Saturday, July 28, 2012

When to Practice Right Conduct


A king approached the Buddha for advice. The king wanted to know how to practice right conduct in those perilous times. (Times are always perilous, aren't they?) The king felt confident that his armies and magicians were adequate protection from any enemy, but nothing was certain. The Buddha presented a situation where none of these defenses would be effective and asked the king what he would do if his kingdom were faced with certain destruction. The king's answer was:

"If, lord, such a great peril should arise, such a terrible destruction of human life — the human state being so hard to obtain — what else should be done but Dhamma-conduct, right conduct, skillful deeds, meritorious deeds?"

In other words, the king said that we should practice Dhamma-conduct when facing certain death. This means to practice those behaviors that are necessary to maintain the natural order of things. He knew that those beings that lived according to the teachings of Dhamma move more quickly toward Nirvana, the cessation of suffering. Right conduct, also known as right action, is one part of the eight-fold path of Buddhism. Note: Dhamma is Pali. The equivalent word in Sanskrit is Dharma.

The Buddha then told the king,

"I inform you, great king, I announce to you, great king: aging and death are rolling in on you. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?"

The Buddha used the original story of destruction to lead the discussion toward the idea that aging and death come to us all. The king had already said that when faced with certain destruction, we should behave properly in order to move toward Nirvana, or self awakening. The Buddha reminded him that aging and death are no different.

The king replied,
"As aging and death are rolling in on me, lord, what else should be done but Dhamma-conduct, right conduct, skillful deeds, meritorious deeds?

We can be sure that things will change. Nothing is permanent. The Buddha was reminding all of us about the urgency of Dhamma practice.

The quotes are from:
"Pabbatopama Sutta: The Simile of the Mountains" (SN 3.25), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 12 February 2012, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn03/sn03.025.than.html . Retrieved on 18 July 2012.

© 2012 Eric Borreson