What does this mean in practice?

Buddhists try not to discriminate against others. This is sometimes difficult, particularly if they live in a culture where a certain amount of prejudice and discrimination is considered acceptable. For example, in some societies, women usually take on a domestic role - this could be seen as sexism.

The Five Precepts

Buddhists will usually try to practise the Five Precepts as they go about their daily lives.

The first Precept is, I undertake to not harm living beings.

This means that Buddhists do not intentionally cause harm to anyone else. Therefore, a Buddhist should avoid any form of discrimination where it will cause harm.

The fourth Precept is, I undertake to refrain from false speech.

Buddhists believe that it is important not to use speech in a negative way, and this includes harsh and idle speech. Buddhist also believe in karma or 'intentional action'. It is considered poor behaviour to use speech to criticise unfairly or discriminate against others. It would be a bad action which would bring bad outcomes in the future. The Dhammapada teaches:

If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.Dhammapada

Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path provides Buddhists with important rules to follow if they are to achieve enlightenment. One of the paths is 'right effort'. Buddhists are taught that they should try to rid their minds of prejudice by meditating.

Another path is called 'right mindfulness'. This means that Buddhists will try hard to be aware of their actions and avoid causing harm to anyone.


Buddhists believe that meditation is very important in the search for enlightenment. One method of meditation is called 'Metta Bhavana'. Buddhists are encouraged to develop love equally for everyone around them, even those people they do not like. Being prejudiced or discriminating against a fellow person would, therefore, contradict this important virtue.

The Teachings of the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He teaches modern Buddhists that it is only through a feeling of love towards our fellow humans that we can cure many of the world's problems:

We must build a closer relationship among ourselves, based on mutual trust, mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual help, irrespective of culture, philosophy, religion or faith.Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama argues that we all have a responsibility to work to rid the world of prejudice and discrimination. Only when we have a positive attitude towards others can we do our small part in removing prejudice from the world. However, the Dalai Lama does not believe that it is just our responsibility:

We, therefore, need effective international action to address these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of today's world.Dalai Lama

Hindu conversions to Buddhism

As Hindus have become more aware of Buddhist teachings, many Hindu untouchables have converted to Buddhism to avoid the problems they experience as members of the caste system in in India. They are known as 'Dalit Buddhists'. Hindu untouchables can experience terrible discrimination by some members of the Indian population.

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