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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Sep 14, 2020

Moral discipline is the foundation of the spiritual path in Buddhism. Virtue means something that creates happiness or inner peace (good karma). When we determine that an action is virtuous or non-virtuous, it doesn’t imply judgment or that a person is good or bad, but rather that the action will either bring happiness or suffering in the future. Virtue creates the experience of freedom from guilt, and this helps us continue to develop spiritually through joy and confidence toward inner peace, wisdom, and liberation.  


Non-virtuous actions of body include killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. These also form the first three of the Pratimoksha Vows, vows taken by lay followers of Buddha (those who are not monks or nuns). Monks and nuns have lots more vows to take! A virtuous life is not a set of rules or a burdensome duty. A virtuous life is a source of happiness, and the sacrifice of non-virtuous pleasures enables us to experience more satisfying ones. 


The Pratimoksha Vows 

  1. Refrain from killing
  2. Refrain from stealing
  3. Refrain from sexual misconduct
  4. Refrain from lying
  5. Refrain from becoming intoxicated 


Whether an action is virtuous or non-virtuous depends on a combination of: 

  • the mental state, including intention, that the action arises from 
  • the effects on those to whom the action is directed
  • the virtues or vices that it expresses and helps to cultivate 


“Since the self of others is dear to each one, let him who loves himself not harm another” —Buddha


Guard against anger erupting in your body;

Be restrained with your body.

Letting go of bodily misconduct 

Practice good conduct with your body.

—Buddha, The Dhammapada  


Links and References

Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp.60.

Je Tsongkhapa. Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment,, Volume 1. Pages 218-220. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua Cutler, Editor-in-Chief, and Guy Newlan, Editor.