My Principles

A stack of stones

I’m the sort of nerd who likes to articulate my principles. My articulations of my principles are largely borrowed from Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness trainings, which are elaborations on Buddhism’s five precepts. However, I have gone ahead and made some modifications of my own, and, from time to time, I return to them and update them again.

I love being able to recite these words in times of prayer and lean on them in times of stress. These are my spiritual and moral cornerstones, so it seems appropriate to share them here on The Ruined Report.

Here are the principles by which I try to live my life:

I vow to abstain from taking life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and the insight of interbeing, and to learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

I vow to abstain from taking what is not given

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness, and to learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others and myself from profiting from suffering, and I will support and create free culture wherever possible. I will practice generosity in my thoughts, speech, and actions, and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering and that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.

I vow to abstain from sexual misconduct

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, partnerships, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect persons from sexual abuse and to prevent partnerships and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. I will be intentional, responsible, and feminist in my actions, and I am committed to cultivating intentional, responsible, and feminist thoughts within myself and within my communities.

I vow to abstain from false speech

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and in others. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of my anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in others. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and others to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord.

I vow to abstain from intoxicants

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins. This includes media. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I will practice returning to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing, and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past, nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.


For a spirituality night back in JVC, I shared my principles with my community, and then I asked my community-mates to try to write out their own. It was a fun night, and I enjoyed seeing what my community-mates came up with. If you haven’t tried to articulate your ethical and moral principles, I’d recommend you give it a shot, and perhaps bring your friends along for the ride too.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

About Cam N. Coulter

Cam N. Coulter thinks incessantly about speculative fiction, gender, and intentional communities. His poetry has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer and Eye to the Telescope. His academic nonfiction has appeared in the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Journal. He reviews short genre fiction for Skiffy and Fanty and also contributes to The Ruined Report. After his year in JVC, Cam spent two years as a live-in assistant at L'Arche Heartland and one year in China through the Maryknoll China Teachers Program. He currently works with adults with developmental disabilities in the SF Bay Area. Cam can be found on his website or on Twitter @camncoulter.