Q & A: ethics

The essence of leading an ethical life is that you don’t look for excuses to act wrongly. One excuse is that you have to be dishonest to succeed in this world because everybody else is, and they are getting ahead quickly. And, if you don’t do the same you will lag behind.

Understand that such thinking is the result of weakness of the mind. This meditation will make your mind so strong that you never even consider being unethical; and you will find success at your doorstep. On the contrary, if you fear failure because you are not using underhand methods to succeed, then this fear will become the cause of your failure, whereas the strength of the mind will bring you success. So you must strengthen the mind and not weaken it on some pretext or the other.

As you grow, you will understand further that people who have acquired name, fame, position and wealth through dishonest means, and apparently leading very successful lives, remain agitated and full of misery. When you progress on this path, then you will realize that such people don’t sleep well at night and have no peace of mind during the day. What have they gained by being so successful? The wealth, position, fame and name are all futile if they don’t bring peace and happiness.

On the other hand, a person who is not so wealthy or famous but who has a contented and compassionate heart is a real noble soul and leads a truly happy life. So to compete in the world and be a success, don’t take the wrong path. This is why you are learning to meditate at this young age, so that you do not take a wrong path at any cost. Even for the sake of the right goal, do not walk on the wrong path. Always take the right course for a righteous aim.

This is indeed a good question. If the observation of breath does not help us to preserve morality and improve ourselves, then it is a waste of time. This technique will help a lot in living a good life. If we continue to observe the natural flow of respiration, we will find that it helps us to gain control over our mind. Our mind will not be as weak and restless. Its ability to concentrate will improve. The more it concentrates, the stronger and wiser it gets. Its faculty of awareness improves. If the mind gets angry, it will instantly become aware of it. Then all you have to do is to observe the breath for a few minutes and the anger will be gone. When we used to be in a bad mood, we would either yell at somebody or we would lose control and hit them, which is wrong. So Anapana has prevented us from causing harm. Any wrong act we do pollutes the mind, and somebody practising Anapana immediately becomes aware of this. The way to get rid of the impurity is to observe the breath for some time. If we continue to observe the breath, the impurity will be removed and we will be saved from causing harm
As already explained, the irregularity in the respiration gives us a warning signal when we get upset. At that time, by focusing our attention on the respiration, we will become more alert and not do something wrong.
Why indulge in a sense of humour which prompts you to do that? There are plenty of jokes that won’t make you to behave immorally. If you do something wrong once, even as a joke, you will be tempted to do it again and again. Today you are doing it as a joke and tomorrow it will become a permanent habit. You will keep justifying it. Immorality is always wrong, so try not to ever indulge in it, even jokingly.
The question you ask yourself should be, “Why can’t we drive away mosquitoes when they bite us? Why do you wish to kill mosquitoes?” If they bite you, then get rid of them with mosquito coils and repellant without killing them. Use these when you meditate or at other times, and the mosquitoes will not come near you. Obviously you don’t like it when somebody hurts you. A mosquito is a living being like you, and it is born with the natural instinct of sucking blood for its food. If you don’t want to feed them, don’t kill them, just keep them away, then you won’t be causing harm.

It is an unwholesome action under all circumstances. We get into the habit of justifying a lie when it is not morally justifiable. First of all, how are you certain that the reason you lied is OK? Everyone has limitations when it comes to analysing and understanding things, and so do you. It is hard to be perfect and know clearly whether the lie was told for a reasonable cause. And even if you say you are sure that you lied for a good reason, then you are bound to lie again for another reason that you think is good. If you lie repeatedly, you get into the habit of lying, and keep justifying it with the excuse that telling a small lie doesn’t matter. Don’t ever get into the habit of doing this. Don’t be tempted to lie for any reason, however good it appears to be. Speak only the truth.

Sometimes, you might avoid the truth for fear of harming someone. For example, your teacher asks you who in your class was misbehaving. You know your friend is the trouble-maker but you don’t want him to be punished. So you tell a downright lie by saying that your friend is innocent. Understand what has happened because of this. On the surface it seems that telling a small lie has saved him from being punished. But in reality, a great harm has been done and you have in fact helped him to misbehave. Because he wasn’t corrected at the time he made a mistake, he will feel encouraged to do the same thing time and again. So your one lie has opened the doors of misbehaviour and misery for your friend. If the truth had come out, the teacher would have given him the appropriate punishment to stop him from going astray in the future.

There is no harm in maintaining silence if you don’t want to make any comment. If you think you might say something incorrect or misleading, then with humility and firmness, you can refuse to give any reply. You have not done anything wrong in telling the truth, which is that you do not wish to speak. Otherwise, if you try to save someone by making a false statement, you might do him more harm than good. Not only can you harm your friend, but you can harm yourself too by starting a habit of telling lies.

Just as you protect others by behaving morally, protect yourself in the same way. On one hand, you want to protect yourself and on the other, you speak about doing wrong. If you act immorally, the result will be misery. So how can you claim to have protected yourself? How can you claim to have saved yourself? In fact, you have ruined your own security by not following the right code of conduct. You must strengthen your mind. If the mind is weak, it will give a hundred excuses for breaking any moral principle. It will say that a small lie is excusable if it saves me or someone else. If the mind is strong, it will not listen to such lame excuses and so it will make sure you speak and behave decently. This will be your real protection. Gradually, people will begin to know you as a truthful person and you will experience the sweet fruit of good behaviour.
If you do something wrong then admit it before someone older. Don’t hide your mistakes, otherwise you are liable to repeat them. It will start an endless process. If you confess to someone older and respectable that you have made a mistake, and also promise not to do it ever again, you will see that your mind will gain strength. When you don’t conceal any of your bad actions, you are not tempted to repeat them. Moreover, if you are determined not to commit the same mistake again, you will start gaining strength of mind. This is the right way. There is no other way to make amends.
If you are intelligent enough, then you will remain friends if necessary. First of all, decide why you want to be friends with such people. If you have to be in their company while they are drinking, then use your intelligence and judgment. If you refuse to drink by saying that now you are a pure person doing meditation, they will just get angry with you. So firmly decline the offer to drink by saying politely that it doesn’t suit you. This will be a true statement for it can never suit somebody to drink if he is trying to strengthen his mind with meditation. Consider an example. A man suffering from diabetes goes out with some friends one evening. The friends coax him to eat sweets arguing that one piece will do him no harm. If he eats the sweets, it will only make his condition worse, but if he is sensible, he won’t give in and suffer. He will say that he is diabetic and it does not suit him to eat sweets, whereas the others are free to eat them. Similarly, exercise your willpower and firmly but politely decline any offer to smoke or drink, giving the simple but true reason that these do not suit you. You might worry that they will make you feel like an outcaste. If you are intelligent, that won’t happen. Firstly, why be part of a group with such bad habits? If you can’t avoid it, act as advised above and protect yourself.
Don’t try to mend their ways. You are not qualified to do that till you have reformed yourself. Suppose you have an injured leg, how can you hope to help another one-legged person? Or if you are blind, how can you lead another blind person? So improve yourself first, and friends will be attracted to you. Seeing your example, they will follow and benefit from it. Otherwise, what can you hope to reform? Yours is a vulnerable age. In correcting others, you may go on the wrong path yourself. Therefore, at your age, spend as much time as possible in strengthening yourself and establishing yourself in the right way to live Leave the task of reforming others to someone else.
We know this by seeing whether a transformation comes in our life or not. If our mind is still generating as much negativity as before, then there is no progress at all. The only criterion is to observe if there is a gradual decrease in our mental pollution, and if we are developing the good qualities that were missing before. If we continue to measure our success by this yardstick, then we will overcome the habit of doing wrong things. On the contrary, we will act wisely. Others will also acknowledge us to be good people, because truth and wholesomeness will become an integral part of our lives.

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