Ethics in a particular belief system, is a moral philosophy or set of moral principles and rules of conduct that a group of people believe in and live by. In the Buddhist religion, the fundamental Buddhist teaching is the doctrine of conditionality. Everything is dependent on conditions nothing has a fixed and final essence and this includes ourselves. Buddhism seeks to minimize any thoughts or actions, that cause humans to suffer and that suffering results from the nature of the reaction to events, rather than necessarily the nature of those events.
Buddhist scriptures provide guidelines to ethical behavior. Ones own conscience and understanding of the Dharma ( The religious teaching of Buddha), provides an insight into the working of Karma,( The action that will inevitably give rise to certain results) . Buddhist lay people try to practice the Five Precepts, to live morally, act in a just and spiritual manner, to abstain from: killing living beings, taking what is not given, engaging in sexual misconduct, speaking falsely and taking drink and drugs which confuse the mind.
The following data has been collected from resources obtained from Buddhist philosophy and ethics and from guided conversations with two Thai families, who are practicing Buddhists and uphold and live by the fundamental principles of the Buddhist teaching. The four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path form the core of Buddhist teachings: that is suffering and sorrow resulting from pain and illness and old age. Death is inevitable and we tend to suffer when we contemplate death. The Buddha argued that a great deal of suffering is caused through the general unsatisfactory nature of the relationships with other human beings.
Most human beings suffer, due to the events and cycles in their life, that are inevitable and their reaction to this suffering. This reaction to human suffering became the Second Noble Truth. Buddha argued that when people desire the world to be different and these desires are impossible to change, e. g. , the onset of old age, the result will be pain and suffering. It is argued that we should take sensible steps to slow down he process, such as eating healthy food and exercising, but we cannot change the final result.
Also, the acquisition of material possessions can cause suffering, as we desire more and more of what we often will never have. Buddhists believe, that we should find strategies to end the cycle of having desires and then suffering would cease. This possibility of ceasing suffering is the Third Noble Truth. The Fourth Noble Truth or The Noble Eightfold, was Buddhas strategy to gradually reduce the tendency to suffer. The first requirement is that the individual should holdRight Views e. g. , appreciate the nature of impermanence.
Buddhists appreciate that all things eventually decay and that attachment to the impermanent, will ultimately lead to unhappiness. Another Right View is the doctrine of no-self that is that no permanent soul or self can continue in existence, after the death of an individual. This will minimize suffering. The Right Resolve is the second feature of the Eightfold Path and is described as the determination to be non-attached to the material world and to show care and sensitivity towards our fellow beings.
Right Speech is the next requirement on the Eightfold Path and involves the willpower not to use unpleasant or harmful speech about others. Related to Right Speech is the requirement of Right Conduct. This prohibits the Buddhist from killing living creatures and from immoral sexual conduct. Stealing is prohibited also, under this Eightfold Path. The Fifth component of the Eightfold Path is that the Buddhist should not engage in an occupation that harms other living things, e. g. Butcher. The next element of the Eightfold Path is Right Attention and this encourages the person to be mindful of everyday events and functions.
This incorporates such things as eating, walking, sitting and breathing. The final aspect is Right Meditation. This is to enable the Buddhist to see the true nature of the physical world and hence avoid suffering. This peace and tranquility is known as nirvana or enlightenment. The focus on breathing or anapanasati, is a common form of meditation to calm the mind and to prepare it for the next stage of meditation. These meditative techniques are used to try and understand the world in a clearer and more objective way.
Buddhism holds, that because death is not the end, suffering does not cease, but continues until the Karma that created the suffering has played itself out. The willful taking of ones life is an intentional act that is egotistically motivated with Karmic consequences. The effects adversely influencing not only me, but many others as well. Therefore, it is pointless to kill oneself or aid another to do so, in order to escape. The intricate relationships of cause and effect fit together and interact. Everyone has the potential to alter the course of his future Karma.
Buddhism is emphatic in its opposition of suicide, and states that only with a human body-mind, can one become enlightened and dispel the ignorance that is the root source of suffering. In the case of abortion, Buddhists believe true nature is indestructible. What kind of karma we are creating for ourselves and others depends on the degree of selfishness or lack of it, which motivates our action. Clear awareness of the law of cause and effect and complete willingness to assume responsibility, will help clear the mind of guilt, anxiety and remorse.
Buddhism doesnt discriminate between people, on the basis of their sexual preferences or ennoble the nuclear family. Marriage is not a sacrament, but simply a social contract. They believe that as long as one doesnt harm other people by ones sexual behavior, they have no trouble accepting monogamy, polygamy or polyandry. They are just different ways of arranging your life. There is a spiritual hunger that draws Westerners into Buddhism today. Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, never placed emphasis on rites, rituals and ceremonies and neither do the new Buddhist groups today.
The move away from more goal-oriented and masculine approaches, has given over to focus on the needs of the individual members. Gays, Lesbians and other alternate sexual groups are accepted more than in most traditional western religions. In the new and old Buddhism, the highest goal is not faith and belief, proper behavior or ritual devotion, but the direct experience of enlightenment. Both attach great importance to the practice of meditation, Enlightenment is seen as something that must ultimately be realized with the suffering and joy of daily life.
The western followers of the new Buddhism have a high degree of commitment and passion to the beliefs and moral principles underlying this religion. They have a mystical outlook, looking toward the direct personal experience of the ultimate, rather than outward to the world of the established social order. Buddhism is becoming and will continue to become of age in the Western world. It will have a dramatic effect on social change and attitude, in the future for anyone seeking a new direction, new perspective and a different enlightenment.
It is rapidly gaining popularity in its fundamental attitudes, beliefs and assumptions that are so radically different to those found common in the west. They could contribute in the evolutionary path of world culture. Buddhism is a powerful philosophy of life that we could all think about, uphold and live by. It challenges the Western way of life and thought. We need to examine its principles and underlying karma more closely, to fully understand the diversity of ethics and how these will affect and challenge our thoughts and actions in the future.