"As a Buddhist teacher, I am often asked questions about meditation and profound Buddhist principles, like interdependence and emptiness. I am happy to share what I know on these topics. But I have noticed that people rarely ask me about ethics and how to live a virtuous life.
It is true that meditation is important in the Buddhist tradition. There’s no question about that. The same can be said about studying Buddhist ideas and philosophies. But in many ways, ethics and virtue are the foundation of the Buddhist path.
The Buddha himself lived a life of kindness, humility, and compassion. He fully embodied the teachings he gave, and the sangha that grew around him followed his example. There were many times when the students got off track and acted inappropriately—sometimes hilariously so—but these incidents were used as opportunities to clarify important values and to show the community how to live a life of virtue. From the early days of Buddhism, ethical conduct was as central to the path as meditation, study, and contemplation.
These days, the one time people do ask me about ethics is when scandals or controversies happen in Buddhist communities. Despite the clear importance of nonviolence and compassion in the Buddhist tradition, many students are not sure how to deal with these situations. I can see why they get confused. There are many different Buddhist lineages and schools, and it is hard to keep track of all their different teachings, practices, and ethical frameworks."