Avirtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well-being. The opposite of “virtue” is “vice”. In Buddhist teachings, virtues that are cited include: Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Transcendental Wisdom, Diligence, Forbearance, Honesty, Determination, Loving-Kindness, and Serenity. Other virtues associated with Buddhist traditions include: Compassion, Enlightenment, Right understanding, Truth, Responsibility, Simplicity, Non-violence, Preventing and Healing Suffering, Harmony, Co-operation. More specific, Buddhist practice as outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path can be regarded as a progressive list of virtues. The purpose of Buddhism is not to rise to a high status in worldly human society; but to develop one’s own virtues, to purify one’s heart and mind and to awaken through or by practicing sīla, samathi and paññā. The objectives are: fi rst to purify oneself, to gain wisdom, and then to help others escape suffering. Initially, Lord Buddha taught all His disciples – men, women, monks and novices – the same basic concepts: the same Four Noble Truths, the same Five Precepts, the same Three Trainings and the same Eightfold Path. He summarized these in the Ovatta Patimokkha as:
“Avoid evil, do good, and purify your heart and mind.” “Sabba papassa akaranam, avoid all evil, Kusalassupasampada, Cultivate the good, Sachitta pariyodapanam, And purify your heart. Etam Buddhanasasanam.” This is the teaching of the Buddhas Avoiding evil means following the Five Precepts: avoiding killing, stealing, adultery, lying, and intoxicants. Cultivating the good means: practicing dana or generosity; sila or morality; and bhavana or meditation. Meditation is the key to purifying the heart and mind, developing spiritual values and living happily by discarding defi lements (kilesa) and developing wisdom. Only after attracting a large group of disciples, did Lord Buddha begin to distinguish distinct rules with different precepts for various groups for living harmoniously in their diverse positions and circumstances. Lord Buddha replied to Venerable Ananda that women could attain enlightenment just like men if they practice well. Now, however, we fi nd fi ve precepts for lay people, eight precepts for nuns, ten for novices, 227 for bhikkhus and 331 precepts for bhikkhunis. It sounds simple, but, it is difficult to maintain virtue rigorously in accordance with such rules. More broadly, Lord Buddha also directs people to follow the Eightfold Path in order to live happily. One should always think, act and speak correctly. This is easy to say, but hard to maintain in practice. One must overcome the hindrances. The key underlying objectives are first to purify yourself, developing spiritual value to be a good person and to gain wisdom and awaken, then extending your help to others. Spiritual values are crucial. If one can maintain pure spiritual values, and awaken through wisdom acquired, one will live contentedly. This is one’s first duty to oneself. Afterwards, one can extend help to others. Worldly values stress getting ahead, being superior and winning based on personal desires. In contrast, the supra-mundane values of Noble Disciples emphasize resolution, modesty, humility and consideration. The Buddhist path is: training yourself to know yourself, purifying yourself, and making yourself into a refuge unto yourself.