The Ten Good Deeds

The Ten Good Deeds

Building upon the foundation of keeping the five precepts, we can broaden and deepen our practice of vinaya by going further to perform the ten good deeds: renouncing killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, harsh language, frivolous talk, craving, aversion, and deviant views. At first sight these ten good deeds seem to overlap with the five precepts, yet a closer look will quickly reveal that they actually expand the range and depth of the five precepts.

The ten good deeds are divided into three categories of practice, commonly known as the purification of the three kinds of actions: physical, verbal, and mental. The first of these three practices, the purification of physical actions, consists in observing the vows to renounce killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. The second, the purification of verbal actions, requires vigilant attention to what one says and how and why one says it in order to keep the vows to renounce lying, divisive speech, harsh language, and frivolous talk. The third category of practice, the purification of mental actions, lies in observing and guarding one's mind in order to prevent craving, aversion, and deviant views (such as the belief that sentient beings exist as self-sufficient, lasting entities that exist in competitive competition with a separate "I").

This last category of practice, as it specifically deals with the functions of the mind, obviously extends the scope of the five precepts. It certainly is not easy to carry out, but by taking refuge in the Three Jewels regularly, by cultivating mindfulness, and by learning to steer our thoughts away from craving, aversion, or deviant views, we will gain ground. What we engage in through this practice is in fact the gradual dissolution of what in Buddhism is called the three poisons, namely craving, aversion, and ignorance, which are the root of all vexations. Through our faith in the Three Jewels and through our practice of the five precepts and ten good deeds, we can progressively purify our minds-a process in itself of inestimable help to all sentient beings.

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