Monday, May 31, 2010

Acting Appropriately

How Should We Behave?

While many Buddhists are hesitant, some even loathe, to tell others how they should behave, or even to setup standards for themselves, Buddhism does give us some very strong guidelines. These are ways of behaving that skillfully use whatever is happening in our lives, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, to facilitate the ending of our dukkha.

These suggested ways of behaving are activities that weaken our bonds of attachment and that produce the clarity of mind needed for progress along the path. They are The Path, which in essence is just a list of skills worth mastering. They're our basic set of tools, so we will want to keep them handy and in good shape.

These guidelines aren’t speculative (which would be wrong view). Nor are they absolutes (again, wrong view). They are simply ways of behaving that minimize our dukkha and lead us to a life of peace and happiness.

The Six Paramitas (Generosity, Morality, Patience, Diligent Effort, Meditation and Wisdom), the Five Precepts (No Killing, No Stealing, No Sexual Misconduct, No Lying, No Intoxicants), and the eight aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration) are obvious examples of Buddhist behavioral guidelines.

But here is another skillful means way of looking at the criteria for daily decision-making:

Act Appropriately

These can be used to guide our every decision:

1.     Do no harm, then if possible
2.     Be of benefit
3.     If you can’t be of benefit, do nothing
4.     Be morally disciplined and follow the rules
5.     Meditate
6.     Be wisdom-oriented

Always Use Right Speech
Only speak when it will improve the silence.

1.     Only speak when conditions suggest you should speak
2.     Only speak when you have something to say that will be of benefit
3.     Always speak in ways that can be heard
4.     Only say it once
5.     Never go on the battlefield; being of benefit isn’t about winning

Avoid Wrong speech:
            Harsh, mean-spirited or angry words
            Gossip and small talk
            Belittling others to raise your own status

As Much As Possible, Maintain One of these Mind-States

Whenever a negative mind-state arises, use Right Effort to replace it with one of these positive mind-states:

Compassion and Lovingkindness
Humility and Modesty
Moral Restraint
Right Speech
Regret (When we act appropriately but the outcome is not beneficial, then we use regret, very gently, to remind us to try another tactic next time.)
Distaste (Develop a gentle aversion to all that is unwholesome in body, speech and mind.)

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