The Ten Virtues and the Ten Non-Virtues
At a certain point, the proper combination of disciplined action and thought can prevent you from being depressed. More than 2,000 years ago, the Buddha taught the ten virtues as a means to discipline people’s thoughts, speeches and actions, in order to protect them from suffering. To maintain awareness and mindfulness and to steer clear of negative emotions, a best practice is to meditate on the ten virtues and the ten non-virtues.
So what constitutes good and bad deeds? We need to distinguish them through learning. To be specific, as categorized in Buddhism, good conduct includes no killing, no stealing and no improper sexual activity in terms of the body. In terms of speech, it includes no lying, no harsh words, no slandering and no gossip. With regard to the mind, it includes no coveting, no aversion and no incorrect views. These are known as the ten virtues and the opposite of the ten virtues are the ten non-virtues. Therefore, in Buddhism, people’s actions can be categorized into ten virtues and ten non-virtues in terms of the body, speech and mind. Some of you may be familiar with these concepts.
So why are there such categories in Buddhism? I always tell people, in fact more than 2000 years ago, the Buddha already taught the ten virtues to discipline people’s speech and action. Nowadays, although many countries tend to promote virtues and moral ethics, many phenomena and all sorts of crisis are actually rooted in the ten non-virtues, such as corruption, excessive greed and so on. If we deeply reflect on them, we can see that the ten virtues categorized in Buddhism are indeed the generalized disciplines of speech and action. We can simply note this point. If we want to further study these virtues in a more extensive way, we can refer to Buddhist texts which have detailed descriptions of virtues and non-virtues.
Other religions also have their own descriptions of virtues and non-virtues. Although some of those teachings may not be exactly the same, the basic meaning is to strengthen positive energy and to remove negative energy of not only mankind, but also all sentient beings. I always use the terms, positive energy and negative energy to describe virtues and non-virtues, as they sound familiar to today’s people. In my opinion, positive energy is sort of equivalent to virtues. Whether regarding oneself or others, positive energy is the best term to summarize the virtues of body, speech and mind.