|In Buddhism, the precepts form a basic code of ethics or minimum standard of morality. There are various numbers of precepts, depending on the teaching, but the most common are the Five Precepts found in the Paramitas. They’re designed to help you achieve liberation from suffering and illusion – if you can stick to them!
The Five Precepts are for lay practitioners and guide you along the Eightfold Path as part of your spiritual practice. But it’s important not to follow them too mechanically or dogmatically. They’re not like the Ten Commandments and you’re not weighed down with sin if you fail to uphold them. Following the precepts isn’t about making yourself feel guilty every time you fail. They’re more like guidelines – ideals of behaviour to aim for in your practice.
These are the Five Precepts:
Each precept needs to be understood within the context of the teachings and your daily life. You may think the first one is easy – most of us aren’t planning to kill anyone any time soon! But it refers to all sentient beings, not just other humans. So that means no fly swatting or ant squishing – pretty difficult to achieve, especially in summer.
Ideally, these precepts are about learning acceptance and how to not make things any worse for yourself or others. It’s about aiming to make living with others in society more harmonious. If you want to go hardcore, you might like to try following the full Ten Precepts, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend it – unless you’re a saint.
The Ten Precepts are the training rules for Buddhist monks and nuns, and build on the basic Five Precepts. These rules are for serious ascetics only. In fact, living by the Ten Precepts outside the walls of a monastery would be almost impossible and I doubt you’d have many friends. With that in mind, here they are:
Not much fun! Obviously these rules are designed to help build discipline and focus so you can concentrate on attaining enlightenment. But I don’t think I’ll be signing up to join a nunnery any time soon – I couldn’t handle it!
Zen Buddhism also has Ten Precepts but they’re a little easier to aspire to than the monastic rules. They build on the Five Precepts and form the ethical underpinning of Zen. The Ten Precepts of Zen are:
All the precepts arise directly from your Buddha Nature so aligning yourself with these principles brings you closer to liberation from illusion and suffering. A fully enlightened person would live in accordance with these precepts without giving it a second thought – it would simply be natural for them to be this way.
The precepts are there to help nudge you in the right direction. They’re not easy to follow, but that’s why you practice. Remember: there’s no need to be rigid or dogmatic or give yourself a hard time when you fall short. You only need to do your best.
(*The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.)
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