Does anyone know a good essay on the five precepts?


I’m looking for a paper on the five precepts that I can refer people to. The ones I’ve seen are usually too judgmental or too free. It’s for a course on Buddhism and psychotherapy, so I want something that will be accurate to what the suttas say, but reflective and non-specialized. Any ideas?


Why don’t you write one Bhante?
Are you planing to move to an isolated island for two years again?


If I write an essay on five precept what I will highlight is that five precepts are practiced in many levels. The five precepts practiced by ordinary people are not the same as the five precepts practiced by an Arahant. It is gradual training. It is also important to highlight how five precepts are considered in Noble Eightfold Path specially the fifth precept. Then we have to consider how five precepts can be considered as clinging to rites and rituals. Also the connection between five precepts and eight and ten precepts perhaps relating to Adhisila. Another point is how five precepts practiced by Buddhist differ to the precepts of other relegions.

some links.


Curious, I looked at Wikipedia. The entry for Five Precepts is quite lengthy, non-specialized, reflective in its scope and consideration. Reading it actually prodded me into thinking about things like euthanasia. I wouldn’t consider euthanasia for myself but I did have our cat euthanized after days of watching it look at a dripping water faucet from which it could no longer drink. So I took the cat to the vet and held its head as it died. Now that I understand the precepts I am not so sure what I will do with our current cats when that time comes. The Wikipedia article did point to different interpretations of the precepts, which was helpful and gave me much food for thought.

That said, like SarathW1, I would also welcome an essay written by yourself.


Yes this is another important point to be considered.
This is off topic but I would say it is killing. Same for abortion it also killing does not mater how old the fetus is. I kill ants sometimes. I know it is killing but I don’t want to justify this as correct.
Back to the topic.


And this is where I think that the Wikipedia article is also reflective in its simply factual statement:

With regard to abortion, Buddhist countries take the middle ground, by condemning though not prohibiting it.


I have read a news sometime back that aborigine in Australia was prosecuted for picking up a ten cents coin in a public building. Many people think that picking up a coin and put it in your wallet in a super market or a shopping center is not stealing.
It is important to differentiate the law and the precepts. Perhaps going to a sex worker by an unmarried person may not break the precepts. But it violate the law in some countries.


Quite short, but balanced:


Though it’s part of a book rather than a paper, the best one I’ve seen is in chapter 2 (“Key Buddhist Values”) of Peter Harvey’s An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics.


Thanks everyone!

And so it is: it’s actually a really good article, I’ve suggested it be added to the reading list.

Good to know it’s recommended: actually it is on the reading list for this module already, but I haven’t had the chance to read it myself! :blush:


Bodhi Gping for refuge & taking the precepts, BPS wheel


That sounds wonderful Ajhan! Sadhu!

Apart from endorsing the above posts, I would add that from an organisational perspective it’s possibly useful to have rules. This makes sense as kilesas often rule, over common sense.

The completion of the training in morality is important, at streamentry. His instructions to Rahula on making behaviour changes. Habitually keeping precepts vs occasionally breaks doesn’t have huge impact of morality, and how arahanths cannot break precepts at all. Morality is leading to concentration, in turn leading to insight.


Here is the article: Going for Refuge & Taking the Precepts


The chapter on right action, from my Whole Life Path book (still being edited, so not yet published) might serve, Bhante. The treatment of the precepts is quite workable. But it does not focus just on the precepts; it extends to questions of proactivity for the good and to the interpersonal and social aspects of right action and the kamma vipaka of that.


Thanks! Please do share it with us when you’re ready. I’m afraid it is too late for this list, though, the readings have already gone out to the students.


Another essay, Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained; A list of Buddhist abstinences By Buddhaghosa, translated by Edward Conze