FEATURES

Harmfulness and Harmlessness

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In the Sallekha Sutta, the Discourse on Effacement,* MN 8, (1988) translated from Pali by Venerable Nyanaponika Maha Thera, Maha Cunda visits the Buddha at Jetavana and asks him how to get rid of false views about self and the universe, and we are told what the Buddha said about the skillfulness of replacing harmful actions with harmless actions:

Effacement (harmlesness)

But herein, Cunda, efffacement (harmlessness) should be practiced by you:

(1) Others will be harmful; we shall not be harmful here—thus effacement can be done.

(2) Others will kill living beings; we shall abstain from killing living beings here—thus effacement can be done.

(3) Others will take what is not given; we shall abstain from taking what is not given here—thus effacement can be done.

(4) Others will be unchaste; we shall be chaste here—thus effacement can be done.

(5) Others will speak falsehood; we shall abstain from false speech here—thus effacement can be done.

(6) Others win speak maliciously; we shall abstain from malicious speech here—thus effacement can be done.

(7) Others will speak harshly; we shall abstain from harsh speech here—thus effacement can be done.

(8) Others will gossip; we shall abstain from gossip here—thus effacement can be done.

(9) Others will be covetous; we shall not be covetous here—thus effacement can be done.

(10) Others will have thoughts of ill will; we shall not have thoughts of ill will here—thus effacement can be done.

(11) Others will have wrong views; we shall have right view here—thus effacement can be done.

(12) Others will have wrong intention; we shall have right intention here—thus effacement can be done.

(13) Others will use wrong speech; we shall use right speech here—thus effacement can be done.

(14) Others will commit wrong actions; we shall do right actions here—thus effacement can be done.

(15) Others will have wrong livelihood; we shall have right livelihood here—thus effacement can be done.

(16) Others will make wrong effort; we shall make right effort here—thus effacement can be done.

(17) Others will have wrong mindfulness; we shall have right mindfulness here—thus effacement can be done.

(18) Others will have wrong concentration; we shall have right concentration here—thus effacement can be done.

(19) Others will have wrong knowledge; we shall have right knowledge here—thus effacement can be done.

(20) Others will have wrong deliverance; we shall have right deliverance here—thus effacement can be done.

(21) Others will be overcome by sloth and torpor; we shall be free from sloth and torpor here—thus effacement can be done.

(22) Others will be agitated; we shall be unagitated here—thus effacement can be done.

(23) Others will be doubting; we shall be free from doubt here—thus effacement can be done.

(24) Others will be angry; we shall not be angry here—thus effacement can be done.

(25) Others will be hostile; we shall not be hostile here—thus effacement can be done.

(26) Others will denigrate; we shall not denigrate here—thus effacement can be done.

(27) Others will be domineering; we shall not be domineering here—thus effacement can be done.

(28) Others will be envious; we shall not be envious here—thus effacement can be done.

(29) Others will be jealous; we shall not be jealous here—thus effacement can be done.

(30) Others will be fraudulent; we shall not be fraudulent here—thus effacement can be done.

(31) Others will be hypocrites; we shall not be hypocrites here—thus effacement can be done.

(32) Others will be obstinate; we shall not be obstinate here—thus effacement can be done.

(33) Others will be arrogant; we shall not be arrogant here—thus effacement can be done.

(34) Others will be difficult to admonish; we shall be easy to admonish here—thus effacement can be done.

(35) Others will have bad friends; we shall have noble friends here—thus effacement can be done.

(36) Others will be negligent; we shall be heedful here—thus effacement can be done.

(37) Others will be faithless; we shall be faithful here—thus effacement can be done.

(38) Others will be shameless; we shall be shameful here—thus effacement can be done.

(39) Others will be without conscience; we shall have conscience here—thus effacement can be done.

(40) Others will have no learning; we shall be learned here—thus effacement can be done.

(41) Others will be idle; we shall be energetic here—thus effacement can be done.

(42) Others will be lacking in mindfulness; we shall be established in mindfulness here—thus effacement can be done.

(43) Others will be without wisdom; we shall be endowed with wisdom—thus effacement can be done.

(44) Others will misapprehend according to their individual views, hold on to them tenaciously and not easily discard them; we shall not misapprehend according to individual views nor hold on to them tenaciously, but shall discard them with ease—thus effacement can be done. 

(Nyanaponika 1-2, 1988)

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* Commentary: Harmlessness is called “effacement,” because it effaces harmfulness, i.e. it cuts it off (chindati). This method of explanation applies to all other terms.

Sub-commentary: But why is harmlessness (or nonviolence, ahimsa) mentioned at the very beginning? Because it is the root of all virtues; harmlessness, namely, is a synonym of compassion. Especially, it is the root cause of morality because it makes one refrain from immorality, which has as its characteristic mark the harming of others. Just as the killing of living beings has the harming of others as its mark, so also the taking away of others’ property; for “robbing a man’s wealth is worse than stabbing him.” Similarly, chastity removes the cause for the pains of childbearing, etc., and there is hardly a need to mention the harm done by adultery.

References

Nyanaponika Maha Thera. 1988. The Discourse on Effacement, MN 8, Sallekha Sutta. Wheel 61. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society.

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