What is virtue?

What is evil? What is negativity? Evil is action that harms others. Moreover, it is said that not only should we refrain from harming others in the present, we should refrain from doing things to harm ourselves in the future (as the result of evil karma). Again, what is virtue? It is the good heart, the wish to benefit others. This is what we call bodhichitta. If we have a good heart, wishing the welfare of others, and if we bring benefit to others and to ourselves, we are practicing virtue. Virtue depends exclusively on a good heart. We may well recite the refuge prayer, but if we harbor evil thoughts, it is meaningless. As the saying goes, “With good motivation, all the grounds and paths are excellent. With evil motivation, all the grounds and paths are ruined.” 41 A good motivation, a good heart—this is what we must have at all times. This is the Dharma and nothing else. It is not something grandiose or elaborate.

Counsels from My Heart by Dudjom

41.  sa, ground or level, and lam, path. The practice of the Mahayana is divided into five paths (of accumulation, joining, seeing, meditation, and no-more-learning), which are gradually traversed as the practitioner progresses toward buddhahood. The third path, that of seeing, is the point where the practitioner has a direct experience of ultimate reality. There then begins a second system of grounds or levels of bodhisattva realization, which extends from the path of seeing through the path of meditation and culminates in the attainment of the path of no-more-learning, buddhahood.