The Moral Code of Buddhism: The Five Precepts
Buddhism is not just a religion, but also a discipline and a way of life that encourages people to follow certain guidelines to help them conquer suffering. Buddha’s teachings are about being peaceful, righteous and thoughtful. The Five Precepts of Buddhism are actually the gist of the teachings and a moral guideline that people can follow. These precepts, if followed,
can help people to build up their moral strength and live peacefully with their fellow beings.
Refrain from killing: This teaching is about being non-violent. To live peacefully and harmoniously with and respect others, living beings must not be killed. Approval of killing by others and participation in killing is also considered wrong. This precept is about protecting lives and cultivating an innate kindness towards other beings. Since this teaching advocates non-violence, it also urges people to be vegetarians.
Refrain from stealing: This precept is about respecting other people’s properties and not taking it by stealing or by force. If something hasn’t been given to you, then you have no right to it. Stealing not only applies to material goods, but also to time and effort. You should be responsible and not fritter away someone else’s (e.g., an employer’s) time. This precept also urges people to be generous, kind, sympathetic and respectful to everyone.
Refrain from sexual misconduct: According to the teachings of Buddhism, sexual desire is one of the biggest hurdles to enlightenment and one of the most difficult temptations to overcome. Sexual misconduct like adultery and rape, which cause mental, emotional and physical injury to others, are absolutely forbidden. This precept, like all Buddha’s teachings, urges people to respect others by abstaining from sexual misconduct.
Refrain from lying: Respecting the truth is one of the most important principles of Buddhism. Denying the truth is actually lying, which can create guilt, confusion and disharmony. Buddhists are also asked to keep away from half-truths, exaggeration or understatements and, instead, work on being honest. It is believed that being completely honest with oneself and others will reduce disharmony and misunderstandings in the world.
Refrain from drugs and alcohol: Buddhism places a lot of importance on wisdom. Consuming intoxicants like alcohol and drugs can erode that wisdom and these are also harmful for health. A state of intoxication increases the chances of committing crimes and wrongdoing. It is easier to commit evil deeds or injure others when people are drunk or drugged. It is believed that anyone who breaks this precept will actually be dishonoring all the other precepts.
This precept is about respecting one’s mental health and not relinquishing control of one’s mind. Meditation is important to become more aware and attentive and only a calm mind can meditate. People who observe this precept will lead happy lives.
These practical precepts can be practiced not only by Buddhists, but by anyone who wishes to lead a happy, simple and honest life.