Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Kusala in Canon and Commentary

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 3 1996

Good or Skilful? Kusala in Canon and Commentary

L. S. Cousins
University of Manchester

This paper examines the use of kusala in the commentarial sources and finds that, although the commentators are aware of various senses of the word kusala, they tend to give primacy to meanings such as “good” or “meritorious.” A detailed examination of the canonical Pāli sources gives a rather different picture. The original meaning of kuśala (Sanskrit) in the sense with which we are concerned would then be “intelligent.” Its sense in early Buddhist literature would be “produced by wisdom.” The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the concept of puñña—”fortune-bringing action” rather than “merit.”

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