“Refrain from every evil. Practise every good deed.” So popular is this dictum that even a little child may be able to say it. In view of the fact that it is generally accepted by every religion, some simple-minded people assume that because all religions teach morality, they are all beneficial to humanity. To scientific-minded person who go into every question by analytic and deductive reasoning, such assumption sounds too simple to be true. Here are a few relevant questions: 1) How do these religions of the world define right and wrong in their own way? 2) What are the criteria to distinguish the right and wrong? 3) What is the objective of every religion to urge people to do good and not to do evil? 1)) Regarding the first question of defining right and wrong, not only there is no uniformity among the world religions; in some respects, they are at variance with one another; whiles ancestral worship is disapproved by some religions, it is supported by Buddhism and Confucianism; again, according to some religions, there is nothing wrong with killing animals for food as they are made by the Creator for human consumption; another religion forbids eating a certain kind of animal only. According to Buddhism, positively it is wrong to kill animals, birds, fish and any other living things just to satisfy one’s palate for food. 2)) As to the question of criteria to determine right and wrong, again, there is no uniformity among the world religions, as every religion goes by its own laws established by its founder, and to disobey them is considered sinful; on the other hand, Buddhism sets up most meticulous rules of discipline for Buddhist at different levels of spiritual development. Those rules for monks and nuns are more numerous and more strict than those for lay Buddhists at large, and what is permissible for Bhiskshus and Bhikshunis does not apply to Buddhists ordained for Bodhisattvahood. 3)) On the question of the objective of moral teaching, all religions hold different views from one another; to go to Paradise is the goal of some religion and to be saints and sages is the aspiration of another, but Buddhism asks for no reward whatsoever either from this world or from Buddha-lands for what Buddhists may attain spontaneously at the advanced stage of buddhahood development is Supreme Perfect Enlightenment. After all, it must be conceded that the question of right and wrong is not so simple as ordinary people think it to be.

Indeed, Buddhism treats the principle of right and wrong most meticulously and most comprehensively. One may do good deeds in either positive or negative way, and good deeds may be either producing good karma or entirely free from karma. If one practises good deeds actively and energetically, this is said to be working in the positive way, and if one refrains from doing evils, this is said to be doing good in the negative way; good deeds that are productive of good karma are not all free from defilements and may be subject to further changes, but good deeds that are karma-free are undefiled pure and unconditioned. Being unable to discern clearly what is right and what is wrong, people generally would say: “I’ll do what is right as prompted by my clear conscience. In my life I’ve never done any evil.” This, however, is no assurance at all that one may not go wrong, in view of the fact that every day, every minute, one may be subjected to the impact of stupidity, egoism, arrogance, craving, etc in every act of his daily life, and so he is sowing numerous seeds of bad karma continually and incessantly. Moreover, the so-called “conscience” is no other than the six discriminating Consciousnesses, which, as described in the Sutra, are the “six thieves in one’s own house”. This is how unconsciously, one goes wrong easily from day to day, or from moment to moment. In order to do the good and not the evil, the first and foremost thing is to realize the true meaning of good and evil before one chooses what to do, and in order to discern the good and the evil correctly, it is necessary to have good understanding of the fundamental truth of Equality. From the standpoint of Buddhism, true Equality is where the sentient beings art at parity with one another, where there is neither a subject nor an object of parity, nor any distinction between Ego-personality and other-personality. In delusion, sentient beings, however, make discrimination of subject and object, the ego and others; from egoism arise arrogance, pride and self-conceit, and for themselves, they would grab everything, by hook or by crook. This is the fundamental reason why the Ten Demeritorious Deeds (greed, hatred, stupidity, killing, stealing, debauchery, gossip, slander, lying, frivolous talk) and erroneous views crop up in the world so abundantly. IN short, as long as there is egoism, regardless whatever one may do for oneself or for others, all thoughts and behavior corresponding to it would be bad karma automatically; on the other hand, if one is free of egoism, invariable every deed would be good karma. All this shows that in defining and distinguishing right and wrong, Buddhism tackles the question fundamentally at its very root. However, in view of the numerous bad karma of sentient beings accumulated from beginningless time, Buddha has set up various expedient means of cultivation to help all of them at different levels of development to attain gradually the goal of self-enlightenment. On the other hand, other religions, ignorant of the fundamental truth of universal equality of all sentient beings, not only look upon killing living creatures with immunity but also with approval on the ground that though animals have life, they have no consciousness at all and furthermore, they are made by the Creator for human food; positively such heretical views are in striking contrast with the Buddhist principle of Universal Equality of sentient beings. Whereas monotheistic and polytheistic religions, by the imposition of reward and punishment, ask people to believe in God or gods, e.g. believers would go to Paradise and non-believers to hell, Buddhism says that because Buddha-nature is immanent in everyone, fundamentally Buddha and sentient beings are at parity with each other. From this standpoint of Buddhism, to believe in God or any deity to be higher than sentient beings runs counter to the Principle of Universal Equality.

As to the question of establishing criteria to determine right and wrong, instead of stressing on the act, as conventional practices usually do, Buddhism probes into the motive of the act. In the view of Buddhism, scolding and hitting others may not be a bad thing at all if it is done for their benefit, and paying compliments and respects to others may be insincere and wrongful if it is done for an ulterior motive; for one practising Bodhisattva discipline rules, it may not be wrong to kill or to steal, provided that this is done entirely for others’ benefit. To illustrate, if an avaricious and chauvinistic despot, who has caused the loss of innumerable lives and properties of his people, is killed by a Buddhist undergoing Bodhisattva discipline, this is considered not only justifiable and noble, but also highly meritorious. In view of this, we can see what a Positive and Rational religion Buddhism is.