We take, as the core operating system of Buddhist Dharma, the threefold training of Ethics, Meditation, & Wisdom. These three trainings are a compressed version of the larger framework of the Noble Eightfold Path, which describes the various dimensions of human spiritual life, including: 1) wise speech, 2) wise action, 3) wise livelihood, 4) wise effort, 5) wise mindfulness, 6) wise concentration, 7) wise view, & 8) wise intention.
In this threefold model one begins with ethics, or moral virtue, as a basis for deepening in meditation, which culminates in life-transforming wisdom. We also recognize that our conduct is itself an expression of our deepest insights about the nature of self, others, and the world, and thus ethics is, as Dharma teacher Daniel Ingram puts it, “the first and last training.”
We recognize that all systems of ethics are contingent, impermanent, and don’t stand on any absolute foundation. At the same time, moral action is possible in context, thanks to the social nature of humans, or more poetically to our interconnected ‘Buddha-nature’.
When discussing ethics, it is worth considering the Buddhist principle of interdependent co-arising. In this sense, we all arrive in the present moment with infinitely complex histories, and we attempt to respond skillfully, thereby impacting the conditions of the next moment. While this makes us recognize that actions aren’t good or bad in themselves, but according to the context, we do recognize the value of moral guidelines to orient our actions.While the pith instructions are “practice basic decency and don’t be an asshole”, our Ethical Standards are based on the traditional five lay precepts.