|For Pali tradition, see ten paramis
śīla-pāramitā (P. sīlapāramī; T. tshul khrims kyi pha rol tu phyin pa ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་ཀྱི་ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་པ་; C. jie boluomiduo), aka "perfection of eithical conduct," "perfection of discipline," etc., is one the "perfections" (paramitas) that is cultivated on the path of the bodhisattva.
This paramita is identified as:
- the second of the six paramitas of the ordinary path in the Sanskrit tradition
- the second of the ten paramitas of the transcendental path of the five paths and ten bhumis in the Sanskrit tradition, which is mastered on the second bodhisattva ground (vimalā-bhūmi)
- the second of the ten paramis of the Pali tradition
One Teacher, Many Traditions states:
- Ethical conduct is the attitude of abandoning all thoughts of harming others through relinquishing the self-centered attitude. There are three types of ethical conduct:
- 1) Restraining from destructive actions entails abandoning the ten nonvirtues and abiding in whatever precepts and commitments we have taken. It is the best protection from being harmed and is more effective than thousands of warheads and the best bodyguards. Ethical conduct gives us sovereignty over our body, speech, and mind. Those with pure ethical conduct exude the “fragrance of virtue,” making them more attractive to others and thus more effective in benefitting them.
- If afflictions arise in the mind threatening their virtue, bodhisattas reflect, “Didn’t I resolve to attain awakening for the benefit of all beings? To do this, I must teach the Dhamma, and to be a trustworthy guide, I must have a pure character and possess attainments such as the jhānas and wisdom. All these are founded upon pure ethical conduct. Therefore I should protect my ethical conduct.” Thus bodhisattas strengthen their ethical resolve, personal integrity, and consideration for others; take lay or monastic precepts; avoid transgressing their precepts by exercising mindfulness and introspective awareness; and purify all transgressions.
- Bodhisattvas guard the four gates through which ethical errors occur:
- (1) ignorance regarding what to practice and abandon,
- (2) lack of respect for the precepts—not thinking that ethical conduct is important,
- (3) carelessness, and
- (4) strong afflictions that overpower the mind.
- They practice the antidotes to these four by
- (1) studying the ten virtues and the precepts,
- (2) developing faith and respect for the precepts by understanding the disadvantages of unethical behavior and the benefits of ethical conduct,
- (3) being careful and conscientious in their actions by maintaining mindfulness and introspective awareness, and
- (4) applying antidotes to the afflictions.
- 2) Collecting positive qualities is taking every opportunity to enhance the collections of merit and wisdom in order to progress on the path. Bodhisattas respect their spiritual mentors and those worthy of respect, offer service to them, and care for them during illness. They appreciate advice and instructions given by the wise and rejoice in the merit of others. With gratitude for those who have helped them, they benefit and honor others in return.
- 3) Benefiting sentient beings in need involves caring for the ill and injured, comforting the grieving, giving wise advice to those about to act recklessly, helping others in danger, and facilitating reconciliation and forgiveness. It also entails aiding the blind, deaf, and those who are physically or mentally challenged, helping those without faith to cultivate it, teaching the lazy how to be energetic, and instructing those plagued by the five hindrances in their antidotes. Bodhisattas rehabilitate those with faulty ethical conduct, addictions, and criminal records. In short, in whatever way their companionship, knowledge, or abilities can benefit others, they employ these without hesitation.
- Being judicious, bodhisattas are accessible to others but only at the right time, in a suitable place, and in a proper situation. They neither push their help and advice on others nor refuse them when needed. In guiding others, bodhisattas behave only in ways that increase others’ good qualities and virtuous actions and avoid abusing or humiliating others. As much as possible, bodhisattvas act in accordance with others’ wishes and needs as long as these do not harm themselves or others and do not distract from Dharma practice.
- The three types of ethical conduct occur in a fixed sequence. Restraint from harm establishes the foundation for engaging in virtuous actions, which in turn enables us to work for the welfare of sentient beings.
- When hearing of the wondrous deeds and spiritual accomplishments of previous bodhisattas, bodhisattas do not become discouraged or overwhelmed but reflect, “Those great beings were once human beings too. They trained in the pāramīs and fulfilled the collections, thus attaining their great abilities. I too will train as they did and attain the same realizations and abilities to benefit others.” In this way, bodhisattas generate faith and inspire themselves. Bodhisattas do not become arrogant due to the purity of their ethical conduct but always remain humble, concealing their virtues and revealing their faults. They are content, do not complain, and are not conceited or manipulative. They are honest and direct yet tactful. Cultivating the unpolluted wisdom that does not grasp the inherent existence of the sphere of three—the person abandoning the destructive action, the destructive action, and the being who was to be the recipient of harm—makes a bodhisattva’s practice of ethical conduct supramundane.
- Bodhisattas dedicate their merit for full awakening, not for a fortunate rebirth, release from saṃsāra, or attainment of the superknowledges. Dhammapāla (TP sec. 10) says they dedicate it:
- …only for the purpose of becoming an omniscient buddha in order to enable all beings to acquire the incomparable adornment of ethical conduct.
- Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2014, s.v. Chapter 13, section "Perfection of Ethical Conduct".