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Compassion and Living Ethically


An Open-Hearted Life

Transformative Methods for Compassionate Living from a Clinical Psychologist and a Buddhist Nun

by Dr. Russell Kolts and
Ven. Thubten Chodron

Shambhala Publications

In the process of becoming friends with ourselves, we will discover that living ethically is the foundation of a happy life.

All too often, people see ethics and morals as external rules imposed on them without their permission. Nowadays, ethics and morality are increasingly politicized, even while many politicians ignore them in their personal lives.

By examining our own lives, we’ll see that ethical conduct is the means to live peacefully with others, a way to feel good about ourselves, and the basis for making our lives meaningful.

Ethical conduct has two aspects. The first is abandoning physical, verbal and mental activities that are damaging to others and ourselves. The second is engaging in physical, verbal, and mental activities that benefit ourselves and others. Living in this way helps us to live together peacefully.

We all want to live in a safe environment and ethical conduct is what creates this safety. Living ethically is an expression of our compassion for others. We want them to be happy and not suffer, and we are committed to bringing that about through what we do, say, and think.

Ethical conduct also enables us to feel good about ourselves. Acting with a kind and compassionate motivation – or at least without thoughts of greed, hatred and confusion – helps our hearts find peace. The kind of inner peace and contentment that comes from living ethically is more valuable than any amount of money, fame, or recognition.

Furthermore, living according to our ethical values makes our lives meaningful. When we die – as we all will – we will be able to look back and know that we solved more problems than we created. We will be free from regret and remorse and will know that our lives were well spent.

Whether we believe in rebirth, an afterlife, or are not sure what happens after death, we’ll know that we prepared well through living ethically.