26. To guard ethical conduct
If, through a lack of ethical conduct, / I can’t accomplish my own benefit,
Then any aspiration to achieve / the benefit of others is a joke.
To keep and guard my ethical conduct / completely free from worldly in-flu-ence:
This is the way a bodhisattva trains.
Verse 26 audio above.
The paramita or transcending action of ethical conduct is variously referred to as discipline, morality, or ethics, or any combination of these terms. The widely respected translator Lotsawa Tony Duff, in his fabulous online Tibetan-English dictionary The Illuminator, provides a very helpful explanation of what the Tibetan word tsul.trim really means and why “unfortunately, there is no single word that captures this particular flavor in English.” He feels “discipline” is the most accurate option, though still imperfect. I first used “moral discipline” because that’s what Ken Holmes calls it in his translation of Ornament of Precious Liberation, and because it was easy to fit into the verse meter. I later updated it to “ethical conduct” because it’s the term used in Mingyur Rinpoche’s online course on the six paramitas, and I felt it was a bit clearer in meaning. It fits the explanation of this paramita well, and it still fits the meter, though the stresses are a tad less perfect.
So … now that we’ve decided what to call it, at least in this class, what exactly do we mean by ethical conduct, moral discipline, or just discipline?