In the Buddhist teachings on the Four Right Efforts, it’s taught that the first of these, prevention is the most efficient way to keep ourselves and others from harm. We find the straightforward logic of this in many areas of life…
we drive carefully, to avoid accidents
we look both ways before crossing the street
we watch what’s on the stove, so what we’re cooking doesn’t burn
On a personal level, we watch our speech in a sensitive situation, so we don’t offend someone.
One person added that we don’t use heroin.
It takes a hundred times or a thousand times as much effort to remedy problems after they have happened. We can see, looking back, how much better it would have been to avoid difficulties in the first place.
And all that’s been said so far is on the level of outer action.
The deeper meaning to this teaching on preventing suffering is that we should avoid what bring harms to ourselves and others on the level of the mind.
If we make the effort to connect causes with their results, we’ll be able to see what to change, or let go of ahead of time to prevent problems from arising.
What’s more, having less conflict and negative emotions contributes to the other liberating right efforts:
removing suffering conditions once they have arisen,
cultivating positive, helpful factors,
maintaining and increasing those wholesome factors.
In The Path of Awakening, by Piya Tan writes:
The right effort to prevent the hindrances or to mitigate, even remove, them, is that of sense-restraint.
This begins on the outer level. Making sense contact that has the potential to bring up an afflictive emotion, we turn our attention away from it, but then we also remove the mind from the thought, calming ourselves further.
If we are to progress from sila, ethics, to calm and clear meditation, and then to wisdom practice, uprooting the defilements completely, this is the practice.
These teachings on right effort, we should know, encompass all the Buddhist teachings.