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To do good, it is most often enough to avoid doing evil

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Finding inspiration from Buddhist wisdom

According to the Buddhist tradition, there are ten evil actions, also called non-virtuous. They generate negative karma that hinders our spiritual progress and ultimately impedes the path to enlightenment. If you don’t know what to do and you want to contribute to the good around you, it is sometimes easier to refrain from doing evil. If you are in doubt about the nature of an action, see if it doesn’t fit into one of the categories I’m about to introduce. Let’s look at what it means to do wrong in Buddhism.

Buddhist writings classify actions into three categories: actions, words and thoughts.

Physical actions

These actions are present in the biblical decalogue. It can be argued that there is a certain universality in these injunctions, given that they come from sources that are geographically and culturally very distant.


It is not every day that one comes close to killing someone. In Buddhism, killing is not limited to humans but to any living creature with sentience. Any killing creates negative karma. However, we will see below that this can be qualified by the intention. These are very special cases. The more spiritually awakened the entity you kill is, the more bad karma you generate. Then there is the notion of indirect killing, i.e. when you benefit indirectly from the death of a being. This explains why it is not advisable to eat meat or fish.


To steal is to take something from someone without their consent. Beyond this trivial definition, we must see in theft the negation of the person and his work. To steal is to show a predation on a person. It is to deny one’s barriers and to take advantage of one’s work without making the effort to reap the benefits.

Committing adultery

Adultery shows a lack of control over one’s sexual energy. It implies a certain dispersion and the inability to maintain the high ideal that the creation of a family and the sacred bonds that they imply.

Verbal actions


Lying also generates negative karma because it creates division. When you are not consistent with what you are doing or thinking, you are introducing confusion into your mind. In a word, you lower your energy and weaken your aura. By definition, lying takes us away from the truth. Every spiritual seeker is first and foremost a seeker of truth. Without a strong will not to tell a lie, you are turning away from the path of good.


It is almost always because of a lack of moral firmness that one indulges in flattery. Flattery is used to obtain favors, advantages by coaxing one’s interlocutor. Flattery is a kind of soft lie carried out out of interest. It is best avoided because it also causes a separation between what one thinks and what one says. In fact, it is sometimes recommended to avoid professions that favor this tendency.


This is the act of wrongly speaking ill of another person. It is a kind of lying that is all the more damaging because it damages someone’s reputation. Damaging someone’s image unjustly is an expression of malice which is necessarily accompanied by bad karma.

Being in bad faith

Bad faith is a form of lying. It shows the inability to recognize one’s mistakes and to want to deceive the other person. It is not always easy not to be in bad faith when you grow up in a culture that promotes it or is excessively tolerant of it. A good way to know if you are acting in bad faith is to always ask yourself if your interests take precedence over the truth. Bad faith is often rooted in giving more importance to the end than to the means to achieve it. Sometimes it is necessary to give up a result to preserve a certain virtue.

Mental actions


Greed can take many forms. It can refer to the coveting of objects or money, but it can also take the form of carnal covetousness, which is called lust according to the Christian frame of reference.

Pride and anger

These are two capital sins. They are to be prohibited because they show a lack of humility and patience. Pride is born of ignorance and an exaggerated belief in the external dimensions of the human being (money, power, status, etc.). Someone who is proud is not interested enough in the inner world to see all its nuances and go beyond appearances.


Spiritual awakening involves the search for truth. To come out of the darkness, one must necessarily be in search of light. This requires instruction and training that requires both discipline and effort. In short, to come out of ignorance, one must be proactive in his search for truth. He who does not find, does not seek. Ignorance is therefore intimately linked to the Christian sin commonly called acedia or spiritual laziness.

The power of intention

All these bad actions are nevertheless qualified by two things: the intention and the effective consequence. Intention is a seed that is magnified by the nature of the action. A good action is ideally good in nature (it is not one of the 10 bad actions), it is animated by a pure intention and its consequence is favorable. A good action caused by a bad intention generally generates a bad consequence. In some particular cases, one can be led to perform a bad action with a pure intention (for example, lying to protect someone from certain death). In this case, the consequence is positive. Typically, a good intention is marked by abnegation and sacrifice. It is the opposite of a bad action which will be accomplished with a selfish spirit.

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