Growing in Virtue | Daily News

Growing in Virtue

Ven Kumbuke Visuddhi Citta Thera

“Kayena samvaro sadhu – sadhu vacaya samvaro

Manasa samvaro sadhu – sadhu sabbattha samvaro

Sabbattha samvuto bhikkhu – sabba Dukkha pamuccati.”

“Good it is to be restrained in the body; good it is to restrain speech.

Restraint in mind is good; good is restraint in everything.

One who is restrained in these points thus will be freed from all kinds of Dukkha.”

(Dhammapada – Verse 361)

Virtue’ is a good quality for a human being or any other animal. Human beings could grow in virtue. This means that they have the potential to cultivate or develop virtues within themselves. Some other animals too have virtues. For instance, a dog would not bite the hand that feeds it. This signifies the virtue ‘gratitude’. It also wags its tail in order to be thankful to a person and also when someone needs to be given a warm and heartfelt welcome!

Another word for ‘Virtue’ is ‘Discipline’. In the Buddha’s teaching, ‘Virtue’ means ‘Sila’.

“Kaya vacaya samodanamsilam”- “Sila is restraint in body and speech.”

A devout lay devotee leading a household life observes the five precepts (Panca Sila):

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of another (including oneself).

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from telling lies.

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking any intoxicants.

The Eight precepts, Ajivatthamaka Sila (Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth) and The Ten Precepts are the other sets of precepts observed by lay devotees, especially on full moon days. However, these precepts could be undertaken and observed in conformity to one’s convenience, on any day.

When administered for children – I undertake the precept to restrain the senses. Generally, Buddhist monks observe The Ten Precepts (Pabbajja Dasa Sila) throughout their lives. One becomes restrained in the five senses namely eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body by observing these precepts.

The Eight Precepts

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of another (including oneself).

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. I undertake the precept to refrain from non-celibacy.

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from telling lies.

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking any intoxicants.

6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating solid food at the forbidden time. From noon till following day dawn.

7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, watching amusements and adorning the body with flowers, unguents and perfumes.

8. I undertake the precept to refrain from sitting on high and luxurious seats.

Certain liquids such as tea, coffee (without milk), herbal drinks, fruit juices(without the pulp) except juices made out from large fruits such as jackfruit, papaw, pineapple, watermelon etc. and medicines are allowed during this time. Fruit juices are allowed only before mid-night and medicines are allowed at any time. [Medicines need to be taken only to bring relief to and cure any ailment or discomforting the body.]

Ajivatthamaka Sila

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of another (including oneself).

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from telling lies.

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from backbiting.

6. I undertake the precept to refrain from using harsh or abusive speech.

7. I undertake the precept to refrain from useless or meaningless conversation.

8. I undertake the precept to refrain from the wrong means of livelihood.

The Ten Precepts

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of another (including oneself).

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. I undertake the precept to refrain from non-celibacy.

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from telling lies.

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking any intoxicants.

6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating solid food at the forbidden time. (From noon till following day dawn)

7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument and watching amusements.

8. I undertake the precept to refrain from adorning the body with flowers, unguents and perfumes.

9. I undertake the precept to refrain from sitting on high and luxurious seats.

10. I undertake the precept to refrain from accepting gold and silver (money).

After all, virtue is the base that supports all good deeds. This means that when you set yourself in virtue or the precepts, the actions you perform become inevitably virtuous and pure!

Some examples of virtues are Loving-kindness, Altruistic joy, Equanimity, Generosity, Patience, Tolerance, Honesty, Gratitude, Steadfastness and Heedfulness etc.

Loving-kindness- It is the feeling of ‘friendliness’, ‘intimacy’ and ‘cordiality’. And it is the wish for oneself and others to be peaceful, well and happy.

Kindness (Compassion) – It is the feeling of sympathy or helping like at the sight of someone enduring pain or suffering. As an example, the thought of offering some food to a beggar who is in hunger is a kind thought.

The Kindness of the Buddha to help worldly beings realize the Four Noble Truths by expounding the Dhamma is known as ‘Great Compassion’.

Altruistic Joy- It is to be happy at the success of others. For instance, it is to wish thus: “How wonderful!” when someone is doing well in life instead of being jealous of them.

Equanimity – It is to have and sustain a balanced mind amidst the vicissitudes in life namely gain and loss, fame and defame, praise and blame and pain and pleasure.

Generosity- Generosity means the act of giving. It is giving of something that the receptor is in need of. One needs to learn to practice ‘giving’ with a free hand, lavishly. However, one should not do so wastefully, but with frugality.

When one practises generosity, both the donor and the receptor are blessed with five qualities namely longevity (Ayu), complexion (vanna), happiness (sukham), energy (bala) and wisdom (panna).

Patience- It means to endure something unpleasant with a balanced mind. For instance, one may learn to be patient when encountering heat, cold, hunger and thirst on certain occasions. One also needs to be patient amidst unpleasant situations like when being scorned, blamed etc. though it may seem quite hard and absurd at times.

Tolerance- It is the capacity to endure continued subjection to something unpleasant or environmental conditions without adverse reaction.

Honesty- It means not cheating or free of deceit but truthful and sincere. That is working with a pure heart and not expecting any reward in return. However, when you work honestly, it happens so, that eventually you would receive what you deserve! Moreover, honesty is a virtue that protects you as the saying goes: “Honesty is the best policy.”

Gratitude- It is to be in help or help in return to a person who has helped you when you were having a hard time. In other words, it is to be grateful to a person who has helped you during some stage in your life. It could even be a good thought radiated towards that person.

Steadfastness- It is to arouse effort from within, to sustain the effort thus aroused and to bring it to its completion. In other words, it is to be energetic in order to perform good deeds.

Heedfulness- It is to hastily engage oneself in performing meritorious actions. In other words, it is to be quick and vigilant in performing good deeds.

A plant grows to be a tree. The tree is like the individual and its fruits can be compared to the virtues of the individual. Each virtue is unique as it belongs to the individual. The plant needs to be watered and well looked after; else it would dry and get destroyed. Likewise, during one’s youth, one needs to grow in virtue!

In a nutshell, the following Dhammapada verse is apt stating:

“Jiranti ve rajaratha sucitta – atho sarirampi jaram upeti

Satam ca dhammo na jaram upeti – santo ha ve sabbhi pavedayanti”

(Dhammapada – verse 151)

“Even the beautifully decorated Royal Chariot is subject to decay; even so is the body: subject to change and destruction. However, the virtues among the Noble Ones are not subject to decay; thus pacifying among themselves these virtues are pervaded everywhere.”

Above all, virtues need to be appreciated as Sir William Shakespeare’s saying goes: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones.”

 


 

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