Personal Ethics



God is good relations between people.  

Percy Hammond


The practice of morality (çīla) consists in the observance of all moral precepts; in feeling fear, shame and remorse at the smallest violation of any of them; in not giving room for blame or disgust; in practicing those deeds wihch lead to moderation and contentment, and in endeavouring to induce all human beings to abandon evil and practise virtue.  He alone truly practises morality, who desists from evil-doing when the best opportunities present themselves for doing evil.  In Buddhism the moral life is of fundamental importance.  Of all the pāramitās, the excellences which form the means of arriving at Nirvana, the çīla pāramitā is the foundation.  

P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”








































Alternative version a Buddhist story

You’re driving down the road in your car on a wild and stormy night.  The weather is like a hurricane, with heavy rains, high winds, and lightning flashing constantly.  

You arrive at a partially covered bus stop, where you find three people:  

  1. Your long term partner (your perfect “soul mate”) whom you arranged to meet at the bus stop, and who is about to dump you unless you finally start paying them proper attention and doing right by them.
  2. A stranger, an old woman, who looks ill, as if she might be about to die.  
  3. A loyal friend of yours who once saved your life, who is presently trying to look after the old lady, and happens to desperately need a lift into town for a separate emergency.  

Knowing that you only have room for one passenger in your (two-seater) car, what would you do?  And why?

Can you please everyone?  Can you give everyone what they need?  Can this situation be resolved to everyone's satisfaction?  

Possible solution:  

The old lady’s needs are great and pressing, and your friend also needs to get into town immediately.  So hand the car over to your friend so that he can drive the old lady to hospital.  Stay behind with your soul mate.  Probably ask your friend to come back with your car later, so that you and your paramour can drive away together, leaving your friend back at the bus stop.  Alternatively, if it is reasonably convenient, give him a lift where he needs to go, and then go back for your soul mate.  




Ethical content

The ethical pressure of Perfect Compassion ultimately stems from the fact that each of us is thoroughly interdependent with other human beings in the way we live our lives.  

The ethical content or pressure in Perfect Compassion is the need to thrive cooperatively.  




Why do it?  Motivations to follow Perfect Compassion


1.  Ultimate reasons

What began life as strategic motivations, in ancient times, when the uniquely human moral sense first began to evolve, has been codified in our DNA as a set of emotional instincts of right and wrong and supporting physiology and behaviour.  


2.  Proximate reasons


Arguably, most actions will be motivated by some combination of these two.




Ultimate (evolved instinctive) reasons (proposed)


... the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

Paul the Apostle – Romans 2:15


The fact (as argued below) that “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” – both parts of “love God, and love your neighbour as yourself”: the Healing Principle and Perfect Compassion, are intuitive – means that it is easy to motivate well-meaning people to behave well, simply by: 1) reminding them of this basic ethical attitude; 2) making it easy for them to carry it out.  


Perfect Compassion consists of an interlinked combination of the following psychological attitudes: (where > means “greater than”)














Definition of Goodness:

also known as

Perfect Compassion,

a general ethical formula


Arguably, the core human ethics consist of:

  1. helping in response to need
  2. fairness
  3. a feeling of obligation to behave well.

Morality comes into play only when we interact with others – when our actions affect others.  

If we combine, abstractly, the individual, universal and maximising ethical properties of the (desirable) Healing Principle, with the ethic of concern for others, within the domain of “my actions that affect others”: then it must logically follow that a general ethical formula should state that each person affected by my actions, including myself, is to receive the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them.  

Perfect Compassion is therefore a social distribution of benefit and harm, emanating from the individual via their actions.  

When we benefit someone, it means that we put the right conditions in place so that they thrive more.  

On a psychological level, we feel concern for others, and on an evolutionary level, this is because we are interdependent as a species – we need each other to be in good shape, for collaboration: hence, we are concerned for the welfare of others.  This applies to everyone in the vicinity, everyone we encounter, consistent with the ancestral conditions of early humans, from around 2 million years ago, living in small interdependent groups.  



This formula, Perfect Compassion, assumes only the ethical values of:  

  1. maximising personal thriving as I go about my business
  2. proper concern for the consequent well being of others.  

Falling short of this formula tends to elicit resentment from others and a need to justify the actions and intentions.  If we seek to justify our (possibly questionable) actions then we may appeal to the moral norms within which we live.  



Expanding the ego

The ego is the part of your psyche that looks after you and that enables you to do things and help yourself.  What your ego does for you, it can also do for others.  In the case that it is working for someone else’s benefit, we can say that your ego has been expanded.  




“Benefit / harm” from the perspective of the ego


It is proposed that “you > me” and “we > me” constitute the original “ought”: a sense of responsibility towards one’s cooperative partners, to behave competently and cooperatively, and to help others where needed.  

These are evolved instincts to act in a certain way, felt psychologically as moral feelings (I “should” behave this way because it’s the right thing to do) rather than a purely strategic calculation (“I calculate that it’s in the interests of me and mine to behave this way”).  


Ancient environment

The evolution of the human instincts of helping in response to need, fairness, and a feeling of responsibility to others to behave cooperatively, took place within the context of obligate interdependent foraging with partner choice and partner control.  The foraging niche of early humans, the African savannah around 2 million years ago, was harsh, risky, and difficult; especially as the easily available foods may already have been taken by competitor species such as monkeys.  Early humans of all species were forced to forage cooperatively by depending on mainly on their other group members rather than mainly on themselves, as is the case in other great apes, whose forest food is more plentiful and easy to obtain.  

These three formulas represent the evolved moral psychology of early humans, and they constitute the core moral norms of present-day humanity.  Differences between cultural groups over what is considered ethical behaviour mostly amount to disagreements about what is harmful or unfair, and who is or is not a member of the moral community.  Some cultural norms are made sacred (and therefore “moralised”) because to violate the norms causes a great deal of social upset (for example, connected with mating).  


[Human beings] have become cooperatively rational in that they factor into their decision making (1) that helping partners and compatriots whenever possible is the right thing to do, (2) that others are equally as real and deserving as themselves (and this same recognition may be expected in return), and (3) that a “we” created by a social commitment makes legitimate decisions for the self and valued others, which creates legitimate obligations among persons with moral identities in moral communities.  ...

The proposal is that in adapting to obligate collaborative foraging with partner choice early humans created a new set of social circumstances – a new social order ... in which it made sense to act morally.  

Michael Tomasello – “A Natural History of Human Morality


you > me

Helping in response to need.  

Apes help kin and friends, and, occasionally, others.  

Early humans also helped actual and potential collaborative partners with a view to keeping them in good shape for future collaboration, and as part of completing joint goals.  See also: stakeholder principle.

This would have been experienced by them psychologically as a genuine concern for their well being and a desire to help, not just as a strategic calculation.  

The “need” in the case of Perfect Compassion is the need to thrive and survive.  

In large groups, this morality of interdependent helping – of gratitude towards, and wanting to help, our collaborative partners – becomes group loyalty.  

See also: targeted helping


you = me

This formula represents self-other equivalence, which is a necessary condition for fairness.  

See: fairness; evolution of human sense of fairness


we > me

Joint self-governance and monitoring; responsibility to others.  

See: responsibility to others


I and we: the dual-level cognitive structure and “homo Duplex

A cooperating team consists of both the participating individuals and the cooperative unit itself: each person is both an “I” and a “we”.  

A cooperating partnership is a cooperative unit, and a group is a cooperative unit.  

In our modern world of “groupishness”, the “we” represents both our interpersonal cooperation and the entire (more anonymous) group.  Indeed, we may lose ourselves in coordinated group activities such as singing and dancing together, to the point of ecstasy.  

References:  Haidt; Tomasello (“A Natural History of Human Morality”)


See also:  map of cooperation, moral compass, moral identity

Modern-day cooperative environment

How does this sense of interpersonal responsibility play out in today’s extended world?  

Where early humans made joint commitments with each other, and there was a sense of responsibility to behave cooperatively with them and live up to the role ideals, modern humans are committed to the group and feel obliged to follow its norms and standards of behaviour (the modern “social contract”), and these norms include the universal moral ones of helping in response to need, and fairness, at least towards in-group members.  

See also: self-domestication of the human race, evolution of monogamy


Respectful protest (in partner control)  

If we feel that somebody has behaved less than “perfectly” towards us, then we feel resentment at being treated with less than equal respect, and we need to make a respectful protest to them.  This assumes already that they are and want to be a cooperative person, and gently reminds them to live up to their cooperative identity.  Of course, it is backed up by the possibility of breaking off the partnership if it really is not working.  

This provides a clear example of self-other equivalence and mutual respect and deservingness.  “I demand respect from you in a respectful way.” exists together with “I expect that you will demand respect from me in a respectful way.”  


Reciprocity of action and responsibility

There is a reciprocity between “me” and “you”, in the form of a fairness in exchanges, an equal balance or correspondence between

  1. the action that I do that affects you, and
  2. the responsibility or duty I have, in the form of psychological attitudes and intentions which guide the quality of my action, to minimise the resulting harm and maximise the resulting benefit to you.

The reason for this sense of responsibility is the social contract, the large-scale modern-day equivalent of early humans' individual agreements to cooperate.  A role ideal within cooperating – i.e. something we have a responsibility towards our valued, respected and deserving cooperative partners to uphold – is to behave helpfully and fairly.  




Proximate (psychological) motivations and real-world consequences


... dopamine-related neural pleasure centers in human brains are stimulated when someone acts generously or responds to a generous act.  

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy – “Mothers and Others – the evolutionary origins of mutual understanding”


we feel a “warm glow”, a pleasurable feeling, at improving the plight of others

Frans de Waal – “The Age of Empathy”


Without prosocial emotions, we would all be sociopaths, and human society would not exist, however strong the institutions of contract, governmental law enforcement, and reputation.  

Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis – “Origins of Human Cooperation”


If you use Perfect Compassion in your actions, and if people notice, they are likely to approve of your behaviour.  If you fall short of using it, people are likely to disapprove of your behaviour.  

If you use it habitually, other people are likely to think of you as a good person and want to be around you and help you when you need it.  This is especially true if you have those special extra ingredients: strength, courage, and wisdom (knowledge of how to produce the best results).  

If you habitually fail to use it, other people are likely to see you as a problem and to avoid you and not feel like helping you if you need it.  Again, a lack of courage is seen as letting the side down.  

This all depends on being surrounded by people who “know what’s what” and who try to live up to good values – i.e. people whose opinion you can respect.  


Benefits for your own environment  

We would all like to live in a caring environment.  Kindness spreads by reciprocity.  “If all are cared for, then I am cared for.”  

Perfect Compassion causes the least possible trouble for everyone around you, and the maximum positivity.  


Doing what’s right  

To follow Perfect Compassion means to satisfy the most primitive of our evolved moral principles: our own and others’ most fundamental moral sense.


Valuing each person

Perfect Compassion upholds the idea that each person is inherently valuable in their own right: as a self-generating source of flourishing, which a normally empathic person instinctively respects.  In using it we respect the dignity of the individual and the fact that each of us cherishes our own flourishing.  



If you treat people badly when you don’t need to, they WILL want to get their revenge in some way, even if they eventually decide to forgive you and move on.  

He who loves others, must also be loved by others.  He who benefits others, must also be benefited by others.  He who hates others, must also be hated by others.  He who injures others, must also be injured by others.  

Mo Tzu, 479–381 BC



A good reputation is your best friend: difficult to earn, easy to lose.  


Moral authority

Perfect Compassion carries and bestows moral authority, since from the point of view of kindness, fairness, and respect, it is impossible to improve on it.  


Psychological health

Because we are human beings, it is psychologically hard on a normal individual to behave unnecessarily negatively towards those around them.

Cicero gave this speech to the Roman Senate in 63 BC, about Cataline who had been plotting to overthrow the government:  


You came a little while ago into the senate; in so numerous an assembly; who of so many friends and connections of yours saluted you?  If this in the memory of man never happened to anyone else, are you waiting for insults by word of mouth, when you are overwhelmed by the most irresistible condemnation of silence?  Is it nothing that at your arrival all those seats were vacated?  That all the men of consular rank, who had often been marked out by you for slaughter, the very moment you sat down, left that part of the benches bare and vacant?  With what feelings do you think you ought to bear this?  On my honour, if my slaves feared me as all your fellow citizens fear you, I should think I must leave my house.  Do you not think you should leave the city?  



The point is not that your slaves might murder you.  But can you really count on the loyalty and goodwill of those whom you may have treated less than properly?  How might it make you feel, if you are surrounded by people you have wronged?  Insecure, under attack, miserable?  

It makes us feel stronger to treat others properly, since the whole point of morality is mutual thriving.  

Some of the health benefits of helping others


Avoiding disaster

You may knowingly do something wrong but think it doesn’t matter because it seems relatively trivial (or you imagine you won’t get caught).  However, “no good comes of no good”, and all it takes is an unlucky line-up of circumstances, and the negative consequences of your action can become amplified and spiral out of control, and possibly ruin your life or that of someone else.  


Actions and consequences

When we act, we have no way of knowing for sure how the consequences will turn out.  How do we ensure the best possible results?  


“a policy for achieving your goals” – Ayn Rand

Virtues such as strength, courage, wisdom, kindness, sensitivity, moderation, etc. uphold and support our efforts to do what we think is right.  A virtue is a skill that is learned through repeated practice.


There are perhaps two kinds of self-control relevant to morality.

  1. Cooperative self-regulation.  We monitor and regulate our own behaviour to ensure that we are good cooperators and team players, and we attempt to manage our reputations.  
  2. Moderation and self-restraint.  Thriving – feeling good – is classified into the short term and long term.  When our emotions are running high – when certain goals are first and foremost in our attention, and we very much want or don’t want something – there is a lot of pressure to feel good right now, in the short term, by achieving that goal or having that thing.  Right now, for example, I might really want a triple whisky.  But I have to attend an important job interview in an hour’s time.  So it makes sense in the long term for me to save the drink for after the interview.  



An inordinate and insatiable desire.  Wanting something too much, not being able to let go.  


A desire to cause unnecessary harm.


Not being in full possession of the facts.  


No good comes of no good.  

Buddhism teaches that the unwholesome roots are like “seeds of destruction” that will lead to the eventual failure of whatever you are trying to do.  


Don’t be a fool to yourself

You have rights too.  It’s foolish to let yourself get taken advantage of, or exploited.  

Pema Chodron – Don't practice Idiot Compassion!



Optimum strategies for achieving long-term well-being for each person affected by your actions (i.e. good morals)

A moral action is one that affects yourself or others.  Amoral means not to care whether you are ethical.  Ethics are the best behaviours.  

These are the optimum strategies for the different aspects of morality:

Compassion:  perfect compassion: each person affected by your action is to receive the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them.

Compassionate outcome:  aim for the compassionate outcome where everyone stays friends and the least possible damage is done in the long term.  

God's love, the Healing Principle:  help yourself.  Help God to help you, as it were.  Practice self-compassion.  Take positive steps to improve your life.  Nurture and grow yourself, and others, like flowers.  

Reciprocity and forgiveness:  tit for tat.  People tend to treat you how you treat them.  What you do to or for someone, they will want to return in kind.  If someone does you a favour you feel obliged to return it.  If you do someone wrong, you feel obliged to put it right.  The optimum strategy for reciprocity is to start off nice, and then to forgive, most of the time, but not all the time, when people transgress.  

Fairness:  equality (supposedly favoured by women) which means everyone gets the same; proportionality (supposedly favoured by men) which means everyone gets what they "deserve" or have "earned".  Fairness implies impartiality, that each person deserves equal respect as a human being.  All beings want to be happy.  

Duty and integrity:  have good morals.  Be straight.  The consequences of failing to have good morals can be disastrous and the consequences of even a small lapse can easily spiral out of control.  Follow your conscience even when nobody will know.  

Keep your word.  


All I have in this world is my b***s and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one.  

Tony Montana – “Scarface”


Make your word your bond.  Do what you said you were going to do.  

Self-control:  this is all about short term versus long term consequences.  It is best not to ruin your long-term chances for short term gain.  A mature ego can exercise delayed gratification for the sake of long term benefits.  

Emotional self-control:  life is better if we can handle difficult emotions, and we are more reliable and trustworthy.  

Short and long term consequences:  what we want in the short term may conflict with what we want in the long term.  The short term only lasts a short while, but the long term lasts for a significant portion of your life.  A decision may come down to a trade-off between different possible courses of action.  

Good manners:  use good manners, to put others at their ease and to show that you have self-control, kindness and decency.  Be good-natured.  It is easier on people’s nerves, and an act of compassion.  


Whoever will thrive, must be courteous, and begin in his youth.

Early English Meals and Manners Part 93

(includes two passages of modern English translation)


Generosity:  be generous.  Celebrate God’s love.  Have a little party with God’s love.  Human beings are a generous species.  Spontaneous giving and helping are a fundamental part of human nature.  

Generosity, and the ability to handle difficult emotions calmly, sends the message to people that you care about, that you have their back when it’s necessary.  


generosity ... is at the heart of give and take in human attachments.

Penny Spikins – “How Compassion Made Us Human – the evolutionary origins of tenderness, trust & morality”


Gratitude:  practice gratitude.  


Gratitude is free happiness.  



Intentions:  make sure your intentions are free from “mental defilements” (greed, hatred and ignorance, according to Buddhism).  No good comes of no good.

Insight:  truth, information, awareness, understanding, empathy (mind-reading) – have them.  These are needed to understand a situation or a person.  Take an intelligent long-term view of a situation.  

Don’t let yourself be exploited, abused or taken advantage of.  If you can take harmless evasive action, then do so.  Make the most of the situation to stay happy and peaceful at any cost; or rather, at the least cost to yourself and your loved ones.  

Admitting when you’re wrong:  you get respect for being able to say you’re wrong, and none for trying to pretend you’re right when you know you’re not.  To admit that you’re wrong saves everyone time and trouble, including yourself.  

Good grace:  whether you win or lose, do it with good grace.  Don’t give somebody a hard time about it either way.  

Kindness to strangers:  we should all be kind to strangers and people who mean nothing to us, because then they may be kind to us.  Even if they are not, we all want to live in a world where everyone is kind to strangers and those to whom they feel indifferent.  Kindness spreads.  




The Stakeholder Principle and interdependence


See also Unconditional Love


I won’t leave ‘til you come too.

Incredible String Band – “Mr and Mrs”


... friends in the stone age depended on one another for their very survival. Humans lived in close-knit communities, and friends were people with whom you went hunting mammoths. You survived long journeys and difficult winters together. You took care of one another when one of you fell sick, and shared your last morsels of food in times of want. Such friends knew each other more intimately than many present-day couples.

The Guardian – “Were we happier in the stone age?”


Perhaps it is time to abandon the idea that individuals faced with others in need decide whether to help, or not, by mentally tallying up costs and benefits.  These calculations have likely been made for them by natural selection.  Weighing the consequences of behavior over evolutionary time, it has endowed primates with empathy, which ensures that they help others under the right circumstances.  

Frans de Waal – “The Age of Empathy”


people will never forget how you made them feel.  

Maya Angelou


If I depend on you, it means I need something that you do.  

If you depend on me at the same time, it is called interdependence.  

In the early history of humans, it would have made practical sense from the point of view of each individual to help the others upon whom they depended to live.  An expression to describe this “stakeholder” model of altruism has been proposed:  

s × B > C

“I will help you when the benefit I gain from your well being is greater than the cost I incur in helping you.”  Costs and benefits are spread out through the extended time period of the relationship.   

B = your well being

s = my stake in your well being (the part of you that benefits me; and how much I need it: the precise nature of the benefit that you bring me)  

>    is greater than

C = my cost

The left hand side shows the benefit to me of your well being (s × B), and the right hand side shows the cost to me, C.  

For example, if my hunting partner is sick, I may try to bring him back to health so that we can continue hunting.  


In present day terms, dependence implies a situation where “what’s good for you is good for me”.  


P loves Q if Q‘s happiness is necessary for P’s happiness.  

Philip Veasey


Plausibly, it is these ancient conditions of tight interdependence that have led to the evolution of the generalised altruistic instincts of modern human beings.  In ancient times, “everyone around me” was potentially valuable to me in some way.  


Outside of the family, personal loyalty somehow has to be earned, and the quickest way to do that is to be someone who is an asset to the lives of others by behaving in a prosocial and moral fashion.  

The implications are that, within a two-way relationship:  


Only know that I love strength in my friends and greatness.

James Liddy


... individuals should help friends without looking for a contingent return: ‘instead of being cheated, the primary risk is experiencing a world increasingly devoid of deeply engaged social partners or sufficiently beneficial social partners or both’.

Gilbert Roberts (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) – “Cooperation through interdependence”


Hamilton’s Rule

This expression, the Stakeholder Model, is a version of Hamilton’s Rule, which deals with a similar situation from the viewpoint of genetic relatedness.  Both versions, if you think about it, are from the point of view of “inclusive fitness”.

Hamilton’s Rule states that an organism will help its relatives to the degree that they are genetically related, because the more they are related, the more genes they share, and in helping its relatives, the organism is helping its own genes to survive.  Hamilton’s Rule is given as

r × B > C

“I will help you when the amount by which it benefits the genes we share is greater than the cost I incur in helping you”.  

B = your benefit

r =  the proportion of genes that we share

>    is greater than

C = my cost




“Ultimate” and “proximate” motivations –

ancient evolution and modern psychology

The original reasons why a motivation evolved are separate from the way we experience that motivation in everyday life today.  When dealing with our friends and family, we tend not to consciously make detailed calculations of cost and benefit like those above.  Instead, we just feel good about helping them freely without any real thought of return.  




Self-interest and the interests of others

You have the duty to yourself and others to take care of yourself and your own interests.  If you don’t help yourself, no-one else can help you, since they are trying to fill a bottomless vessel.  

Inclusive fitness:  your genes are designed for you to take care of yourself and your loved ones.  Morality does not make sense otherwise (if each is required to give more to others than themselves, what right do others have to take from them?  This would need a specialised army of helpers.).  Inclusive fitness is the way the world works, and kindness and service to strangers is a thing of beauty, and necessary in our modern interdependent world.  


Even from a practical point of view, for someone to develop genuine compassion towards others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare.  If one is not capable of doing that, how can one reach out to others and feel concern for them?  Caring for others requires caring for oneself.  

... just as you have the spontaneous wish to be happy and overcome suffering, so does every other being, in equal measure.  ... This basic aspiration arises in us simply by virtue of the fact that we are conscious living beings.  Together with this aspiration comes a conviction that I, as an individual, have a legitimate right to fulfil my aspiration.  If we accept this, then we can relate the same principle to others and we will realize that everyone else shares this basic aspiration too.  Therefore, if I as an individual have the right to fulfil my aspiration, then others, too, have the right to fulfil theirs.  It is on these grounds that one has to recognize the fundamental equality of all beings.  

... I can tell you that when I practice altruism and care for others, it immediately makes me calmer and more secure.

... one of the by-products of helping others is that you also benefit yourself.    

... when we talk about altruism and about others' well-being, we should not imagine this means totally rejecting our own self-interest, neglecting ourselves or becoming some passive non-entity.  This is a misunderstanding.  In fact, the kind of altruism that focuses on the well-being of others comes about as a result of a very courageous state of mind, a very expansive attitude and a strong sense of self - so much so that the person is capable of challenging the self-cherishing self-centredness that tends to rule our life.  In order to do that, we need to have a strong sense of self and genuine courage because these tendencies seem so deeply embedded in us.  

I think it's very important not to misunderstand what is meant in the Buddhist teachings by the idea of overcoming our self-cherishing attitudes.  We are not saying that a spiritual practitioner should completely ignore or abandon the goal of self-fulfilment, rather we are advising him or her to overcome that small-minded selfishness that makes us oblivious to the well-being of others and to the impact our actions can have on them.  It is this kind of selfishness that is being targeted, not the kind of selfishness that seeks fulfilment of one's deeper interests.  

His Holiness the Dalai Lama – “Transforming the Mind – Eight verses on generating compassion and transforming your life”

The teaching “love thy neighbour as thyself” is not only vague, but may also lead to mischievous consequences.  If a man love himself meanly, childishly, timidly, even so shall he love his neighbour.  If a man hate himself, it must follow that he hate others too.  The teaching of Buddhism is definite, and requires us to love ourselves with a love that is healthy and wise, that is large and complete.  To be effectually generous one must have a confident, tranquil and clear comprehension of all that one owes to one’s self.  If you are asked to love your enemy and return good for evil, it is because, as the Bodhicharyavatara says, “an enemy is one who is capable of helping you to acquire bodhi, if you can only love him.”   One should hate hatred and not the person who hates him.  This does not mean that one should show the left cheek, when smitten on the right, but it means that we must fight evil with good.  Passive non-resistance of evil is no morality at all.  The meekness of the lamb is praiseworthy, but if it could lead only to becoming a prey to the rapacity of the tiger, it is not worth possessing.

... A sound, good, fruitful self-love is the necessary basis for every virtue, and therefore also for a true, sound, good and fruitful love to others.  

P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”



Of course, the implication of the above formula is that even if nobody else is involved in our actions, the imperative of the Healing Principle means that we should act compassionately towards ourselves.  


A loves A when A is necessary for A’s happiness.  

Philip Veasey


Researcher Kristen Neff has found that self-compassion tends to make us more resilient, while cultivating self-esteem tends to make us brittle and self-cherishing in an egotistical way.  

Kristen Neff on self-compassion

12 things truly confident people do differently

9 ways mentally strong people put an end to self-pity

21 signs you're mentally stronger than average



The Koan of the Prize Winning Corn Farmer


A story is told of a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year, he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” The reporter asked.

“Why sir?” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

If we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn. That is the connectedness of life. We often get too engrossed in our own success that we forget those around us and their impact in our progress.




Plants, communication, and interdependence


James Wong:  Plants don’t just communicate through their root system, but also through the air by emitting fragrances: volatile organic compounds, in geek-speak.  

That's something that Prof. Karban has been studying, particularly with sage brush plants reacting to insects.  ... so what were the plants ‘talking’ about, in inverted commas?  

Prof. Richard Karban:  The information that is being conveyed is information about the risk of herbivory.  

James Wong:  In other words, being nibbled by a plant-eating animal.  

Prof. Richard Karban:  And plants that are receiving this information are then able to change their defenses so that they receive less, primarily, chewing damage from a variety of different insects that chew their leaves.  

James Wong:  The fact that the message about an insect was not only received but acted upon is important, because some scientists argue that communication isn't communication unless there was a beneficial response in the receiver.  And that's not just limited to fighting off insects, as Rick Karban found:  

Prof. Richard Karban:  Plants that have received cues from their neighbours were able to produce more new branches and more flowers than plants that hadn’t received these cues, so that the plants that were receiving the cues were benefiting from that information.  

James Wong:  ... research has also shown that plants could have a potentially huge vocabulary of different aromas that they can emit.  This may not just be for threats, but also to synchronise other behaviour.  

Prof. Ariel Novoplansky:  Some chemical is being emitted by the roots of blooming plants, picked up in some cases by neighbours, which join them in accelerated blooming, compared to a situation in which their neighbours are not blooming.  My neighbour is my partner for reproduction, right.  

James Wong:  The more chance of your neighbour flowering means that from a distance you’re a more colourful patch, that means the pollinators are more likely to go to you if you're not the only one flowering.

Prof. Ariel Novoplansky:  Yes, and this gives you a higher chance of avoiding the need to reproduce with your own cells.  This is something that humans or mammals cannot do, but plants can.  They can pollinate themselves, and if they don’t have neighbours, then some of them some of the time pollinate themselves, which we call ‘selfing’.  In the case that you have neighbours, it's always better to have sex with somebody else.  


BBC Radio 4 – “Is Eating Plants Wrong?”, 14 May 2018



Who wins?  Nice guys or jerks?  

The answer is: tough and tender people.  There’s an excellent article in The Atlantic on the subject here:  “Why It Pays to Be a Jerk: New research confirms what they say about nice guys.”  It’s well worth reading, but I’ve summarised the argument with selective quotes:  


Givers dominate not only the top of the success ladder but the bottom, too, precisely because they risk exploitation by takers.

The fact is, me-first behavior is highly adaptive in certain professional situations, just like selflessness is in others. The question is, why — and, for those inclined to the instrumental, how can you distinguish between the two?

But the study also points toward a bigger and more general qualification of the advantage to being a jerk: should something go wrong, jerks don’t have a reserve of goodwill to fall back on.

being a jerk will fail most people most of the time.

“I think you can be tough, as long as you’re not toxic,”

He believes that the most effective people are “disagreeable givers”—that is, people willing to use thorny behavior to further the well-being and success of others.

“The hardest thing that I struggle to explain to people is that being a giver is not the same as being nice.”

The distinction that needs to be made is this: Jerks, narcissists, and takers engage in behaviors to satisfy their own ego, not to benefit the group. Disagreeable givers aren’t getting off on being tough; they’re doing it to further a purpose.





Moral formulae of cooperation

Perfect Compassion




you > me

empathic concern; altruism

helping in response to the need to thrive

you = me

fundamental equality of status

fairness: treating others as equals

we > me

joint self-governance (by “we”)

responsibility to treat others as they deserve, i.e. with respect




Reference: Michael Tomasello – “A Natural History of Human Morality”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus – Matthew 22:37–40


He is not a believer who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry by his side.

The Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon Him


... altruism becomes applied egotism.  

P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”


A man is not a great man because he is a warrior and kills other men; but because he hurts not any living being he in truth is called a great man.  

The Dhammapada


Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions.  

Kahlil Gibran


Least said, soonest mended.  



A week later Swagger rang me.  He had bumped into a deflated Tuggy Tug on the street.  He had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.  Swagger had only £10 in his pocket but nonetheless he bought a takeaway for them both and took Tuggy Tug back to his flat for the night.  As I put down the phone, I heard Tuggy Tug complaining, ‘I don’t even want this dry chicken, blud.  I can’t eat this dried food,’ and Swagger laughing at him.  ‘Content now?  Is your belly content?’

I thought of the many successful men I knew; men of whom the world approved and rightly rewarded; men who moved people with their oratory; knowledgeable men who could fathom future trends and who set up foundations for the poor; men who would never steal a fridge.  How many, down to their last £10, would have taken in Tuggy Tug – and done it with love?  

Harriet Sergeant “Among the Hoods – my years with a teenage gang”


Making kids say bonjour isn't just for the benefit of grown-ups.  It's also to help kids learn that they're not the only ones with feelings and needs.  

‘It avoids selfishness,’ says Esther, who dragged out her daughter – an adorable, doted-on only child – to say goodbye to me.  ‘Kids who ignore other people, and don’t say bonjour or au revoir, they just stay in their bubble ... When will they get the sense that they are there to give, not just to receive?’  

Pamela Druckerman – “French Children Don't Throw Food”


Colorado police officer who comforted toddler at scene of fatal car crash sang her a lullaby.

(The Independent)