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Buddhist Principals: The Five Precepts

Buddhists undertake certain precepts as aids on the path to coming into contact with ultimate reality. Laypeople generally undertake five precepts. The Five Precepts are not given in the form of commands such as "thou shalt not ...", but rather are promises to oneself: "I will (try) to do ...".

The five precepts are:

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from harming living creatures (killing).
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not freely given (stealing).
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech (lying, harsh language, slander, idle chit-chat).
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness.

It should be noted that the literal, and possibly original, meaning of the third precept covers more than the now generally standard meaning "sexual misconduct" and actually involves refraining from "wrong indulgence in all sensory pleasures".

In some schools of Buddhism, serious lay people or aspiring monks take an additional three to five ethical precepts, and some of the five precepts are strengthened. For example, the precept pertaining to sexual misconduct becomes a precept of celibacy; the fourth precept, which pertains to incorrect speech, is expanded to four: lying, harsh language, slander, and idle chit-chat. Monks and nuns of the Theravada school also vow to follow the 227 patimokkha rules. Mahayana monks and nuns follow 348 equivalent rules with an additional set of, generally, 41 bodhisattva vows.


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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