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Skillful and Unskillful Means

In Buddhism, calmness of body and mind is an effect of skillful means. Indeed, it is most excellent to be calm.

Why? Because the main practice to achieve calmness of body and mind is meditation, particularly the shamatha practice. Thus meditation is a skillful means to help settle the mind.

As for the definition of "skillful' we first begin with the Budhist term in Pali, "kusala", which is often mistranslated as "good":
  1. Firm: resolute, stable, unmoving, undistracted.
  2. Pure and clean: unstained, immaculate, bright.
  3. Clear and free: unrestricted, free, exalted, boundless.
  4. Fit for work: pliant, light, fluent, patient.
  5. Calm and content: relaxed, serene, satisfied.
Contrasting with "kusala" is "akusala", which means "unskillful", and its definitions are:
  1. Infirm: irresolute, unstable, immovable, distracted, still.
  2. Impure and unclean: stained, dirty, dull.
  3. Unclear and unfree: restricted, unfree, debased, limited.
  4. Unfit for work: unbendable, heavy, stuttering, impatient.
  5. Agitated and unsatisfied: anxious, wrathful, unsatisfied.
Think of all the activities which lead to an unsettled mind, and those actions will be unskillful means. This may include bullying, catcalling, desire, emotive, fear, gossiping, hatred, ignorance that lead to delusion (mistaking hallucinations for reality, ignoring reality), etc. Currently in the West, most people are unaware that meditation extends beyond its tranquilizing effects. Of course, sleep is not the effect of meditation, but is due to slothfulness and torpor. It indicates the workings of the ego in its attempt to distract the devotee from meditating. Boredom may be associated with slothfulness, but in Western society, it is not considered an "evil". Through insight meditation (vipashyana, vipassana), it is possible to notice the difference between skillful and unskillful means, and why skillful means is good and unskillful means is "evil".


Good and Evil in Buddhism:

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