Dear Still Water Friends,
Several weeks ago we began our intermittent exploration of the Six Paramitas, six traditionally revered ways of practicing which help us move from suffering to ease. This week, after our meditation, we will address the second of the Six Paramitas (sila in Pali, shila in Sanskrit) variously translated as morality, mindfulness trainings, precepts, or discipline.
For many of us in the West, words such as morality, precepts, and discipline have a negative connotation. Especially in "progressive" circles, conventional morality is often interpreted as socially sanctioned justifications used by those in power to control the lives, thoughts, actions, and bodies of those with less power, especially women, oppressed minorities, children, and the economically or socially marginalized.
Modern Buddhist writers, on the other hand, have sought to give a different meaning to morality, mindfulness trainings, precepts, and discipline. Drawing on the original conceptions of the Buddha, morality is seen as a self-chosen discipline that allows our deepest aspirations to flourish. A moral life is seen as one which is lived in accord with the interbeingness of the universe.
Santikaro Bhikku, an American born Thai monk, writes that Buddhist morality and rules of conduct "are expressions of the wisdom that sees the world as it is and the compassion that motivates us to live in it without causing suffering." It is:
In The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings Thich Nhat Hanh notes that:
In When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron understands sila/discipline to be a "process that supports us in going against the grain of our painful habitual patterns." She notes that:
You are invited to join us this Thursday for our meditation period and our program. Our discussion will begin with two questions:
The above short quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron were extracted from passages provided below.
From Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart Of The Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy, And Liberation.
The second practice is the perfection of the precepts, or
mindfulness trainings, shila paramita. The Five Mindfulness Trainings
help protect our body, mind, family, and society. . . .
The practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings is a form of love, and a form of giving. It assures the good health and protection of our family and society. Shila paramita is a great gift that we can make to our society, our family, and to those we love. The most precious gift we can offer our society is to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we protect ourselves and the people we love. When we practice shila paramita, we offer the precious gift of life.
Let us look deeply together into the causes of our suffering, individually and collectively. If we do, I am confident we will see that the Five Mindfulness Trainings are the correct medicine for the malaise of our times. Every tradition has the equivalent of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Every time I see someone receive and practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings, I feel so happy - for him, his family, and also for myself - because I know that the Five Mindfulness Trainings are the most concrete way to practice mindfulness. We need a Sangha around us in order to practice them deeply.
From Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times