Virtue is something recognizable in the heart of every person. Without words or common language kindness and intent can be perceived and understood. Whether we attach social, religious or ethical structures to it we can identify ‘goodness’ by the response we have inside or when we place ourselves in another’s shoes. Cultivating virtue benefits a person individually by bringing a sense of harmony and a mind free of conflict. It also benefits others by creating environments that are safe and peaceful where virtue is encouraged. This is the direct antidote to what is promoted in media: consumption, violence, greed, superficiality and anger. By changing our own values and refining ourselves we begin to refine our community.
Ancient practices and cultures of ‘cultivating virtue’ are the remedy for the isolation and loneliness often felt in modern society. With the increase in the technology to mentally connect and communicate there has been an increase in the emotional distance. An effect of cultivating virtue is developing social and empathic sensitivity. It requires us to be embodied in the present otherwise we are unable to observe our actions and reactions.
Each religion promotes a slightly different set of virtues and aspiration to cultivate. Below are the ‘Dasa Kusala’, the Ten Wholesome Deeds, as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. I’ve have given them in their normal presentation of what to avoid as well as the attribute to be cultivated. The Dasa Kusala can be used a reflective practice by taking a few minutes out of the day to reflect on one of them. Each day making a different one the focus.
This become the foundation for a lifestyle of meditation, reflection and wisdom. When the heart is clear we can see with our wisdom and know liberation.
For example you could ask yourself-
In what way today have I contributed to the well being of myself and others through- (one of the ten virtues) ? How would I feel in the other person’s position?
In what way today have I harmed myself and others through – (opposite actions of a virtue) ? How would I feel in the other person’s position?
Can I identify a time or event today where the dominant attitude of action was based in greed, anger, or ignorance? generosity, kindness or wisdom? How did I feel after? How would I feel on the receiving end?
What old habits or patterns do I have that no longer serve me? What kinds of ideas, activities or attitudes do I engage in that take away from or promote the goodness individually and collectively?
Non Killing – Protecting Life
Non Stealing – Respecting Property
Avoid Misusing Sexuality – Honest in Relationships
Not to Deceive – Truthfulness in Communication
Avoid Slander – Speak Kindly
Avoid Harsh Words – Speak Lovingly
Avoid Empty Speak – Speak Meaningfully
Avoid Greediness – Practice Generosity
Do Not Hold Onto Anger – Practice Patience
Avoid Wrong Views – Develop Wisdom and Awareness