According to Buddhist teachings ethical and moral principles are reached by examining whether an action is likely to be harmful to one's self or to others.
Following this enquiry we avoid or limit any actions, and their underlying intentions, which are likely to cause harm to one's self or another.
To guide this investigation a number of precepts are offered as an ethical framework. We can take them as guidelines for retreats, wisdom inquiries that shape all of our lives, or even as expressions of a bodhisattva devotion opening limitless compassion for all beings.
1. We undertake the gift of refraining from killing.
This gift applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be supported.
2. We undertake the gift of refraining from stealing.
This gift goes further than mere stealing. One should hold back from taking anything until one is sure that it is intended for you.
3. We undertake the gift of refraining from sexual misconduct.
This gift also covers overindulgence in any sensual pleasure, but the focus on misconduct of a sexual nature is well placed.
4. We undertake the gift of refraining from false speech.
As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this gift covers slander as well as all speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.
5. We undertake the gift of refraining from intoxicants that cause heedlessness or loss of awareness.
This gift is often placed in a special category as it may not bring obvious harm. Yet indulging in certain substances can be the cause of not upholding another of the gifts.
Deep gratitude to BuddhaNet for clearly laying out the Buddhist precepts, so we could build upon them here.
We wish to lay out how this shapes how we offer and facilitate retreats, and how we will interact with the participants of the event.
1. We undertake the precept of refraining from killing.
In undertaking this precept we acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life.
We agree to refine our understanding of not killing and non-harming in all our actions.
All our retreats are vegetarian, many are vegan.
We are committed to fulfilling this precept in the spirit of reverence for life.
2. We undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.
We agree to not take that which does not belong to us and to respect the property of others.
We agree to bring consciousness to the use of all the earth’s resources in a respectful and ecological way.
We agree to be honest in our dealing with money and not to misappropriate money committed to Dharma projects.
We endeavour to offer teachings without favouritism in regard to students’ financial circumstances.
3. We undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.
Dharma teaching can only be offered in a safe environment.
We wish to avoid creating harm through sexuality and to avoid sexual exploitation or adultery.
We will not use our teaching or facilitating role to exploit authority or position in order to assume a sexual relationship with a student or participant.
Because several single teachers in our community have developed partnerships and marriages with former students, we acknowledge that such a healthy relationship can be possible, but that great care and sensitivity are needed.
We agree that in this case the following guidelines are crucial:
A sexual relationship is never appropriate between teachers and students.
During retreats or formal teaching, any intimation of future student-teacher romantic or sexual relationship is inappropriate.
If interest in a genuine and committed relationship develops over time between a single teacher / facilitator and a student / participant, the student-teacher relationship must clearly and consciously have ended before any further development toward a romantic relationship.
Such a relationship must be approached with restraint and sensitivity – in no case should it occur immediately after retreat. A minimum time period of three months or longer from the last formal teaching between them, and a clear understanding from both parties that the student-teacher relationship has ended must be coupled with a conscious commitment to enter into a relationship that brings no harm to either party.
4. We undertake the precept of refraining from false speech.
We endeavour to speak that which is true and useful and to refrain from gossip in our community.
We agree to hold in confidence what is explicitly told to us in confidence.
We agree to cultivate conscious and clear communication, and to cultivate the quality of lovingkindness and honesty as the basis of our speech.
5. We undertake the precept of refraining from intoxicants that cause heedlessness or loss of awareness.
It is clear that substance abuse and addiction is the cause of tremendous suffering.
We agree that there should be no use of intoxicants during retreats or while on retreat premises.
We agree not to abuse or misuse intoxicants.
We agree that if any teacher has a drug or alcohol addiction problem, it should be immediately addressed by the community.
The five gifts of non-harming are a vehicle for our happiness, a vehicle for our good fortune, a vehicle for the liberation of all beings. May our goodness shine forth.
We thank Gaia House and London Insight for their clear ethical code from which we have based our own.