Morality - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Thursday, November 16, 2023



Morality denotes restraint in physical and verbal actions. A moral person will attain blissful existences in the round of rebirths. He will also possess longevity, beauty, strength, good health and wealth. Therefore, everyone should observe the moral precepts in order to attain bliss and happiness in life.

Three Kinds of Abstention (Viratī)

Viratī means abstaining from evil. In keeping the moral precepts well, viratī plays an important role.

- Abstention from three physical evil actions not relating to livelihood is called Sammākammanta viratī.

- Abstention from four verbal evil actions not relating to livelihood is called Sammā vaca viratī.

- Abstention from three physical evil actions and four verbal evil actions relating to livelihood is called Sammāājiva viratī.

Abstaining from physical and verbal evil actions is of three kinds.

(1) Samādāna viratī = Abstention from immoral actions through observance of moral precepts.

Samādāna viratī means undertaking to observe five or eight or nine moral precepts before the Buddha image or a bhikkhu or elders and refraining from doing evil actions. It also means that one has made up one’s mind not to do evil before one actually encounters evil.

Once upon a time a male lay-disciple in Sri Lanka went to the forest in search of his missing cow. A python came to him and wound itself around his body. He took out his knife to kill it. But he suddenly remembered the moral precepts he had undertaken to observe and thought, “I shall accept death if need be; I shall not take other’s life. Breaching of moral precepts resembles destroying the Dhamma and it is best for me to give up my life.” So, he dropped his knife and reflected on the moral precepts he was observing. Owing to the effectiveness of his morality, the python could not keep on winding itself around his body and departed immediately.

Like that male lay-disciple one should keep the moral precepts at the risk of one’s life, one should give up one’s life instead of breaching one’s moral precepts. There is no question about giving away one’s property and dignity for the sake of keeping one’s morality. The invisible good results always exist behind every relinquishment.

(2) Sampatti viratī = Abstention from immoral actions although one has not undertaken to observe moral precepts previously.

Sampatti viratī means instantaneously refraining from committing evil actions when one is confronted with the cause and the object for committing evil actions.

Once upon a time in Sri Lanka, a youth named Cakkana went into the forest to get hare’s flesh for his seriously ill mother. Then he caught a hare. When he was about to kill it, he felt deeply sorry for the frightened hare. So, out of compassion, he set it free. When he reached home, he cured his mother by asseveration of truth on this event. By the power of ‘Sampatti viratī Sīla’ his mother recovered as if the illness was removed and thrown away from her.

(3) Samuccheda viratī = Abstention from immoral actions permanently through eradication of all roots of evil by means of four stages of path-consciousness.

Defilements such as greed, anger, ignorance, conceit, wrong view, etc., are the roots of committing evil actions. Noble persons (ariyas) have already eradicated the root-causes of evil actions. So, they need not abstain from evil actions; they have already discarded evil forever.

When a poisonous tree together with its roots was ground into powder and burnt to ashes, it will no longer produce any fruits. In the same way, noble persons (ariyas) are free from immoral actions all times because they have eradicated all defilements through Samuccheda pahāna. Even a Stream-winner (sotāpanna) need not specially observe the five precepts in this life as well as in his next existence. The moral precepts have already been established in him forever.

The Moral Conduct to be Practised and the Immoral Conduct to be Avoided

Sīla is of two kinds: Cāritta Sīla, fulfilling the moral precepts prescribed by the Buddha, and Vāritta Sīla, refraining from the immoral conduct prohibited by the Buddha.

(1) Cāritta Sīla

Cāritta Sīla means keeping up the practice of moral conduct and blameless tasks.

Performance of such social duties are paying respect and veneration to the elders, speaking politely to others, having polite manners, bending forward while passing before the bhikkhus, teachers, parents and elders, never taking a meal before one’s teachers and parents and not behaving rudely before the bhikkhus, teachers and parents means keeping Cāritta Sīla. Furthermore, fulfilling the duties of parents, sons, and daughters, teachers, wives, husbands, etc., as shown in Siṅgālovāda Sutta also means Cāritta Sīla.

Only one who is fully endowed with conviction and effort can follow the practice of Cāritta Sīla.

Here, conviction means believing that one who practises Cāritta Sīla will enjoy its benefit because it is good practice, and effort means making a vigorous attempt to overcome laziness and to keep up the practice of moral conduct patiently. Only when one can practise the moral conduct out of conviction and effort, one can be called a person who possesses Cāritta Sīla.

(2) Vāritta Sīla

Vāritta Sīla means avoiding immoral conduct or demeritorious actions that the Buddha prohibited from committing.

Abstaining from immoral conduct and observing the five moral precepts constantly can lead one to Nibbāna whereas committing evil conduct can truly lead one to Apāya (nether abode).

Impurity of Morality

In observing the five, eight or nine moral precepts, if the first or last precept is breached, the morality or Sīla is said to be broken; if one of the middle precepts is breached, the morality or Sīla is said to have a hole in it; if alternate precepts are breached the morality or Sīla is said to be spotted; if two or three precepts are breached in a row at the beginning, the middle or the end, the morality or Sīla is said to be striped.

These broken, punctured, spotted and striped Sīlas are impure Sīlas.

Similarly, the morality or Sīla can become impure due to the following seven minor types of sexual pleasure.

(1) Enjoying the personal attendance of a lady;

(2) Taking delight in laughing clamorously with a lady;

(3) Taking delight in looking at each other with a lady;

(4) Taking delight in listening to the sounds of laughing, speaking or singing of a lady;

(5) Taking delight in recalling the happy past experience with a lady;

(6) Taking delight in watching other’s enjoyment of sensual pleasure;

(7) Taking delight in longing for the celestial luxury which can be attained as the result of the moral practice.

These causes of moral impurity apply to women as they apply to men.

In addition to the above causes, the following ignoble mental factors also make morality impure.

Kodha = anger,

Upanāha = enmity,

Makkha = destroying other’s virtues,

Paḷāsa = improper rivalry,

Issā = envy at someone else’s prosperity or success.

Macchariya= Stinginess or reluctance to share one’s property with others,

Māya = Deceit or covering up one’s fault,

Sātheya = hypocrisy or pretending as if one possesses a virtue which one does not really have.

Purity of Morality

The morality that is unbroken, intact, spotless and unstriped is pure morality. It is called Bhujissa Sīla because it can lead one to liberation from slavery to craving (tanhā). It is also called Vinññupasatṭha Sīla because it is praised by the wise. It is also called “Aparāmatṭha Sīla” because it is devoid of strong desire to gain the great wealth and happiness of human beings or devas and devoid of bigoted belief that one can realize Nibbāna by mere moral practice.

Therefore, as mentioned above, the morality that is

(1) unbroken,

(2) intact,

(3) spotless,

(4) unstriped,

(5) able to resist craving,

(6) praised by the wise, and

(7) untarnished by craving and wrong view is the pure morality and these seven factors are the causes for purifying morality.

The morality endowed with these seven factors is conducive to concentration of mind. Therefore, one who wants to develop concentration must exert oneself to be endowed with these seven factors. One should safeguard the moral precepts well just like a female pheasant safeguarding her eggs at the risk of her life, or just like a yak safeguard its feather at the risk of its life, or just like a person, who has one and only son or daughter, looks after him or her tenderly and fondly, or just like one whose one eye is blind safeguarding the remaining eye.

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