“It is in everybody’s interest to seek those [actions] that lead to happiness and avoid those which lead to suffering. And because our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.”
– His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
What is clear from the writings of the Dalai Lama (“Lama” is the designation given to teachers in Tibetan Buddhism) is the importance he places on ethical conduct.
“Human qualities as morality, compassion, decency, wisdom and so forth have been the foundations of all civilizations. These qualities must be cultivated and sustained through systematic moral education in a conducive social environment, so that a more human world may emerge. The qualities required to create such a world must be inculcated right from the beginning, from childhood. We cannot wait for the next generation.”
Unlike the Greek philosophers who taught right conduct through the practice of virtuous behavior, the Dalai Lama talks about “…the ethics of abandoning the ten non-virtues.”
“The three physical non-virtues are:
1. Taking the life of a living being; ranging from killing an insect to killing a human.
2. Stealing; taking away another’s property without his consent, regardless of its value, whether the deed is done by oneself or through another.
3. Sexual misconduct; committing adultery.
“The four verbal non-virtues are:
4. Lying; deceiving others through spoken words or physical gestures.
5. Divisiveness: creating dissension by causing those in agreement to disagree or by causing those in disagreement to disagree still further.
6. Harshness; abusing others.
7. Senselessness: talking about foolish things motivated by desire and so forth.
“The three mental non-virtues are:
8. Covetousness: thinking, “May this become mine,” desiring something that belongs to another.
9. Harmful intent: wishing to injure others, be it great or small injury.
10. Wrong view: viewing some existent ting, such as rebirth, cause and effect, or Three Jewels,* as non-existent. (*The core of Buddhism: Buddha, his doctrine, Dharma, and the Spiritual Community).”
Whether you view ethics through the lens of virtues or non-virtues, the goal remains the same: good conduct can most effectively be brought about through a consciousness of andcommitment to ethical values in our lives.
“It is not enough to make noisy calls to halt oral degeneration; we must do something about it. Since present-day governments do not shoulder such ‘religious’ responsibilities, humanitarian and religious leaders must strengthen the existing civic, social, cultural, educational and religious organizations to revive human and spiritual values. Where necessary we must create new organizations to achieve these goals.
“Only in so doing can we hope to create a more stable base for world peace.”