The Dhammapada and Virtue Ethics

Author: Christopher Ives (Stonehill College)

The most widely read Buddhist text is, in all likelihood, the Dhammapada, a collection of verses attributed to the historical Buddha, which includes a widely quoted statement:

Refraining from all that is detrimental,
attaining what is wholesome,
purifying one’s mind:
this is the instruction of Awakened Ones.[i]

By “detrimental” Buddha is referring to mental states that cause suffering, whereas the “wholesome” are the opposite mental states, the cultivation of which conduce to liberation from suffering. The Dhammapada is replete with lists of these mental states, the most prominent of which are the “three poisons,” ignorance, greed, and ill will, and their opposites, wisdom, generosity and loving-kindness. The Dhammapada also treats the “five hindrances” and the “ten fetters,” as well as the “five faculties” and the “seven factors of enlightenment.” In effect, these mental states are vices and virtues.

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Dalai Lama: “Redefining the Goal” from Ethics for the New Millennium

Author: Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)


In “Redefining the Goal,” the Dalai Lama contrasts transient and lasting happiness and argues that while other factors like friends, good health, liberty, and prosperity can contribute to our happiness, the most important component of happiness is inner peace and that, in turn, is largely about our own attitude. Without inner peace, these other factors can be a source of trouble (worry, frustration).

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Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium

Author: Anna Lännström (Stonehill College)


In Ethics for the New Millennium, the Dalai Lama argues that modern industrialized society tends to lead to excessive individualism and reduced dependence on others which in turn leads to isolation and neglect of our spiritual dimension, making us less happy despite our improved material situation.  He argues for a solution, a “spiritual revolution” which involves finding a way of caring for our inner dimension.  Crucial components of such care includes developing inner peace and a deeper compassion for other, and learning to focus less on ourselves.

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Carvaka school

Author: Sonia Sikka (University of Ottawa)

The Carvaka tradition offers an example of a pleasure-oriented this-worldly philosophy of life, based on a strictly empiricist epistemology and materialist metaphysics. Claiming that sense-perception constitutes the only reliable means of knowing, Carvaka thinkers reject the possibility of drawing inferences about what cannot be perceived, and some reject the validity of inferential reasoning altogether. They therefore argue that there is no afterlife, and that the mind is a product of matter. Consequently, they also deny the utility of priests and rituals, and question the caste system. They are represented as amoral hedonists by their opponents, but this portrait may not be entirely accurate.

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