We go into ethics on the basis of Je Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chungba. The Lamrim Chenmo is almost the same here. What is what we call ethics, or “sila” or morality? I don’t know what the language gives behind the words ethics or morality, so let me use the Sanskrit word, “sila.” What is it?
It is the mind which would like to give up or abandon actions that harm others; give them up totally from the basis.
What is a vow? It is nothing but some kind of shield which protects the individual from falling into committing unwanted actions, which is gained by totally giving up the activities which harm others. Whenever we talk about morality, moral conduct, ethics, honoring commitments and vows, we are talking about this.
Among the different categories of sila of course the most important thing is protecting your commitments. Vows and commitments are the most important. When a vow of protecting your own moral principles develops further and further, ultimately its completion reaches the level of the buddha stage. The thought, “I would like to abandon harming sentient beings completely,” has to be developed and become perfect in that individual, rather than making all sentient beings not to be harmed. You cannot make every sentient being not to be harmed; you cannot. It begins with the individual, “I have to make myself perfect so that I will not harm others.” It does not begin with “if somebody is going to harm beings, I must bombard him first.” I don’t think that is sila. Sila begins within the individual. To prove that, the Bodhisattvacharyavatara says,
Nowhere has the killing
Of fish and other creatures been eradicated;
For the attainment of (merely) the thought to forsake (such things)
Is explained as the perfection of moral discipline.
Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life [Bodhisattvacharyavatara], ch. 5, vs. 11
So sila begins within the individual with obtaining the abandoning mind. Again, do not misunderstand ‘with obtaining.’ If you once generate, “I am going to abandon harming others,” it doesn’t mean you obtained that mind. Obtaining means: you go on and on, keep with that, keep with that until it becomes your quality. No matter what happens to you, you are not going to harm somebody else and it becomes that quality within you.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, The Six Perfections, 2013, p. 23