Ten Unwholesome Actions
Dhamma Talk Edited by
Edited by June Gibb
The Buddha teaches that we all have our kamma,
intentional acts that result in a favorable or unfavorable outcome, as our
possession. Whatever we do we are the recipients. Through his enlightenment he
could see that our joy and sorrow are the consequences of our actions done
through our body, speech and thought. If we do good, wholesome and meritorious
kamma, happiness and prosperity, would follow. On the other hand if we do bad,
unwholesome, and demeritorious kamma, sorrow and deprivation would follow.
Knowing we all desire happiness and detest pain he therefore exhorts us to do
good and avoid doing evil because good kamma generates joy and peace, while
doing evil creates stress and pain for both ourselves and others.
If we cannot do good, at least we should abstain from doing
bad kamma. Our mind may not be cool, but at least itís not on fire. Unwholesome
actions can be committed in three ways, through body, speech and mind that would
result in sorrow and pain.
The ten unwholesome actions consist of three actions committed through the body - killing, stealing and committing adultery; four actions by way of speech - lying, foul mouthing, inciting hatred, and frivolous talk; and three actions by way of thought are greed, anger and delusion.
We should refrain from these ten unwholesome actions because they would only hurt others and ourselves, like killing for example. To lose our lives is excruciatingly painful because we all value life very dearly, whether we are human or the tiniest animal. All living creatures large or small are the same in this regard. If we donít want to be killed then we shouldnít kill others. We should also abstain from stealing because it hurts the people we steal from, and also from committing adultery, which causes us to worry about getting caught and punished.
To resist these unwholesome actions we must develop and
deploy metta or loving-kindness because when we have metta we know how to
forgive and forget. By forgiving we eliminate hatred and vengeance and save
others and ourselves a lot of trouble and pain. We should therefore develop lots
and lots of metta by treating others as our brothers and sisters, as friends in
aging, sickness and death, and as fellow travelers in these ceaseless rounds of
rebirth and suffering. We all already have enough suffering on our hands; we
shouldnít therefore inflict any more on each other.
Stealing can be avoided by getting a job. If we have a job
and earn our own living then we won't have to steal.
To avoid committing adultery, we should be satisfied with what we have, with our own husbands and wives. If we are satisfied, then we will not want more. Wanting more is delusion. We think that it will be better if we can just have this person. But instead of getting better, many problems follow. The best way to prevent sufferings caused by adultery is that we must restrain our desires. If we let our desires lead the way and do what we want, we will never feel that we have enough and will never be satisfied.
Some men have hundreds of wives because they lack mind control. They think that they have money and can use it to buy whoever they want. But they are not really happy because they feel they need more. Therefore, please be satisfied with your own husbands and wives. One is enough. It is happier than having dozens because you will not have problems with mistresses quarrelling and fighting. The husband who is in the midst of all these will not be able to eat or sleep because he will have to choose one or the other, and he cannot make that decision easily. Therefore, restrain your desire. Have only one love, one wife. This will bring the real happiness.
Unwholesome speech like telling lies can be prevented by
striving to tell only the truth. Always tell the truth. Do not tell lies or
deceive others. Before saying anything, make sure what we say is true. If not,
then do not say it. Better to keep quiet. When you want to say something, it
must be true. Then there will be no lies. If you are used to telling lies, then
your words become worthless. When Rahula, the Buddhaís son, was ordained as a
novice, the Buddha taught him that his integrity is measured by his
The Buddha gave an example by filling a bowl with water then
pouring it out little by little. He then told Rahula that every time he told a
lie, his integrity decreased just like the water that had been poured from the
bowl. If he continued to speak falsehood, his trustworthiness would entirely
disappear just like the water from the bowl. Lies destroyed our integrity. Every
time we told a lie, our credibility diminished. If telling lies became our
habit, then no one would ever believe what we say. We would become worthless.
It is like the story of a shepherd who yelled for help. The
first time that he yelled wolf, people rushed to help only to discover that they
were deceived. Then when the wolves really came, no one came to help because
they no longer believed him. His words carried no weight. Therefore, please
value truth, value your words, know the consequences of telling lies, and
refrain from telling them. If you cannot tell the truth, just keep quiet or
talk about something else such as the weather, the rain, the sky, the sun or the
storm. Itís better to be evasive than to tell lies.
Next, donít use foul language because itís not nice. There are two kinds of beauty: beautiful looks and beautiful words. No one will want to be with girls who look beautiful but have foul mouths. Boyfriends and husbands will soon leave them because of their vulgarity. When they get angry, they swear. How can husbands live with them? Even being as beautiful as a Miss Universe cannot obscure their rudeness. If you want to be loved and cherished by others, then you must be beautiful both in your looks and your words. If you donít look beautiful, you can still be beautiful by what you say. Words are more important than looks. Everyone wants to hear nice things and be near such speakers. Listening to the Buddhaís Dhamma talks brought joy and contentment because they were beautiful from the beginning to the end. Hearing them brought happiness and wisdom. Therefore, please check your words the same way you check yourself in the mirror to see how you look before leaving the house. Think before you speak. Be mindful when you speak; make sure you speak politely.
Next, do not incite people to hatred by saying things that
will cause them to misunderstand each other. For example, do not drive a wedge
between a loving couple by telling the husband that his wife was with another
man, and vice versa. This causes people to break up and brings them sufferings.
If people find out the truth afterwards, no one would want to associate with us.
When we say something, say it with kindness. Make sure it
benefits others. If what we say is not useful, then do not say it. When a wise
man says things about himself, he only talks about his faults even though he has
very few. He does not talk much about his achievements although he has plenty.
On the other hand, when he talks about others, he only concentrates on their
good side even if they do not have many. Saying something good about others can
only be beneficial while saying something bad can only be damaging. There are
good and bad in all of us. Why talk only of the bad side? Why not talk about
the good side? Saying something nice brings happiness to everyone, including
the speaker and the one being talked about. Therefore, be careful of what you
say. Say only good things, nice things. Do not destroy each other with your
Next, abstain from frivolous talk. Talking for the sake of talking is useless. Gossiping is a waste of time. We should talk about things that impart knowledge and benefits like talking about our work, about maintaining the moral precepts or about the Dhamma teaching.
There are three unwholesome actions committed by the mind
namely, greed, hatred, and delusion. When greed arises, suffering
follows; we become restless and agitated. When we see things, we want them
immediately. If the desire is so strong and we cannot obtain these things in
the proper way, we will resort to dishonest ways such as stealing. But if we
are satisfied with what we have, this greed will diminish or may even
disappear. If we have no greed, we shall be happy because no kilesa remains in
Likewise, the same is true with hatred because it strokes the
fire of revenge in our mind. When we are very angry, we may want that person
to die a thousand deaths. We must forgive and have kindness. If we can always
forgive, we shall be able to conquer ourselves. When we vanquish others, they
would hate us. When they beat us, we would hate them. But if we conquer
ourselves by subduing our anger, our mind will be cool and calm. For example,
now you are sitting here without any anger, you are comfortable and at ease.
But if you were angry, how would you feel? You would be agitated and ill at
Therefore, when we become angry with someone, try to stay
calm and tell ourselves to leave him alone. Whatever he said or did has already
happened. Nothing could be changed. It is impossible for him to do things that
would please us every time. What can be done now is to forgive him. Once we
forgive, we become peaceful because the poisonous elements have been driven out
of our mind. It is as though nothing has happened. But if we swear at him or
constantly think of him, we become hateful and unhappy. When we get angry, it
is like banging our head with a hammer. When we get angry, others donít suffer
with us. The person who makes us angry knows nothing of the pain we are going
through or suffers the pain with us. The ones who suffer are ourselves.
Therefore, when we get angry, try to forgive, then we will be calm and cool.
Finally, we must get rid of our delusion. What is delusion?
Itís the misperception of the truth such as seeing wrong as right, bad as good,
doing good as a waste of time, or doing evil as profitable. Why is this so? It
is because we havenít yet experienced the consequences of our good deeds. After
making merits and not seeing the immediate results, we have no incentive to do
good deeds and prefer to do bad deeds. For example, instead of giving to
charity, we spend money on alcohol, on parties, on having fun, which make us
instantly happy. But we fail to see the pain and anxiety hidden behind this
happiness when we run out of money to spend on having fun.
Therefore, we must listen to the Dhamma teaching in order to
see that wholesome actions are meritorious, and unwholesome actions are
harmful. Doing good deeds bring happiness, doing evil deeds brings suffering.
When we experience the result of our skilful actions in our mind, we will want
to do more. Bad people prefer to do evil deeds and do not like to do good deeds
because they do not believe in the consequences of good and bad kamma. Good
people like to do good kamma and abstain from doing bad kamma because they
believe in the results of kamma. The way to understand the consequences of
kamma is to constantly listen to the Dhamma teaching. We should seek after
enlightened teachers and study Dhamma from them in order to become wise and
enlightened ourselves. Then we will see that doing good kamma is beneficial and
doing bad kamma is harmful for us. We should therefore do only good kamma and
abstain from doing bad kamma. Then we will always be happy and prosperous.
Source : http://www.kammatthana.com
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