Harmony in any community, whether a small group or a whole society, depends on a shared commitment to ethical conduct. … social harmony requires at a minimum that the members of any group share the conviction that there are objective standards for distinguishing between good and bad conduct and that there are benefits, for the group and its individual members, in avoiding the types of behavior generally considered bad and in living according to standards generally considered good. – from the Introduction to section I, Right Understanding, in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s new book, The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony
In the Buddha’s teachings, mundane right view is distinguished from supramundane right view. The first understanding is that we have personal responsibility for our actions and will reap the rewards of those actions, sooner or later. Supramundane right view goes a bit further in that the scope for the results of our actions to ripen extends over lifetimes and a deep understanding of right view can lead to full liberation. As Bhikkhu Bodhi does in his new book, we will do here, and focus on mundane right view.
At the very beginning, we recognize that we have views; whether we’re conscious of them or not, we hold underlying assumptions about meaning. There are many wrong views we could hold, for example that if we can get away with a selfish act without being punished then no other ramifications need be considered. Or that if a generous act on our part goes unacknowledged, then it didn’t count.
While the Buddha promoted ethics on the basis of the view of the moral efficacy of action – the principle that good actions lead to desirable results and bad actions to undesirable results – he also offered independent grounds for the ethical life. (quoted from the same source as above)
We’ll be looking at what makes a community harmonious in upcoming posts, but for today it seems important to point out that we can’t wait for everyone in the community, or even a majority, to behave ethically before we take on the commitment ourselves. Our own attitudes and behavior form the boundary of what we control. Our life is our lesson to others. If those around us like what they see, they’ll be drawn to it and modify their own actions accordingly. It doesn’t take great insight to see that repellent behavior repels people and harmonious behavior attracts others, at least on a personal level. This is our power of persuasion: how we behave in everyday life, how we treat people, whether we project anger or fear or kindness or calm. We begin right where we are, here and now.