I have a secret to share with you: the Buddha’s teachings on sila or “ethical conduct” are actually my favorite teachings. If for some reason I was never able to formally practice meditation again, I might actually be okay, because I would still be able to practice cultivating sila.
Bhikku Bodhi, a Buddhist scholar and translator, describes the Buddha’s teachings on sila as a way of learning harmony or social coordination. He points out that the English concepts of ethical or moral conduct are terms that are easily misunderstood and imply a sense of harshness or obligation. Phrases like living in harmony or living with integrity do a better job of capturing the essence of sila.
When we bring our practice off the cushion and into the world we are often confronted with difficult and uncomfortable truths in our personal or professional lives and in our society. Whether it is our interpersonal relationships, climate catastrophes or the social, economic and racial injustices surrounding us, by grounding ourselves in the practices of sila we have the opportunity to experience well-being while meeting life as it is.
The Buddha’s teachings on sila allow us to build a stable foundation upon which we have the opportunity to experience peace and joy in body, heart and mind. With this foundation we can make decisions and engage with the world in a way that is in alignment with our deepest values.
Joslyn Hitter has been practicing Insight Meditation since 2008, and has been teaching with InsightLA after completing the Facilitator Training Program in 2016. Her approach is greatly informed by her degrees in counseling, psychology, and somatic awareness. Joslyn, along with co-teacher Natalie Ducastelle, is teaching Embodied Integrity: Integrating the 5 Precepts in Daily Life, a four-week online course every Thursday, starting February 9th.