How to win friends and influence people (according to Buddhism)

moral discipline in Buddhism is not goody two shoesSometimes I think we approach moral discipline the wrong way around, thinking of all the things we’d have to give up and deny ourselves if we really went for it, making our lives dull and hard work; and how we’ll be plagued with guilt the moment we put a step out of place. And perhaps we worry that meantime all our characterful, devil-may-care friends will find us really boooring…

But I think that moral discipline is really our way of not harming others and helping them instead. It makes us into a kind, reliable, happy, interested friend whom everyone wants to hang out with. Others can trust us, and are a great deal more likely to help us out when we need it.

Ten negative actions

Buddha Shakyamuni said:

“Anyone who deliberately harms others is no follower of mine.”

moral ethics according to BuddhismWithin that, he advised us to avoid the so-called ten negative actions as our bottom-line moral discipline. We avoid killing and violence – and don’t you generally prefer to be around people like that? We avoid stealing, including stealing others’ partners – again, people appreciate us for that, and trust us. I know that I prefer to hang out with someone who will lift my spirits by not bitching on about others’ faults – sure, it can seem like a fun way to pass 15 minutes by the water cooler, but it always leaves a sour taste in the mind. We usually like people whom we know are not coveting our things or plotting to harm us or scorn us or slander us as soon as we hit any kind of road block. We enjoy the company of people who have open, curious minds, not closed minds through holding onto wrong views. We are more comfortable around someone who is not out of control through drinking and drugs (unless perhaps we are out of control ourselves). We like people with integrity.

It feels good to be around peaceful, relaxed people, and moral discipline leads to a more controlled and therefore peaceful mind.

“Pure societies”

Geshe-la statue in temple at Manjushri Centre EnglandLike Je Tsongkhapa before him, Geshe Kelsang has said that he would like to create “pure societies” where people improve their cherishing of others and moral discipline together, encouraging each other. This does not refer to being an exclusionary, judgmental, “superior” goody two-shoes, much less losing our passion for life or our sense of humor. As mental freedom opens up in our mind through bringing our actions under control, we have a far lighter, happier, and more entertaining time, and this reflects in the people around us.

We have just had the International Kadampa Festival in Portugal, with inspiringly clear and do-able teachings from Geshe Kelsang himself. Over seven thousand people* gathered from around the world for six days in the Hippodrome in Cascais, all doing their best to refrain from harming others and to help them instead. It was impressive. For me, the Festival in Portugal demonstrated that Geshe Kelsang’s vision for a pure society is not so far-removed from current reality – in fact, people remarked that it was easier to cherish others than not to in that environment.  Peter from Poland, the cousin of a close friend who was on his first trip to any kind of Kadampa gathering, remarked that he had never seen so many peaceful, smiling people, and “They didn’t even mind me going through their bags!” (he was on bag check in case you’re wondering). Portugal Festival 2

Your turn: do you agree or not that moral discipline can make life less boring and more enjoyable for you and your circle?

*The gathering

While on the subject of 7,200 people practicing moral discipline at the same time, I just wanted to add something … I found it fascinating that far too many causes and conditions to count were involved in the arising of this Festival, a Festival that had been talked about for a very long time and then appeared for six magical, dream-like days. The feat of organization, transforming an empty hippodrome into a Pure Land for 7,200 people, was supplemented by the umpteen intentions, conversations, imputations, and travel plans created over months and years by individuals all around the globe — from Lisbon to Zululand. (And if we take all the karma from past lives into account…)

The statue

statue of Geshe Kelsang GyatsoMeanwhile, countless more causes and conditions came together to produce the  queue snaking out of the Festival shop, where people waited just a few more minutes to buy their statue of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. This statue is exactly the same as the new statue of Geshe Kelsang that arrived in the World Peace Temple in England this summer, except for being only six inches tall. These 2,000 statues too travelled a very long way, in a shiny red box, complete with a throne, hat, and khatanga. Seven weeks previously they were in China, then they travelled the globe via Hong Kong, Malaysia, up the coast of Sri Lanka, up the red sea past Mecca, past the pyramids, into the Mediterranean. Three days holidays in Algiers and a week in Spain, then a whole day waiting in customs less than two miles from the Hippodrome in Cascais. They arrived at the Festival just on the day it started, phew, along with the thousands of travelling Kadampas. They have been privately sponsored and all proceeds go to the International Temples Fund. Geshe-la statue in Madeira

The Festival has now dissolved like a rainbow into the sky because its innumerable causes and conditions have ceased. (Though not inherently–there will be positive effects arising individually and collectively from this Festival for years to come.) Now there are pictures of Geshe-la statues all over the world appearing on Facebook, as he continues to travel far and wide. What do you make of that?!

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

23 thoughts on “How to win friends and influence people (according to Buddhism)”

  1. I did make it to a Festival a good few years ago now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bugs rescued, moths etc that had got trapped inside the tent extensions. As soon as someone found one, others would come and help to get it outside. Such a sweet feeling

  2. Good stuff! I very much appreciate your blog. Very insightful.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. “We like people with integrity.”

    through not eating meat I thought I’d be helping the world and having integrity towards our animal friends. although i still think i’m doing good, i’m constantly attacked by people who think i’m insulting them with my actions. i’m always careful to mention, when asked only, the reason for why i do this and that i totally understand other people with different attitudes and that’s not easy, etc, etc, etc. even then, i’m constantly scrutinized, on a daily basis this topic comes up, every meal is a pain.

    So I think perhaps WE like people with integrity, I’m not sure other people share the same feeling.

    1. Maybe to realise meaningful emptiness and let go of the views of others and their actions, we can only be responsible for our own actions of body speech and mind 🙂

  4. Thank you for your beautiful comments about moral discipline. Very logical and practical and rings so true. Also, thank you for sharing the story of the 2,000 statues of our beloved Geshe-la. I am so lucky to have one in my house in Albuquerque!! And lucky too, to practice moral discipline at work where I have already seen how my work mates appreciate this practice, even though they don’t know what it is that I’m doing!
    And… welcome to the southwest region!

  5. Great post Luna, but I’m not so sure. Do most people prefer honest, harmless conversation or friends? They seem to find non-virtuous speech more interesting, for example. It’s abhorrent, but the Buddhist centres I’ve lived at and been to (probably like most work places) seem to thrive on gossip, often based on a lie. I know our centre is terrible for it, making it an uncomfortable place to be at times. Wish I could change that. The moral discipline of speaking kindly and truthfully is definitely superior; I’m just not sure if most folk appreciate that, wherever they live and work. * Or maybe the difference is magnified in a Buddhist centre, as it’s not what you’d expect or wish for.

    On the other hand, the Portuguese festival was indeed a focal point of cherishing love ♡ which was beautiful to see and experience. It just felt how things should be; and how we could make them stay like that.

  6. Wow…great article Luna,indeed it was a unique and amazing experience being part of that marvelous dream in Portugal, so many friends we find,so many blessings,wherever you were,happy faces everywhere….sharing our hearts in the mutual benefit,it was easy to feel the effect of acting with moral discipline , at our Hostel we were only practitioners from the Festival,and the owners were astonished to see in the way we share every day,the last day when we all left the place ,the principal said to us; oh please don’t go !
    we are going to miss you all ! no others visitor were like you ! they even put a beautiful photo of Gueshe-la at the main entrance of the place, i think it really was a very good example of practising all the way …. what a lovely time we had !

    1. Maria, I am so happy that I got to see you at least one time in Portugal! Maybe one day that shared tea will happen. Love, frances

      1. Frances, oh i feel the same ,let´s dream that will happen! and Luna…so am i…glad you liked it…and also hope to visit Denver soon !

  7. Dear Luna, Lovely article. Hard to believe the festival was a massive hallucination!

    Love R xx

  8. I did see a lovely soul offering to hold my gifts as I was dropping them on the floor lol
    one thing I was witness to was a lady ripping into a lady sitting behind me for saving a seat for a friend who had gone to get her a coffee just as Geshe-la was about to join us
    rather than sit and whistle to myself as to not aggrivate or participate in the flow of anger, I simply turned around as this lady was in tears bless her, put a reassuring hand on her knee and simply said breathe in all that LOVE and think of Geshe-la and let all that anger go, then I did a beautiful mantra 😉 the ladys tears stopped and her friend said how beautiful now we know why we had to sit near you I simply said Avalokiteshvara to you we prostrate my heart goes out to the other lady who then stuffed tissue into her ears! to see a pebble dropped causing anger can soon be over come by Geshe-la’s LOVING HEART!

    also found the play truly heart warming and so funny to the point!

  9. Yes, I agree (that moral discipline can make life more enjoyable and less boring) – my experience(s!!) of moral *in*discipline are that it closes everything down… closes down possibilities, closes down the heart, closes down interest in others, closes down caring for the self, closes down willingness to let go. Whereas making the repeated effort (however imperfectly it’s achieved) toward moral discipline seems very quickly to start opening all those things up.

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