Good deeds and a wholesome life
Not to do evil, to cultivate good, to purify one's mind,
this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
(Dhammapada, verse 183).
All religions encourage people to abstain from evil, to perform good deeds and to lead a wholesome life. In which way is Buddhism different from other teachings? What is kusala, wholesome, is kusala, and what is akusala, unwholesome, is akusala, no matter who performs it, no matter which religion he professes. Buddhism, however, is different from other teachings in so far as it explains the source of wholesomeness: the different cittas which perform good deeds. The Buddha explained in detail all the different cittas and their accompanying mental factors and also the conditions for their arising. He helped people to know the characteristic of kusala and of akusala. In that way the cittas which arise in daily life can be investigated and the different degrees of kusala and of akusala can be known by one ’s own experience. When we think of good deeds such as giving or helping, we usually have in mind the outward situation, we think of persons who perform deeds. The outward appearance of things, however, can be misleading. It depends on the nature of the citta whether there is the performing of whole­some­ness or not. We can only know ourselves the nature of our own citta. It is essential to know when the citta is kusala citta and when it is akusala citta.
The performing of what is wholesome comprises not only deeds of generosity but also good moral conduct as well as mental development. It is important to learn more details of the different ways of kusala which can be performed. In the Buddhist teachings the ways of wholesomeness can be classified as threefold, namely as generosity, good moral conduct and mental development. Learning about these ways is in itself a condition for the development of kusala in one’s daily life.
The performing of deeds of generosity is included in the first of the threefold classification of wholesomeness, but the giving away of things may not always be kusala kamma. There may be moments of sincere generosity, but they are likely to be alternated with akusala cittas. We may expect something in return for our gift, and then there are akusala cittas rooted in attachment. Or we may find that our gift was too expensive and we may feel regret about it. Then there are akusala cittas with stinginess which are rooted in aversion. The person who receives our gift may not be grateful and therefore we may be annoyed or sad. We are inclined to pay attention mostly to the effect of our deeds on others. In order to develop what is wholesome there should be no preoccupation with the reactions of others towards our good deeds. Through the Buddhist teachings one learns to investigate the different moments of citta which motivate one’s deeds. Generosity arises with kusala citta, it does not depend on gratefulness of other people. When one is intent on the development of what is wholesome, there will be no disturbance by other people’s reactions. Is it not a selfish attitude to be constantly occupied with one’s own cittas? On the contrary, when one comes to know when the citta is kusala citta and when akusala citta, one will be able to develop more wholesomeness and this is beneficial for oneself as well as for one’s fellowmen. We have accumu­lated countless defilements and thus the arising of kusala citta is very rare. When there are conditions for generosity, there are at such moments no stinginess, no clinging to one’s possessions. The development of kusala promotes a harmonious society.
Generosity is an inward reality, it arises with kusala citta. Even when there is no opportunity for the giving of material things to others there are other ways of generosity which can be developed. The appreciation of someone else’s good deeds which can be expressed by words of approval and praise is a way of generosity. I learnt of this way of kusala in Thailand where it is widely practised. People bow their head with clasped hands and say, "anumodana", which is the Pāli term for thanksgiving or satisfaction. In this way they express their appreciation of someone else’s kusala. At such a moment the citta is pure, free from jealousy or stinginess. One may be stingy not only with regard to possessions, but also with regard to words of praise. Appreciation of someone else’s kusala is one way of eliminating stinginess. When one learns of this way of kusala there will be more conditions for speaking about others in a wholesome way. We are inclined to speak about other people’s akusala, but when we have confidence in the benefit of kusala we can change our habits. We can learn to speak in the wholesome way.
Another way of generosity is giving other people the opportunity to appreciate one’s good deeds. Is this not a condition for pride? When one tries to impress others there is akusala citta. However, when one has the sincere inclination to help others to have kusala citta it is a way of generosity which is called "the extension of merit". It depends on the citta whether there is this way of kusala or not. Extension of merit does not mean that other people can receive the results of kusala kamma we performed. Each being receives the result of the kamma he performed himself. Extension of merit means helping others to have kusala citta on account of our kusala. In this way we can also help beings in other planes of existence, provided they are in planes where they can notice our good deeds and are able to appreciate them. In Buddhist countries it is a good custom to express with words and gestures the dedication of one’s good deeds to the departed. When a meal or robes have been offered to monks, one pours water over one’s hands while the monks recite words of blessing. In this way one expresses one’s intention to dedicate one’s kusala to other beings.
There are several more aspects of generosity. Abstaining from killing, lying and other evil deeds can be seen as an aspect of generosity. In abstaining from evil deeds which harm other beings one gives them a gift, one gives them the opportunity to live in peace. When we, for example, abstain from killing insects we give the gift of life. Another aspect of giving is forgiving the wrongdoings of someone else. When someone else speaks insulting words to us we may have aversion and conceit. When we think, "Why is he doing that to me", we think in terms of "he" and "me", and then there is comparing, with conceit. Ther can be conceit not only when we think of ourselves as higher than someone else, but also when we think of ourselves as equal or less than someone else. Conceit prevents us from forgiving. When we are stubborn and proud, the citta is harsh, impliable. When we see the benefit of kusala we can forgive. At that moment the citta is gentle, without hate or conceit. One wishes the other person to be happy. For this way of generosity one does not have to look for material things to be given, it can be performed without delay. Knowing that forgiving is an act of generosity can inspire us to forgive more readily.
Another aspect of generosity, included in the first of the threefold classification of the ways of wholesomeness, is the explanation of Dhamma. When one explains the Buddha’s teaching to others, one helps them to develop right understanding of the realities of life. This is the way leading to the elimination of suffering and therefore, the gift of Dhamma is the highest gift.
Not only generosity, but also good moral conduct is a way of wholesomeness. This is the second of the threefold classification of wholesomeness. There are many aspects to moral conduct or morality. Abstaining from evil deeds as well as good actions performed through body and speech are included in this way of kusala. We may believe that we are leading a wholesome life so long as we do not harm anybody. However, we should investigate whether the citta which arises is kusala citta or akusala citta. Then we will discover that we are full of defilements. The Buddha taught in detail on all unwholesome and whole­some mental factors which accompany cittas in different combinations. He explained all the different degrees of akusala and kusala. It is necessary to know whether kusala citta or akusala citta motivates our actions and speech, because the outward appearance of our actions and speech is misleading. We may speak in a pleasant way, but we may do so with selfish motives. We may flatter someone else in order to obtain a favour or in order to be liked by him. Then there is not wholesome speech, but speech motivated by attachment. We have to know our attachment, aversion, jealousy and conceit, we have to know all our defilements.
Abstaining from evil deeds is good moral conduct. There are three unwholesome deeds performed through bodily action: killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. There are four unwholesome verbal actions: lying, slandering, rude speech and idle, useless talk. As regards killing, this is the killing on purpose of any living being, insects included. Also ordering someone else to kill is included in this type of akusala kamma. Does this mean that Buddhists should be vegetarians? The Buddha did not teach people to abstain from eating meat. The monks had to accept any kind of food which was offered to them by the layfollowers. The Buddha explained to the monks that they could eat meat unless they had seen, heard or suspected that an animal was killed especially for them. We read in the Book of Discipline (Vinaya IV, Mahā-vagga VI, on Medicines, 237) that the general Sīha attained enlightenment after having listened to the Buddha. He offered a meal which included meat to the Buddha and the order of monks. The Nigaṇṭhas, who were of another teaching, found fault with the offering of meat. We read that after the meal the Buddha explained to the monks:
"Monks, one should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose (for one). Whoever should make use of it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow you, monks, fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard, suspected (to have been killed on purpose for a monk)."
This answer may not be satisfactory to everyone. One may wonder whether one indirectly promotes the slaughtering of animals by buying meat. It would be good if there were no slaughtering at all, no violence. The world, however, is not an Utopia. Animals are slaughtered and their meat is sold. If one in the given situation buys meat and eats it, one does not commit an act of violence. While one kills there is akusala citta rooted in aversion; killing is an act of violence. While one eats meat there may be attachment or dislike of it, but there is no act of violence towards a living being.
The observing of precepts is included in good moral conduct. When one undertakes the observance of precepts one makes the resolution to train oneself in abstaining from akusala. There are precepts for monks, novices and nuns, and there are precepts for layfollowers. At the present time the order of nuns does not exist any more, although we can in Buddhist countries still see women who have retired from worldly life and try to live as a nun. The monks, as we will see, are under the obligation to observe many rules. For laypeople there are five precepts, but on special occasions they can undertake eight precepts. The precepts are not worded in the form of commandments, forbidding people to commit akusala. They are principles of training one can undertake with the aim to have less akusala.
The five moral precepts layfollowers can observe are the foundation for good moral conduct. When one undertakes them one makes the resolution to train oneself in abstaining from the following unwholesome deeds: killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants, including alcoholic drinks. When one is in circumstances that one could commit an evil deed through body and speech but one abstains from it with kusala citta, there is good moral conduct.
Abstaining from slandering, rude speech and idle talk are not among the five precepts for laypeople. Abstaining from them, however, is kusala kamma. We may be in situations where we are tempted to speak evil, but when we abstain with kusala citta from slandering there is good moral conduct. When someone else scolds us we may abstain from talking back. However, if we keep silent with aversion there isn’t good moral conduct. We have to investigate the citta in order to know whether there is good moral conduct or not. Abstaining from useless, idle talk is hard to observe. Most of the time we engage in idle talk about pleasant objects, such as delicious food, nice weather or journeys. We may think that such conver­sations are good since we do not harm other people. Through the Buddhist teachings we learn to investigate the cittas which motivate such conversations. We can find out that we speak mostly with attachment about pleasant objects and in this way accumulate ever more attachment. We do not have to avoid such conversations, but it is beneficial to know the nature of the citta which motivates our speech. When there are conditions for kusala citta we can speak about pleasant subjects with kindness and consideration for other people. Only the person who has reached the state of perfection has no more conditions to engage in idle talk. He has eradicated all kinds of akusala, also the subtle degrees.
Committing evil through bodily action or speech for the sake of one’s livelihood is wrong livelihood. When one abstains from wrong livelihood there is right livelihood. One may, for example, be tempted to tell a lie in order to obtain more profit in one’s business. If one abstains from such speech there is right livelihood.
It is hard to observe the precepts perfectly in all circum­stances. If one has confidence in the benefit of kusala, one can gradually train oneself in observing the precepts. One may generally not be inclined to kill insects, but when one’s house is full of fleas one may be tempted to kill. Killing may sometimes seem a quick and easy way to solve one’s problems. One needs more effort to abstain from killing, but if one has confidence in kusala one will look for other ways to solve one’s problems and abstain from killing. However, only those who have attained enlighten­ment will never transgress the five precepts, not even for the sake of their health or their life. The development of right understanding of the realities of our life leads to the perfection of moral conduct.
Paying respect to those who deserve respect is included in good moral conduct. In Buddhist countries it is a tradition to pay respect to parents, teachers, elderly people, monks and novices. At such moments there is an opportunity to give expression to one’s appreciation for their good qualities, for their wisdom and guidance, and the assistance they have given. We see layfollowers paying respect to monks by clasping their hands and bowing their head, or by prostrating the body and touching the floor with the forehead, the forearms and knees. When one has not lived in a Buddhist country one may wonder why people are paying respect to monks in such a humble way. The monks have retired from worldly life in order to lead a life of detachment. Even if they are not perfect, they can remind us of those who have reached perfection. In Buddhist countries one can also see people prostrating themselves before a Buddha statue. This is not idol wor­ship or a way of praying to the Buddha. One cannot pray to the Buddha since he is not in a heavenly plane or in any other place. He has passed away completely not to be reborn again. One can remember the Buddha’s virtues, his wisdom, compassion and purity, and give expression to one’s respect for his virtues in gesture and speech. It depends on the individual’s inclination in which way he shows respect. One may show respect to someone out of selfish motives, such as desire for favours, but in that case the citta is akusala citta. When one pays respect or shows politeness with a sincere inclination, it is kusala citta. At such a moment there is no attachment or pride.
Another way of kusala kamma included in good moral conduct is helping other people through speech and deeds. In order to know whether there is this way of wholesome­ness or not we have to investigate the cittas which motivate helping. One may help someone with selfish motives or with reluctance, and that is not kusala kamma. Helping with unselfish kindness is good moral conduct. At such a moment there is detachment. We are inclined to be lazy and to be attached to our own comfort, but in order to help someone we have to renounce our own comfort and make an effort for kusala. When kusala citta arises we are able to think of someone else’s welfare. Also listening to other people when they talk about their problems and giving them our attention is a way of helping them.
In the Buddhist scriptures, including the Jātakas (the Buddha’s Birth Stories), there are many practical guidelines for a life of goodwill and benevolence in one’s social relations. There are guidelines for kings to reign with justice and compassion, and these can be applied by all in government service. We read in the "Kūtadanta Sutta" (Dialogues of the Buddha I, sutta 5) that the Buddha told the Brahman Kūtadanta about a King who wanted to offer a great sacrifice and asked his chaplain advice. The chaplain advised the King about a sacrifice for the sake of which no living being would be injured. He said to the King that, instead of punishing the bandits who were marauding the country, the King could improve the economic situation, a way which would be more effective in suppressing crime. The King should give grain to farmers, capital to traders, wages and food to those in government service. Then tensions would be solved and there would be an end to disorder. The King followed the chaplain’s advice and made abundant gifts. The Buddha explained to Kūtadanta that a sacrifice is not only the giving of material things, but that it can also be dedication to spiritual matters, namely having confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the "Sangha", the community of enlightened disciples, as well as mental development, including the development of the wisdom leading to perfection.
The "Sigālovāda sutta" (Dialogues of the Buddha III, sutta 31) contains the layman’s social ethics. The Buddha explained to Sigāla that there should be love and goodwill in the relations between parents and children, teachers and pupils, husband and wife, employees and servants, laypeople and those who have retired from worldly life. The Buddha warned Sigāla of all the consequences of bad moral conduct and of the danger of evil friendship. A bad friend appropriates a friend’s possessions, pays mere lip-service and flatters. Whereas a good friend gives good counsel, sympathizes and does not forsake one in misfortune, he is even willing to sacrifice his life for his friend. A good friend is intent on one’s spiritual welfare. We read:
He restrains you from doing evil,
he encourages you to do good,
he informs you of what is unknown to you,
he points out to you the path to heaven.
The Buddhist principles of goodwill and tolerance can be applied in today’s world in the community where one lives, on the national level and on the international level, including development cooperation. One can apply these principles more effectively if one at the same time develops understanding of the different cittas which arise, kusala cittas and akusala cittas. This understanding will prevent one from taking for kusala what is akusala. It is necessary to get to know the selfish motives with which we may act and speak, to get to know our many defilements. Otherwise our deeds and speech will not be sincere.
For a layman it is difficult to observe good moral conduct in all circumstances. He may find himself in situations where it is hard to abstain from akusala kamma, such as killing. The person who has inclinations to monkhood leaves the household life in order to be able to observe good moral conduct more perfectly. There is good moral conduct of the layman and there is good moral conduct of the monk. The monk’s moral conduct is of a higher level. He leads a life of non-violence and contentment with little. He has renounced worldly life in order to dedicate himself completely to the study and practice of the Dhamma and to the teaching of it to layfollowers.
We read in the Book of Analysis (the Second Book of the Abhidhamma, 12, Analysis of Absorption) about the life of a monk:
Herein a monk dwells restrained and controlled by the fundamental precepts, endowed with (proper) behaviour and a (suitable) alms resort, seeing danger in (his) slightest faults, observing (the precepts) he trains himself in the precepts, guarded as to the doors of the sense faculties, in food knowing the right amount, in the first watch of the night and in the last watch of the night practising the practice of vigilance, with intense effort and penetration practising the practice of development of enlightenment states.
The goal of monkhood is the eradication of all defile­ments through the development of wisdom, the attainment of the state of perfection. The monk is under the obligation to observe two-hundred and twenty-seven training rules. Apart from these there are many other rules which help him to reach his goal. They are contained in the Vinaya, the Book of Discipline for the monk. We read that every time a monk did not live up to the principles of monkhood, the Buddha laid down a rule in order to help him. The Vinaya should not be separated from mental development, in particular the development of understanding of the mental phenomena and physical phenomena of life. Otherwise there would be the mere outward observance of the rules, no purification of the mind. How could one "see danger in the slightest faults" if there is no right understanding of the realities of his life, including the different cittas which arise?
The task of the monk is the development of under­standing of the Dhamma and explaining the Dhamma to others. His task is the preservation of the Buddha’s teachings. Social work is not the task of the monk, it is the task of the layman. The Rules of Discipline, dating from the Buddha’s time about two-thousand five-hundred years ago, are still valid today. Shortly after the Buddha’s passing away the first Great Council was held at Rājagaha under the leadership of the Buddha’s disciple Mahā-Kassapa. We read in the Illustrator of Ultimate Meaning (commentary to the "Good Omen Discourse" of the " Minor Readings", of the Khuddaka Nikāya) that five hundred monks who had reached the state of perfection were to recite all the texts of the Buddha’s teachings. We read that when Mahā-Kassapa asked which part they would rehearse first, the monks answered:
"The Vinaya is the very life of the Teaching; so long as the Vinaya endures, the Teaching endures, therefore let us rehearse the Vinaya first."
The monk should train himself in fewness of wishes. He is allowed the use of the four requisites of robes, almsfood, lodging and medicine, but they are not his personal property, they belong to the Order of monks. He is dependant on layfollowers for receiving these requisites and he should be contented with whatever he receives. These requisites are the monk’s livelihood and he should train himself in purity of livelihood.
It is important also for laypeople to learn more about the monk’s moral conduct. The monk and the layman have different lifestyles, but the layman can benefit from the study of the Vinaya and apply some of the rules in his own situation in daily life. The rules can also help the layman to "see danger in the slightest faults", to scrutinize his cittas when he, as a layman, is in similar situations as the monk. Both monks and laymen can train themselves in good moral conduct in action and speech as well as in wholesome thoughts. We read, for example, in the Vinaya (II, Suttavibha"ga, Expiation XVI) that monks took possession of the best sleeping places, which were assigned to monks who were elders. The Buddha thereupon laid down a rule, stating that such conduct was an offence. Such an incident can also remind a layman not to ensure the best place for himself in a room, in a bus or train. One may think that one is entitled to the best place, but this is conceit. One can find out that there is at such a moment no kindness and compassion, but akusala citta. When we read in the Vinaya about the monk’s daily life and about the situations where he was tempted to neglect his purity of moral conduct, we can be reminded of our own defilements, it can help us to recognize our deeply rooted faults and vices.
The monk should remember that the four requisites of robes, food, lodging and medicine are to be used so that he can stay healthy and dedicate himself to his task of the development of understanding of realities. The monk should not hint to lay-followers what kind of food he would like, he should not indulge in clinging to the requisites by hoarding food or robes. The monk should not try to obtain the requisites with improper means, such as by pretending to be more advanced in mental development than he really is. He may out of hypocrisy reject gifts, so that layfollowers believe that he is a person with fewness of wishes and then give to him more abundantly. The monk may try to impress others by his deportment. We read in the Path of Purification (I, 70):
Here someone of evil wishes, a prey to wishes, eager to be admired, (thinking) "Thus people will admire me", composes his way of walking, composes his way of lying down; he walks studiedly, stands studiedly, sits studiedly, lies down studiedly; he walks as though concentrated, stands, sits, lies down as though concentrated; and he is one who meditates in public.
The Path of Purification explains that desire for requisites can motivate speech with akusala citta. We read (I, 72) about different kinds of unwholesome speech:
Ingratiating chatter is endearing chatter repeated again and again without regard to whether it is in conformity with truth and Dhamma. Flattery is speaking humbly, always maintaining an attitude of inferiority. Bean-soupery is resemblance to bean soup; for just as when beans are being cooked, only a few do not get cooked, the rest get cooked, so too the person in whose speech only a little is true, the rest being false, is called a "bean soup"; his state is bean-soupery.
Not only monks, also laypeople can be insincere in their deportment and speech in order to obtain something desirable. We should check whether our speech is "bean-soupery". We may to some extent speak what is true and to some extent what is not true. We may believe that there is no harm in "bean-soupery", but we accumulate at such a moment the tendency to lying.
The monk should train himself in virtue concerning the requisites. He should use them without greed and reflect wisely on their use. We read in the Path of Purification (I, 85) about the use of almsfood:
Reflecting wisely, he uses alms food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for smartening nor for embellishment, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for the ending of discomfort, and for assisting the life of purity.
Food is bound to be an object of attachment and it can also be an object of aversion. If one reflects wisely on the use of food there is kusala citta. It is natural that one enjoys delicious food, but if one remembers that food is like a medicine for the body, one will be less inclined to overeating, which is the cause of laziness. It is the monk ’s duty to reflect wisely on the use of the requisites, but also for laypeople there can be conditions for wise consider­ation of the things they use in daily life.
The monk should not indulge in sleep, in the company of people and in idle, useless talk. We read in the Gradual Sayings (V, Book of the Tens, Chapter VII, §9, Topics of talk) that while the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta Grove, some of the monks were indulging in idle talk, namely talk on kings, robbers, ministers, food, relatives, villages and other useless topics. The Buddha asked them what they were talking about and then said that such idle, useless talk was improper for them. He pointed out that there were ten topics of talk monks should engage in:
Talk about wanting little, about contentment, seclusion, solitude, energetic striving, virtue, concentration, insight, release, release by knowing and seeing.
It is beneficial also for laypeople to find out which types of citta motivate talking. Even though one cannot change one’s habits yet, it is beneficial to know the different types of cittas which motivate one ’s actions and speech.
The monk should train himself in purity in all his actions and speech. There are four kinds of purification of the monk’s moral conduct: restraint with regard to the disciplinary rules, the guarding of the sense doors, virtue concerning his livelihood, virtue concerning his requisites. With regard to the "guarding of the sense faculties", we read in the Middle Length Sayings (I, Sutta 27, The Lesser Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint):
Having seen visible object with the eye, having heard a sound with the ear, having smelt an odour with the nose, having tasted a flavour with the tongue, having touched a tangible object through the bodysense, having cognised a mental object through the mind, he neither adheres to the whole, nor to the details. And he strives to ward off that through which evil, unskilled states of mind, greed and sorrow, would predominate, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses.
When there is understanding of visible object, sound and the other realities as they are, as impermanent and not self, one will be less infatuated by them. In this sense we have to understand the words " watching" and "restraint". It is by understanding, by wisdom, that there will be the "guarding of the sense faculties".
As we read in the Dhammapada (verse 183), it is the teaching of the Buddha to abstain from evil, to develop what is wholesome and to purify one’s mind. Through mental development there can be purification of the mind, the elimination of what is impure, unwholesome. Mental development is the third of the threefold classification of the ways of wholesomeness. For mental development right understanding or wisdom is necessary, whereas the first way of wholesomeness, generosity, and the second way of wholesomeness, good moral conduct, can be performed also without right understanding. One may perform deeds of generosity, abstain from evil or help others because it is one’s nature to do so, even without understanding of one ’s cittas. When there is right under­standing of the different cittas which arise, there can be the development of more wholesome states. Through the development of understanding of one’s cittas one will discover all one’s weak points, even the slightest faults, and this means that there is less delusion about oneself. It is beneficial to discover that whenever there is no performing of kusala, our actions, speech and thoughts are akusala.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Twos, Chapter 2, §7) about deeds of commission and omission. We read that the brāhmin Jānussoṇi asked the Buddha why some beings were reborn in Hell. The Buddha explained that it was owing to deeds of commission and omission. The Buddha said:
"Now in this connection, brāhmin, a certain one has committed bodily immoral acts, and omitted bodily moral acts and the same as regards speech and thought. Thus, brāhmin, it is owing to commission and omission that beings are reborn in Hell."
We read that the Buddha then explained that through the commission of kusala kamma and the omission of akusala kamma beings were reborn in Heaven. This text is a reminder not to neglect wholesome deeds. When there is omission of kusala, it will condition regret and worry later on. When kusala is performed with the aim to have less defilements, there will be more motivation to abstain from akusala, to develop kusala and to purify the mind. When more understanding of cittas and their accompanying mental factors is developed, confidence in the benefit of kusala will grow. When there is the direct realization of the truth of non-self, one will clearly see that kusala citta arises because of its own conditions, that there is no person or self who performs it. Then kusala will be purer, and moral conduct will become enduring. The under­standing of the truth of non-self however, is the result of a gradual development, it cannot be realized within a short time. It is the development of direct understanding of the mental phenomena and physical phenomena of life. This is a way of kusala kamma which is included in mental development.
Selfishness, envy, stinginess, anger, conceit and other defilements disturb our social life. Such defilements motivate us to engage in wrong action and wrong speech. In this way we harm both ourselves and others. If we train ourselves to live according to the principles of loving-kindness, compassion, tolerance and gentleness, as taught by the Buddha, it is to the benefit of ourselves and society. At the moment of the performance of wholesomeness, the citta is pure, without defilements; there is no attachment, no aversion or hate, no ignorance. We read in the Dhammapada (verses 3-5):
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", the hatred of those who harbour such thoughts is not appeased.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me", the hatred of those who do not harbour such thoughts is appeased.
Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; by love alone they cease. This is an ancient principle.
We cannot live up to such high principles unless there is the development of understanding which will eventually lead to the eradication of defilements. We can, however, begin to apply ourselves to the ways of whole­some­ness we are able to perform at this moment. All kinds of wholesomeness which are included in the threefold classification of generosity, good moral conduct and mental development are to the welfare of ourselves as well as our fellow beings.
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