Virtuous action

Sīla pāramī : virtue, morality, proper conduct

Usually, the parami or perfection of Sila is described as keeping the five precepts: abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication. In a bare-bones sense, if we never caused any of these sorts of harm, it would enable us to perfect our conduct.

Another way to look at developing our virtues is by examining our activities of body, speech and mind, with an eye to whether our intentions and actions are wholesome or not; that is, are they beneficial for others and ourselves?

And how is one made pure in three ways by bodily action? There is the case where a certain person, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from the taking of life. He dwells with his rod laid down, his knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given. He does not take, in the manner of a thief, things in a village or a wilderness that belong to others and have not been given by them. Abandoning sensual misconduct, he abstains from sensual misconduct. He does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man. This is how one is made pure in three ways by bodily action.
— from AN 10.176, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

If you are reading these words, you have a body. Whether the body is still or moving, no matter how it is placed, there is some effect on yourself and others. When we do one thing, we are not-doing a thousand other things. If we are doing (apparently) nothing, there is also some consequence, even if it is just building inertia.

At the grossest level, we affect the world, for better or worse, with our bodies. If we refrain from hitting others, from stealing and from misbehaving sexually, then we are avoiding some of the worst things we can do with our bodies. It’s a good start.

Of course, we can also use our bodies to make space for others, to comfort them or assist them in a variety of ways. It kind of amazes me how often we use our bodies simply to carry things from one place to another. There is an opening here, a gateway to mindfulness. If we attend to the movements, sensations, and uses of our body throughout the day, this awareness may make us more sensitive to the consequences of our actions, and, as a result, increase our skill in living.

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Filed under General, Perfections

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