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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

Vajrayana monks follow the monastic code of conduct, the Vinaya—which vary depending on the sub-school of the tradition—to structure their daily lives, ritual and devotional activities, and communal interactions. Monastic institutions are hierarchically organized, often determined by lineage.


Although each individual Buddhist is fully responsible for his or her own progress, monks provide a moral and ethical model for the laity, as well as guidance and teaching. The lives of monks are highly regulated, as laid out in the vast corpus of monastic rules, the Vinaya.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Karma is at the center of all discussions of morality and ethics in the Vajrayana, along with the idea of selfless compassion (karuna). It is the bodhisattvas' selfless compassion, coupled with wisdom (prajna) and skillful means (upaya), that compels them to remain in the world to aid other beings.

Vision for Society

Compassion, as embodied by the bodhisattvas, is an inherent aspect of the Vajrayana conception of the social world; all beings, because they are karmically interconnected, should act with compassionate understanding toward all other beings, thus creating a perfectly harmonious social realm (ideally).

Gender and Sexuality

Some scholars have recently brought to light evidence that indicates that the Vajrayana has been far more gender-egalitarian than other schools of Buddhism. Some have argued that there have historically been female founders of Vajrayana movements and a strong sense of female empowerment in the tradition.