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Attending a Ngondro lesson the other night I learned about the ten non-virtuous actions known in Buddhism:

  • Killing
  • Stealing (taking that which does not belong to you)
  • Sexual Misconduct
  • Lying (intentional deception)
  • Divisive Speech
  • Harsh words
  • Idle Gossip (out of ignorance or attachment)
  • Covetousness
  • Ill will/Harmful Thought
  • Wrong view (any view that upholds no law of Karma/ causality.

Although they look similar, these are a bit different from the Christian/Jew/Muslim Ten Commandments. Sure, you can go to Hell as a result, but that is not guaranteed nor is it the end of the story.

What happens as a result of performing these actions depends on the influence of which poison you perform them in. If you do these things out of anger or hatred, you go to the Hell realm. However, if it is out of desire or jealousy, you wind up in the hungry ghost realm (where creatures have stomachs the size of mountains and mouths the size of the eye of a needle). Lastly, if you do these things out of ignorance, you win a trip to the animal realm – which is about what it looks like.

What intrigues me about this teaching is how well the macrocosm works with the micro. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation these theories still have merit.

For example – say you lie because of hatred: What happens next? Does your hatred go away? Do your lies fix anything? Probably not, instead you find yourself in a world full of lies where lying is the only way to survive – sounds like hell to me.

However, what if you are lying because of desire? Does the lie satiate your desire or do you want something else next? By empowering this negative emotion you only give it room to grow until your desire for wealth, love, power, etc, consumes you and like a hungry ghost, you can never lie fast enough to quench your ever-growing thirst.

And lastly if you lie because of ignorance (perhaps to cover up your ignorance) do you ever really learn? If you keep lying (especially to yourself) you’ll never wake up and face the root of the problem.

And similarly I could pontificate about all the other actions – I suppose this is the result of reading too many novels, memoirs, and biographies.

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