. Not to steal.
  3. Not to engage in improper sexual conduct.
  4. Not to lie.
  5. Not to consume alcohol.

These have been elaborated on by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in the form of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Instead of being commandments like in Judaism and Christianity, the Five Mindfulness Trainings demonstrate the Buddha’s vision for a global spirituality and ethics. They serve as guidelines to aspire to, but not as commandments, which cause guilt when transgressed.

According to the Plum Village website,

The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.

Since the Five Mindfulness Trainings are spelled out here, there is no need to repeat them. Instead, here is how Thich Nhat Hanh has labeled them:

  1. Reverence For Life
  2. True Happiness
  3. True Love
  4. Loving Speech and Deep Listening
  5. Nourishment and Healing

Each of these corresponds to one of the precepts above. Notice that they emphasize the wholesome qualities and not the negative side.

In the practice of Plum Village and sanghas practicing in the Plum Village tradition all over the world, these are recited at a minimum on a monthly basis. They are kept in mind as part of daily life and practice.

Please now read the Five Mindfulness Trainings, either in the current version on the Pllum Village website, or here.

What did you experience with each one of them? Was there one that caused you the most concern? Please share.

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