The Five Precepts of Buddhism

This post is a reference on the Five Precepts of Buddhism. The Five Precepts are the most basic, and most universal code of conduct the Buddha encouraged followers to practice. The concept behind the Five Precepts was not a set of rules, but rather a personal vow to adhere for the benefit of others. It’s a matter of cultivating humaneness. There are often described as “training rules” as well. Not every person gets the Five Precepts right the first time, or hundredth time, but every Buddhist disciple who undertakes the Five Precepts makes a gradual, steady effort to eventually perfect them. It’s the effort that counts, believe me.

The Five Precepts are:

  1. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking life.1
  2. I undertake the precept to from taking what is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.2
  4. I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to abstain from liquors, wines, and other intoxicants, which are the basis for heedlessness.3

Buddhists who wish to undertake the Five Precepts can do so privately, before a Buddhist image, or more formally before a Buddhist monk. If one breaks the precepts, which often happens with new disciples and even veteran ones, one simply acknowledges one’s mistake, and strives to avoid it next time. This can also be done in private, before a Buddhist image, etc.

The Five Precepts are a lifelong path for the Buddhist disciple, and a good investment of one’s time and study.

1 This means to intentionally end the life of another sentient being, either by yourself or through others (e.g. conspiring).

2 Sexual misconduct is defined in Buddhist literature as “illicit sex”, “adultery”, sex at an “inappropriate time” or sex that harms and abuses others. Homosexuality is considered no different than heterosexuality. However if either one is used as described above, then it is considered sexual misconduct.

3 This can even include social drinking. The Buddha described intoxicants as having no merit, and can cause one to commit the other four harmful acts above. Indeed, it happens all the time, even for otherwise normal well-adjusted people.

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