Upright conduct (Mangala Sutta 16)

The support of mother and father,
The welfare of spouse and children,
Engaging in unconflicting livelihood;
This is the greatest blessing.

Selfless giving, and living by the Dhamma,
Looking after relatives and friends,
And blameless actions;
This is the greatest blessing.

Part of becoming a pillar of society is conducting ourselves in exemplary ways everywhere – at home, at work, in public, in any setting. The Buddha once said that it is difficult for people to really know each other. He said that we must live together (he was probably referring to monks living in community) for a long time, not a short time. We must observe a person’s behavior in a full range of situations, repeatedly, before we can judge her character. This was the standard he asked to be judged by as well.

There was probably only one Buddha, so let’s not aspire to perfection immediately, but let’s do take his life as an example. Because his words and deeds were based on a thorough (ultimate) understanding of causes and results, and because he had uprooted any inclination within himself towards greed, hatred and delusion, there was an unparalleled integrity to his actions.

We also have some degree (perhaps a great degree) of integrity. We try to do the right thing, to behave ethically in every situation. It is possible, however, that certain factors may make us forget our intentions. If we are fearful or feel set aside or disrespected, we might react unskilfully. Only when we are tested do we find out how deep our wisdom goes.

I reported to a friend recently that now at last, perhaps having mellowed with age, I’m more interested in understanding than I am in being right. I’ve got a pretty good idea of how temporary and slippery “being right” can be, and how it often creates unnecessary friction between people. If we are able to set aside our need to be in charge, to have the final say, etc., the picture may clarify and we may see what is needed in the situation. We may be able to shift the conversation from argument to some sort of communion.

What does it mean to live “by the Dhamma”? To be truthful, kind, trustworthy, compassionate, and to refrain from harming others and ourselves. It’s all the stuff we’ve been talking about, but (in this instance) in the forum of public life. We are who we are, and others, if they are looking, will know us as we are. How do you want to be known?

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Filed under General, Mangala Sutta

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