The Eightfold Path To Happiness – Ethical Conduct

And so we continue along The Eightfold Path to Happiness, which we began in my previous post, The Eightfold Path to Happiness – Wisdom. In that post we discovered that the path to Wisdom was critical to our pursuit of happiness, just as right-thinking and right-acting are critical to the pursuit of wisdom. Today we will discover that Ethical Conduct, or ethical behavior, is also critical to the pursuit of happiness.

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

A “life well lived,” according to the precepts of Buddhism, is the moral life; a life based upon ethical conduct. While this certainly presupposes that we understand the difference between right and wrong, the beauty of The Eightfold Path is that it is a practical tool for living a moral life; for behaving in an ethical manner. By choosing to follow The Eightfold Path to Ethical Conduct, we teach ourselves to behave ethically, even without regard to moral precepts. For me, this is what makes the Path so valuable, the development of an intuitive sense of what is right in all situations.

The golden ruleThe Eightfold Path to Ethical Conduct

Again, it is not my goal to proselytize or try to convert anyone to a particular religious or spiritual belief system, but simply to offer tools which I and countless others have found useful in the pursuit of happiness. In the next step upon the road to happiness, we learn that “Right Speech,” “Right Action,” and “Right Livelihood” are the keys to Ethical Conduct; that we must say and do nothing that is harmful to others, and that the work we choose to do must also not be harmful to others, or destructive of the world in which we live. We learn that lying, cheating, stealing, and profiting from harmful behavior will never lead to happiness, but instead will only lead to suffering; for ourselves, as well as those we harm. Follow this link for a deeper understanding of The Eightfold Path.

  • Right Speech – is the concept that words have meaning and power; the power to heal and the power to destroy. We learn that negative speech can be destructive and that deceitful speech will only cause harm. Likewise, slanderous and offensive words benefit no one, least of all ourselves, while rumor and idle chatter promote nothing but negative feelings. Instead, speak positively and truthfully at all times; be friendly, warm, and gentle and speak only when what you have to say has value.
  • Right Action – is the concept that the body must also be used to promote positivity through action. Negative actions lead to a negative mindset. Do not take action which is harmful to others, either intentionally or accidentally; do not steal; and abstain from unhealthy sexual conduct. Positive action is kind and compassionate and leads to a positive frame of mind.
  • Right Livelihood – is the concept that the vocation we choose to practice; that is, the way in which we make our living must also not be harmful. We must choose only actions that are beneficial to ourselves and others when seeking compensation for the work we do; in essence, to choose to make a living in ways which do not violate the precepts of Right Speech and Right Action.

While in some ways The Eightfold Path sounds very much like the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” it actually goes far beyond that simple yet positive expression of a moral code. In The Path, we discover the practical means to achieving The Golden Rule, by the day-to-day practice of ethical behavior that is a fundamental requirement of the Pursuit of Happiness.

At its most fundamental level, this portion of the Path may be understood simply as – bad behavior leads to bad outcomes, while right behavior leads to right outcomes; that is, to the above mentioned “life well lived.” If you have questions or comments on these concepts, please feel free to comment below.

If you are struggling with your own journey of happiness, and would like help finding or staying on the road you would like to follow, get in touch with me today.

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