The Three Kinds of Morality
Of the three kinds of morality, the first is the morality of abstaining from non- virtuous actions. The ten non-virtues are to be avoided because they are the root of samsara – the six realms with their different levels of suffering. All that you are experiencing in your life do not arise without a cause, from an external cause nor by chance. Each and every phenomenon has its own causes and conditions.
The second is the discipline of studying and practising Dharma teachings and gathering all wisdom. This is achieved by engaging in the practice of the ten virtues and six perfections. These are the root causes of peace and happiness and the bridge to the attainment of enlightenment. Until we attain complete Buddhahood, we should always be inspired to practise Dharma, to study and gather the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.
The third type is the morality of benefiting all sentient beings. When we are fully established in the Dharma and abide within the pure sphere of bodhicitta, we can then support, help and inspire others to become free from samsara and attain enlightenment.
Here are some guidelines concerning moral ethics:
• Receive precepts of moral ethics
• Abide in a positive environment
• Be alert to avoid even tiny non-virtues
• Perfectly keep moral ethics, which are the basis for all other training
• Guard the sense-organs with persistent mindfulness
Take moral values as precious and beautiful ornaments and use them to adorn your body, speech and mind. This is the path to enlightenment.
The way to embody morality, is first to discard the non-virtuous deeds by contemplating on the deeds and their results; second, to produce the desire to practise virtuous deeds by reflecting on the deeds and their results, and third to transform neutral deeds into virtuous deeds by contemplating on them. Transforming our motivation can change neutral deeds into virtuous deeds.
What is a non-virtuous deed? A non-virtuous deed is any action, physical, verbal or mental, that is committed out of greed, hatred or ignorance. They can be classified into ten types: three done physically, four verbally and three mentally.
It is said that all suffering arises from these deeds including rebirth in the lower realms. Each of these has three results: ripened result, result similar to its cause and result of ownership.
If you indulge in non-virtuous deeds, the ripened result is to fall down into the lower realms. Which lower realm you will be reborn into depends on your motivation and the extent of the non-virtuous deeds you have committed. For instance, if out of hatred, you kill a human being, you will most likely fall into the hell realm; if you kill an animal out of desire for its flesh, skin or bone, you will most likely fall into the hungry ghost realm and if you kill out of ignorance, such as killing for sport or leisure, you will most likely be reborn as an animal.
The result similar to its cause consists of two aspects: the experience similar to its cause, and the action similar to its cause.
For example, if you had caused distress and shortened another life due to the act of killing, even if you are born in the higher realm of human, you will have a short life that is also beset with sickness and distress. Through stealing, you will be destitute and unable to use whatever little you have. Through sexual misconduct, you will have many enemies and lead an unhappy married life.
Through lying, you will be badly slandered. Through speech that divides people and causes disharmony, you will have very few friends, and even then the friendship will not last long. Through harsh speech, you will hear unpleasant remarks and whatever you say becomes the basis of quarrels. Through idle talk, nobody will believe you even when you tell the truth.
Through covetousness, all your wishes will not be fulfilled. Even when fulfilled, you are not satiated. Through malicious thoughts, you will always live in fear of harm from others. Through wrong view, you will have very little wisdom and continue to hold the wrong views.
Actions which are similar to its causes mean the deeds you do in this lifetime are similar to those you have committed in the past. Notice how some people have the predisposed tendency to perform kind acts while others seem more inclined to lie, steal and commit sexual misconduct?
Finally, the result of ownership manifests at the place in which one is to be born and dwell. For instance, stealing causes one to be born in a place with hailstorms and frost; sexual misconduct in a place with dust storms etc.
Even a small negative deed should not be ignored as it will accumulate and eventually cause much harm; like a spark which is able to burn down the entire forest. Doing non-virtuous deeds is the greatest harm one can inflict upon oneself. To counteract non-virtuous deeds, do more virtuous deeds and immediately confess any non-virtue with deep remorse. These will help to purify the results of non-virtuous deeds.
A virtuous deed is any action committed through body, speech and mind that is devoid of greed, hatred and ignorance. The ten virtues are the opposite of the ten non-virtues. Just like non-virtuous deeds, virtuous deeds also consist of three results: ripened result, result similar to its cause and result of ownership.
All happiness arises from cultivating virtuous deeds. One creates the cause to be reborn in the higher realms of gods, demi-gods and humans.
By abstaining from killing, one enjoys a long and healthy life. By abstaining from stealing, one enjoys prosperity. By not committing sexual misconduct, one will have many friends and lead a happy married life. These are some examples of result similar to its cause.
Being born in a place that is free from natural disasters, enjoys lots of splendour, good climate, and bountiful harvests is the result of ownership due to the act of non-killing.
The benefits of cultivating virtuous deeds, even insignificant ones, should not be underestimated. Just as drops of water can form an ocean, seemingly inconsequential virtuous deeds can accumulate to become a significant virtuous deed. Therefore, resolve with a very strong will to practise even tiny virtuous deeds and then perform them diligently.