The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Ethics/Morality

Last Saturday, on May 4, 2019, we studied the second of The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism — Śīla (Ethics/Morality).

We first read the article “The Buddhist Precepts” to get an idea of the content of Buddhist Precepts. Then we listened to a Dharma talk recording titled “Sila Paramita: Being a Good Non-Person“. During group discussion, we shared an excrept from the Abhisanda Sutta to learn what Buddha said about Precepts as gifts to ourselves and others.

Below is a copy of our handout with the materials we shared, questions we discussed during our session, and our homework for the week. Happy learning!


The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Ethics/Morality

RECAP: Pāramitā (Sanskrit) or Parami (Pāli): “Perfection” or “Transcendent”. In Buddhism, the Paramitas refer to the perfection or culmination of certain practices. These practices are cultivated by Bodhisattvas for crossing from sensuous life (Samsara) to Enlightenment (Nirvana).

Ethics/Morality (Śīla):

Śīla , noun. Sanskrit, sīla in Pali, roughly translated as: “virtue ; moral practice ; code of morality”. The Sila Paramita is often translated as “The Perfection of Ethics” or “The Perfection of Morality”. This paramita is the enlightened quality of virtuous and ethical behavior and intentions, morality, self-discipline, impeccability, integrity, and harmlessness. The Perfection of Morality is not about living according to rules — although there are Precepts, and they are important — but living in harmony with others.


Dharma Reading on Precepts:

See the following article for a list of Buddhist Precepts. Be sure to read both pages!

'The Buddhist Precepts' by Barbara O'Brien *


* O’Brien is a Zen Buddhist practitioner who studied at Zen Mountain Monastery. She is the author of “Rethinking Religion” and has covered religion for The Guardian,, and other outlets.


Dharma Audio:

Sila Paramita: Being a Good Non-Person” — by Dharma talk by Roshi Norman Fischer **
We listened to two segments during our sessions: (1) from 1:07 to 12:50; (2) from 29:28 to 43:25


10 Clear-Mind Precepts as mentioned in by Roshi Norman Fischer in his talk:

  1. I vow to cherish lives, not to kill
  2. I vow to accept gifts, not to steal
  3. I vow to respect others, not to misuse use sexuality
  4. I vow to practice truthfulness, not to lie
  5. I vow to practice clarity, not to intoxicate mind or body of self or others
  6. I vow to speak with kindness, not to slander.
  7. I vow to practice modesty, not to praise self at the expense of others.
  8. I vow to practice generosity, not to be processive of anything.
  9. I vow to practice love, not to harbor ill will.
  10. I vow to cherish and polish the Three Treasures.

** Roshi Zoketsu Norman Fischer is a poet and Zen Buddhist priest. For many years he has taught at the San Francisco Zen Center, where he served as Co-abbot from 1995-2000. He is presently the spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture.


Precepts as Rewards and Gifts

“Now, there are these five gifts, five great gifts… Which five?
“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life…
“Furthermore, abandoning taking what is not given (stealing)…
“Furthermore, abandoning illicit sex…
“Furthermore, abandoning lying…
“Furthermore, abandoning the use of intoxicants…
“In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression…”

– Abhisanda Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 8.39), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu



  1. Before you heard the Dharma Talk tonight, what does the word “precepts” mean to you?
  2. What are your feelings and thoughts about Buddhist Precepts after the Dharma Talk?
  3. At the beginning of the talk, Roshi Fischer said “in Zen practice, ethical conduct comes organically from the inside, not imposed from the outside”, do you agree? What are your thoughts on that??
  4. When everyday suffering is so real for all of us, why do you think the speaker ends his talk by making this point: “no hurting, no one to hurt, no one to do the hurting”?



  1. Listen to the full Dharma talk Sila Paramita: Being a Good Non-Person” listed above.
  2. Make time to come to our next Saturday session and show your support for our guest teach, Rev. Eishin Nancy Easton! She will be speaking to us about Ksanti – The Perfection of Patience. Bring your questions and bring a friend!