In this post, I am going to share some high level concepts from the Five Precepts of Buddhism. To help practice these, there is also a Five Precepts Wallpaper to act as a reminder of moral conduct.
Many may find Buddhist teachings to be full of rules and lists. This perception was something that initially kept me from learning from these teachings.
Over time, with the help of some great teachers and references, I’ve come to realize that Buddhism is full of invitations. Invitations to practice and to experience for yourself. A helpful way to see these lists may be as prompts, but instead of journalling, they can be acted out in the practice of life.
Before I got further into any context, let’s list here directly. This translation is based on Edward Conze’s translation of Buddhaghosa’s teaching.
The Five Precepts
1. abstain from taking life
2. abstain from taking what is not given
3. abstain from sensuous misconduct
4. abstain from false speech
5. abstain from intoxicants clouding the mind
The Five Precepts specifically are intended for the lay practitioner of Buddhist principles and are referred to heavily in Secular Buddhism. As mentioned above, they can act as an invitation. This invitation is to spend time with each precept and see if the quality of your life improves.
Personally, I’ve practiced for years with all five. I used to write them on the whiteboard behind my front door. That way every day before I left the house I was reminded of these moral guidances.
What I soon found out was that each precept has more depth to it than it initially seems– which is true for just about every teaching in Buddhism.
The goal here isn’t to say: don’t do this because it’s bad.
The goal here isn’t to say: don’t do this because it’s bad. It’s to say, if you abstain from these things, it will lead to less suffering in your life. It also will lead to less suffering in the lives around you. However, even for purely selfish reasons these conducts are likely to improve your wellbeing.
One of the forms of depth I discovered while practicing with these precepts is how easy it is to go overboard. There is a wisdom in understanding the balance to living a life. Understanding that there is inherent reactions to just being alive.
I was struggling at one point about diet. Not killing. That did not only resonate with me as not killing animals and therefore having a vegetarian diet, but also not killing plants. That thought process leads to fruitarianism. A Dharma teacher, from the Mindfulness Outreach Initiative in Omaha, pointed out that even that is in a way enslaving those plants to produce for you.
The point not being that you shouldn’t eat at all and die. The point being that there is a certain amount of discernment required to know where that middle path exists. This is something that only can come with practice.
To aid in practicing with the Five Precepts, I’ve created this wallpaper for my phone. I am making this post and sharing it here in case this would be helpful for any of you as well.