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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
52 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2017 aJahN amaRo is abbot of amaravati monastery in England. he was ordained by ajahn Chah in 1979 as a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition. REv. aNGEL kYodo WiLLiamS is the founder of the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, California, and co-author of Radical Dharma. PEma khaNdRo RiNPoChE is the founder and spiritual director of Ngakpa international and mahaSiddha Center in Berkeley, California. Noah LEviNE is the founder of against the Stream Buddhist meditation Society and the author of Dharma Punx and Refuge Recovery. (leFt—rigHt):CHriStiNealiCiNo,BeliNDaBlUeBell,NgakPaiNterNatioNal,SamDiePHUiS PEMA KhANDRO: In the Vajrayana, there are fourteen main vows that govern morality and ethics. The bodhisattva mind-set is emphasized throughout— for example, in the vow to never give up on loving other beings, which means not wishing ill on other individuals or groups. Another vow is to never for- sake bodhicitta, the enlightened intention of altru- ism. The fourteen vows also emphasize particular attention to one’s immediate social context. Where Mahayana Buddhism broadly emphasizes loving and caring for all sentient beings, the Vajrayana vows hone in on the personal sphere too, focusing on harmony with one’s teacher and with other prac- titioners who have taken vows with one’s teacher. Because of Tibetan Buddhism’s diverse history, which encompasses many varied and sometimes contrasting ethical systems, a respect for diverse religious views is also incorporated. One of the vows is not to disparage people whose Buddhist views are different from one’s own. So I would say the three defining qualities of the Vajrayana vows are the bodhisattva mind-set of caring for and lov- ing others, an acknowledgment of being in a world with diverse views, and a focus on the microcosm, what it is to really live in harmony with the people immediately around us. NOAh LEVINE: For householders in the Theravada tradition, the core of living an ethical life is the five precepts: to refrain from taking life or any form of violence; not taking what is not offered; being careful with our sexual energy (refraining from sexual relationships that cause intentional harm); a commitment to honesty and speaking in a care- ful manner; and, in support of our commitment to wakefulness, refraining from any recreational drug and alcohol use that would impair our ability to be fully present and accountable to our speech and actions. In the simplest terms, ethics, as a baseline, means refraining from causing harm to ourselves or others. Then there is a higher level of ethics, which is using our speech to create harmony, bring about inspiration, and support others. We can use our life’s energy to create positive change as part of our ethical commitment to ending greed, hatred, and delusion in this world. For householders in the Theravada, it’s also extremely important to look at our relationship to money—to be careful, wise, and generous in how we earn and what we do with the finances that we generate. All of these ethical conversations come back to what kind of karma we are creating for ourselves in every moment. BuDDhADhARMA: We often speak of Buddhist practice as an investigation of mind, but does that investiga- tion naturally point toward ethical action or do we have to take up ethics as its own practice?