Those with neither conscience nor shame
can guard neither themselves nor others,
and are bound for eventual suffering.
According to the Buddha, the human world is protected by ‘twin guardians’, two forces in the mind that watch over and guide moral behavior. The first guardian of the world is hiri, a word that connotes conscience, moral intuition, and self-respect. It refers to that within the human psyche that knows the difference between right and wrong, between what is noble and ignoble, between what is worthy of respect and what is not. Each of us has within us an innate moral compass, and it is the view of the Buddhist tradition that religion is not the source of this but rather a form by which it is given expression.
The second guardian of the world is ottapa [or the fear of the results of having done wrong; moral shame]… Anything we do that is wholesome will be done with the support and guidance of these two inner guardians. Conversely, everything we do that is unwholesome can only be done when these moral guides are disregarded.