12 MORAL ETHICS OF BUDDHISM, RELEVANT IN PRESENT TIMES: A CRITIQUE

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 12:14
by Narasingha Chran Panda




 
MORAL ETHICS OF BUDDHISM, RELEVANT IN PRESENT TIMES: A CRITIQUE

by Narasingha Chran Panda*






ABSTRACT

Siddhartha Gautama realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings, religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to lasting human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally discovered (not invented) the middle pathand gained enlightenment at the age of 35. The title Buddha means the awakened one. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching until his passing at the age of 80. The Buddha taught a path to enlightenment (or lasting happiness) from his own experience. His teachings are called the Dharma, meaning Truth. These teachings later came to be known as Buddhism. His teachings are maintained by the Sangha, a term used to refer to community of monks and nuns.
  1. INTRODUCTION

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions of the World. Lord Buddhas moral advises are wide spread through the World since last 2500 years. He has recruited a large number of devotees who became monks, and framed a new monastic order having monasteries built for them by the lay-devotees. He also framed the general rules for the Saṅgha or the assemblage of monks, and



*. Dr., ICCR Chair Visiting Professor of Sanskrit, Sanskrit Studies Centre, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
 


permitted relaxation of these rules in extraordinary circumstances. He was primarily interested in the cloistered life of a hermit. He emphasized the psycho-ethical training, which would enable a bhikkhu to know the reality or tathatā and attain eternal wisdom or Nirvāṇa. He advised the bhikkhus as:

Yo mukhosanyato bhikhumantravāṇī anuddhataḥ/ Artha dharmasca payati madhuram tasya bhāitam//1

It means, the mendicant or bhikhu, who controls his tongue, who speaks wisely, not uplifted, who illuminates the meaning and the law, his utterance is sweet. He further advises: he whose pleasure is the law (dharma), who delights in the law, meditates on the law, follows the law, that mendicant does not fall from the true law.2

The Dhammapada has given much importance on Lord Buddhas moral advice and even instructed to all the Bhikhus to follow it perfectly. It says: the mendicant who lives in friendliness and calm (has faith) in the doctrine of the Buddha, he will attain the tranquil, blessed place where bodily existence is the rest.3

However, Lord Buddha was very positive for the mental and physical uplift of the monks. He taught common people, how to exercise their will, and realize in themselves the highest possibilities that are open to human beings. He advised them not to waste their time on splitting hairs about the formalities of religion. Ignorance is the main cause of all human sufferings. No one gets freedom unless he tries to remove these through the practice of religious austerity, sacrifices and other spiritual acts prescribed by the Holy Scriptures. He says one should bodily enjoyments, desires to get rid of pain and suffering.4 Likewise, Gautama Buddha also tried to free human beings from the chain of sufferings through his teachings, which may be said to be threefold: Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Doctrine of Dependent Origination.


 
    1. Dhammapada, XV.4.
    2. Dharmārāmo  dharmarato  dharmamanuvicintayan  /Dharmanusaran  bhikhuḥ saddharnna parihīyate // Dhammapada, XV.5.
    3. Ibid., XV. 9.
    4. Ibid., XVI.7-9.
 


The Four Noble Truths (catvāri-āryasatyāni) are: (1) Dukkha (suffering), (2) dukkhasamudayo (cause of suffering), (3) dukkhanirodha (cessation of suffering), (4) dukkhanirodha-gāmini pratipada(way for leading to the cessation of suffering).

The Noble Eightfold Path (Ārya-aṣṭāgika-mārga) consists of eight steps which are: (1) samyag déṣṭi (right views), (2) samyag sakalpa (right resolve), (3) samyag vāk (right speech), (4) samyag karmānta (right action), (5) samyag ājīva (right living), (6) samyag vyāyāma (right effort or exertion), (7) samyag sméti (right thought or recollection), (8) samyag samādhi (right meditation or concentration).

In the old scriptures, we also find mention of a triple path consisting of śīla (conduct), samādhi (concentration) and prajñā (wisdom). They roughly correspond to darśana, jñāna and caritra of Jainism. Śīla and samādhi lead to prajñā, which is the direct cause of liberation or Nirvāṇa. Buddhas ethical middle pathis like the golden mean’ of Aristotle. In his very first sermon at Sarnath, he has stated: there are two extremes, from which he who leads a religious life must abstain. One is a life of pleasure, devoted to desire and enjoyment: that is base, ignoble, unspiritual and unreal. The other is a life of mortification: it is gloomy, unworthy and unreal. There is amiddle path, discovered by the Buddha, a path which enlightens the eyes, enlightens the mind, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace, to insight, to the higher wisdom, to Nirvāṇa.

The doctrine of Pratīyasamutpāda’ or Dependent Origination is the foundation of all the teachings of Gautama first two are related to past life, the last two to future life and the rest to present life. This is the cycle of birth and death. Besides, this is the twelve-spoked wheel of dependent origination. It is called the bhava-cakra, saṁsāra-cakra, dharma-cakra, janma-maraṇa-cakra, etc. It can be destroyed only when its root cause, ignorance, is destroyed. Ignorance (avidyā) can be destroyed only by sacred wisdom or knowledge. Hence, ignorance is bondage and knowledge is liberation (Nirvāa).

Therefore, the doctrine of dependent origination is the central teaching of the Buddha and his other teachings can easily be deduced from it as corollaries. The theory of karma is based on this,
 


being an implication of the law of causation. Our present life is due to the impressions of the karmas of the past life and it will shape our future life. In the earlier system of Buddhist thought, the doctrine of karma plays a very important part, in as much as, this law explains completely the process of evolution. In fact, in the Milinda Pañha, we find that Nāgasena says: it is through a difference in their karma that men are not all like. But some long lived, some short lived, some healthy and some sickly, some handsome and some ugly, some powerful and some weak, some rich and some poor, some of high degree and some of low degree, some wise and some foolish. The Lord Buddha himself has formulated in so many words the existence of this theory of karma. When a persecuted disciple came to Lord Buddha, the Lord consoled him with the words suffer it be so, oh Bhikkhu, you are now feeling the results of your karma, that might have cost you centuries of suffering in purgatory.

The Nirvāṇa constitutes the highest and ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations. The word Nirvāṇa means blowing out. It is the dissolution of the five skandhas. It is the cessation of all activities and of all becoming (bhavanirodha). It is said to be the Supreme and indestructible state, which gives happiness here and hereafter. So it is known as the highest bliss. In the early Buddhism, however, there are passages, which indicated that Nirvāṇa means eternal and exalted beatitude. The Dhammapada rightly says:

ārogyā parama lābhā satuṭṭhi paramadhanam/ vissāma paramā jāti nibbāaṁ paramasukham//5


Regarding the importance of Nirvāa the famous Buddhist scholar Mrs. Rhys Davids is of the opinion that -- only in Buddhism does the conception of freedom from pain remain purely a negative and not a positive in disguise heavenly Bliss.

The vast Buddhist literature is full of Gautam Buddhas moral teachings. If the moral value of the people will not go up, then the society will not progress properly. The people will not exist in the society with peace, happiness and true prosperity. Hence, to uplift the moral value of the people, Lord Buddha rightly advised to
 


follow the path of Ahiṅsā, Satya and Sat Karma. He always advised his disciples to follow the path of Ahiṅsā, i.e. non-violence. Hence, he says: he is not an ascetic (Samaa) who causes grief to others.

Na hi pravajjito paropaghāsamoṇo bhavati  param  viheamāna/6

Lord Buddha always stressed to follow the path of Truth. Hence, he says: Satyam bhae kujjheyya7. One should speak the Truth and leave anger. Regarding anger he further advised: kodham jahe vippa-jaheyya mānam8. It means one should leave the anger and ego too. In addition to these Buddha advised to follow the law of Virtue, and not to follow the law of sin, because, he who practices virtues lives happily in the world as well as in the world beyond.9 In short the moral advice of Buddha is as follows:

Sarvapāpasyākaraakuśalasyopasampadā / Svacittaparyavadāpanaṁ etad buddhanāśāsanam //10

It means, the eschewing of all evil the perfecting of all good deeds, the purifying of ones mind, this is the Teaching of Buddhas.

Regarding the birth of a great person in a great and chaste family, Lord Buddha says in the Dhammapada as following:

Dullabho purisājañño na so sabbatha jāyati/ Yattha so yati dhīro tam kulam sukhamedhati//11

It means, the birth of a great man is really rare. He never takes birth always. In which family or kula he takes his holy birth that family or clan gets a lot of happiness and good fortunes.
Regarding true happiness Lord Buddha says:

Natthi rāgasamo aggi, natthi dosasamo kali/


 
  1. Ibid., XIV.6.
  2. Ibid., XVII.4.
  3. Ibid., XVII.1.
  4. Dhammam care sucaritam na tam ducarittam care/ dhamcārī sukham seti asmim loke paramhi // Ibid., Loka Vagga, 3.
  5. Ibid., Buddha Vaggo, XIV.5.
  6. Ibid., Buddha Vaggo, XIV. 15.
 
 

Natthi khandhā-samā dukkhā nathi santiparam sukham//12


It means, there is no fire like lust (rāga) or attachment, and no crime like hatred. There is no ill like aggregates (of existence) and no Bliss higher than the eternal peace (the Nibbana).

The Buddhist Sanskrit literature is also enriched by his invaluable spiritual and moral teachings. A number of texts were written on the life history of the Buddha and his disciples, i.e. Buddhist monks. The various Buddhist concepts like: duḥkha, vedanā, téṇā (craving), avidyā (ignorance), satya (truth), jñāna (knowledge), karuā (compassion), śila, samādhi, prajñā, karma and nirvāṇa. Through these basic concepts a number of texts were composed by different scholars of the Sanskrit literature, like Asvaghosa, Vasubandhu, etc.

2. CONCLUSION

There are no doubt about Buddhas Great moral teachings, as Lord Buddha advised to all to live peacefully in the World without violence. The base of his moral teachings is Truth and Non-violence. Now a day, the whole World is running after PEACE, harmony and Universal brotherhood. These thoughts are the moral supportive base of Buddhism. Hence, one can exist peacefully without following the true ideology Karunā, Dayā, Satya and Ahimsā, as rightly stated and advised in Buddhism.

This way, Lord Buddhas social, moral and religious teachings have a great importance today for the common people to live in peace and to maintain good-will in the society. Besides, the basic principles of Buddhism are full of moral and ethical values, which may provide proper discipline, self-confidence, sacred thoughts, energetic livelihood and true concentration of mind to the seeker of truth and spiritual harmony.

Finally, it can be safely concluded that the Moral Ethics of Buddhism are really more relevant today for obtaining peace, harmony and  universal brotherhood. However, all people are advised should follow the path of Buddhism for better life and true happiness in life.
 


 

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