The Way to Peace of Mind : Buddhist Ethics
Sila, is the Pali word for “moral discipline”. Although it appears to have some overlapping meanings, it primarily refers to right conduct and practicing a moral mind state. It often includes adherence to right speech, right action, and right livelihood as part of the Noble Eight Fold Path which are guidelines for establishing noble character through inner and outer behaviors.
Today, we are exposed to an abundance of reckless and violent behavior emanating from certain individuals and groups who adhere to views and opinions that reflect the beliefs and bias of domestic terrorists, and engender socially destructive actions and harm. Examples of this harm are the recent murders of eight Asian massage therapists, and of the ten people shot to death at a King Soopers Grocery in Boulder, CO.
What does the Buddha say about this?
One time, when a monk approached the Buddha about this training, the Buddha told him: “First establish yourself in the starting point of wholesome states, that is purified moral discipline and right view. Then, when your moral discipline is purified and your view straight, you should practice the four foundations of mindfulness”. This means to me to cultivate a foundation in the Five Precepts, and feel this in your heart and mind. When we practice refraining from unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions, and cultivate the wholesome by purifying negative thoughts in one’s mind, we stop this destructive cycle. We first begin to practice with morality, and then graduate to mindfulness: the ethics are the foundation of the path.
Buddhism connects the idea of ethics to the concept of harmony. The word samdhana instead of sila is used. It means “harmony or coordination”. What is harmony? It is the uniting and merging of our actions that are based in loving friendliness, compassion and harmlessness. It happens on several levels.
First, by establishing harmony in interpersonal relations, social conflicts are reduced. At the psychological level, harmony delivers protection from a mind split caused by guilt and remorse over moral transgressions. It also includes harmony on the karmic level. At that level, harmony frees us from repeating and reliving endless rounds of stress. This is possible when our actions are truthful, kind, caring, without envy or useless speech, and freed from greed, aversion and delusion. The last level is the contemplative. At this level, harmony is in the forefront when the mind becomes serene and insightful (seeing things clearly). Here we ponder, reflect through the means of embodied, loving awareness in a state of meditative awareness.
Together all of this can bring peace of mind.