Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

A Survey of the Sources of Buddhist Ethics

Ian J. Coghlan
Georgetown University

This article surveys two sources of ethics in Therāvada Buddhism. Firstly, it briefly surveys the texts that record the process of the proclamation of training rules. Secondly, it investigates the main events which provoked proclamation. This process of setting down an ethical standard itself emerges from both an intuitive sense of ethics held by society and the realized ethics of the Buddha. Further, though the proclamation of the 227 vows is designed to restrain physical and verbal action, the underlying purpose of the vows is to control the mind’s motivating unethical action. This survey will show that of the three roots of ignorance, aversion, and attachment, the vows are primarily directed to eliminating the root of attachment.

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