Adopt Virtue, Discard Non-Virtue (Ancient Wisdom. Modern Times. # 199)

In Buddha’s Sutra he says: Discard non-virtue that is already generated. Prevent non-virtue not yet generated. Develop virtue that already have generated. Generate virtue not yet generated yet. In order to do these four deeds, have the motivation first. Then try, and then work hard, then hold your mind and then place your mind.

Usually there are two phenomena. Sometimes I say, dark and light side Dharma. Some translate it as pure and afflicted phenomena. Mainly, it is virtue and non-virtue. 

Pure phenomena makes you a better person, more enlightened, more peaceful. Pure means purifying your negativities. The other makes you more non-virtuous, disturbs your mind, kills peace in your mind. They are afflicted phenomena. Both can be mental or physical practices.

Simply said, adopt virtuous deeds and discard non-virtuous deeds, and it is not just about doing it. It’s also about meditating on it. It’s about having some motivation, such as  “I will adopt virtuous deeds, I will do good things instead of bad things.” For instance, to help others, feed others, forgive others. Not only others, but within yourself. Develop your own compassion, your own patience – these are virtuous deeds to do. 

Therefore, set up your mind: I will adopt those things – such as how to be generous. On the other hand, I will discard non-virtuous deeds. If you examine yourself, maybe you have ongoing non-virtuous deeds, tiny things like scolding yourself, saying bad things about yourself. Then saying things to others, scolding others, being short-tempered, losing your temper easily. These are also non-virtuous deeds. 

If you have these kinds of things, set up the motivation to get rid of them. This is part of practicing adopting pure phenomena and discarding afflictive phenomena. 

Mentally you can adopt loving-kindness and discard hatred. Adopt mindfulness and discard distraction. Set your mind, saying “I will practice mindfulness. I will try to be mindful with whatever I do.”

Even placing your car keys is part of mindfulness practice. If you are mindful you think, “I am putting my car key on the table, where I am supposed to put it – not in my pocket.” So you are mindful of where you put it. Same thing with other things. 

Then, distractions come when you are doing something, all the time. Before you finish one thing, you are doing something else. After 10 minutes you realize, “What am I doing here now? I am supposed to be in the kitchen cooking, and now I am drawing at my table.”

Whenever you are doing something and distractions come, you can’t complete what you were doing earlier and you also can’t do the other well, often because of more distractions after that. Therefore, choose to be able to discard distractions. In our life, there are lots of things that don’t benefit our mind or physical body. 

Somehow we get distracted easily, not knowing what we are doing and just following after things. To discard distraction, we have to set up the mind. 

Same with adopting a good motivation. Whenever you try to do something, find a good motivation. Once you have a good motivation, then whatever you do, it can turn your activity in a good way. Even if sometimes it is not that great at the moment, later on you will realize you are feeling much better since you had a good motivation. 

Then, looking at harmful motivations, like trying to harm somebody, or trying to teach a lesson in a bad way like retaliation. All these things, once you have that kind of motivation, will not turn out well. It will end up as something worse in our life. Therefore, adopt a good motivation and discard harmful minds. 

Wanting to set up a motivation such as “From now on I will adopt virtuous deeds, I will adopt loving kindness, I will adopt mindfulness, I will adopt a good motivation” – without such motivations, we cannot move any further. So even if it seems you cannot do anything, even if you cannot adopt anything new, you can motivate yourself to do it. Create intentions. First you think about things, and then you do those things. 

Even though you don’t do them right now, try to think about those things. Then, if you want to go further, if you want to do something positive, in general decide, “I will develop virtuous deeds. I will adopt virtuous deeds. I will discard non-virtuous deeds”. 

Then specifically, examine yourself to see if there are non-virtuous things going on in your life currently. You don’t need to work at a meat factory or such things to have ongoing non-virtuous deeds. If you may have strong hatred towards somebody, that is part of ongoing non-virtue within you.

Examine yourself and if you find ongoing non-virtue in you, then target that non-virtue and decide, “I will eliminate that non-virtue”. You have a lot of methods to do it. You might change your viewpoint, you might think about results. Most times a simple thing is to think about whether there is any benefit with the non-virtue or not. If there is no benefit, you don’t need it. It is like junk.

When you look around your garage for something that isn’t useful, what do you do? Donate them to someone or put them on the road side for someone to take, right? Similarly, in your mind, with the non-virtuous things you have, they are like junk inside of you. They will not benefit you, and they will block you from doing a lot of things, here and there, all the time. Therefore, by thinking like that, “There is no benefit to that thing”, we use that reason to help eliminate that non-virtuous deed. 

Also, it will not only not help you but it is harming you. We don’t have to think ahead to the next life. Even in this life, non-virtuous things inside you will harm you, make you uncomfortable, make you feel guilty in some way, if you are aware of that happening. Otherwise, ignorance is bliss, right? 

You may feel happy but that happiness will not last that long. Therefore, 

target that non-virtue, and even though you cannot eliminate it at this moment, set up the intention to get rid of it thinking, “I will try to get rid of it. I will meditate on these things.” 

If you don’t have any of those things, if currently you are a saint, if you have no hatred towards anybody, you are a pure, beautiful and perfect person. But it is not always summer. There is a whole lot of winter in your life. Therefore, one day you might be in a situation and at that moment you are not a flower anymore. You can be a thorn that can cut anyone and everyone around you. 

Therefore, now, even if you don’t have those things, set up your mind, “Even though I have a little trouble, I will not harm others. I will not let those non-virtuous minds and deeds take me over.”  

Setting up those kinds of motivations is very helpful, when you can. And you won’t feel the effect immediately. If you set up that kind of mind earlier, then when you are in a situation, you can be better than others. You don’t know what is happening. Everyone is so crazy, but you don’t feel it that much. You may even wonder, “Why am I not feeling like them?” 

Then if you examine yourself, it is not what you are currently doing. It was from a long time ago, maybe even two years ago. You were practicing and setting up your mind not to follow non-virtuous deeds. Because of that, and since it is deep in your head and heart. If a situation goes crazy – like they say, “If you put 100 content ants in a bottle and you shake them, all of them will fight each other”- and now we notice, our experience is not like that. 

With practice and intention, ants would not begin to fight, even if somebody shakes the bottle. They are cool, they are there. Something like that. 

If you have set up your mind earlier, then you are prepared. Because of that, when you are in a situation, if someone is bugging or bothering you, at that moment you are much better than others. That is the power of the motivation you practiced long ago. 

So, in practice, we should eliminate the current non-virtues. Then future non-virtues will never have the chance to take us over. Then, with the current virtues we have, those precious things, like being nice to others, doing something for others – even  if you are laughing at someone’s joke, you are doing something for others. 

Sometimes jokes are not funny, but you laugh, making someone happy. You don’t have to pay for it. You lose nothing with these kinds of things. These virtuous deeds, the nice personality that you have, preserves those things. 

More than that, if you have a generous mind, a mind that can forgive anyone, a mind that has a lot of patience, then those things should develop. We think, “I will preserve those things, I will develop those things.” This is like making a plan. 

If you want to grow something, a plan is very important. You have to work hard, you have to preserve the plants, put up bars, regularly pour water and then it will grow well. Same thing, if  you have these virtuous motivations, develop them. Even if you cannot develop them right at this moment, value them and then set the motivation to develop them. 

When you listen to Dharma talks and great stories, you realize there are a lot of other people who have a lot more qualities and virtues than ourselves. You realize, they are human beings.  I am a human being, the same thing. That means if I try to be like them, I can. Why not? 

Therefore, when we pray, “I wish to have the bodhicitta, I wish to have great compassion”, and so forth, we should set a motivation or intention to generate new virtue. 

For example, if you are good with family, but you are not good with friends, you can say, “I will generate the mind to be nice with my friends.” If you are good with friends, but not good with family, you say, “I will generate the mind that is friendly to my family.” 

If you are good to your friend’s family but not to homeless people on the roadside, you can generate a new mind to help homeless people. If you feel very nice in your own country, but you hate others specifically, you can generate the mind to like them too. You can do it. I am not saying right now, but with practice you set the motivation and then one day, slowly, slowly, in your eyes you can see human beings as human beings. 

You can see everyone as lovable. These things are happening with intention and motivation. If you don’t set up your mind like that, then even though it’s hard, one day you can do that. But setting up your mind is important. These are important motivations in our life. Every day, when you wake up in the morning, think, “I will eliminate my non-virtue and develop my virtue. I will generate new virtue.” 

Also, not  just to generate new virtue, but to re-generate earlier virtue. Sometimes you were a very nice person earlier and then, something happened in your life and you forgot those nice things that you were doing. 

Then you are not that nice anymore, but you don’t have to feel bad. 

If you want, you can regenerate those kindnesses you had in earlier times, like when you were a kid. 

Kids see things differently from us adults. We have a lot of junk in our heads. Kids look at a TV from Samsung and a TV from D-sale or cheap brands, they see only the TV, they don’t see the brand. When we look at the TV we don’t look at the whole TV, we see a small logo there and we see the brand. 

When you start to see the brand, we see with already established thoughts. Thinking the brand is good we buy everything from that brand. But that brand also has a lot of junk. Good brand, but not good things. 

So, have a kid’s mind. When you are a kid you don’t have any discrimination towards people. 

There is one problem with kids. They always think parents are right. If the parents think something is bad, the kids think it is bad. We should not do that. We have to use our own mind. If you cannot use your own mind, then select the right person to listen to. 

If you are doing something on the stock market and you don’t know anything about it, what do you have to do? Find someone that has full knowledge of the stock market, someone you trust. Then you listen to that person. That way you will do the same thing. First you have to use your own mind. In some places your knowledge is not good enough to judge everything. You have to select the right person. 

That is one part of Buddha’s teaching. When you are kids you have no discrimination, you are someone who can love anybody. You don’t have strong hatred inside of you. Then, when you grow up there are lots of things that you are seeing, lots of things you are told and then you end up in a situation that is not that nice. 

If something like that happens in your life, you can regenerate those earlier virtuous minds. Generate new virtue or regenerate earlier virtues. I think that is something we forget to mention in the teachings. 

Earlier in your life, you may have done great practice. Now you are not doing that much. You can still regenerate. You can start with meditation and meditate, “I will generate new virtue and I will develop virtue. I will discard non-virtue and I will prevent new non-virtue.” And just focus and meditate that way. 

If you meditate that way that is the basis of all your practice. Then, you can focus on your meditation, develop your meditation. Then when you are meditating on that concept you can perfect your meditation. When you are meditating and not having distracted thinking too much and able to stay around without any movement in your meditation, then you can balance it. Think about reasons to develop virtue, a reason to prevent or eliminate non-virtue. 

Then when you start to think about reasons. You can think about reasons for anything that you are thinking about. When you are thinking too much and it seems that you are not meditating anymore, you can focus back on stillness meditation and stop thinking about those things. Through that you can balance your mind; doing a little analysis as well as not losing your focus. 

Play with it that way. That is effort. Once you perfect that meditation, then preserve that meditation. Keep your balanced mind and try to make it continue. When you try that, sometimes you feel bored or something like that. Then you can also inspire yourself with meditating on the Buddha’s image and qualities. If you have too many distractions, like thinking about the outside world, then try to recall the disadvantages and the nature of samsara. 

The point is, because usually we say: meditate, meditate, meditate. So, what should we meditate on? Some ask what to meditate on. Many people have no idea about that. There are a lot of people who want to meditate, but they meditate like a monkey, sitting there, closing their eyes, in meditation, right? They don’t know what to meditate. 

Then sometimes people know what to meditate on and the concepts are so intense, such as meditating on emptiness, or this and that, and it is not easy. 

So, I was thinking if you start meditating on this concept: to adopt or generate virtue, to eliminate or prevent future non-virtue, then that is very simple. Meditate that way and try to balance your mind on that focus. That is very simple and that might help you to have a stable meditation. 

Stable meditation will help you to control your mind. Even if it doesn’t help your meditation it will help your daily life practice. Since you keep saying and thinking, “I will generate virtue; I will prevent non-virtue”, in your life, when you are close to doing something non-virtuous, automatically… not 100% automatically ….. 

You know about e-bikes. In an e-bike store, they say, “It is still a bike, but the battery will help you to move forward better. You don’t have to pedal so hard.” If you do like 30%, the machine will do 60 or 70%. That makes it easy. 

Same thing, if you meditate like that, when you are close to doing something non-virtuous, even mentally, at that moment you don’t have to work that hard. The power of your meditation will easily prevent those things. Therefore, I feel like meditating on these concepts has two benefits: one is perfecting your meditation, the other is perfecting your daily life. 

Scroll to Top