Morality in Buddhism

The Buddhist believe in Karma as a guiding principle. Morality in Buddhism is derived from the Karma-law that describes that your every action has an invisible karmic attachment that will affect you in the future.

According to this worldview, your actions will stick to you like glue, and it will do so for all your incarnations. This is the reason some are born in unfortunate situations. Dalai Lama was once asked why he meditated.

He replied with a laughter: ” To avoid being reborn as a pig.”

For the Buddhist morality is the way to handle karma in daily life. Different sects have their different guidelines, but in general morality in Buddhism is connected to the idea that all life is connected, and that the faith of life is same no matter if you are a butterfly, a tree or a monk.
This faith is connected to the concept of non-duality (advaita) which states that the feeling we all have that we are separate, individual beings is at a more divine level just an illusion. We actually all are the same, we are one.

Once this concept is accepted it is easy to understand the behaviour of devoted Buddhist’s. They are acting nice to you, not to please a God or because they fear the laws, but because they see themselves as being inseparable from what you are in your essence. Hurting someone, stealing, lying etc. is essentially harming yourself.

The Noble Eightfold Path

However, having experienced this full insight in your own life is not for everybody. It takes practice, devotion, and meditation. For the layman Buddhist, there is a set of eight rules to follow. The rules are called the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Conduct
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Samadhi or meditation

Practicing this will lead to the end of all suffering and the end the cycle of rebirths, which is equal to attaining Nirvana. The virtues 3, 4 and 5 are sometimes called the Moral Virtues since they describe how to behave in everyday life.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the basis of a number of other concepts typically associated with Buddhism. For instance, non-violence (ahimsa) and vegetarianism.