Ethical Standards for Harmonious Community Life

We recognize that the foundation of spiritual life rests upon our mindful and caring relationship to the life around us. We acknowledge that without the support of monastic vows and Asian customs, we have a need for clear Western guidelines. In keeping with this understanding, and for the long-term benefit of ourselves and the community at large, we, as Program Teachers, Community Group Facilitators, and Leaders agree to uphold the five lay training precepts. Furthermore, we have specifically expanded the scope of these five precepts to make them explicitly appropriate to our role as leaders of the Dharma in our specific cultural setting. The Common Ground teachers, facilitators and leaders have thus agreed to the following guidelines: (Adapted from Spirit Rock)

First Precept: We undertake the training to refrain from harming living beings.

From Insight Meditation Teachers Code of Ethics
“In undertaking this precept we acknowledge the interconnection of all beings and our respect for all life.  We agree to refine our understanding of not killing and non-harming in all our actions.  We seek to understand the implication of this precept in such difficult areas as abortion, euthanasia, and the killing of pets.  While some of us recommend vegetarianism, and others do not, we all commit ourselves to fulfilling this precept in the spirit of reverence for life.”

CG’s Addition:
“In community life we agree to not cause harm by using our authority, power or position for personal gain or to meet unwholesome emotional needs.  We agree to be mindful of our rank and power and to behave in ways that do not undermine people’s confidence in the Dharma. We agree to not judge another’s meditation practice or their worth as a human being.”

Second Precept: We undertake the training to refrain from taking what is not freely offered.

From Insight Meditation Teachers Code of Ethics
“We agree to not take that which does not belong to us and to respect the property of others.  We agree to bring consciousness to the use of all of the earth’s resources in a respectful and ecological way.  We agree to be honest in our dealing with money and not to misappropriate money committed to Dharma projects. We agree to offer teachings without favoritism in regard to student’s financial circumstances.”

Third Precept: We undertake the training to refrain from sexual misconduct.

From Insight Meditation Teachers Code of Ethics (CG Additions include expanding the standard to refer to Facilitators and Leaders)
“We agree to avoid creating harm through sexuality and to avoid sexual exploitation or relationships of a sexual manner that are outside of the bounds of the relationship commitments we have made to another or that involve another who has made vows to another. Teachers and Common Ground leaders with vows of celibacy will live according to their vows. Teachers and leaders in committed relationships will honor their vows and refrain from adultery. All teachers and any Common Ground leader or ongoing volunteer agrees not to use their formal role at Common Ground to exploit their authority and position in order to assume a sexual relationship with a student or any community member.

“Because several teachers or leaders in our community have developed partnerships and marriages with former students, we acknowledge that such a healthy relationship can be possible, but that great care and sensitivity are needed. We agree that in this case the following guidelines are crucial.

  1. A sexual relationship is never appropriate between teachers and students.
  2. During retreats or formal teaching, any intimation of future student-teacher romantic or sexual relationship is inappropriate.
  3. If interest in a genuine and committed relationship develops over time between a single teacher and a student, the student-teacher relationship must clearly and consciously have ended before any further development toward a romantic relationship.  Such a relationship must be approached with restraint and sensitivity – in no case should it occur immediately after retreat.  A minimum time period of three months or longer from the last formal teaching between them, and a clear understanding from both parties that the student-teacher relationship has ended must be coupled with a conscious commitment to enter into a relationship that brings no harm to either party.”

Fourth Precept: We undertake the training to refrain from false speech.

From Insight Meditation Teachers Code of Ethics
“We agree to speak that which is true and useful and to refrain from gossip in our community.  We agree to hold in confidence what is explicitly told to us in confidence. We agree to cultivate conscious and clear communication, and to cultivate the quality of loving-kindness and honesty as the basis of our speech.”

CG’s Addition:
We agree to speak up when remaining silent may cause harm to self or others, and to keep silent when words are likely to cause harm.

Fifth Precept: We undertake the training to refrain from the misuse of intoxicants.

From Insight Meditation Teachers Code of Ethics
“It is clear that substance abuse is the cause of tremendous suffering.  We agree that there should be no use of intoxicants during retreats or while on retreat premises (or at any Common Ground programs).  We agree not to abuse or misuse intoxicants at any time.  We agree that if any teacher (or leader) has a drug or alcohol addiction problem, it should be immediately addressed by the community.”