Ethics in Buddhism & Jainism
- 13 Sep 2018
- 5 min read
Ethics in Buddhism
- Buddhist ethics are neither arbitrary standards invented by man for his own utilitarian purpose nor are they arbitrarily imposed.
- Man-made laws and social customs do not form the basis of Buddhist ethics.
- Buddhist ethics finds its foundation not on the changing social customs but rather on the unchanging laws of nature.
Morality in Buddhism
- Buddhist morality judges an as action good or bad basing on the intention or motivation from which it originates.
- Actions that have their roots in greed, hatred or selfishness are considered to be bad - called Akusala Kamma.
- Actions which are rooted in the virtues of generosity, love and wisdom are meritorious and good - called Kusala Kamma.
Three Essentials for Life
- Buddhism considers - Wisdom (Prajna), Ethical conduct (Sila) and the Concentration (Samadi) as the three essentials for life.
- Wisdom comes from right view, it leads to the right intention.
- The right view and intentions are guides to ethical conduct - right speech, right action, right livelihood and right effort.
- Concentration - pointed focus is ‘self – activity’ to have right mindfulness and right concentration.
- When wisdom, ethics and concentration become way of life; one gains enlightenment.
Pancasila (Five Refrains)
- Buddhism invites Buddhists to adopt five precepts voluntarily in order to live together in civilised communities with mutual trust and respect.
- Following these five precepts helps the Buddhist make a spiritual journey towards liberation. These are:
- no killing,
- no stealing,
- no lying,
- no sexual misconduct, and
- no intoxicants.
Ten Demeritorious Deeds
- People are advised to keep away from deeds rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion as they will bring suffering to others.
- These ten deeds are divided into three sets:
1. Actions of the Body: Bodily actions such as killing of living beings, stealing, and unlawful sexual intercourse.
2. Verbal Actions: lying, slander, harsh speech, and meaningless talk.
3. Actions of the Mind: Covetousness or being desirous, especially of things belonging to others, ill-will, wrong views.
Ethics in Jainism
- Jainism provides threefold path known as Triratna (three jewels) for the attainment of Moksha (salvation):
- Right faith (Samyag Darsana),
- Right knowledge (Samyag Jnana),
- Right conduct (Samyag Caritra).
- They work like a medicine to cure a sick mind– faith in its efficacy, knowledge by its use and actual taking of the medicine, right conduct.
In general, Jaina morality consists of the essential observance of Pancha-mahavratas which are the ingredients of right conduct. They are:
- Ahimsa – nonviolence or abstinence from all injuries to life, either trasa (mobile) or sthavara (immobile).
- Jainism emphasises upon equality to all life, so killing a living being is violence.
- Hurting others through speech by intentional insults and by making others suffer emotionally is also violence.
- Since a householder cannot lead a life without violence, therefore, one should discharge his/her worldly responsibilities with the minimum injuries to others.
- But killing animals for eating is strictly prohibited.
- Satyam - Abstinence from falsehood; rather that speaking what is true, good and pleasant.
- One should not hesitate to tell the truth even when his/her life is in danger.
- But at the same time; if the truth results brings harm to others, in such case, the truth should be withheld in the interest of the others.
- Asteyam - Abstinence from stealing.
- Stealing has various dimensions such as – stealing others property, directing others to steal, receiving stolen property or retaining things with a motto ‘finders keepers’.
- Brahmacharya - abstinence from sensual and casual pleasures.
- A person must not look at women with an evil intention.
- Treat opposite genders with respect.
- Aparigraha - Abstinence from amassing wealth greedily or any kind of attachments.
- Each householder needs money to lead a decent life but mindless accumulation of wealth leads to suffering and unhappiness.
- Therefore, one must have limited necessity and learn to be content.