As individuals, we need to train in morality to lead a good and noble life. It is quite probable that on the empirical level an action may appear to be a mixture of good and bad elements, in spite of the intention and the way it is performed.
The Five Precepts
These are values that are cherished by all civilizations, and their significance is universally recognized. Observance of the five precepts constitutes the minimum moral obligation of a practicing lay Buddhist. It concerns respect for truth.
Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami : I observe the precept of abstaining from the destruction of life. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami : I observe the precept of abstaining from taking that which is not given. In fact, if we understand the contents and meaning of the five precepts correctly, we may come to feel that it is more natural to observe them than not to. There is always an opportunity to exert oneself if one is earnest in the practice.
Once wrong and evil deeds have been abandoned, it becomes more natural to do good. As the Buddha himself has admonished his followers:. While circumstances may prevent absolute abstention from killing, this may help to refine the mind and develop more sensitivity to the suffering of other beings. The same thing is true in the case of killing for self defense. If this were made into a standard practice, society would be in turmoil.
The First Buddhist Precept
Finally, if anything else fails to convince people of the danger and undesirability of sexual promiscuity, perhaps the phenomenal AIDS epidemic will. A story is told of a mother who returns home to find her house on fire. All the toys you ever wanted to have are here! The danger and negative effects of narcotics, such as cocaine and heroin, are too well known to need any further elaboration.
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Today they represent a serious health and social problem around the world. Drinking intoxicants is not part of the Buddhist culture, although it seems to have become a widespread phenomenon in modern society. Not taking the not-given. All these can be seen as ways of taking the not given.
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Avoiding sexual misconduct. Over the centuries different Buddhist schools have interpreted this precept in many ways, but essentially it means not causing harm to oneself or others in the area of sexual activity. It includes avoiding breaking commitments in the area of sexual relations, and avoiding encouraging others to do the same. Avoiding false speech.
Speech is the crucial element in our relations with others, and yet language is a slippery medium, and we often deceive ourselves or others without even realising that this is what we are doing.
Truthfulness, the positive counterpart of this precept, is therefore essential in an ethical life. Abstaining from drink and drugs that cloud the mind. The positive counterpart of this precept is mindfulness, or awareness. Frivolous speech.
Slanderous speech. The first precept in both sets of precepts expresses the overarching Buddhist ethical value - ahimsa , or non-harming - to abstain from causing harm and to cultivate loving kindness. Explore more perspectives on Buddhist ethics.
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