Five Precepts

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The Five Precepts is a Buddhist term for a formal sacrament given by an ordained Monk or Nun and initiated by the founder Shakyamuni Buddha. The Five Precepts are an obligatory morality in the Buddhist religion such that one is not considered a Buddhist unless one both receives the Five Precepts as lay-person vows and "Takes Refuge" (Refuge-Reliance of Faith, Hope and Devotion) in the Buddha, Dharma (teachings - Buddhist scripture), and Sangha (religious community of monks and nuns).

The Five Precepts are the foundation for Buddhist virtue.

The Five Precepts are Lay Person Religious Vows

  1. No killing (this means This means "Thou shalt not kill", no murder, no abortion, no euthanasia, no suicide or assisted suicide. For some Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists this means be vegetarian - see religious vegetarianism. Buddhist is not against the death penalty)
  2. No stealing (This means "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods")
  3. No sexual misconduct, sexual immorality or lust (this means "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife", sexual morality and includes chastity until marriage, fidelity in marriage, celibacy for monks and nuns and no homosexuality. It also means no premarital sex or adultery and no abortion - see abortion and promiscuity)
  4. No lying (this implies honesty but also includes no harsh speech, no divisive speech, no gossip, no lewd and lascivious speech / vulgar speech or cursing. This means "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor")
  5. No alcoholic beverages (in the modern world this also means no smoking or using an recreational drugs. This means temperance)

Additional Buddhist morality, like that of the Ten Commandments, is to be Filial meaning to "Honor thy father and thy mother". Respect of elders including one's father and mother is important in Buddhism morality and practice.

Repentance via the Four Opponent Powers

When a Buddhist breaks one of the Five Precepts, they do Confession using the "Four Opponent Powers". Confession implies Repentance and Reform:

  1. The power of Reliance on the objects of Refuge (Buddha-Dharma-Sangha) and the generation of Bodhichitta (the resolve for Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings). This means "Intercession" - as in "Intercede".
  2. The power of Regret: "Sorrow"
  3. The power of Resolution: Vow not to engage again in negative karmic actions (sin or bad cause and effect). This is called Resolve, Vow, "Firm Purpose of Amendment" - as in "Resolve to Make amends"
  4. The power of Remedy: This means applying an antidote such as Prayer, Mantra and Genuflecting or bowing—Do "Penance" - as in "Actually making amends"

Liberal Distortions of Buddhism

In the modern world many people speak of Buddhism as a philosophy or as only a "be present in the now" sort of meditation-contemplation, but the core teaching (Dharma) of Buddhism is one of morality combined with the cultivation of compassion-mercy ("benefit others more than yourself") and wisdom. There are liberals who call themselves "Buddhists" but are not at all according to traditional orthodox Buddhism since they did not "Take Refuge" nor did they receive the Five Precepts, let alone follow that required Buddhist morality. Such liberals incorrectly speak of Buddhism as supporting post modern moral relativism (See Liberal hedonism).

Five Precepts are Part of the Ten Perfections of the Altruistic Attitude

  1. Generosity (Charity-Philanthropy- Benevolence: "Benefit others more than yourself.")
  2. Morality of the Five Precepts - Renunciation of immorality and the causes of suffering (the causes are always based in immorality or amoral behavior).
  3. Patience (implies Forgiveness and Endurance)
  4. Joyful Perseverance (Persistence, Determination and Moral Fortitude or Moral Courage)
  5. Meditation (Calm Abiding or Making the mind have deeply relaxed focused awareness for contemplation of morality-compassion-wisdom)
  6. Wisdom (Interdependence, Understanding Cause and effect, Prudence, Humility of "No Self")
  7. Skillful Means or Expedient Means (Use the "medicine" according to the particular "disease" and "patient")
  8. Great Vows (to get Enlightened in order to better "Benefit others more than yourself.")
  9. Great Strength
  10. Great Wisdom (Buddhahood)

See also