Buddha’s Words: #8 Ethics

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.

“Better to live a single year as a moral human being than a thousand years in complete immorality.”

Personal Interpretation, 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.).

Moral Discipline

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 …….

Categories: Buddha

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2 replies

  1. Dear Dr B,

    I cannot agree with you more. Moral discipline has never been more sorely needed. Mental discipline (nos. 6, 7, 8) is no less important and critical. I have a great deal of interest regarding no. 7 Right Mindfulness, and would like to share with you the following:

    If mindfulness touches something beautiful, it reveals its beauty. If it touches something painful, it transforms it and heals it.

    – Thích Nhất Hạnh

    Quoting Elizabeth Thornton as follows:

    Mindfulness is a way of being present: paying attention to and accepting what is happening in our lives. It helps us to be aware of and step away from our automatic and habitual reactions to our everyday experiences.

    As a matter of fact, being present in the moment with awareness and (engaged) mindfulness is a topic that I have quite a lot to convey in a highly engaging and expansive post entitled “🔄📈📉 Change Rules and Moment Matters: How to Stay in the Moment 🔖🕰️🔂“, published at


    I have been improving the post even more extensively, and it now has abundant features, including additional music (my own compositions) and more illustrations and animations. This post also discusses mindfulness, meditation, spirituality, religion, Nature and so on. I welcome your input since I am curious to know what you make of my said post as well as your perspectives on those matters discussed in the post. I look forward to savouring your feedback there.

    In addition, I hope that you will be pleased to discover that I have incorporated many quotations to this post. The quotees include Buddha, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Werner Hans Erhard, Jack Kornfield and Elizabeth Thornton.

    Wishing you and Dr C a mindful and suitably productive week doing or enjoying whatever that satisfies you the most, both intellectually and spiritually!

    Yours sincerely,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you SE. My Buddhist reading is focusing solely on The Dhammapada at present. I meditate twice each day trying hard to deepen my understanding of what I have read.

      Liked by 1 person

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