Religious Beliefs

Is there a distinctively Buddhist ethic?

Compassion for all sentient beings is the overriding principle in Buddhist ethics. It was Compassion (karuna) that urged the Buddha to share his message of enlightenment. Life’s greatest challenge is to act out of genuine altruism, to be and do for others without hoping for reward. compassion needs to be doubly disciplined. One needs to work toward the alleviation of suffering purely because that is humanity’s highest calling. But it is also essential to know how best to put compassion into action. That calls for the practical wisdom that comes from a keen awareness of one’s own spiritual history, including a recollection of one’s previous lives. The ability to “recall one’s former existences” is a mark of genuine enlightenment and a sign of profound awareness. Buddhist ethics combine the compassion of one who appreciates the pervasiveness of suffering with the practical wisdom that comes from a detailed experiential knowledge of what “works.” The result is a virtue called “skill in means” (upaya). In other words, it is the motive for behaving ethically—compassion—the framework within which to choose a course of action—wisdom—and the resources with which to act.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App