Bodhicitta

In Praise of Virtue

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First Ennead, Book Two:

On Virtues

 

I.-There is a difference between the virtues of the citizen, those of the man who attempts to rise to contemplation, and who on this account, is said to possess a contemplative mind; those of him who contemplates intelligence; and finally those of pure Intelligence, which is completely separated from the soul.

1. The civil virtues consist of moderation in passions, and in letting one's actions follow the rational laws of duty. The object of these virtues being to make us benevolent in our dealings with our fellow~human beings, they are called civil virtues because they mutually unite citizens. "Prudence refers to the rational part of our soul; courage, to that part of the soul subject to anger; temperance consists in the agreement and harmony of appetite and reason; finally justice, consists in the accomplishment, by all these faculties, of the function proper to each of them, either to command, or to obey."

2. The virtues of the man who tries to rise to contemplation consist in detaching oneself from things here below; that is why they are called "purifications." They command us to abstain from activities which innervate the organs, and which excite the affections that relate to the body. The object of these virtues is to raise the soul to genuine existence. While the civil virtues are the ornament of mortal life, and prepare the soul for the purificatory virtues, the latter direct the man whom they adorn to abstain from activities in which the body predominates. Thus, in the purificatory virtues, "Prudence consists in not forming opinions in harmony with the body, but in acting by oneself, which is the work of pure thought. Temperance consists in not sharing the passions of the body; Courage, in not fearing separation therefrom, as if death drove man into emptiness and annihilation; while Justice exacts that reason and intelligence command and be obeyed." The civil virtues moderate the passions; their object is to teach us to live in conformity with the laws of human nature. The contemplative virtues obliterate the passions from the soul; their object is to assimilate man to the divinity.

 

Part of Porphyry's comments based four stages of virtue from his Master Plotinus' teachings. The passages in quote marks are from the Enneads.

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Posted (edited)

The rest of Porphyry's comments on stage two of virtues:

 

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There is a difference between purifying oneself, and being pure. Consequently, the purificatory virtues may, like purification itself, be considered in two lights; they purify the soul, and they adorn the purified soul, because the object of purification is purity. But "since purification and purity consist in being separated from every foreign entity, the good is something different from the soul that purifies itself. If the soul that purifies herself had possessed the good before losing her purity, it would be sufficient for the soul to purify herself; but in this very case, what would remain to her after the purification would be the good; she can only participate therein, and have its form; otherwise the soul would not have fallen into evil. For the soul, good consists in being united to her author, and her evil is to unite with lower things."

 

Of evil, there are two kinds: the one is to unite with lower things; the other is to abandon oneself to the passions. The civil virtues owe their name as virtues and their value to their releasing the soul from one of these two kinds of evil [that is, of the passions]. The purificatory virtues are superior to the former, in that they free the soul from her characteristic form of evil [that is, union with lower things]. "Therefore, when the soul is pure, she must be united to her author; her virtue, after her 'conversion,' consists in her knowledge and science of veritable existence; not that the soul lacks this knowledge, but because without her superior principle ---without intelligence--- she does not see what she possesses. "

 

Edited by Bodhicitta

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The value and power of faith, from Avatamsaka Sutra, ch. 39:

 

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Then, from afar, Mañjuśrī stretched his right hand and rubbed the crown of Sudhana’s head, and said:

This is good indeed, good indeed, O Son of Good Family. Were one to abandon the faculty of faith, his mind would become inferior, and beset by worries and regrets. His meritorious practices would be rendered imperfect, and he would fail in his application of energetic diligence. His mind would become inclined to abide in and become attached to just a single root of goodness. He would find that he would thus become satisfied with only a minor measure of meritorious qualities.  He would not then be able to use artful skillfulness in bringing forth his practices and vows. He would not be drawn forth and protected by good spiritual guides, nor be born in mind by the Tathāgata. He would not then be able to completely know the nature of dharmas such as these, nor purports such as these, Dharma doors like these, practices like these, nor objective realms such as these.

 

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