Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Five Precepts....

I was asked a while back to discuss the Five Precepts here. This is a very brief rundown of what they are. The fact is that interpretation of these precepts is so complex that I'm not sure I can blog it without having this post become so long that it would exceed the space allotted in this template. It keeps teachers and monks busy for a lifetime.

Discussion is welcome, of course, and I'll do my best to answer any questions. :)


1) I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.

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.

The First Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Precept:

Aware of suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.



Blog Antagonist said...

I think having a deeply meaningful personal philosophy is very empowering. I wish more people would take the time to really evaluate their goals in that regard. Thanks for sharing those.

liv said...

I like that at a core place, these precepts are really quite simple. They may inspire discussion for days, but there is simplicity for s/he who is of the mind to read and follow.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

The Fourth Precept is the hardest for me, especially not condemning things of which I am not sure.

The Five Precepts contain the Ten Commandments and more, and I have always believed that if everyone practiced them, there would be far less misery in the world.

Your explanations are very concise and easily understood. Thank you for sharing them here, Chani.

thailandchani said...

BA, I think it would change the way we all live and by that, it would change the world as we know it.

An awful lot of the hostility and negativity that's "out there" in the ethers is just plain self-indulgence and mindlessness.


Liv, I agree. Of course there will always be those who deal in interpretations. My favorite example is a woman I know who spends a good portion of her time looking for the loopholes.


Susan, my greatest weakness is the Fifth. I do have an issue with food.. and additionally, sometimes I am not very mindful about the kind of energy I surround myself with. You know.. too much garbage like endless news watching and trash TV shows.

I'm trying though :)




Paul said...

The precepts do two things. First, they offer safety to the individual who keeps them. A person who is blameless has - above all else - peace of mind, which is priceless.

Second, the keeper of the precepts offers safety to others. Whom would you rather spend time with, one who speaks kindly or one who speaks harshly, one who lies or one who is truthful? Do you trust someone who steals, cheats, kills?

The fifth precept is to refrain from intoxicants that dull the mind and therefore may cause one to behave heedlessly, thereby putting one at risk of breaking the others. This could be applied to food and TV, especially if they influence negative behavior.

The precepts are not commandments that are enforced by others. They are enforced internally, not to avoid retribution, but to avoid afflicting suffering on oneself and others.

Also, they are not open to interpretation. You either keep them or you don't. An attempt to justify behavior through interpretation is simply that: an attempt to justify behavior. Isn't this what we all do?

I discuss this in a little more detail on my blog, with some external links for more information. (I couldn't figure out how to make a proper link.)


slouching mom said...

I like these very much. The Fourth is interesting -- I've not heard anything quite like it before.

I am going to spend some time thinking about that one.

Thanks, Chani!

niobe said...

Fascinating. I have a (probably dumb) question

If you're committed to not killing any living thing and protecting the lives of animals and plants, what can you eat?

Julie Pippert said...

Very cool to read, fascinating. Now I need to ponder. Thanks for doing this!!

thailandchani said...

Paul, I agree with your first and second points. As far as interpretation, there is plenty of that to be had. :) One person's definition of bad literature, as an example, will be different than another's. These are all things the individual has to work out. We can't even say "wholesome" because what's wholesome in one culture may not be in another.

In the general sense, I get what you're saying though.


SM, I tend to think of the Fourth Precept as awfully important.. and it's also the most difficult. It presumes that we always know the absolute truth.. and make a choice to perpetuate untruth. The news is a perfect example of that.


Niobe, the generally accepted view is that things that grow from the earth are acceptable. If we take a pear off the tree, it doesn't kill the tree. The tree creates more. The same could be said of vegetables, rice and so on.


Julie, glad you liked it :)


Rimarama said...

These seem like pretty reasonable tenets to adhere to in life. Is the one about refraining from intoxicating substances of any sort or in any amount because of the whole "slippery slope" argument? I would really miss the occasional glass of wine if I tried to follow these to the letter of the law!

flutter said...

All wonderful steps to being a good human.

Snoskred said...

Thank you for posting this, Chani. It is very interesting.

I like what Paul said - you either keep them or you don't. That's similar to the quote I have on my computer from Yoda - Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try.

So my question to you would be, why are you trying not to watch those tv shows? It's your decision to do it, or do not do it. There is no try.

I'm not living by the five precepts but I do understand that in the course of my day I have choices to make, it's all up to me. I choose what I do. I choose what I eat. I choose what I watch. I don't watch the news. I see the news for what it is, an attempt to create sheer terror in my life. It tries to make me scared, to make me fear. The product the news is selling is themselves - you must come back tomorrow to know more, so you can protect yourself from all the awful things going on.

If you were in Thailand, would you be wasting any time on that stuff at all? Why do it where you live now? Why not look for the good, if you want to sit down and watch tv?

Just a thought.. ;)

MsLittlePea said...

I liked these very much. The 5th one is pretty hard for me I think. I eat horribly and often excuse myself because of the amount of exercise I do. My TV habit can be excessive as well...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I didn't mean to imply that the Precepts are the same as the Ten Commandments, but was simply noting that some of them were similar in intent, not killing, not coveting what is not yours, etc.

The standards we set for ourselves are often more difficult than those that come from outside ourselves. Hopefully, they are higher, and if we follow them, will lead to safer, saner and sweeter lives for us and for those in relationship to us.

jen said...

imagine if everyone lived this way, practiced these precepts.

painted maypole said...

wow. this is awesome. like Jen, I wish for a world where we all practiced this. But we must start with ourselves. You have made a wonderful start, and are sharing it with others. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I needed to wait until I had a little quiet time to be able to ingest this. Ah, nap time!

I recently purchased a children's book with three zen stories in it, having borrowed it from the library a while ago and loved it. ("Zen Shorts" by Jon Muth.) Re-reading it, I realized that zen teaching is very accessible to a young mind, perhaps more so than an adult. I went back and searched the library. Whether or not my children go on to practice Buddhism, in my opinion these are universal truths that will benefit them always.

What I love about Buddhist teachings is the many layers and interpretations. Even at the most simple, transparent level, they are soul-nurturing.

crazymumma said...

nice Chani. I know you try to do all of these.

what a discipline.

Catherine said...

THANK YOU for posting this - fantastic.

Susanne said...

Thank you very much for this post. I think it was me who asked you to do this. And afterwards I realized that I already knew them...

I find them marvelous and beautiful but I don't quite know how anybody could really live them. I guess it's more about pointing oneself in the right direction.

But I often find myself in a place where I think, "Well, I can't really do this so why bother trying?"

I find the first, the second and the fifth extremely hard but I am coming back to deep listening and loving speech over and over again.