Lecture 5: The Buddhist Criteria of Ethics

In India morality is considered as puñña and pāpa. Puñña was described as reborn oriented while pāpa as punishment oriented. Both puñña and pāpa are done on the basis of lobha, dosa, and moha.

The Buddha did not totally reject the concept of puñña and pāpa. While accepting the efficacy of them as social tools, the Buddha introduced two new terms in describing morality; they are kusala and akusala.

The Buddha gives a criteria of good and bad:
“What is thought, said and done on the basis of greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha) is bad (akusala); what is thought, said and done on the basis of non-desire (alobha), non-hatred (adosa) and non-delusion (amoha) is good (kusala). In order to conclude this, you don’t need to go to the traditional means of knowledge.”

If harming others is carried out on the basis of greed, hatred and delusion, it is bad in anywhere in anytime and in any places.

By performing the same action, the ordinary person accumulates puñña but the Arahant accumulates kusala.

Without knowledge there is no morality and without morality there is no knowledge. The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (DN) states: “Pañña is dependent on virtue (sīlaparibhāvita paññā) and Sīla is dependent on pañña (paññāparibhāvitam sīlaṃ).”

One can be morally perfect while being in the society. In the forest, in the caves, and in the cemetery, any one can be good, but it is difficult for the person to be good in contact with others. “To be good person, behave well, take good and ignore bad!”