There’s a Pali word called sila, which can be translated to mean ‘morality’, among other possible interpretations.
Most of us have an underlying layer to our psyches and our lives; a code of conduct of sorts; an undercurrent of a set of values that we adhere to that we are loath to discard, disobey or violate. Some of these values are more social in nature or origin while others are deeper and more core to the concept of morality per se.
I think an easy way to distinguish between the two is as follows. If the outcome of breaking a code is what people will think, it’s likely a social than moral value. If the outcome is what we will think of ourselves, it’s probably closer to morality.
Morality can be considered a discipline, considering how difficult some of the precepts can be to follow. The sooner it is introduced into our lives, the easier it is to follow. The longer we live without it, the tougher it is to return to the path.
As with all disciplines, morality requires training, given it is our natural tendency to fall into chaos, and chaos can be of all sorts. A well ordered life can include elements of chaotic thought, well ordered thought in turn can include notions of chaotic morality and well ordered morality can fall into chaotic rhythms of practice. If looked upon from a religious point of view, this is a similar perspective.
How do we train ourselves in morality? I’m sure most of us already do it.
- When we strive towards a way of living our lives without stealing, killing or otherwise causing hurt to others
- When we try to understand and improve our emotional, physical and psychological health
- When we are conscious of and do our best to preserve and protect the environment from ourselves and from others
- When we oppose government action and try to steer it towards all manner of reform
- When we work on our relationships with our partners, explore the concepts of marital compromise towards the notion of a better marriage / partnership
Given the ever changing scenarios in our lives, combined with our base natures, it is unlikely we’ll ever really complete our training in morality and will likely have to consciously practice staying on the path all our lives.
The good news is, we can look upon morality training in a self indulgent kind of way, given that the more it is practiced by an increasing number of people, the more the likely proliferation of morally compliant acts, which will undoubtedly effect the quality of our own lives and those near and dear to us.
What is your path towards the practice of morality? What challenging situations have you encountered? How did you resolve them? What is your goal?