The Five Precepts:

The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts are a code of ethics that were taught by the Buddha for all of us to live a morally good life.

The Five Precepts are a guide for us to live our lives in a mutually respectful way, and live in peace and harmony with each other. The Five Precepts are also referred to as the five moral rules.

Each one of the precepts is called Sikkhapada, meaning steps of training. These steps were created to bring a peaceful and joyful life to not only those who practice Buddhism, but for everyone they interact with as well.

The Five Precepts are:

  • Abstain from taking the life of a living being.

  • Abstain from taking what is not freely given.

  • Abstain from sexual misconduct.

  • Abstain from false speech.

  • Abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind.

Abstain From Taking The Life of a Living Being. Do Not Destroy Life:

The most obvious meaning of the first precept is not to kill anything that lives. It refers to the killing of all living beings. All beings fear death, and want to live. We must respect the right to life of all living beings and not kill, or cause to be killed any living being both human, and animal.

Buddhists also interpret this precept to mean that we must abstain from all acts of himsa (violence) against humans, and animals. Intentionally inflicting pain, or injury upon another living being must also be avoided.

Acts of aggression emanate from negative thoughts of anger and hate. These negative thoughts bring about negative actions and impede our path to enlightenment.

* Himsa is a Sanskrit world that means to cause injury or harm, and refers to both physical and mental injuries. Ahimsa is the opposite of himsa and means compassion, or do no harm to others. Ahimsa is one of the main principles of Buddhist teachings.

Abstain From Taking What Is Not freely Given:

The second precept discourages us from stealing the property of another. This precept advises us not to take from others that which is not freely given to us.

We must have respect for the property of others as we would want others to have respect for our property, and refrain from stealing from us.

Taking from another does not only refer to the personal property of another, but their time as well. Engaging in prolonged idle conversation with someone who is busy performing other tasks is considered a form of taking from them as well.

We all have the same allotment of time each day to complete our tasks and daily activities. Respecting the limited time of others is part of the second precept.

Do not take up too much of someone’s time unless they freely give up their time to indulge you.

We must not let the compassion of others cloud our thinking. It is always wise to promptly return that which we borrow from others in a timely manner as well.

Someone who loans us their property for our use expects it to be returned to them. Keeping it in our possession for longer than it is needed can be considered a violation of this precept as well.

Abstain From Sexual Misconduct:

This precept is more accurately translated as abstaining from sensual misconduct. Some schools of Buddhism claim that it not only refers to misconduct of a sexual nature, but over indulging in other sensual pleasures as well, such as eating sweet foods that are pleasing to the taste, but unhealthy to consume.

There are other Buddhists who proclaim that it refers to only acts of a sexual nature. This involves rape, consorting with prostitutes, and adultery as well. We must not let lust overcome us, and guide us down a path of sexual misconduct.

Engaging in sexual activity with an unwilling person, or even one who is too intoxicated to consent to such activities goes against this precept. Cheating on your spouse even with a willing partner is also a form of sexual misconduct.

Abstain From False Speech:

This precept refers to being honest in your speech. We must refrain from lying, being deceitful in our dealings with others, and engaging in vindictive or hateful gossip

This precept is the same as the path of Right Speech in Buddha’s The Eightfold Path doctrine. We must embrace honesty in our words and actions at all times. If we are always honest in our words and actions we will be seen as a trustworthy person by others.

Following this precept will bring positive karma upon ourselves, and aid us along our path to enlightenment.

Abstain From Intoxicants:

This precept refers to not only consuming alcohol, but other drugs as well. When we are under the influence of alcohol, or drugs that cloud our minds we tend to make decisions, or speak words that we would not do while sober.

These words and actions will cause problems for us, or at the very least cause embarrassment for us later.

Having a clear mind, and focusing our thoughts on that of a positive nature is an important part of Buddhist teachings. We must not indulge in activities that will affect our ability to focus.

Following The Five Precepts will lead us to enlightenment, and nirvana

The Five Hindrances:

Buddha also taught about the Five Hindrances along our path to enlightenment. These Five Hindrances will impede our progress along the path to enlightenment and prevent us from reaching nirvana.

The Five Hindrances are…

  • Doubt

  • Lust

  • Hatred

  • Worry

  • Exhaustion, or Laziness

While Siddhartha (The Buddha) was meditating under a Bodhi tree seeking enlightenment he was tempted by Mara with earthly pleasures. All those who attempt to reach Enlightenment will face similar temptations along the path to nirvana. We must resist these temptations if we are to embrace nirvana.

The Buddha sought release from Samsara by following the Eightfold path. He believed that he would be released from the cycle of reincarnation, and achieve Nirvana by adhering to The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path.

While traveling along the Eightfold path to enlightenment you will be faced with many temptations similar to what the Buddha endured. If you can overcome the obstacles outlined in the five hindrances you will be closer to reaching enlightenment.

Follow The Five Precepts, avoid The Five Hindrances, and Embrace Nirvana.

You May Also Like:

Letting Go Of Attachment:

88 Dalai Lama Quotes

The Importance of Mindfulness

The Monkey Mind

The Tree of Suffering:

Enlightened T-Shirts

Recommended Reading:

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Amazon Best Seller

The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living - Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama's Cat

Embracing Nirvana copyright date