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2019-03-31
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“Good character” in the internet age?

by Denis Wallez (@DenisWallez)
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Many Buddhists insist on the 5 precepts, be they lay people or monastics.

From many teachers, one might read that this is key to becoming a Buddhist, or being a good Buddhist, or at least gaining merit… The 5 precepts might even be promoted to a requirement, before ‘officially’ taking refuge.

And yet, without falling into some fallacious appeal to purity (Buddhists ‘should’ accept everything without harsh criticism / ressponse… i.e. ‘should’ somehow be ready to accept the unacceptable?), it's reasonably easy to see how these precepts do not protect practitioners —incl. monastics— from spewing ethically dubious speech on the internet (on social media, in comments on newspapers, etc.).

 

It seems Buddhists love lists (partly because this helped with memorizing the Dhamma, over centuries of oral traditions), so do we have some alternative list, which might help the modern ‘connected’ practitioners a bit more than the 5 precepts? We do!

The dasa-sīla, or 10 manifestations of “good character” (or “accomplishments in ethics”) listed one by one, from the introductory kamma sutta (AN 4.263) to the micchā-diṭṭhi sutta (AN 4.273):

  1. do not kill creatures; encourage others not to kill creatures; approve of, and praise, not killing creatures; praise

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