The second aspect of Buddhism is the ethical aspect. This is following the Buddhas teaching regarding our actions, speech and mental purification. There are many doctrines concerned with the ethical aspect of Buddhism.
By following these doctrines, we can lead a happy life in this existence as well as the next but we cannot yet be rid of suffering totally. The ethical aspects of Buddhism are:
- Refraining from all kinds of evil deeds,
- Performing meritorious or good deeds,
- Purifying the mind from all kinds of defilements.
These are the three parts of the ethical aspect of what the Omniscient Buddha has taught us and they are the exhortations of all the Buddhas. If we follow these doctrines, we can lead a happy and peaceful life because Buddhism is founded on the Law of Cause and Effect. If we refrain from all kinds of evil deeds, we will not suffer any bad results.
As to the purification of mind from defilements, we have to practise Samatha meditation as well as Vipassana meditation. With Samatha meditation our mind can be purified only while it is engaged in the meditative practice, but when it is not, defilements will attack us again. If we purify our minds through the realization of the mind body processes in their true nature, the defilements will not return. Realization or insight into mental and physical phenomena is known as Vipassana nana (insight knowledge). It overcomes some aspects of defilements and reduces defilements such as greed, anger, delusion and so on. Certain defilements which have been destroyed by means of Vipassana nana (penetrative insight) will not be able to attack us again.
In other words, when we have experienced insight knowledge, that experience will not disappear or go away from us. When we reflect on the experience we have had during meditation, the insight that we attained comes to us again, and with this insight, some aspects of defilements abandoned by insight will not arise again. Thus, we can purify our minds from some defilements. But if we have enough saddha, we will put forth greater effort in our practice and attain the Fourth Path, Arahantship. Then we can exterminate every defilement..
When the defilements have been totally destroyed and the mind completely purified there will not arise any dukkha or suffering. Suffering ceases to exist. This purification of the mind from defilements is concerned with the practical aspect of Buddhism whereas the former two points are concerned with the ethical aspect of Buddhism.
- You should live in a suitable place where you can be prosperous in every aspect, having done meritorious deeds in the past.
- You should do meritorious deeds as much as possible at present too.
- You must watch your deeds, speech and mind properly.
That means, we should keep our deeds, speech and thoughts free from defilements. In this way, we have many aspects of ethics to follow so that we can live happily and peacefully.
I want to remind you of the Ambalatthika Rahulovadasutta (Majjhima nikaya, Sutta No.61) which may be familiar to you. In that sutta, the Buddha encouraged his son, Rahula, who was a seven year old samanera, to live properly, happily and peacefully. The Buddha taught Rahula to stop and reflect whenever he had the intention of doing something.
Rahula, you must be mindful of what you are going to do and consider whether this deed will be harmful to yourself or to others. By considering thus, if you find that this deed will be harmful to yourself or to others, you must not do it. But if this deed will not be harmful to yourself or to others, you may do it.
In this way, the Buddha instructed Rahula to consider what is to be done, to be aware of what is being done and to reflect on what has been done. So this ethic too is the best way for living happily and peacefully in our daily life. There are innumerable aspects of ethics conducive to a happy and peaceful life. If we try to understand these ethics and follow them, we are sure to live a happy and peaceful life although we cannot yet get rid of all our suffering.