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Right Action

Traditionally, Right Action (Pali: samma kammanta, Sanskrit: samyak karmanta), also known as Right Conduct, is the fourth element of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Saccavibhanga Sutta, the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, and the Maha-satipatthana Sutta are three different early Buddhist scriptures written in Pali. In each of them, Shariputra, one of the historical Buddha's foremost disciples, essentially says of Right Action:1

"And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, and from illicit sex [or sexual misconduct]. This is called right action."

Right Action, as a part of the Noble Eightfold Path, has to do with ethical conduct. It is saying to not perform physical actions which bring harm to others. Illicit sex or sexual conduct here means not harming others through sexual acts. Harming others through sexual misconduct includes:

Sex should be an expression of love and intimacy between two people and, when it is, it contributes to their mental and emotional well-being. So their is no sexual misconduct in such a case per sé. But in the special case of a monk or nun who has taken a vow of celibacy, sexual misconduct would also include intentionally breaking that vow of celibacy. One exception to this would be a monk or nun who has formally released himself or herself from the vow and returned to being a layperson.

(Deceitfulness itself is primarily a violation of Right Speech.)




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