There is a certain universal moral compass that guides us all and regardless of your religious beliefs these moral guidelines are very similar across humanity.
The problem is that we do not always follow our compass. Atrocities big and small are committed every day across the world.
Engaging in negative actions will never produce positive results; if you harm someone you can not expect that good karma will float your way.
It’s a lot like planting a tomato seed; you shouldn’t expect to get an orange tree.
We all know that good intentions and virtuous actions will plant seeds for future happiness. We also know that negative intentions with unwholesome motivations plant seeds of future suffering.
These seeds sometimes aren’t apparent right away; these karmic seeds can lie dormant for a long time, until the right conditions ripen, and then they produce their effect.
It’s kind of interesting to think that you are in the driver’s seat of your future. You can make a difference right now in your future life.
We all want to avoid suffering, but the problem is that we don’t know how.
Avoiding suffering and finding inner peace are key components of Buddhist teachings.
In order to reduce future suffering we avoid the 10 non virtuous actions towards others and by doing so we ripen future seeds of kindness and happiness.
You don’t need to be a Buddhist to learn and practice the non virtuous actions anymore than you don’t need to a Christian to follow the 10 commandments. They are simply a guideline for living peacefully, kindly, happily and purely.
It might all sound technical – virtuous actions, but don’t let that scare you, it is simply a label on a concept, guidelines of moral intentions to follow. Let go of the label, the feelings of good or bad associated with the label and just try to see the positive effects this could have on your life.
When you commit to following this path it doesn’t mean that you are perfect, it doesn’t mean you will never flower a bad karmic seed, it simply means that you try.
Put a conscious effort into being a better person; a better person right now, a better person for your future self and for everyone around you near and far.
Infuse your day with effort. Put effort and power in where you would have otherwise had none. Try.
Practice your virtue widely. Turn non virtuous actions around and naturally you will make 10 virtuous actions ripen.
Remember you don’t need to practice all the vows at once. Practice one at a time until you develop new lifestyle habits.
10 Non Virtuous Actions.
Bodily actions: Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct
Verbal actions: Lying, slander (divisive speech), harsh speech (hurtful words), and gossip (idle chatter)
Mental actions: Covetousness (greed), harmful intent (hatred), and holding wrong views (ignorance)
Non-virtuous Actions of the Body
1. Killing – This is the first non-virtuous action. No killing of any sentient beings. Sentient beings are any beings that have a mind. Sentient = capable of feeling and perception.
2. Stealing – Do not steal anything of value to someone else: This includes shady business deals, cheating on rent, taxes, or bills, underpaying what is due to local government or society, stealing from work. Do not take what is not given to you.
3. Sexual misconduct – It mainly means adultery – cheating on your partner, a person to whom you are exclusively committed.
We need to learn to think before we act.
Non-virtuous Actions of Speech
4. Lying - Giving someone else a wrong impression about what you have seen, believe, or know; unless it would save someone’s life or prevent real suffering.
5. Slander – Saying things that will divide people. Bad mouthing someone. Instead try to bring people together in harmony.
6. Senseless chatter or Idle Talk – Meaningless chatter, criticism, disputes, useless joking, whining, complaining. Gossip about people, sports or politics. Try to reduce your senseless chatter and make more room in your life for peace and deep meaningful conversations.
7. Hurtful Speech – Having bad intent; it includes sarcastic “nice” words and swearing. So don’t say something hurtful to someone’s face, like you are an idiot. The opposite of hurtful speech will instill peace or good feeling into people. Honest and kind speech leads to closeness among people.
Non-virtues – Actions of the Mind
8. Covetousness – This is similar to coveting in the Ten Commandments. Wanting others’ possessions and personal qualities like their intelligence, health, fame, youth, or spiritual achievements. It comes in five stages: you are attached to your own possessions, desire to accumulate more than you have, discover another’s possessions, like to make them your own, and the desire becomes unmanageable and you “lose shame” (then you act).
The opposite of this is being happy with what you have. Obsessing about what you don’t have leads to unhappiness, you will become over consumed with desire and will never have enough.
9. Vindictiveness – To wish bad things or harm others; being pleased when others fail or have misfortune; like “Oh, how did they mess up? Tell me more…” not feeling as bad for an unfortunate person as you would feel for yourself if you were them.
10. Holding wrong views – Wrong View – “Incorrect world view” means not regarding karma as being the direct cause of our experience. This leads to doing misdeeds #1-9.
Every action has four stages: the first is to recognize the other person, secondly you think about how you want to act towards that person; then you take action, you have already chosen whether you will act poorly or positively, and the fourth action is that the person has been harmed or benefited in some way.
The first is recognition, second is consideration of the action, third to make it happen, fourth is the result.
The main causes of unhappiness are these ten non virtuous actions, and the corrections for these are to do the opposite. It is very important to think about these things and move your behavior away from the non-virtue and toward the corresponding virtue. In this way we are able to conquer our own minds and establish peace.
Mindfulness is receiving a lot of attention lately, and mindfulness is at the heart of Buddhist teachings. In general we are becoming more mindful every day and learning that great wealth and expensive cars do not lead to happiness. We need to work with our minds, it is our most important computer. It’s important to infuse our minds with kind, honest intentions.
Within Buddhist teachings, this is the path of actions. It is the heart and essence of the Buddha’s teaching.
Practice one or two of the virtues, make a commitment to stop gossiping or to stop manipulating people. Or if you’re feeling inspired practise all ten, but making any effort no matter how small will have a great impact on your life and those around you.
Featured Photo Credit: Arlo Magic Man