Precepts

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A precept (sikkhàpada) is a self-imposed rule or discipline. The moral rules that all who call themselves Buddhists are obliged to live by are called the five Precepts (pa¤casãla).

The Five Precepts

Main article: 5 precepts

They are:

  1. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking life. (Though the precept's wording prohibits the killing of living beings, in terms of its underlying purpose it can also be understood to prohibit injuring, maiming, and torturing as well -- Bhikkhu Bodhi)
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

In following these Precepts one gradually develops a respect for the life of others, for their property, their dignity, their right to know the truth and a respect for the clarity of one’s own mind. The Buddha called the practice of these Precepts a consideration to others which ‘creates love and respect and which is conducive to helpfulness, non-dispute, harmony and unity’ (A.III,287).

On another occasion he called virtue ‘freedom-giving’ and ‘conducive to concentration’ (A.III,132). He also mentioned that one of the most important benefits of practicing the Precepts is that one experiences ‘the happiness of being blameless’ (D.I,70).

The Eight Precepts

Main article: 8 precepts

In addition to these Precepts, serious Buddhists will try to practice the eight Precepts (aññhasãla) at least on the New Moon and Full Moon days of every month. The eight Precepts are:

  1. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking life. (Though the precept's wording prohibits the killing of living beings, in terms of its underlying purpose it can also be understood to prohibit injuring, maiming, and torturing as well -- Bhikkhu Bodhi)
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
  6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating after midday
  7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, playing or listening to music, personal adornment and makeup
  8. I undertake the precept to refrain from using high seats or beds

The Ten Precepts

Main article: 10 precepts

It will be noticed that while the five Precepts pertain to moral behaviour, the last three of the eight Precepts add behaviour that is conducive to simplicity, peace and reflection. Novice monks and nuns are expected to practice the ten Precepts (dasasãla) in preparation for their monastic life. These ten are:

  1. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking life. (Though the precept's wording prohibits the killing of living beings, in terms of its underlying purpose it can also be understood to prohibit injuring, maiming, and torturing as well -- Bhikkhu Bodhi)
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
  6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating after midday
  7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, playing or listening to music
  8. I undertake the precept to refrain from adornment and makeup
  9. I undertake the precept to refrain from using high seats or couches
  10. I undertake the precept to refrain from using gold and silver i.e. money.

The ten Precepts are most likely meant as a summary of the core precepts to be followed by monastics.

References