The Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign
The purpose of the Six Ethics of the Mind campaign
Dharma Drum Mountain has two main goals in advocating the Six Ethics of the Mind campaign: to uplift the character of humanity and to build a pure land on earth. Through these six kinds of ethics we hope to achieve purification, peace, happiness and health throughout society in Taiwan and in the people's hearts and minds
We aim to give people in Taiwan a clearer idea of the Six Ethics by public speeches, manuals and other promotional means. Therefore, I encourage all readers to look at the big picture, think of the long-term, and consider the future. This campaign for the Six Ethics is without end. Rather than being a one-off, it will be a perpetual campaign. Through its influence we hope to alter, and uplift the ethical movements and moral image of Taiwanese society, and further, to influence the customs of ethnic Chinese societies worldwide. So long as we can achieve some small results, I believe there will be a lot more people willing to join us, respond to us, and promote this cause together with us.
To build a pure land on earth we must first uplift the character of humanity. The purification of human society starts from the transformation of concepts and thinking in each individual. Most people today are obsessed with competition. Competition in itself is not bad. However, from the perspective of the Six Ethics, every competitor must not only consider his own livelihood, well-being, and future, but also make room for his rivals, their livelihood, and stability. More importantly we must take care not to spoil our competitors' stage. Only that is ethical. Merely thinking of competing and ignoring the survival of other people and future generations is both unethical and immoral.
Ethics represent a form of loving-kindness and the compassion of the bodhisattvas. We must benefit others while seeking our own; only by benefiting others will our own benefit be safeguarded. If we have only our own interests at heart without considering the benefits of others, the benefit we enjoy will not be secure because others will covet it and vie for it.
In an increasingly chaotic environment, the promotion of ethical education and concepts becomes even more vital. We hope every reader can act as an interpreter and pioneer for this campaign, developing himself by benefiting others in the spirit of serving and giving. This is the most superior value, and represents the true meaning of well-being and a happy life.
The focus and values of the Six Ethics of the Mind campaign
In today's society, chaos in all its manifestations springs from a lack of ethical and moral standards in interpersonal relationships among all walks of life. Therefore, everyone scrambles for their rights while forgetting their obligations and duties. "Ethics" means doing one's duties and observing one's role and "morality" means respecting and caring for each other in interpersonal relationships.
Ethics must be based on morality
"Ethics" and "morality" are usually mentioned in the same breath. Although they are closely related, they are not identical to each other. For example, the domain of morality does not necessarily include ethics, while the realization of ethics must be based on morality.
"Ethics" refers to interpersonal relationships. However, without morality we cannot speak of ethics, leaving only ordinary interactions. The formation of ethics will not be complete without norms of morality.
The meaning of morality is helping all those we interact with to gain benefits and peace, and as such it has the function of making friends. Confucius said: "Friendship with the upright; friendship with the sincere; and friendship with the learned." We all wish to make such kind of beneficial, wholesome friends. But we should also reflect: Am I a beneficial, wholesome friend to others? Do I possess the necessary qualities and requirements for being a beneficial, wholesome friend? If we do, friends of ours who were not good at the outset will transform for the better. This is the function of a beneficial friend.
The key to the realization of morality lies in ourselves. If we only expect or demand kindness from others, asking them to be "upright, sincere and learned friends" of ours, while failing to reciprocate, that would be immoral of us. I must emphasize once again: In interpersonal relationships, ethics cannot be formed without the element of morality.
To develop correct concepts of morality we must start from ourselves. We should give of and contribute ourselves─what Buddhism terms "compassion" or "benevolence" as it is popularly referred to today─so that those interacting with us attain peace, and gain benefit and help. At the very least, we should not cause them loss.
The crucial concerns and values of the Six Ethics
The Five Ethics of ancient Confucianism refer to the ethical relationships between sovereign and subject, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger, and between friends. These seemed to suffice in a traditional society. However, the Five Ethics cannot sufficiently cover the interpersonal relationships of modern-day society. That's why Dharma Drum Mountain is advocating the Six Ethics campaign, which consists of Family Ethics, Living Ethics, School Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Workplace Ethics, and Ethics between Ethnic Groups. Within each of the different areas covered by the Six Ethics, each one of us plays not only a single role, but also actually multiple roles. Whatever roles we play, we should develop the correct concept: We should contribute ourselves for the sake of fulfilling our roles and responsibilities, instead of fighting for our interests; while seeking our own benefits we should respect others and care about them. Therefore, greed and fighting for gain are not in line with ethics; the value of ethics lies in serving and giving. We must bear this same concept in mind with any of the Six Ethics.
Family ethics focus on the mutual help and interaction within the three interpersonal relationships of husband and wife, parents and children, and siblings. People today tend to have small families, or at most with three generations living under the same roof, although the latter has become rare. The most common problems facing small families of modern society are: Parents are not showing adequate concern and care towards their children, while children's filial piety, respect, and concern towards their parents are flagging. For instance, the media often reports on the descendants of prominent celebrities fighting amongst themselves over their inheritance, or even filing law suits against each other. They are only calculating their personal interests and do not consider harmony in the family.
However, there are examples to the opposite. For example, a girl called Shen Xinling set up a website to help her grandfather to sell his surplus crop of pomelos. This received a most enthusiastic response from the public. This is a primary example of giving and contributing oneself to the family.
The family forms the most basic constituent of any society. A healthy and happy family forms the cornerstone of a happy and harmonious society. Each family member, regardless of position in the family, should think how to give to the family instead of calculating what they can gain from others. Each should fulfill their duties and responsibilities. No matter how others act, we must play our part, and be grateful and respectful towards our elders and show concern and care towards our own and the younger generation. That is what ethics of the family are. In this way, the family will certainly become happy and harmonious. Whether poor or rich, the noble or lowly, harmony and happiness equal well-being.
The main point of the living ethics is frugality, simplicity and refraining from waste.
Living Ethics is closely related to the other five ethics because any occasion forms a part of human life. Once, I saw an advertisement about a girl who had bought many clothes but was not necessarily happy. In fact, our true material needs are few, but we simply want too much: The more we want, the more we feel dissatisfied.
The other meaning of the living ethics is respecting both others and ourselves; in addition to benefiting ourselves, we should also benefit others. We'll often see people throwing trash, fruit peelings, cigarette butts, and pieces of paper on the streets and in public places. Those who litter may think, "Somebody else will clean it up anyway, as long as I don't have to do it." Such an attitude and conduct damages the environment, and is utterly irresponsible and immoral. People acting this way do not realize that they are greatly deficient in the living ethics.
Realization of the living ethics starts from each one of us. We should not only cherish and make good use of all the resources in our life, but also take care of and respect our natural environment. While seeking our own convenience, we should also respect the rights of others.
The focus of school ethics is on teachers, students and parents.
I have heard complaints from many teachers, students and parents. For example, teachers complain that nowadays students don't act like students. Whatever mistakes students make, teachers can't discipline, admonish, and exhort them, or their parents will come to the school to argue with them. On the other hand, when students don't get good grades, the parents will say it's because the teachers are not doing their job properly. All the teachers can do at this is sigh regretfully.
Seen from the parents' perspective, they, too, complain that nowadays teachers have little or no enthusiasm or patience, that they just resort to physical or verbal punishment, and that they just put in their hours with no real commitment to educating and nourishing young minds. Complaints of this nature fly back and forth frequently at elementary schools, junior high schools, and even in colleges. This shows how bad the state of our school ethics is today. All three parties complain, and expect things from the others, but the problems remain the same, and nothing can really be done.
Healthy and heart-warming school ethics lies in how to enable mutual respect and support and harmonious interactions among students, teachers and parents, making up the main body of school ethics. Parents and students should respect and show gratitude towards teachers, while teachers should treat parents and students with respect, talk with parents, show care and understanding towards their students, teaching in accordance with each student's ability, to develop their potential.
Let me give you a heart-warming example: Raymond Tai, the former Taiwanese Ambassador to the Vatican, often talks about his English teacher, Dr Lilian Chao, saying that were it not for her guidance he would not be where he is today. This is an example of a good student meeting a good teacher. The ethical relationship between teacher and student is built on the basis of mutual appreciation and respect. The best solution would be for the top decision makers in education to set up a code of ethical conduct for teachers, students and parents, under which each party fulfills their duties and responsibilities, so as to cultivate students of competence and character.
The main concern of environmental ethics is the natural ecology, including living creatures and non-biological resources and environments. Non-biological resources, such as minerals, petroleum and coal, are not living beings, but are connected to the ecology. Therefore the concern for environmental ethics discussed here involves the direct protection of the organic ecology and indirect protection of various resources by maintaining sustainable balances among them. All plants and natural resources are related to the survival of humanity. As consumers of natural resources we humans should cherish and protect them. Today it is generally acknowledged that we have only one Earth and so it cannot be destroyed. By cutting down a tree, flattening a hill, catching protected animals our Earth may not perish. However, the interaction of mankind with nature, the unbridled exploitation and destruction of natural resources all serve to speed up the destruction of the Earth.
Although nature doesn't speak for itself, we shouldn't waste any materials (resources) we use in our daily life, either those we have bought ourselves or those we receive from others as gifts. Concern for environmental ethics involves efforts to enrich the Earth's ecology and natural resources and to bring about greater sustainability for the Earth as a whole, and create a safer environment for the future survival of mankind. This way of caring for and contributing to natural resources and the environment is exactly the same as the way we care for and take care of our family and relatives. That is the kind of environmental ethics we are promoting.
Ethics of the workplace covers a great range of workplaces in the public and private sectors, including the military, the civil service, education and academia, agriculture, industry, commerce, and non-profit organizations. Any workplace involves interpersonal interactions, whereby each individual should fulfill their responsibilities and duties, work with enthusiasm, give of themselves to their colleagues, superiors, subordinates and society, helping others to achieve their goals. For example, in an industrialized and commercial society, the enterprise ethics mainly concern the interaction between workforce and management, corporations and their collaborative partners, and between corporations and consumers, all of which should observe their roles and fulfill their duties.
Most of the entrepreneurs I know are in despair over the difficulties of being an entrepreneur. Those responsible for the enterprise bring their ideas, intelligence, capital and resources, but instead of appreciating them their staff tend to treat them as enemies, and asking and demanding for more and more. From the staff's standpoint, however, what they see is different. They feel the employers exploit their time, resources and even their lives. After giving so much of their time and effort, the employees only get disproportionate rewards in the end. This is a common problem in the corporate world, with the workforce and the management in opposition to each other, both parties demanding more rights and benefits from the other. That is not a healthy entrepreneurial ethic.
In addition to the labor-management relationship, the enterprises also face the interactive relationships with upstream and downstream companies, and also with their customers. If enterprises merely think of doing business, or even resort to deception and fraud for the sake of more profits, these are certainly not correct entrepreneurial ethics.
A healthy management views its shareholders, clients, workforce and the consumers as a shared entity, where everyone fosters and cares for one and other. The successful entrepreneurs I have met run their business not only for their own sake, but also in the spirit of contributing to society as a whole, by offering their intelligence, ingenuity and resources, and, meanwhile, providing more employment opportunities and social welfare. This actually constitutes a kind of vow. Many entrepreneurs I have met are like this. Because of their vows their workforce is stable and therefore their companies can develop more smoothly. When the companies make profits, these business owners will share these benefits with their employees and give back to their clients. This tells us that a business owner does not have to be a dictator, and that the assets of a business are created by teamwork of all rather than by the owner alone. Therefore, the profits made should also be shared with people related to the business. Each member of staff should play his or her part, fulfill their duties, and show a sense of ownership towards their work.
Similarly in any workplace, all staff members, regardless of position, should serve and contribute in the spirit of equality, regarding the workplace as their home and every other member as their family.
Ethics between Ethnic Groups
Ethics between ethnic groups means showing respect and tolerance towards other ethnic groups, cultures, languages, customs, and religions different from ours. In my case, I have lived in Taiwan for over half a century but I still don't speak Hokkien very well. Some people have asked me why I can't speak "Taiwanese" well. In fact, I undertook a solitary retreat over six years in the mountains of southern Kaohsiung. It was near a Hakka village, so I learned to speak some Hakka, but it is a shame that Hakka doesn't count as "the Taiwanese language".
Taiwan is a multi-ethnic society and this characteristic will be more and more apparent. In addition to the integration of Hokkiens, Hakkas and aborigines in Taiwanese society in the past, we now are beginning to see a new kind of Taiwanese children born into mixed marriages following the opening up of the foreign spouse policy. This reflects a new face of an evolving Taiwanese society. Faced with the current multi-ethnical situation, it is best to open our heart and minds to make contact and establish friendships with each other, treat each other with mutual respect and tolerance, learn from and contribute to each other. That way, we can truly demonstrate the richness and noble value of a pluralistic society.
When coming into contact with other ethnic groups, we mustn't act from a sense of superiority and look down on them, and we should definitely not be hostile to them. Rather, we should interact with them in all sincerity so as to learn from and serve our new friends. Then we will certainly be able to achieve unexpected growth and new rewards. If we treat them like our relatives or neighbors, they will also respond in a well-disposed manner, and in this way we will be able to dissolve our minor differences and develop the great similarities between us.
As a saying goes: "Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors." The forming of the Chinese nation was exactly because of their ability to assimilate different ethnic groups by caring for and protecting them. Creating splits between ethnic groups or rejecting different ethnic groups is certainly not to be tolerated in the modern world.