I thought it might be a good idea to have a discussion on the notion of "skilful" in terms of the modern Theravada practice.
In the suttas, the term most commonly translated as "skilful" is kusala
. Kusala is alternatively translated as wholesome, and it points towards the wholesome roots (mula) underlying wholesome actions of body, mind and speech. These skilful roots are alobha (non-greed, generosity), adosa (non-hatred, goodwill), amoha (non-deluded, wisdom).
Thus (if the Pali Canon is anything to go by) in the early days of Theravada, "skilful" primarily pertained to cetana (intention), which is kamma. However, it was not exclusively so. In the Digha Nikaya, we see that "skilful means (upàya kusala) is a teacher’s willingness to adapt him or her self to the interests, needs and level of understanding of others in order to be able to successfully communicate the Dhamma to them" (Source: http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Skilful_means
Skiful means was picked up by the Mahayana tradition and became one of the centrepieces of the Bodhisattva Ideal. In communication and exchange with the Mahayana tradition over recent centuries, it appears that the Theravadin understanding of "skilful" is shifting progressively away from the kamma/mula perspective, and more towards a broader and more global assessment of the outcome
of the action, rather than the intention
of the action.
In this context, I'd like to explore the issues arising from the various uses of the term, including but not restricted to...
- What "skilful" means to you in your practice
- In your speech, are you cognizant of the two-sides (outcome, intention) when using the term "skilful" and how do you ensure accurate communication of your meaning
- Whether "skilful means (upàya kusala)" is relevant to all, or only to those established as teachers
Feel free to take this topic in whatever direction you feel would be "skilful".