The five ethical guidelines serve as dynamic, living practices in everyday life that foster awakening in the modern world. We recognize that all life is relational and include multiple levels of relationality:
- as individual humans
- as participants in collectively constructed social worlds
- as members of a living natural world
Our practice deepens through growing awareness of how our words and actions, intentionally and unintentionally, impact ourselves, each other, and all sentient beings. The following commentaries and interpretations are presented not as static rules but as opportunities for ongoing individual and relational investigations in our sangha.
1. Refrain from taking life: Reverence for Life
We acknowledge and honor all life. We hold the intention to cultivate healthy and respectful relationships with the many life forms of which we are one. We strive to understand the systems of harm of which we are a part and to recognize how our actions or inactions perpetuate or diminish harm. Aware that our liberation is intertwined with that of all beings, we commit to understanding and transforming suffering, both individually and societally.
2. Refrain from taking what is not given: Equitable Sharing
We accept for nourishment and comfort what is freely offered while being aware of the needs of the whole living community upon which our existence depends. As individuals, we scrupulously refrain from taking that which does not belong to us, and also reflect collectively on how historical ownership has been established. We agree to be honest in our dealings with money and to exercise care when expending communal funds and resources. We work towards ecological systems of sustainability and renewal based on just and compassionate sharing among all peoples, animals, and plants.
3. Refrain from sensual misconduct: Integrity in Sexual Behavior
Aware of the power of sexual energy and its potential to open towards deep union as well as to activate deep wounding, we choose to engage in respectful sexual expression based on mutual consent. We are also aware of power inequities within relationships and will thus refrain from harmful or exploitative sexual speech and behaviors. In this way, we protect ourselves, those around us, our families, our community, and children everywhere. We undertake the practice of honoring our own partnering commitments and those of others.
4. Refrain from harmful speech: Ethical Communication
Aware of the power of both verbal and non-verbal expression to heal or to harm, we cultivate clear intention when speaking, and receptive attention when listening. We practice saying only what is true, kind, beneficial, and timely, while refraining from words that are harsh, idle, or divisive.
We recognize that conflicts naturally arise in community life due to our pervasive individual and social conditioning. We are open to applying relational practices to heal relational ruptures and nurture the skills and capacity for reconciliation whether as participant or as witness. We choose words that support harmony in the community but do not refrain from speaking truth where harm is perceived.
5. Refrain from actions that dull the mind: Conscious Consumption
As sensitive organisms, we are impacted by what we take in at all our sense doors.
We commit to health, clarity, and well-being for both our individual and communal body-mind. We refrain from that which leads to heedlessness, loss of awareness, or addictive mind-states.