A Life of Integrity

A Dharma friend has a blog on the The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople. (That would be us.) She talks about integrity–the 5 precepts–as the primary practice for us householders.

The Buddha uses the word sila, which I like to translate as “integrity”, though it is often translated as morality, virtue, or ethics.

I heave a big sigh when i hear the word “morality.” It feels old-fashioned, heavy-handed, and judgmental, leading us directly into right/wrong, good/bad.

The word “virtue” sounds too virtuous, as though it is unobtainable, as though the Buddha is talking about somebody else, not me.”

“Ethics” sounds too professional. I am looking for a word that’s more personal.

So I am trying out a different translation of sila—integrity.

The dictionary defines “integrity” as adherence to moral and ethical principles. Integrity implies a soundness of moral character, honesty. I am a big fan of honesty, so this word “integrity” really appeals to me.

Integrity also refers to the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished. For instance, a structure has integrity. Something (or dare we say someone?) with integrity has a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition. Integrity lies between wholeness and unity on one side and honesty on the other.

Integrity has the advantage of being related to the words “integral” and “integrated.” Don’t we all aspire to live an integrated life? An honest life. A life where our words and actions are in accord, rather than discord.

Sometimes life can feel so scattered, so fragmented that the idea of an integrated life feels like relief. Yes, i’ll have one of those please.

The 5 precepts are our route to an integrated life.

Today I intend to:

do no harm to anyone,

take nothing that is not freely offered,

use my sexual and sensual energy wisely,

speak truthfully and helpfully,

and keep my mind clear.

Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, makes us trustworthy. People trust us; they feel safe with us. Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking is a kindness to ourselves and to all the people around us.



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