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Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude

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:
    1. no killing,
    2. no stealing,
    3. no lying,
    4. no sexual misconduct, and
    5. 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):
    1. Right faith (Samyag Darsana),
    2. Right knowledge (Samyag Jnana),
    3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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’.
  4. Brahmacharya - abstinence from sensual and casual pleasures.
    • A person must not look at women with an evil intention.
    • Treat opposite genders with respect.
  5. 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.
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