Just as we need good physical health we also need strength of mind to ensure our well-being; and we develop it by cultivating ethics. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote starts with the discussion of a simple truth, saying that most of us recognize that it is necessary to keep our bodies in reasonable health. While some of us don’t always remember to eat right or work out on a regular basis, most of us do the basics of keeping healthy, as being healthy is much more pleasant than being sick, right?
The quote uses the body as an analog for the mind. If we are to have a strong and healthy mind, we need to keep it in shape. The quote says that the proper way to keep the mind strong and healthy is to cultivate ethics. By doing that, we can strengthen our will-power in the face of temptation, strengthen our belief in right and wrong, and our willingness to do what we believe to be right, among many other things.
Why are ethics important?
At thefreedictionary.com ethics is defined as “A set of principles of right conduct.” and as “A theory or a system of moral values.” With that as definition, anything dealing with correct or proper conduct, as well as anything relating to moral values are part of this quote.
A strong mind will help us make the proper decisions based on the concepts of what our society believes is proper conduct and proper moral values. By studying ethics, we can more easily notice when things are not up to our standards, and take appropriate actions.
In cultivating ethics, we are helping grow and strengthen our minds, as well as our sense of what is and is not proper. By using these guidelines, we help to ensure our well-being by working with our culture and the values which it holds as appropriate.
Where can I apply this in my life?
What does your culture hold to be ethical in thought and behavior (as behaviors are the outward manifestation of our thoughts and values)? What do you consider to be important to never do, or to always do? Why is that, or how did you decide (or where did you learn) that these behaviors are improper or proper?
How many of you had ever asked yourself such questions before? For a lot of us, it may well be the first time, and it can sometimes be challenging to find the answers. If you keep asking questions and keep digging, eventually you will find the answers.
Grab some paper and take a moment to write down what you think are the five most important rules and values of your society, and why. Then write down for each rule or value how well you conform to it. Then consider how you came to the decision to behave the way you have, whether it is to comply or defy what is the societal norm.
Consider when, and under what circumstances, you made the decision. Was it a decision that always was, because that was how you were raised? Was it a decision that you made as a youth, when you were hanging out with a group which had a different set of rules and values?
What I would like for you to do at this point is to look at each of those rules or values and ask yourself how applicable are they to your present situation? Is there something you haven’t been doing that you should probably start doing more often, or at which you should do a better job? Are any of them no longer appropriate or useful?
Go back to the list and update it so that it reflects where you wish to go with your life. What have decided you want to do to strengthen your mind and how are your ethics going to change in this process? Overall, how do you think this will impact your life?
We often walk the path of least resistance, making decisions based on what is convenient at the moment. By strengthening our mind and cultivating ethics, we can more easily make the proper decisions, helping our well-being. Whether you call it conscience or character, it is part of who we are.
By examining our lives, and how we live them, we can then try to design them to be more in alignment with what we believe to be proper and important. Cultivating ethics will help us reinforce what we consider the proper thing to do to ensure our well-being, both now and in the future.