A Code to Live By

When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror are you happy with the person who greets you? If you look yourself directly in the eye do you quickly look away? Before we put on our face and plunge into the day, what we see is who we are. Raw and exposed, we’re packaged up by the code that we live by.

Everyone needs a code to live by. The question is which code?

There’s no shortage of codes from which to choose. For example, the 10 moral imperatives handed down from the mountain, the Golden Rule, the Five Precepts of Buddhism, the American Indian Code of Ethics and the Mayan Lak’ech. We can draw upon these codes to direct our moral thinking and behaviors. Together with cultural moral codes individual and social behaviors are guided and regulated. Whether religious, spiritual or secular, morality means the same—essentially it’s about what’s right and wrong as considered by others.

A different perspective is that a moral core is innate in each individual. Therefore, moral values and choices are directed from within. The Dalai Lama calls it “human business and not religious business.” A difference between the two is that external codes have morality cops who sit on shoulders whipping out fear and guilt. A big fear is that we will not be seen as a “good” person doing the “right” thing.

At the center of an internal moral code sits an angel, a Buddha or a God conducting an orchestra of thoughts, actions and deeds. They’re the guardians of our conscience. It’s simple, says the Dalai Lama: “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple…”

Regardless of whether the code you live by is internal or external, consider the advice of Henry David Thoreau: “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”

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