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Morality as a healthy habit

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

Some time ago I realised that the quotes attributed to an author were a kind of condensed highlights of the books he or she had written. So today I set out to read the quotes of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, the author of Mindfulness in Plain English, and I came across a few real gems, among them this one:

“In the same way, morality is not a ritualistic obedience to a code of behavior imposed by an external authority. It is rather a healthy habit pattern that you have consciously and voluntarily chosen to impose upon yourself because you recognize its superiority to your present behavior.”

― Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

I thought it was an interesting statement because it is something I have always felt at quite a deep level. When i reflect on the Five Precepts and the Noble Eightfold Path, the moral principles embodied there in are things that for me predate my involvement with Buddhism. It’s something that you just feel, although in one or two cases you may choose to give it your own twist.

There is a book, Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman which I would encourage people to read. It contends that most people are good folks, and it brings a lot of soundly based arguments to the table. If cynicism sometimes threatens to overwhelm you then this is a good counterpoint.



  • Morality, ethics, the 8 unfolding path is hard for many of us. If we are karmically fortunate we will have at least some virtuous traits.

    Starting from where we are:

    • We aim to increase our interior resonance with a less suffering being. This is how good fortunate karma is amplified.
    • We do not dwell on failings, hindrances and our less than perfect reality. Certainly be aware of it.
    • We aim to be kind and patient with ourselves. Point zero.

    Now we know why we bow to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Why we take refuge in these jewels.

    It is a direction. It is a path. It is a plan ...

  • Very beautiful quote. I agree with it completely.

    Ajahn Chah uses the example of a sapling. Will a sapling live if you constantly change it from place to place? Clearly no. The same with our practice. Morality is essential, but it still requires some discipline to maintain or nothing will be obtained in the long run. Just like a student preparing for his exams: short term pleasure, removed in the name of a sustained development and great results. Without forgetting how pleasant the path becomes. If not the path itself.

    I realised this as I took the 5 precepts more seriously. Particularly precept number 5. How heedlessness provoked by substance is so unnecessary and easily avoidable -Cannabis / tobacco in my case, I know different substances cannot be so "easily" avoided if one has already caused enough physiological damage to the system-.

    Thank you for the book as well. As soon as I finish Ajahn Chah's mastodon I have two other books coming from Sumeru Press (do check this editorial out too please).

    Lots of love,


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