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  • five precepts considered the most basic moral code within Buddhism; moral code followed by the laity. Along with five additional precepts from the code followed by novice bhikkhus and within theravada buddhism they are:
  • 1. I undertake to refrain from killing any living being
  • 2. I undertake to refrain from taking what is not given
  • 3. I undertake to refrain from misusing sexual pleasures
  • 4. I undertake to refrain from false speech
  • 5. I undertake to refrain from taking intoxicants which cloud the mind
  • might be seen as explaining the right action part of the eightfold path
  • each precept can be seen as advising Buddhists how to prevent dukkha for others and for themselves throguh the generation of negative kammic consequences.
  • first one indicates that killing any sentient being should be avoided, but goes further than that in demanding that harm should be avoided too
  • second is an indication to avoid theft but is taken further than that. gambling may also fall under this precept
  • third is used in relation to sexual behaviours. sexual behaviour which harms others should be avoided, and to some extent this is affected by culture. **** and homosexuality. can be widened to other sexual pleasures, eating or even seeking material goods.
  • fourth includes lying, also refers to gossiping, or speaking in a harsh or cruel way
  • fifth prevents people from taking drugs. which leads them to behave in harmful ways to themselves or others. this is an attempt to exercise full control over the mind. some avoid alcohol too. They are allowed to take medicinal drugs.

Positive Interpretations

  • five precepts are usually worded negatively to show what buddhists should avoid. 
  • Some feel that the precepts could be followed at a higher level, by giving them a positive interpretation.
  • rather than avoiding harmful speech, a buddhist could ensure that all of their speech is of a positive nature, or helpful.
  • A postive interpretation of not taking what is not given, might be to develop generosity.

How do the Five Precepts Affect Buddhist Behaviour?

  • Many lay Buddhists, especially in Theravada countries, will see the five precepts as clear rules to follow and to do so as well as possible 
  • the way they are interpreted in a culture can be static and their meaning will generally be interpreted in the same way by all buddhists within the community.
  • within mahayana and western traditions, there may be more room for interpretation. 
  • In mahayana tradition there will be more allowance to break the precepts if a higher aim is achieved, due to the concept of upaya
  • Within western buddhism, there is more awareness about how the interpretation of each precept might be affected by cultural expectations and norms.
  • Therefore, there may be more discussion about how each precept is interpretatied. one night stand?
  • this can make it hard to apply the teachings of the precepts to modern ethical dilemmas.
  • indirect killing of animals has not been considered to fall under this precept
  • effect of the precepts on


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