Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 12:04
by Ratna Wijetunge


by Ratna Wijetunge*


The morality (sīla) is the heart of Buddhist practice and it is, therefore, also at the heart of any philosophy of education that stems from it. Further, the necessity for developing the fourfold brahmavihāras, namely loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity will be discussed. Suppression of defilements such as greed, hatred and delusion and also the development of Eight Noble Path will be considered in detail. Thus the development of concentration and wisdom will be explained.


According to the dictionary definition the ethical principles are related to the science of human behavior and it will be the systematized principles of morally, correct conduct and also the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. This morally correct conduct in Buddhism is sīla, it is a moral conduct that embraces commitment to harmony and virtue, right conduct, morality, moral discipline and precept. It is also one of the three practices foundational to Buddhism - sīla (morality), samādhi (concentration) and paňňā (wisdom).

*. Prof. Dr., Nagananda International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.

2. AIM

The aim of this paper is to emphasize the importance of the system of ethical principles in Buddhism and then its relevance to the global education. The morality being the heart of Buddhist practice is also a heart of any philosophy of education that stems from it. Further the fourfold brahmavihāra, namely mettā (loving kindness), karuņā (compassion), muditā (sympathetic joy) and upekkhā (equanimity) too will be discussed. Suppression of defilements such as greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha) and also the development Eight Noble Path will be considered in detail. Thus the gradual development of concentration and wisdom will be explained. This research also attempts to illustrate how the Buddhist approach to global education in ethics and thereby creating the opportunity for human beings to live in harmony and peace. The Buddhist approach to ethics can transform the lives of children, young people, adults, professionals and businessmen in its care and thereby increases the human happiness globally. It will also help the human beings to lead a right livelihood, emphasizing no harm to fellow members of the society, ecology and environment in the conduct of business and economic activities.


1As mentioned above the morally correct conduct consists of ethics in Buddhism. The morality consists of performance (ritta) and avoidance (vāritta). In other words, it is the performance of those moral rules which the Buddha has ordained to be followed, and the avoidance of those things that the Blessed One has rejected as not to be followed

Moral rules can be categorized broadly into two parts, such as rules of the Buddhist clergy and rules of the laity. Rules of the Buddhist clergy are divided into two parts, namely rule for the clergy
– monks and nuns- with higher ordination and rules for novices - sāmaņera and sāmaņerī. The total number of rules for monks are 220 and for nuns 304. The novices are expected to practice 10 rules after their ordination.
(For monks)   (For nuns)  
Pārājika 04 Pārājika 08
Samghādisesa 13 Samghādisesa 17
Aniyata 02 Nissaggiya Pācittiya 30
Nissaggiya Pācittiya 30 Pācittiya 166
Sekhiyā 75 Pāţidesanīya 08
Pācittiya 92 Sekhiyā 75
Pāţidesanīya 04    
Sekhiyā 75    
(For novices)      
i.   Abstaining from killing

ii. stealing
iii. unchastity
iv. lying
v. the use of intoxicants
vi. eating after midday
vii. “ ´’ dancing, singing, music and shows
viii. “ garlands, scent, cosmetics and ornaments
ix.  “ luxurious beds
x.   “ accepting gold and silver
(Buddhist Dictionary 170)
Further the four kinds of morality consisting of purification (catupārisuddha sīla) have been prescribed for monks23. They are: (i) Restraint with regard to the monks’ disciplinary code (pātimokkhasamvara); (ii) Restraint of the senses (indriyasamvara);
(iii) Purification of livelihood (ājīvapārisuddhi) and (iv) Morality with regard to the four requisites (paccaya-sannissita sīla). These four kinds of sīla indicate that the life of a monk is absolutely free from any unwarranted behavior.

  1. Eight rules include the above six rules in order, 7th and 8th of the above 10 rules are fused into one as the 7th rule, while the 9th becomes the 8th). (Buddhist Dictionary p.170).
  2. Buddhist Dictionary: p. 171.

The lay people both males and females must regularly practice five precepts. They are abstaining from killing any living being, from stealing, from unlawful sexual intercourse, from lying and from the use of intoxicants. During the full moon day they may observe eight or ten precepts depending upon their will.

The individual must pay attention to the group of ten kinds of either unwholesome or wholesome actions. During the course of his/her daily activities. If a person commits unwholesome act the result will be bad and the results of his wholesome acts will be good. The tenfold unwholesome course of action (akusala kamma patha) will be,
    1. Bodily actions: killing, stealing, unlawful sexual intercourse.
    2. Verbal actions: lying, slandering, rude speech, foolish babble.
    3. Mental actions: covetousness, ill-will, evil views.

The tenfold wholesome course of action (kusala kamma patha) will be,
  1. Bodily actions: avoidance of killing, stealing, unlawful sexual intercourse.
  1. Verbal actions: avoidance of lying, slandering, rude speech, foolish babble.
  2. Mental actions: unselfishness, good-will, right views.
  1. Thus the developing of wholesome acts will be necessary for the social well-being4.

The morality is extremely essential for the development of a just society free from anger (dosa), cruelty (him), jealousy (issā) and attachment to the pleasurable and aversion to the non-pleasurable.. These fourfold vices can be avoided by developing the sublime states, namely loving kindness (mettā), compassion (karuņā), sympathetic joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekkhā). The world will be a pleasurable place for living irrespective of divisions such as nationality, ethnic identity, language and religion etc. If we can illuminate the global community for developing these

four sublime states (brahmavira) the world will become a peaceful place for living.

The Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism is another aspect associated with developing the morality, concentration and wisdom. The Eightfold Path has been categorized according to these three divisions. For instance, right speech, right action and right livelihood come under morality (sīla). Right speech (sam vācā) deals with refraining from lying, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talk. Right action (sammā kammanta) deals with abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Right livelihood (sammā ājīva) deals with refraining from trading in arms, human beings, flesh, intoxicating drinks and poison5.

Concentration (samādhi) consists of right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Right effort (sammā vāyāma) plays a very important part in the Noble Eightfold Path. It is by ones own effort that ones deliverance is obtained and not by seeking refuge in others or by offering prayers.. Right mindfulness with regard to body (kāyānupassanā), feelings (vedanānupassanā), thoughts (cittānupassanā), and mind objects (dhammānupassanā). Mindfulnessonthesefourobjectstendtodestroythemisconceptions with regard to desirability (subha), happiness (sukha), permanence (nicca), and an immortal soul (atta) respectively.

Wisdom (pňā) deals with right understanding (sammā dţhi) and right thoughts (sammā samkappa). Right understanding is the clear knowledge of the four Noble Truths or the understanding of oneself with regard to his/her real nature. Right thought or clear vision helps to eliminate evil thoughts and develop clear thoughts. It consists of renunciation of worldly pleasure (nekkhamma) or selfishness which is opposed to attachment, selfishness and self- possessiveness. The second component of right thought is loving- kindness (avyāpāda), goodwill, or benevolence which is opposed to hatred, ill-will or aversion. The third component is harmlessness or compassion (avihimsā) which is opposed to cruelty and callousness.6

5. Nārada: 1980: 331 .
6.  Nārada:1980:324-25.

Jataka stories, although they are composed on the basis ten perfection, consist of many tales related to Buddhist ethics. These stories based on the perfection (pāramitā) of sīla elucidate the importance of practicing Buddhist ethics.7

The importance and value of Buddhist ethics have been discussed so far. Now my intention is to consider how the Buddhist ethics will be helpful to educate the people globally. In the global community we find people belonging to different age groups, different social strata and various industrial and constructional projects. Developed countries are planning to control the developing and under developed countries, the ruling class to overpower the ruled and the employers to suppress rights and privileges of the employees. Thus due to their unethical behavior the justice and value of human rights in the world are in the state of deterioration.

Powerful nations try to capture or destroy powerless nations by using nuclear arms or to create internal conflict among the poor countries. Dangerous drugs and narcotics became a global threat. Drug dealers distribute their drugs throughout the world in order to become multi-millionaires. Gambling and abusing of females and children became an enjoyable practice among the abnormal people throughout world.

Only the education without moral qualities will not be adequate for the social recognition. As the Visuddhimagga states, even a less educated person without morality will be blamed for both lack of morality and education; yet a less educated person with morality will be praised by others. Similarly an erudite person (bahussuta) without morality will be blamed for the lack of morality. However, a person who is erudite and with morality will be praised for his both erudition and morality (Visuddhi Magga Sīla Niddesa: p.35). Thus the Buddhism emphasizes the necessity of both education and morality of a person.
Ecology, environment, water have been polluted as a result of

7. The theme of the tales such as Dhammapāla, Sambulā, Sīlavimamsā, Kuhaka, Mahim- saka and Mātuposaka etc based on Jatakas.

unplanned housing, hotel and road construction work. Buddhism highlights how the mental health can be gained through protecting the natural environment. As pointed out in many sermons of the Buddha, the most suitable environment for gaining the mental health is forest, under a tree or a secluded area.8

The mind can be concentrated properly if a meditation practitioner selects a suitable place The ascetic Gotama while seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, wandered by stages through the Magadhan country until eventually he arrived at Senānigama near Uruvelā. There he saw an agreeable piece of ground, a delightful grove with a clear- flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. He considered: This is an agreeable piece of ground, this is a delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. This will serve for the striving of a clansman intent on striving. And he sat down there, thinking: This will serve for striving.9.

As the foregoing facts elucidate the protection of living beings and preservation of environment are very essential for the mankind. Our ancestors tried not to harm living beings unjustifiably or destroy the environment. According to their opinion, all living things have right to exist in the world without others interference. Therefore the people should stop harming living beings and destructing the environment. The safeguarding of living beings and the protection of environment will be a meritorious act. It helps people to gain a healthy and happy life. It also helps to achieve supra-mundane status.

The Buddhist ethics is extremely helpful to build a just society in the world. During this Vesak festival season it should be our firm endeavor to educate the global community on the significance of Buddhist ethics and dedicate our lives to create a peaceful global society based on nonviolence, non-hatred, non-jealousy and embracing each other with world embracing love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

    1. Ariyapariyesana Sutta.
    2. Ibid.



Majjhima Nikaya, Series of Buddha Jayanti Publications, Cultural Ministry, Government of Sri lanka. 2000.

Buddhist Dictionary, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Nynatiloka, Kandy, Forest Hermitage, 1970.

Jātakaţţha Kathā, Series of Buddha Jayanti Publications, Cultural ministry, Government of Sri lanka. 2000.

Nārada,   The   Buddha   and   his   teachings,   Malaysia:   Buddhist Missionary Society, 1980.

Prātimoksa Analysis, ed. B.Dhammaparāyanatissa, Colombo: Ratna Books, 2003.

Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa, ed. A.P. Buddhadatta, Alutagama: Gunatunga,  1914.

Webster Home University Dictionary, ed. Edward N. Teal et al, New York, Books Ins., 1958.

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