Lesson
10

Bringing Compassion and
Insight to Non-harming

1 of 4

In this course you have learned that the Dalai Lama equates ethical conduct with non-harming. As you have learned, the intricate nature of reality makes it difficult to define particular acts as ethical or not. Ethics is not just doing what's inherently right. Rather, ethical behavior is based on our own recognition of the desire we all share to be happy and avoid suffering.

So rather than following "rules" of ethics, we must apply discipline and discernment to assure that our actions are motivated by compassion and are not harmful.

Ethical discipline

Ethical discipline is not simply following strictures imposed from without. Rather it implies our applying wisdom and compassion based on our recognition of their benefits

Do you balk at the idea of discipline? Reflect on where in your life you apply discipline. Is it more chosen and internal or imposed and external?

As an example, when a doctor advises you to avoid harmful foods that you crave, are you able to apply discipline?

When I speak of discipline, I'm referring to self-discipline, not discipline that's externally imposed on you by someone else. Also, I'm referring to discipline that's applied in order to overcome your negative qualities.

But for many of us, self-discipline must be learned through constant and diligent application. Ethical discipline can be particularly challenging:

Ethical discipline is the means by which we . . . mediate between the competing claims of your right to happiness and others' equal right. Causing others hurt and disturbing their peace and happiness causes us anxiety. Because our actions have an impact both on ourselves and others, when we lack discipline, eventually anxiety arises in our mind, and deep in our heart we come to feel a sense of disquiet.

How is the discipline to recognize and act on the Dalai Lama's characterization of happiness indispensable to ethical living?

As you have learned, ethical discipline calls for more than just restraint; it requires the ability to recognize the short-term and long-term effects of our actions and the cultivation of the qualities of patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion.