Noble Speech (mental element 50, Nb2)
Refraining from lying in any degree under any situation is possible due to the element of noble speech.
A spiritual dilemma that generally comes up while groups are discussing this element is whether or not it is okay to lie if it could save someone’s life. My answer is no. When you think it is okay to lie for good reasons, you make mind lazy and it begins to use lying as an easy way out. When you think it is not okay to lie for any reason (as noble mind would), you make mind intuitive, creative, and mind finds a way to save someone’s life anyway. Noble mind is rooted in loving-kindness and compassion. So obviously you will not be apathetic towards someone who is in danger.
The point is that when we develop noble elements we become increasingly intuitive, creative, and learn to eradicate artificial difficulties. We begin to understand that in reality there are no dilemmas.
Examples of the manifestation of the noble speech element include, among other things, refraining from all degrees of criticizing, condemning, belittling, ridiculing, accusing, scolding, censuring, blaming, opining, interrupting, slandering, arguing, shouting, speaking unkindly, teasing, chatting frivolously, foolish babbling, backbiting, indirectly speaking, roundabout talking, flattering, influencing, asserting, self-glorifying chatter, cleverly arguing, secretly or vaguely or shrewdly speaking, and using scholarly language to show off one’s own knowledge.
Noble Action (mental element 49, Nb1)
Refraining from fighting for any cause—even the cause of justice—is an example of a noble action. Tremendous bravery and courage is needed. When some people hear this, they usually don’t believe it. Many argue that it would actually require bravery and courage to fight for justice. They claim that I am saying the opposite of what is true. Some people make such arguments because they do not clearly understand the mental states that arise during fighting and what it takes to refrain. Here’s an explanation.
We cannot fight a cause without bravery and courage. That is true. But the degree of bravery and courage we require to refrain from fighting is significantly greater. It is easy to be brave and fight another person who is unjust. Self-defense is even protected by law. However, in most cases fighting is driven by the emotions of anger and fear, which are rooted in ego. A worldly person cannot fight an unjust person without feeling angry or restless. Even if the fight is won from a physical, monetary, or social perspective, it is never won from a spiritual perspective because of the mental impurities caused by the fight. Therefore, for a spiritual seeker such victories are a loss. Whenever the ego is involved, no real victory is possible.
Only a noble person can arouse enough bravery and courage to refrain from fighting, because the ego desperately wants to fight. The ego cannot tolerate injustice. It wants fairness and recognition. By purposefully abstaining from doing what the ego wants, the noble person does not let the ego have its way. Overriding the ego’s wishes requires courage. Therefore, refraining from fighting is possible only for the noble ones who, in my opinion, are greater than the greatest warriors.
It is not at all easy to face someone who is inflicting pain without fighting back. It also requires tremendous bravery to endure physical pain without fighting back. It needs nobility to maintain composure and compassion while being mistreated or mishandled by others.
Noble ones do not fight at all. Not even for a good cause. They only serve.
When we fight, it is always us versus another person or us versus some organization. When we serve, this is not the case. We simply serve a cause or a principle. For example, if you are living in a city where the municipality is corrupt and you want to do something about it, instead of fighting directly with the municipality or with corrupt officials, simply serve the cause of anti-corruption by writing articles in the newspaper, conducting seminars, arousing grassroots activism, developing social awareness, taking part in lobbying for anti-corruption legislation, and so on. In this way, you avoid directly fighting with specific individuals and there is much less opportunity for the development of anger, hatred, animosity, and so on. In this way, the ills of the world can be removed: by not directly fighting another person but by serving the cause for one and all.
In order to respond in this manner, first we have to develop loving-kindness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity to some extent. Then we have to arouse the noble elements in situations where we must refrain from wrongdoing. When we combine the divine elements and the noble elements we become fit to serve the world. After we train ourselves in loving-kindness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity and we train ourselves to refrain from wrongdoing by speech, action, and vocation only then we should serve for the deliverance of all beings.
Other examples of noble action, among other things, include, refraining from all degrees of violence, physically hurting oneself or others, generating physical pain unwisely, self-mortification, neglecting physical health, drinking and inhaling intoxicants, mishandling or over-decorating the body, and physical activities done specifically to avoid boredom.
Noble Vocation (mental element 50, Nb3)
Refraining from doing any work that directly or indirectly develops even the slightest degree of greed, hatred, and delusion is possible due to this element.
Those who manufacture and sell arms passionately believe in possessing a weapon and even in killing for self-defense. They are proud of their profession. Such people do not realize that they are mostly driven by their fear of pain and death, and not actually by self-defense. They do not know that defending against fear (and not another person), and defending against hatred are the true forms of self-defense. Defending mind against defilement instead of simply defending the body is the quality of nobility. This does not mean you should abandon the care of your body or overlook the threat of survival and protection. Here’s the challenge I am throwing down: Could we develop a higher response than fight-or-flight? Can we evolve?
Mahatma Gandhi protected his rights and freedom without firing a single shot and his threat was not from another person but from the entire British Empire!2 Martin Luther King, Jr., did something similar.3 Many spiritual masters and missionaries have traveled to, and lived in unknown hostile places without ever carrying a gun. Fearlessness of pain and death (underlain by loving-kindness and compassion) is the mark of the noble ones.
Pragmatically speaking, the noble ones are more fearful of defiling the mind or generating unwholesome volition than they are fearful of pain or death. They are also less worried about poverty and economic survival than they are about maintaining vigil over vices. So they choose vocations that minimize the chances of developing even the slightest degree of greed, hatred, and delusion.
Many of us do our jobs primarily so that we can pay the bills even though we may not like what we do. Many people choose a particular profession because they are lured by big money. Some do not need income; they stay in the workforce simply to keep themselves busy because they cannot handle boredom. In the first case, there is subtle hatred, in second there is subtle greed, and in the third there is subtle delusion.
To identify a noble vocation, ask yourself this question: Could I do something that I truly love doing 18 hours a day without expecting to get paid for it?
This does not mean you should work without getting paid. It means you should work at something you love.
Another way to determine your noble vocation is to figure out the real purpose of your life and get involved in it (see chapter 6, page 000). In most cases, noble vocation and real purpose are aligned. Those who are courageous are most likely to find such a vocation. This usually happens during a mid-life crisis. Once found, people generally follow their noble vocation for the rest of their lives, which brings them deep satisfaction as well as a high probability of financial riches.