April 16, 2011

Buddha’s Dos & Don’ts. ~ Cat Snyder

The “Don’t Be an Asshole” Vows:

Photo: Joelk75

According to Buddha, negative emotions, actions, and speech are identified as anything that harms another person. Even before we can wrap our little heads around the big stuff: impermanence, non-duality, emptiness, and so on, we can improve our inner and outer experiences by just doing the right thing in our day-to-day lives.

Buddha outlines ten “don’ts” that will mess up our karma, relationships, emotional stability, and ability to make the world a better place. He calls them the Ten Non-Virtues.

Checking our Actions:


While it is true that just our very existence calls for us to indirectly kill things all the time: the roads we drive on were once the habitat of countless creatures; the paper we use came from a tree that some birds called home, etc., by refraining from killing everything from spiders to our exes, we can improve the experiences of all sentient beings while keeping our karma nice and clean.

Photo: Yury Cortés

Do: Make rescue missions!

Instead of screaming and then killing the cockroach in your apartment, make it your mission to put it outside safely, as if it were your little friend. Imagine it as a reincarnation of Elvis or one of your ancestors and take pride in showing it some love. Why not?


When we start making a conscious effort to refrain from taking stuff that isn’t ours, we may discover that we do this more regularly than we think. This includes small things, like using our roommate’s shampoo without asking. Just being conscious of our actions is key here, because even if we aren’t about to go rob our local bank, karma never forgets a thing, and the small stuff adds up.

Don’t: Cheat, or practice any other form of sexual misconduct.

Most of us have probably experienced the agony of an unfaithful partner. The feelings of distrust, disgust, resentment, and general suffering are not something Buddha would condone being the source of. Being mindful about how our sexual interactions affect other people is a good way to distinguish right from wrong. And remember, even if you think to yourself, “Oh, he’ll never find out, so how could it hurt him?” karma never forgets!

Checking our Speech

Don’t: Lie.

Having an open heart and setting the people around us at ease by improving the positive energy is part of the essence of Buddha. Getting into the habit of lying makes us seem untrustworthy, non-virtuous, and phony. No one likes a liar; don’t do it.

Don’t: Run your mouth!

Photo: Zawezome

Don’t say things that will cause fights, unrest, or resentment between people. Keep secrets, use your discretion, and ask yourself, “How might my words affect the experiences of everyone involved?” Think before you speak!

Don’t: Be a gossip queen!

Don’t engage in the grapevine. Don’t talk about other people’s personal lives or anything else that you do not really know about.  It is so easy to get caught up in drama, but talking about people behind their backs is never cool. Someone always gets hurt, including us.

Do: Add a little love!

When people around us are talking smack, it is not enough to sit there quietly twiddling our thumbs.  As my mom used to tell me, “You are guilty by association.” When we don’t speak up, people assume we agree. So we must either walk away or put on our brave Buddhist hats and transform the situation by saying something nice about the subject. Don’t get too into the politics; just insert some positive words. When we gossip, we often get so wrapped up in the who-did-what that we forget to step back and realize how mean we are being! Just by saying something nice, we bring light to how dark gossip really gets and improve our karma, our friends’ karma, and the reputation of the people being talked about.

Don’t: Use harsh speech.

Buddha says: “Don’t be an asshole!” Refraining from using ugly words is a great place to start. It’s simple: don’t say things that advocate or even indirectly imply suffering.

Photo: Victor Bezrukov

Checking our Minds

Don’t:Be a hoarder!

Our attachments make us neurotic about the things we have, the things we want, and the things we can’t get. To get over this, we have to stop taking our stuff so seriously. Buddha says that taking more than we need is a form of stealing. So let’s embrace our inner minimalists!

Do: Practice giving.

Anyone can give away a bag of clothes that haven’t been worn in five years, but giving is not just about getting rid of stuff we don’t need. It is about a conscious effort to make others happy by giving them something we have that makes us happy. So rejoice in giving your lab partner your last piece of gum, a homeless man your favorite hat, or your neighbor a batch of cookies you baked.

Don’t:be a Debbie Downer!

We all experience anger, depression, jealousy and the rest, but allowing ourselves to get wrapped up in these emotions is like kicking ourselves when we are down. Our karma sucks, no one wants to hang out with us, and we spread bad vibes to the people we encounter. Getting to know our minds and the emotions they produce gets us out of the weeds of our confusion and into the clarity that will help us “get over it”.

Don’t: Be stupid!

Don’t hold harmful views like “an eye for an eye”. Buddha says: “Think!” The great thing about Buddhism is that it is all about us. Whereas other religions tell us not to think, to just “believe”, Buddha tells us just the opposite. So when Buddha tells us to get rid of wrong views that cause suffering, we can listen to him in our quest to investigate our minds and figure out what is ours.


Cat Snyder is a student of cultural anthropology and peace and conflict studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Growing up on a small island off the coast of New Jersey, she is a beach girl at heart, but her love affair with the mountains of Colorado began four years ago. After her trip to India last fall, she has learned to appreciate the chaos and magic of travel. In her free time, she enjoys running, kundalini meditation, and meeting new people. Friend her on Facebook.

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