Ethical behavior is an integral part of both a healthy community and individual spiritual development. Ethical practice helps to instill in us the importance of respecting others’ lives, their property, their dignity, their right to know the truth and the clarity of one’s own mind. Without ethical discipline, suffering and harm inevitably result and many obstacles to spiritual practice arise – internally and externally. Failure to observe ethics causes the mind to become disturbed by the pangs of conscience, making it ill-suited for calming meditation. Without a calm and focused mind, wisdom cannot arise. Only wisdom can truly free our mind from the cycle of suffering, enabling an individual to achieve liberation (nirvana) and enlightenment. Ethics, concentration and wisdom are the “three higher trainings”. Ethics is the foundation. Buddha outlined five main precepts for non-ordained (lay) Buddhist practitioners to follow. These have been adapted in various ways to be relevant in modern times. The version used by DFF below has been adapted from the Code of Ethics for IMS Teachers. Ethics are not commands from a higher authority, but spiritual advice meant for reflection and practice. When we understand the value of ethics in creating harmonious community and awakening our own wisdom mind, we become more mindful of our ethical behavior. Ethics is a practice. When we realize that we’ve broken a precept, instead of of wallowing in guilt which is useless, we endeavor to repair the harm through purification practices.
- We undertake the precept of refraining from killing.
We agree to acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life. We agree to refine our understanding of not killing and non-harming in all our actions. While some of us recommend vegetarianism, and others do not, we all commit ourselves to fulfilling this precept in the spirit of reverence for life.
- We undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.
We agree to not take that which does not belong to us and to respect the property of others. We agree to bring consciousness to the use of all of the earth’s resources in a respectful and ecological way. We agree to be honest in our dealing with money and not to misappropriate money committed to Dharma projects. We agree to offer teachings without favoritism in regard to any student’s financial circumstances.
- We undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.
We agree to avoid creating harm through sexuality and to avoid sexual exploitation or relationships of a sexual manner that are outside the bounds of the relationship commitments we have made to another, or that involve another who has made vows to someone else.
- We undertake the precept of refraining from false speech.
We agree to speak that which is true and useful and to refrain from gossip in our community. We agree to hold in confidence what is explicitly told to us in confidence. We agree to cultivate conscious and clear communication, and to cultivate the quality of lovingkindness and honesty as the basis of our speech.
Specifically, we will not publish any confidential conversations or anecdotes with students, whether those students are named or remain anonymous, without their prior written consent. We will not share these conversations in Dharma talks without prior verbal permission. It is generally suggested that the teacher mask the name and other identifying details.
- We undertake the precept of refraining from intoxicants that cause heedlessness or loss of awareness.
It is clear that substance abuse is the cause of tremendous suffering. While some of us choose to refrain from consuming any alcohol or recreational drugs, we all agree to be mindful of the powerful influence these substances have on our mind and emotions and that there should be no use of intoxicants during teachings or retreats. or to arrive at a teaching (whether in person or online) under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We agree not to abuse or misuse intoxicants at any time.