The 16 Guidelines - a set of ethical precepts

“I consider ethics to consist less of rules to be obeyed than of principles for inner self-regulation to promote those aspects of our nature which we recognize as conducive to our own well-being and that of others”.  –The Dalai Lama, FDCW Patron.

The 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life are a set of ethical precepts that cut through the issues that divide the modern world. They are instantly recognizable to people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, and hold the key to the happiness of ourselves, our families and our communities.

The 16 Guidelines propose that it isn’t material wealth, reputation and status, or even comfort and good health that will bring us stable and lasting happiness. Instead, they encourage us to pay deeper attention to:

These are the 4 wisdom themes which act as a basis to explore the 16 Guidelines. Ranging from humility to courage, the guidelines are universally familiar yet profound qualities which take us to the heart of what it means to be a caring and fulfilled human being.Browse the 16 Guidelines here.

Thousands of people around the world, of all ages, cultures and walks of life, have found that engaging with the 16 Guidelines programme has brought lasting happiness and satisfaction into their personal and professional lives.

Why study the 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life?

Some of the guidelines, such as kindness, generosity and courage, are so familiar that there can be a tendency to take them for granted. Others, such as right speechforgiveness and loyalty present complex challenges in contemporary society, and deserve deeper examination. Many of the guidelines, such as patience, gratitude and service, are illuminated by recent scientific findings that demonstrate how they can help us develop strength and resilience.

Taken as a whole, and brought together with a range of methodologies that include mindfulness, cognitive techniques and the creative arts, the guidelines offer a powerful yet accessible route to enjoying a happy life.

Origins

The 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life are inspired by a collection of advice that was drawn up to promote peace and wellbeing in 7th century Tibet.  The aim and function of this advice (traditionally known as the 16 Human Dharmas)  was to help people of any age, educational background, culture or life situation to co-exist in a harmonious way. This is why it seems such an appropriate moment to re-introduce this collection of 16 inner values to the modern world.

The 16 Human Dharmas were put together by King Songtsen Gampo, who lived from around 613 to 650 AD. Texts recovered from the Dunhuang Caves present him as a warrior king who united the different tribes of Tibet to create an empire that stretched from present-day Kabul right up to the borders of China. He consolidated his power by making a range of strategic marriages, most significantly to the daughter of the King of Nepal to the south, and the daughter of the T’ang Emperor of China to the east.

Both of these princesses were Buddhists, and it is said that they played a crucial part in encouraging their husband to become a Buddhist himself, and to promote Buddhist ideas and culture. As the first Buddhist King of Tibet, King Songtsen Gampo has inspired an alternative narrative of epic proportions that credits him with living to the age of 89 years, and re-absorbing on his deathbed into the Jowo Rinpoche, a sacred image believed to have been personally blessed by the Buddha himself.

Whatever the truth of the myths that surround King Songtsen Gampo, he was undoubtedly a visionary figure who was also responsible for creating the Tibetan alphabet and constitution, introducing paper and ink to Tibet, commissioning translations of Sanskrit texts, and building monasteries such as the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

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Browse the 16 Guidelines