The Dhammapada chapter 8 has a strange title, The Thousands, with each of the 15 verses comparing the value of ONE act following The Buddha’s teaching, with a THOUSAND acts of not following his teaching. The important message of the chapter is about personal actions in living a moral life; it is not about memorising or chanting mantra, it is not about meditating for hours or days on end, it is not about giving up worldly possessions or living as a hermit. The issue is about exerting self control to live ethically “in the here and now” following some simple moral guidelines relating to our speech, actions, thoughts and livelihood.
One of the verses really struck a chord with me. I used to spend quite a lot of time around Buddhist temples and monasteries in Nepal, and I was always mesmerised by the early morning chanting of monks repeating a mantra over and over in time to the rhythm of a drum being beaten. The verse in question chastises such monks who seem to think that chanting a sutra day after day accords them merit in their search for enlightenment and places them above the rest of us in some way. It doesn’t! It is only moral actions and the way we live following the Buddha’s teaching that is of benefit. This is the message of The Dhammapada chapter 8.
Below is the section on Moral Discipline from Buddhas Eightfold Path, (nos. 3, 4, 5, above) It is not meant to be an exhaustive list but guidance on our outward behaviour towards others. It doesn’t stand alone as being unique to Buddhism but as a holistic path in conjunction with the other two sections on Mental Discipline (nos. 6, 7, 8) and Wisdom (nos. 1, 2.).
1.Right Speech: Avoid lies, slander, impoliteness, malicious and abusive language, gossip, insults …..
2.Right Action: Actions must be compatible with your thoughts and intent promoting moral, honourable, peaceful conduct. Don’t kill, steal, rape, molest, deceive, abuse …
3.Right Livelihood: Don’t have a job or profession that harms others such as arms dealing, drugs dealing, killing animals, human trafficking, internet scamming …….