religions derive their ideas of right and wrong from the commandments of
their god or gods. You Buddhists don't believe in a god, so how do you know
right from wrong?
- Any thoughts, speech
or actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion and thus lead us
away from Nirvana are bad and any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted
in giving, love and wisdom and thus help clear the way to Nirvana are good.
- To know what
is right and wrong in god-centred religions, all that is needed is to do
as you are told. But in a man-centred religion like Buddhism, to know what
is right and wrong, you have to develop a deep self-awareness and self understanding.
And ethics based on understanding are always stronger than those that are
a response to a command.
- So to know what
is right and wrong, the Buddhist looks at three things - the intention,
the effect the act will have upon oneself and the effect it will upon others.
If the intention is good (rooted in giving, loving and wisdom), if it helps
myself (helps me to be more giving, more loving and wiser), then my deeds
and actions are wholesome, good and moral. Of course, there are many variations
of this. Sometimes I act with the best of intentions but they may not benefit
either myself or others. Sometimes my intentions are far from good, but
my actions helps others nonetheless. Sometimes I act out of good intentions
and my acts help me but perhaps cause some distress to others. In such cases,
my actions are mixed - a mixture of good and not-so-good. When intentions
are bad and the action helps neither myself nor others, such an action is
bad. And when my intention is good and my action benefits both myself and
others, then the deed is wholly good.