Read the new & improved version of this post: The Eightfold Path: Right Action
Right Action is the second Ethical Conduct practice on the Eightfold Path and is about acting appropriately in every situation. It builds on all the other practices and can only work if we are mindful of our true intentions. If we watch our thoughts and develop the right understanding of ourselves and reality, our actions will not cause suffering.
Right Action isn’t about doing specific things or following a rule book. It is more about acting with good judgement and having a basic moral code to guide your choices. In each situation your actions should be appropriate and ethical. By applying mindfulness you will be able to determine whether your actions will cause suffering and make things worse for others or for yourself.
In Buddhism, the basic moral code is outlined in the Five Precepts, or sometimes the Ten Precepts. These ethical principles arise directly from Buddha nature with the idea being that a fully enlightened person would behave this way without a second thought. To align yourself with these precepts is to align yourself with your true nature as a secret Buddha.
Here’s the full ten precepts in Zen Buddhism:
- Do not kill – affirm life
- Do not steal – be generous
- Do not misuse sexuality – honour the body
- Do not lie – be truthful
- Do not cloud the mind – cultivate clarity
- Do not speak ill of others – be respectful
- Do not elevate yourself above others – recognise we are all one
- Do not be possessive – cultivate sharing
- Do not be angry – cultivate loving-kindness
- Do not defile the Three Jewels – cultivate awakening
Many of the precepts tie in with the Eightfold Path, such as Right Speech and Right Understanding, but by extension they’re all relevant here. Above I said this wasn’t about following a rule book, but these precepts look very like rules. However, within the context of Buddhism, they are used as guidelines to help nudge you in the right direction. They give you something to aspire towards, an intention to actualise.
If you truly want to be free from suffering then you must act in a way that removes the causes of suffering from your path. Every action you take has consequences and it is impossible to escape those consequences. To become free from suffering means fundamentally changing your relationship to reality and the choices you make.
It means embracing your inner Buddha.
Next time: Right Livelihood
Read the new version of this series here: Eightfold Path Series