Core Tenet #2 and Practicing all of the Virtues

 Topic: Core Tenet #2 and Practicing all of the Virtues

Today we are taking a quote I found online and applying it to the practice of all the Virtues:

“One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding is sufficient.  In fact, a man convinced of his virtue even in the midst of his vice is the worst kind of man.”

This quote comes to us from Mr. Charles M. Blow, a journalist who writes opinion pieces for the New York Times. While Mr. Blow is probably not familiar with the Path, his words can still inspire us to be more Mindful of all the Virtues and how practicing them has a direct impact on the world.

So how do we use the Virtues to avoid doing harm? As always, we begin with Self-Control, exercising our free will and choosing to develop greater empathy and understanding, no matter where we started. These things are mental and spiritual muscles; they must be used in order to be developed. Another aspect of Self-Control, that also involves Integrity, Patience, and Compassion, involves controlling the way you react when somebody acts in a way you dislike, such as offering you disrespect. It is your responsibility to remain calm and in control of yourself no matter what others do.

Empathy and understanding is also about Balancing between the needs of Self and the Universe. If you are too focused on your own wants and needs, and you do not see or acknowledge the needs of others and the greater Universe, your Balance will be off. A healthy, well-rounded mind keeps active and engaged with the world, and such a person is less likely to do harm. We must remember that others are just as important as we are in the cosmic scheme of things; we are all souls.

In this case, the application of Effort is fairly obvious. But where we expend that Effort matters. There are topics of study that help expand our understanding of the Universe and develop a greater sense of empathy, but there are also things that can send you on an inward-trending spiral, centering so much on congratulating yourself for being “woke” that you ignore the suffering you see all around you. So when you are on a journey of self-improvement, it is important to be Mindful of what lessons somebody is trying to teach you.

It is also important to be Mindful of our own understanding, or lack thereof. New information is available every day, and a lot of it can be useful. Sometimes it will contradict what you currently think, and in those cases it is important to learn more about it, so that you can determine the truth and, if necessary, adjust your view. Being rigid in your thinking just means you are no longer relevant when new information comes to light, and you get left behind.  The dramatic “Everything I have ever been told is a lie!” does not work in real life any better than it does on television; new information does not necessarily make old information a “lie.” Lying involves deliberate, knowing deception, where the truth is known but withheld. So, while we may be able to say that everything the Catholic church has ever said is a lie, the same cannot be said for former scientific ideas that changed when we learned more. Doctors used to advise small-boned pregnant women to smoke so they would have smaller babies. We used to put heroin in children’s teething medicine and prescribed cocaine as a ”safe” stimulant and pain reliever. But the more we learn, the better we get.

Finally, Serenity is both the ultimate goal and the natural consequence of doing no harm. When you know that you are actively working to be a better person and putting in the Effort to make life better for others, when you learn something new every day and you can evolve as a human being, then you will be Serene. And practicing being Serene will help you with all the other Virtues. Just remember that Serenity is not smugness; you should never consider yourself above others just because they are not as “Enlightened” as you, because that is the least Enlightened thing you can do.

In the end, our objective as followers of the Path should be to minimize the harm we do and strive to be better people. There are plenty of inspirational quotes on the internet that can be applied to the practice of the Path. Have you ever found a quote online that you felt expressed some value of the Path?


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