Secondary Bodhisattva Vows


The secondary bodhisattva vows are to restrain from 46 faulty actions (nyes-byas). These faulty actions are divided into seven groups detrimental, one each, to our training in the six perfections (pha-rol-tu phyin-pa, Skt. paramita, far-reaching attitudes) and to our benefiting others.

The six far-reaching attitudes are:

  1. Generosity
  2. Ethical self-discipline
  3. Patience
  4. Perseverance
  5. Mental stability (concentration)
  6. Discriminating awareness (wisdom).

Although the faulty actions are contrary to and hamper our progress toward enlightenment, committing them, even with the four binding factors (kun-dkris bzhi) complete, does not constitute a loss of our bodhisattva vows. The less complete these factors are, however, the less damage we do to our spiritual development along the bodhisattva path. If we happen to commit any of these faulty actions, we acknowledge our mistake and apply the opponent powers, as in the case of the root bodhisattva vows.

[For more detail about the four binding factors and the opponent powers, see: Root Bodhisattva Vows]

There are many details to learn about these 46, with many exceptions when there is no fault in committing them. In general, however, the damage to our development of the far-reaching attitudes and to the benefit we can give others depends on the motivation behind our faulty acts. If that motivation is a disturbed state of mind, such as attachment, anger, spite, or pride, the damage is much greater than if it is an undisturbed, though detrimental one, such as indifference, laziness, or forgetfulness. With indifference, we lack adequate faith or respect in the training to be bothered engaging in it. With laziness, we ignore our practice because we find it more pleasant and easier to do nothing. When we lack mindfulness, we completely forget about our commitments to help others. For many of the 46, we are not at fault if we have the intention eventually to eliminate them from our behavior, but our disturbing emotions and attitudes are still too strong to exercise sufficient self-control.

The presentation here follows that given by the 15th-century Gelug master Tsongkhapa in An Explanation of Bodhisattvas' Ethical Discipline: The Main Path to Enlightenment (Byang-chub sems-dpa'i tshul-khrims-kyi rnam-bshad byang-chub gzhung-lam).

Seven Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Generosity

Generosity (sbyin-pa, Skt. dana) is defined as the attitude of being willing to give. It includes willingness to give material objects, protection from fearful situations, and teachings.

Of the seven faulty actions that negatively affect our development of generosity, two harm our willingness to give others material objects, two our willingness to give others protection from fearful situations, two involve not providing the circumstances for others to cultivate and practice generosity, and one harms our development of the generosity of giving teachings.

Two Faulty Actions Detrimental to Developing the Willingness to Give Others Material Objects

(1) Not making offerings to the Triple Gem through the three gateways of our bodies, speech, and minds

Because of being in a bad mood, like being annoyed about something, or because of laziness, indifference, or we simply forget, failing to offer to the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha, three times each day and three times each night, at least prostration with our bodies, words of praise with our speech, and remembrance of their good qualities with our minds and hearts. If we cannot at least be generous enough to offer these happily each day and night to the Three Jewels of Refuge, how shall we ever perfect our willingness to give everything to everyone?

(2) Following out our desirous minds

Because of great desire, attachment, or lack of contentment, indulging in any of the five types of desirable sensory objects – sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes, or tactile sensations. For example, because of attachment to delicious tastes, we nibble at the cake in the refrigerator even when we are not hungry. This is detrimental to our fight against miserliness. We soon find ourselves hoarding the cake, and even hiding it on the back of the shelf, so that we do not have to share it with anyone else. If we fully intend to overcome this bad habit but cannot yet control it because our attachment to food is so strong, we are not at fault in taking a piece of cake. Nevertheless, we try to increase our self-control by taking smaller pieces and not so often.

Two Faulty Actions Detrimental to Developing the Willingness to Give Others Protection from Fearful Situations

(3) Not showing respect to our elders

The objects of this action include our parents, teachers, those with excellent qualities and, in general, any persons with seniority or simply older than ourselves. When we fail to give them our seats on the bus, meet them at the airport, help carry their bags, and so on, because of pride, anger, spite, laziness, indifference, or forgetfulness, we leave them in a fearful and worrisome situation difficult to cope with.

(4) Not answering those who ask us questions

Because of pride, anger, spite, laziness, indifference, or forgetfulness, not happily answering others' sincere questions. In ignoring them, we leave them in a quandary with no one to turn to – also a fearful and insecure position.

As illustration of the type of detail found in Tsongkhapa's commentary to these vows, let us look at the exceptions when there is no fault in remaining silent or postponing our response. In terms of ourselves as the basis for this action, we need not answer if we are too sick or the person asking the question has purposely woken us in the middle of the night. Unless there is an emergency, there is no fault in telling the person to wait until we are feeling better or until the morning.

There are exceptions according to the occasion, for example when someone interrupts us with a question while we are teaching others, delivering a lecture, conducting a ceremony, speaking words of comfort to someone else, receiving a lesson, or listening to a discourse. We tell them politely to hold their questions until later.

Certain situations, by necessity, require silence or postponing the answer. For example, if we were to respond in depth to a question about hells during a public lecture in the West on Buddhism, we might turn many people off, causing a hindrance to their involvement with the Dharma. Silence is preferable if in answering someone's question, for example a bigot's inquiry about our ethnic backgrounds, we would cause that person to dislike us and therefore be unreceptive to our help. Silence is also better if it would cause others to stop acting destructively and lead them to a more constructive mode of behavior – for example, when people psychologically dependent on us ask us to answer every question in their lives and we wish to teach them to make decisions and figure things out for themselves.

Furthermore, if we are at a meditation retreat with a rule of silence and someone asks us a question, there is no need to talk. Finally, it is best to conclude a question and answer session at the end of a lecture if, by continuing when the audience is tired and it is very late, we will cause resentment and anger toward us.

Two Faulty Actions of Not Providing the Circumstances for Others to Cultivate and Practice Generosity

(5) Not accepting when invited as a guest

If we refuse to go for a visit or a meal because of pride, anger, spite, laziness, or indifference, we deprive the other person of an opportunity for building up positive force (bsod-nams, Skt. punya, positive potential, merit) from offering hospitality. Unless there are good reasons to decline, we accept no matter how humble the home might be.

(6) Not accepting material gifts

For the same reasons as in the previous case.

One Faulty Action Detrimental to Developing the Generosity of Giving Teachings

(7) Not giving the Dharma to those who wish to learn

Here the motivation for refusing to teach about Buddhism, loan others our Dharma books, share our notes, and so on, is anger, spite, jealousy that the other person will eventually outstrip us, laziness, or indifference. In the case of the second root bodhisattva vow, we decline because of attachment and miserliness.

Nine Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Ethical Self-Discipline

Ethical self-discipline (tshul-khrims, Skt. shila) is the attitude to restrain from negative actions. It also includes the discipline to engage in positive actions and to help others.

Of the nine faulty actions that hamper our development of ethical self-discipline, four concern situations in which our main consideration is others, three concern our own situation, and two concern both ourselves and others.

Four Faulty Actions That Concern Situations in Which Our Main Consideration Is Others

(1) Ignoring those with shattered ethics

If, because of anger, spite, laziness, indifference, or forgetfulness, we ignore, neglect, or put down those who have broken their vows or even committed heinous crimes, we weaken our ethical self-discipline to engage in positive acts and to help others. Such persons are in special need of our concern and attention since they have built up the causes for present and future suffering and unhappiness. Without self-righteousness or moral indignation, we try to help them, for instance by teaching meditation to interested prisoners in jail.

(2) Not upholding moral training for the sake of others' faith

Buddha has prohibited many actions that, although not naturally destructive, are detrimental to our spiritual progress – for example, laypersons and monastics drinking alcohol, or monastics sharing a room with a member of the opposite sex. Refraining from such behavior is training shared in common by Hinayana practitioners and bodhisattvas alike. If, as budding bodhisattvas, we ignore these proscriptions because of lack of respect or belief in Buddha's ethical teachings, or because of laziness to exercise self-control, we cause others seeing our behavior to lose faith and admiration for Buddhists and Buddhism. Therefore, with concern for the impression our conduct makes on others, we refrain, for example, from taking recreational drugs.

(3) Being petty when it concerns the welfare of others

Buddha gave many minor rules for monastics to train their behavior, for instance always to have our three sets of robes where we sleep. Sometimes, however, the needs of others overrides the necessity to follow this minor training, for example if someone falls sick and we need to stay overnight to take care of the person. If, because of anger or spite toward the person, or simply laziness to stay up all night, we decline on the grounds that we do not have our three sets of robes with us, we commit this faulty action. Being a rigid fanatic with rules hampers our balanced development of ethical self-discipline.

(4) Not committing a destructive action when love and compassion call for it

Occasionally, certain extreme situations arise in which the welfare of others is seriously jeopardized and there is no alternative left to prevent a tragedy other than committing one of the seven destructive physical or verbal actions. These seven are taking a life, taking what has not been given to us, indulging in inappropriate sexual behavior, lying, speaking divisively, using harsh and cruel language, or chattering meaninglessly. If we commit such an action without any disturbing emotion at the time, such as anger, desire, or naivety about cause and effect, but are motivated only by the wish to prevent others' suffering – being totally willing to accept on ourselves whatever negative consequences may come, even hellish pain – we do not damage our far-reaching ethical self-discipline. In fact, we build up a tremendous amount of positive force that speeds us on our spiritual paths.

Refusing to commit these destructive actions when necessity demands is at fault, however, only if we have taken and keep purely bodhisattva vows. Our reticence to exchange our happiness for the welfare of others hampers our perfection of the ethical self-discipline to help others always. There is no fault if we have only superficial compassion and do not keep bodhisattva vows or train in the conduct outlined by them. We realize that since our compassion is weak and unstable, the resulting suffering we would experience from our destructive actions might easily cause us to begrudge bodhisattva conduct. We might even give up the path of working to help others. Like the injunction that bodhisattvas on lower stages of development only damage themselves and their abilities to help others if they attempt practices of bodhisattvas on higher stages – such as feeding their flesh to a hungry tigress – it is better for us to remain cautious and hold back.

Since there may be confusion about what circumstances call for such bodhisattva action, let us look at examples taken from the commentary literature. Please keep in mind that these are last resort actions when all other means fail to alleviate or prevent others' suffering. As a budding bodhisattva, we are willing to take the life of someone about to commit a mass murder. We have no hesitation in confiscating medicines intended for relief efforts in a war-torn country that someone has taken to sell on the black market, or taking away a charity's funds from an administrator who is squandering or mismanaging them. We are willing, if male, to have sex with another's wife – or with an unmarried woman whose parents forbid it, or with any other inappropriate partner – when the woman has the strong wish to develop bodhichitta but is overwhelmed with desire for sex with us and who, if she were to die not having had sex with us, would carry the grudge as an instinct into future lives. As a result, she would be extremely hostile toward bodhisattvas and the bodhisattva path.

Bodhisattvas' willingness to engage in inappropriate sexual acts when all else fails to help prevent someone from developing an extremely negative attitude toward the spiritual path of altruism raises an important point for married couples on the bodhisattva path to consider. Sometimes a couple becomes involved in Dharma and one of them, for instance the woman, wishing to be celibate, stops sexual relations with her husband when he is not of the same mind. He still has attachment to sex and takes her decision as a personal rejection. Sometimes the wife's fanaticism and lack of sensitivity drives her husband to blame his frustration and unhappiness on the Dharma. He leaves the marriage and turns his back on Buddhism with bitter resentment. If there is no other way to avoid his hostile reaction toward the spiritual path and the woman is keeping bodhisattva vows, she would do well to evaluate her compassion to determine if it is strong enough to allow her to have occasional sex with her husband without serious harm to her ability to help others. This is very relevant in terms of the tantric vows concerning chaste behavior.

As budding bodhisattvas, we are willing to lie when it saves others' lives or prevents others from being tortured and maimed. We have no hesitation to speak divisively to separate our children from a wrong crowd of friends – or disciples from misleading teachers – who are exerting negative influences on them and encouraging harmful attitudes and behavior. We do not refrain from using harsh language to rouse our children from negative ways, like not doing their homework, when they will not listen to reason. And when others, interested in Buddhism, are totally addicted to chattering, drinking, partying, singing, dancing, or telling off-color jokes or stories of violence, we are willing to join in if refusal would make these persons feel that bodhisattvas, and Buddhists in general, never have fun and that the spiritual path is not for them.

Three Faulty Actions Concerning Our Own Situation

(5) Earning our living through a wrong livelihood

Such livelihoods are through dishonest or devious means, primarily of five major types: (a) pretense or hypocrisy, (b) flattery or using smooth words to fool others, (c) blackmail, extortion, or playing on people's guilt, (d) demanding bribes or exacting fines for imaginary offenses, and (e) giving bribes to gain something larger in return. We resort to such means because of total lack of a sense of moral self-dignity or reserve.

(6) Becoming excited and flying off to some frivolous activity

Because of being discontent, restless, bored, or hyperactive, and desirous for some excitement, running off to some frivolous distraction – like wandering in a shopping mall, flipping through the stations on the television, playing computer games and so on. We become completely engrossed and out of control. If we engage in such activities with others in order to calm down their anger or lift their depression, to help them if they are addicted to such things, to gain their trust if we suspect they are hostile toward us, or to strengthen old friendships, we do not harm our ethical training to discipline ourselves to act positively and to help others. However, if we run off to these activities feeling we have nothing better to do, we are deceiving ourselves. There is always something better to do. Sometimes, however, we need a break to help renew our enthusiasm and energy when we become tired or depressed. There is no fault in that, so long as we set reasonable limits.

(7) Intending only to wander in samsara

Many sutras explain that bodhisattvas prefer to stay in samsara rather than achieve liberation themselves. It is a fault to take this literally to mean we do not work to overcome our disturbing emotions and attitudes and achieve liberation, but just keep our delusions and work with them to help others. This is different from the eighteenth root bodhisattva vow of giving up bodhichitta, with which we fully decide to stop working for liberation and enlightenment. Here, we just consider it unimportant and unnecessary to free ourselves from disturbing emotions, which seriously weakens our ethical self-discipline. Although on the bodhisattva path, especially when it entails anuttarayoga tantra, we transform and use the energies of desire to enhance our spiritual progress, this does not mean we give free reign to our desires and do not work to rid ourselves of them.

Two Faulty Actions Concerning Both Ourselves and Others

(8) Not ridding ourselves of behavior that causes us to fall to ill-repute

Suppose we like eating meat. If we are among vegetarian Buddhists and we insist on eating a steak, we invite their criticism and disrespect. They will not take our words about Dharma seriously and will spread stories about us, making others unreceptive to our help as well. As budding bodhisattvas, if we do not rid ourselves of such behavior, it is a great fault.

(9) Not redressing those who act with disturbing emotions and attitudes

If we are in a position of authority in an office, school, monastery, or household and, because of attachment to certain members or the wish to be liked, we fail to scold or punish those with disturbing emotions and attitudes who are acting disruptively, we damage the discipline and morale of the entire group.

Four Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Patience

Patience (bzod-pa, Skt. kshanti) is the willingness to deal, without anger, with those doing harm, with the hardships involved in practicing Dharma, and with our own sufferings.

(1) Discarding the four positive trainings

These trainings are not to retaliate when (a) verbally abused or criticized, (b) made the target of others' anger, (c) beaten, or (d) humiliated. Since training ourselves not to retaliate in these four trying situations acts as a cause for our patience to grow, if we put this aside we damage our development of this positive trait.

(2) Ignoring those who are angry with us

If others are annoyed with us and holding a grudge, if we do nothing about it and do not try to assuage their anger, because of pride, spite, jealousy, laziness, indifference, or not caring, we hamper our perfection of patience because we allow the opposite of patience, namely anger, to continue unabated. To avoid this fault, we apologize whether or not we have offended or done anything wrong.

(3) Refusing others' apologies

The third root bodhisattva downfall is not listening to others' apologies when they plead for forgiveness at the moment when we are angry with them. Here, we do not accept their apologies after the occasion, when we are holding a grudge.

(4) Dwelling on anger

Once we become angry in any situation, we act contrary to our development of patient tolerance if we dwell on it, holding a grudge, without applying opponent forces to counter it. If we apply these forces, such as meditating on love for the objects of our annoyance, but are unsuccessful, we are not at fault. Because we are at least trying, we do not weaken our cultivation of patience.

Three Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Perseverance

Perseverance (brtson-grus, Skt. virya, positive enthusiasm) is vigor in doing what is constructive.

(1) Gathering a circle of followers because of desiring veneration and respect

When we gather a circle of friends, admirers or pupils, or decide to marry or live with someone, if our motive is the wish for others to show us respect, give us love and affection, shower us with gifts, serve us, massage our backs, and do our everyday tasks, we lose enthusiasm for doing anything positive ourselves, such as helping others. We are attracted to an inferior mode of operation, namely telling others what to do for us.

(2) Not doing anything, out of laziness, and so on

If we give in to laziness, indifference, apathy, moods of not feeling like doing anything, or not being interested in anything at all, or addiction to sleeping long hours, lying in bed all day, taking naps, or lounging around doing nothing, we become addicted to this and lose all enthusiasm for helping others. Of course, we take rest if we are sick or exhausted, but it is a great fault to spoil ourselves by being too soft.

(3) Resorting to passing time with stories, out of attachment

The third obstacle hindering the growth of enthusiasm for helping others is wasting time in a meaningless fashion. This refers to telling, listening to, reading, watching on television or in the movies, or surfing the Internet for stories about sex, violence, celebrities, political intrigues, and so on.

Three Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Mental Stability

Mental stability (bsam-gtan, Skt. dhyana, concentration) is the state of mind that does not lose its equilibrium or focus because of disturbing emotions, flightiness of mind, or mental dullness.

(1) Not seeking the means for gaining absorbed concentration

If, because of pride, spite, laziness, or indifference, we do not attend teachings on how to settle our minds in absorbed concentration (ting-nge-'dzin, Skt. samadhi) when a master is giving them, how can we ever cultivate or enhance our stability of mind? If we are sick, suspect that the instructions are incorrect, or have already achieved perfect concentration, we need not go.

(2) Not ridding ourselves of the obstacles preventing mental stability

When practicing meditation to achieve absorbed concentration, we encounter five major obstacles. If we give in and do not try to eliminate them, we damage our development of mental stability. If we are trying to remove them, but are not yet successful, we are not at fault. The five obstacles are (a) intentions to pursue any of the five types of desirable sensory objects, (b) thoughts of spite, (c) foggy-mindedness and drowsiness, (d) flightiness of mind and regrets, and (e) indecisive wavering or doubts.

(3) Regarding the taste of bliss from gaining mental stability as its main advantage

Normally, we tie up a great deal of our energies in nervousness, worry, indecision, thoughts of longing or resentment, and so on, or weigh them down with dullness and sleepiness. As we concentrate and absorb our minds ever deeper, we release ever greater amounts of this energy. We experience this as a feeling of physical and mental bliss. The stronger that bliss, the further it draws us into absorption. For this reason, in anuttarayoga tantra, we generate and use even more intense blissful states of mind than those gained merely from perfect concentration, in order to reach subtlest clear light mental activity and absorb it in the understanding of voidness. If we become attached to the taste of bliss we gain at any stage of developing mental stability, whether or not in conjunction with tantra practice, and we regard enjoying the pleasure we gain from that bliss as the main goal of our practice, we seriously hinder our development of far-reaching stability of mind.

Eight Faulty Actions Detrimental to Training in Far-Reaching Discriminating Awareness

Discriminating awareness (shes-rab, Skt. prajna, wisdom) is the mental factor that decisively discriminates between what is correct and incorrect, appropriate and inappropriate, helpful and harmful, and so on.

(1) Forsaking the shravaka (listener) vehicle

The sixth root bodhisattva downfall is to claim that the textual teachings of the shravaka vehicle are not Buddha's words, while the fourteenth is to say that the instructions in them are ineffective for eliminating attachment and so forth. The thirteenth is to tell bodhisattvas holding lay or monastic pratimoksha (individual liberation) vows – part of the teachings of the shravaka vehicle – that there is no need for them, as bodhisattvas, to safeguard these vows. For this root downfall to be complete, the bodhisattvas hearing our words must actually give up their pratimoksha vows. Here, the faulty action is simply to think or tell others that bodhisattvas have no need to listen to teachings from the shravaka vehicle – specifically concerning the rules of discipline of the pratimoksha vows – or to uphold or train themselves with them. No one need actually give up his or her vows.

In studying and keeping vowed rules of discipline, we increase our ability to discriminate between which types of behavior are to be adopted or abandoned. By denying the need to train ourselves with pratimoksha vows, we weaken our development of discriminating awareness. We also incorrectly discriminate the shravaka teachings as being essential for only shravakas, and worthless for bodhisattvas.

(2) Exerting effort in them while having our own methods

If we exert all our efforts on studying and upholding merely our pratimoksha vows, to the neglect of studying and training in the vast bodhisattva teachings concerning compassion and wisdom, we also weaken our discriminating awareness. When we exert effort in the teachings of the shravaka vehicle, we simultaneously work on the bodhisattva ones as well.

(3) Exerting effort in studying non-Buddhist texts when it is not to be done

According to the commentaries, non-Buddhist texts refer to works on logic and grammar. We can undoubtedly also include books for learning foreign languages or any topic from the modern educational curriculum, such as mathematics, science, psychology, or philosophy. The fault here is putting all our efforts into studying these subjects and neglecting our Mahayana studies and practice so that eventually we forget all about them. If we are extremely intelligent, able to learn things quickly, have a sound and stable understanding of the Mahayana teachings based on logic and reason, and are able to retain those teachings in our memories for a long time, there is no fault in studying non-Buddhist texts if each day we also maintain our Mahayana studies and practice.

Non-Tibetan students of Buddhism who wish to study the Tibetan language would do well to keep this guideline in mind. If they are able to learn languages quickly and easily, already have a strong foundation in Buddhism, and enough time to study both language and Dharma, they gain much benefit from learning Tibetan. They can use it as a tool for deeper studies. However, if they find the language difficult, have only limited time and energy available, and do not yet have a good understanding of Buddhism or a stable daily meditation practice, they damage and hamper their spiritual development by studying Tibetan. It is important to discriminate our priorities.

(4) Even if able to exert effort on them, becoming infatuated

If we have the ability to study non-Buddhist material, such as Tibetan language, with all the stipulations as above, if we become infatuated with the subject matter, we may give up our spiritual practice and concentrate totally on this less vital topic. Mastering Tibetan or mathematics does not bring us liberation from our disturbing emotions and attitudes, nor the problems and suffering they engender. It does not give us the ability to help others as fully as is possible. Only perfecting bodhichitta and the far-reaching attitudes, especially discriminating awareness of voidness, can lead us to this goal. Therefore, to guard against infatuation with non-Buddhist topics – which may certainly be helpful to learn, but are not the main things upon which to focus – we study them soberly, keeping a proper perspective. In this way, we discriminate correctly what is essential and safeguard ourselves from becoming carried away with less vital matters.

(5) Forsaking the Mahayana vehicle

The sixth root bodhisattva downfall is claiming that the Mahayana texts are not Buddha's words. Here, we accept that, in general, they are authentic, but we criticize certain aspects of them, specifically texts concerning bodhisattvas' unimaginably extensive deeds and the inconceivably profound teachings of voidness. The former include accounts of Buddhas multiplying themselves into countless forms simultaneously helping numberless beings in myriad worlds, while the latter include collections of terse and pithy verses extremely difficult to fathom. We degenerate our discriminating awareness by repudiating them in any of four ways, that (a) their content is inferior – they speak sheer nonsense, (b) their manner of expression is inferior – they are bad writing that makes no sense, (c) their author is inferior – they are not the words of an enlightened Buddha, or (d) their use is inferior – they are of no benefit to anyone. By discriminating falsely like this, in a closed-minded and hotheaded manner, we damage our ability to discriminate anything correctly.

When faced with teachings or texts we do not understand, we remain open-minded. We think that even though we cannot appreciate or fathom them now, the Buddhas and highly realized bodhisattvas understand their words and, through realization of their meaning, benefit others in infinite ways. In this way, we develop firm resolve (mos-pa) to try to grasp them in the future. There is no fault if we lack this firm resolve, so long as we do not belittle and denigrate the teachings. We at least maintain equanimity, acknowledging that we do not understand them.

(6) Praising ourselves and/or belittling others

The first root bodhisattva downfall is doing this motivated by desire for gain or jealousy. Here the motivation is pride, conceit, haughtiness, or anger. Such motivations arise when we falsely discriminate ourselves as better than others are.

(7) Not going for the sake of Dharma

The second root bodhisattva downfall is not giving the Dharma because of attachment and miserliness. Here, the fault is not going to teach, perform Buddhist rituals, attend Buddhist ceremonies, or listen to discourses because of pride, anger, spite, laziness, or indifference. With such motivation, we do not discriminate correctly what is worthwhile. There is no fault, however, if we do not go because of feeling we are not a teacher or being too sick, or because we suspect the teachings we would hear or impart would be incorrect, or we know that the audience has heard them repeatedly and knows them already, or we have received them in full and comprehended and mastered them completely so that we have no need to listen further, or we are already focused and absorbed on the teachings so need no reminder about them, or they are over our heads and we would only become confused by listening. Further, if our teachers would be displeased if we went – such as if he or she told us to do something else – we certainly do not go.

(8) Relying on language to deride a teacher

We weaken our abilities to discriminate correctly when we judge spiritual teachers by their language. We ridicule and reject those who speak with a heavy accent, making many grammatical mistakes, even though what they explain is correct, and run after those who speak elegantly, but total nonsense.

Twelve Faulty Actions That Contradict Working to Benefit Others

(1) Not going to help those in need

Because of anger, spite, laziness, or indifference, not going to the assistance of any of eight types of persons needing help: (a) in making a decision about something positive, for example at a meeting, (b) in traveling, (c) in learning a foreign language we know, (d) in carrying out some task that has no moral fault, (e) in keeping watch over a house, temple, or their possessions, (f) in stopping a fight or argument, (g) in celebrating an occasion, like a wedding, or (h) in doing charity work. Declining to go, however, does not damage our efforts to help others if we are sick, have already promised our assistance elsewhere, send someone else who is capable of the job, are engaged in some positive task that is more urgent, or are incompetent to help. There is also no fault if the task is harmful to others, contradictory to the Dharma or unreasonable, or if the persons requesting our assistance are capable of finding help elsewhere or have someone reliable to find it for them.

(2) Neglecting to serve the sick

Because of anger, spite, laziness, or indifference.

(3) Not alleviating suffering

Also because of the same reasons. Seven types of persons afflicted with difficulties require special care: (a) the blind, (b) the deaf, (c) amputees and cripples, (d) tired travelers, (e) those suffering from any of the five obstacles preventing mental stability, (f) those with ill will and strong prejudices, and (g) those who have fallen from positions of high status.

(4) Not teaching the reckless in accordance with their character

Reckless (bag-med) persons refer to those who do not care about the laws of behavioral cause and effect and, consequently, whose behavior will bring them unhappiness and problems in this and future lives. We cannot help such people if we are self-righteously indignant and disapproving. To reach them, we need to be skillful and modify our approach to suit their specific situations. For example, if our neighbor is an avid hunter, we do not preach to him with outrage that he will burn in hell. The person will probably never have anything to do with us again. Rather, we befriend our neighbor by telling him what a kind service he provides for making game meat available for his family and friends. Once he is receptive to our advice, we slowly suggest better ways to relax and make others happy without taking lives.

(5) Not paying back help received

Not wanting to help others in return for the help they have given us, or not remembering or even thinking to pay anything back. There is no fault, however, if while trying to be of help in return, such as when they are repairing their cars, we lack the knowledge and ability, or are too weak. Moreover, if those who have helped us wish nothing in return, we do not force them to accept our offer.

(6) Not alleviating the mental grief of others

Because of spite, laziness, or indifference, if we fail to try comforting those who have lost a loved one, money, or prized possessions, we are at fault. Those who are upset or depressed require our sincere affection, sympathy, and understanding, but certainly not pity.

(7) Not giving to those in need of charity

Because of anger, spite, laziness, or indifference. If because of miserliness, it is a root downfall.

(8) Not taking care of the needs of our circle

It is a great fault to neglect, out of spite, laziness, or indifference, our circle of relatives, friends, co-workers, employees, disciples, and so on, especially when engaged in social work helping others. We need to provide for their physical needs and look after their spiritual welfare. How can we pretend to be helping all sentient beings if we ignore the needs of those closest to us?

(9) Not going along with the preferences of others

So long as what others wish us to do or what they like is not harmful to them or to others, it is a fault not to agree. Everyone does things differently or has individual tastes. If we do not honor this, because of spite, laziness, or indifference, we start petty arguments about things like where to eat, or we are insensitive to their preferences and arouse their discomfort or resentment when ordering the menu.

(10) Not speaking in praise of others' talents or good qualities

If we fail to commend others when they have done something well or concur with someone else's acclaim of them, because of anger, spite, indifference, or laziness, we weaken our interest and enthusiasm for them to continue to grow. If others are embarrassed to be lauded, either privately or in public, or would become proud or vain if praised to their faces, we hold back our words.

(11) Not enforcing punishment in accordance with circumstances

To help others, it is important to discipline them if they act in an unruly manner. If we fail to do so, because of emotional problems with it, or laziness, indifference, or not caring, we damage our ability to be effective guides.

(12) Not using such things as extraphysical powers or the ability to cast spells

Certain situations call for special methods to help others, such as using extraphysical powers (rdzu-'phrul). If we possess these means, but do no use them when they would be appropriate and effective, we damage our ability to be of help. We try to use whatever talents, abilities, and attainments we have to benefit others.