In Buddhism the main attention is focused on beneficial or non-beneficial actions rather than on good, bad, right or wrong acting. It is in particular about realisation and understanding of the result of our own actions on others. Out of the understanding of the mutual conditionality of all phenomena, mindfulness can arise towards others and oneself.
The imperfection of existence and the wish to overcome it is the starting point of our path as described in the Four Noble Truths. The training of ethically correct conduct is one of the three parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. It means to train ones mind and in consequence ones behaviour in the right ethical way. This is achieved by accepting sole responsibility for ones own actions and in observance of what is actually happening rather than by blindly and absolutely following given orders or rules.
For example it might not always be beneficial to tell the absolute truth. It may depend on several things like time or place. The real truth might do harm.
We are therefore challenged to develop our minds constantly in order to achieve a deeper awareness of the wholesome and unwholesome effects of our actions.
The five ethical rules (Silas) are also to be understood as training paths for all Buddhist laity. The introduction to each rules begins with the words, “I promise to train myself ….”
The ordained nuns and monks are subject to many more rules.
The five ethical Buddhist precepts:
I promise to train myself not to kill or hurt any living beings.
I promise to train myself not to take that which is not given to me.
I promise to train myself to use my senses diligently, and to harm no one through sexual misconduct.
I promise to train myself to use my words mindfully and to be aware of the effect of my words.
I promise to train myself not to use intoxicating substances, which would only confuse my already afflicted mind.