The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts define the basic standard recommended by the Buddha for ordinary daily life.   The Precepts spring from our faith, as Buddhists, in the vision offered by  the Buddha. They are the means we have for liberating ourselves from burdensome attachments, eliminating compulsive and harmful habits, and giving expression to our faith.


Without faith in the higher purpose of life, it will be very difficult for anybody to keep these precepts, since they are not a matter of will power so much as of expressing our deepest longing, which is to be "born in the Pure Land" and to show the way for all the world to cross over to that nirvana for all.  


The Precepts bring inner peace and are the basis for all meditation.   Without them, the results of mental cultivation will always be shallow and  insecurely founded.   Inner peace and simplicity of  life brings outer resolve and uncompro-mised action.


A  person who has  taken refuge and keeps the Five Precepts is called an Upasaka  (f. Upasika).   These  five Precepts date back to the Buddha himself.


This is the form they take in the Amida Order:  


The First Precept:  I pray that I may not deprive sentient beings of life.

"Ashamed of roughness and full of mercy, may I dwell

compassionate and kind  with all creatures that have life."


The Second Precept:   I pray that I may not grasp after what is not rightfully mine.  

May I be generous, hospitable and willing to share.  May I learn to use material things for the good of the community and not for personal fame and gain.


The Third Precept:   I pray that I may not fall into sexual misconduct.  

May I honour the specific and implied commitments of myself and others, protect all from sexual transgression, not betray the trust of others, or act in ways that would bring disrepute upon the community.  May I care for and protect new life resulting from my actions, from the moment of conception and throughout its young life.


The Fourth Precept:   I pray that I may practice right speech. 


Putting away slander, rudeness, criticism and gossip and raising no quarrel, may I be a "binder of those at odds, an encourager of friends, a peacemaker, a lover of peace, impassioned for peace, a speaker of words that make for peace, words that are blameless, lovely, touching the heart."   May I learn the eloquence of the Dharma that uses words to inspire faith, joy and hope.


The Fifth Precept:   I pray that I may not consume alcohol or other intoxicants.

May I preserve clarity of mind as the basis for a noble and meaningful life.  Thus I will strive to be "one who is master of good conduct," who "sees no danger from any side as far as concerns self-restraint in conduct"; and "endowed with this body of precepts so worthy of honour," may I bring to myself and others an experience of wellbeing without alloy.

The Ten Mahayana Precepts

I pray:


  • That I may not take life.  May I not kill, or act in ways that encourage killing, whether of  humans or other sentient being.


  • That I may not steal.  May I not take what is not rightfully mine to receive.


  • That I may not covet.  May I free my mind from harmful attachments to circumstances and material things.


  • That I may not say what is untrue.  May I be sincere in whatever I utter.


  • That I may not speak against others.  Let me not be a cause for quarrels, but let me be a peace-maker.


  • That I may not be proud of myself nor devaluing of others.  May I cut off the destructive vine of pride.


  • That I may not encourage nor profit from the use of intoxicants.  May I help the clear light of wisdom to shine unimpeded in all sentient beings.


  • That I may not be mean in giving either wealth or Dharma.  May I, out of gratitude, be generous to all.


  • That I may not harbour hatred.  May I not betray the dignity of the Dharma.


  • That I may not defame the Three Treasures.  May I not fall into wrong views.

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