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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
spring 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 51 uDDhADhARMA: Let’s begin by establishing what we mean by Buddhist ethics. How is ethics defined in your tradition? AJAhN AMARO: The Theravada term that describes the aspects of the eightfold path related to speech, action, and liveli- hood is sila; it encompasses the morality of conduct, the way we speak and relate to other beings. The teaching encourages us to understand that if one behaves in a man- ner based on kindness, wisdom, compassion, and honesty, that’s likely to have a beneficial effect on yourself and oth- ers, whereas behaving in a selfish, aggressive, destructive, or deceitful manner is likely to have a negative effect. So it’s a pragmatic, causal teaching with a clear structure. I think it’s important to note that the word “ethics” is not exactly the same as morality. Soldiers have ethics according to their military laws, bank robbers have their own ethics, so an ethic doesn’t necessarily mean refraining from killing or stealing. I would use the word “morality” as a translation for sila, but I realize people tend to be a bit allergic to the terms “morality” and “morals.” For conve- nience we may use the word “ethics” in this conversation, but just because something is an ethic doesn’t mean it is in accordance with sila. ANGEL KyODO WILLIAMS: Zen practice tends to center around the ten bodhisattva precepts, which include the original five. There are an additional six precepts when one takes lay or priest ordination; together, they’re referred to as the sixteen bodhisattva precepts. They’re not so much rules to obey as the embodiment of the spirit of not causing harm to others and doing good. ©maUroPerUCCHetti/mauroperucchetti.com Buddha, 2006