When I started attending Buddhism classes, I found myself a bit lost because I did not have a foundation of Buddhism knowledge. Some classes were smack dab in the middle of a discussion on various sutras. Although I continued going to the classes, I found I had to take a step back and concentrate on the basics. The basics are the Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path and basically the history of Buddhism. I also read and listened to many podcasts on the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. I suggest getting as much “chicken soup” as you can and what I mean by that is; get as many viewpoints as you can on these subjects.
What I have also come to realize when it comes to Buddhism, sometimes people have their different views and translations of what the Buddha stated. It is only my opinion when I suggest that the buddha likely did not just want people to adhere to his views but to continue to make discoveries into the mind and to continue to perfect the path to “end suffering”.
Once you get comfortable with the basics of Buddhism, start exploring the more advanced lessons. At the same time, don’t cloud yourself with trying to learn too much. Buddhism is certainly about the numbers and today I will introduce, The Five Precepts. The Five Precepts are the minimum moral behaviors that someone wishing to become a Buddhist should follow.
No Killing This seems obvious, much like the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” but some expand on this to state you should avoid not only killing humans but animals as well. I have seen this defined in different ways such as not directly killing animals, if it has been prepared for you, that is okay but I have also heard that many following this Precepts are vegetarians. My definition would be a senseless killing of a person or animal.
No Stealing Not taking what is not given. This too seems obvious but some people don’t think twice about taking property that does not belong to them such as office supplies from their employer. In America about 15 years ago, they started printing new $10, $20, $50… dollar bills. I had given someone a $20 and they gave me change of $50. I looked and stared at my new found fortune but the bottom line, I knew the employee would get in trouble and it would likely come out of his paycheck. I admired my new found fortune, lol, but then informed the person of their mistake. Ill gotten gains are still stealing.
No Sexual Misconduct Avoid Sensual Misconduct or do not engage in improper sexual conduct. I think sex is great! but I figure this goes along the lines of “Adultery”, and even sexual harassment. When two people are married or atleast in a strong relationship, it seems something that comes naturally. But when something goes beyond what is acceptable to two consenting adults, that is what I would consider Sexual Misconduct.
No False Speech Do not make false statements. Honesty is the best policy! Although I would have to agree that if you have nothing nice to say, it is best not to say anything at all. When you witness an accident and it is being investigated, it would be better for you to inform the investigators what honestly happened, even if it means you report that the incident was the fault of a family or friend. Seems hard to do sometimes doesn’t it?
Avoid Fermented Drinks Avoid Alcohol, Avoid intoxicants, avoid things that may cloud your judgement. I know with the stresses of current society, it is easy to use products that may cloud your judgement. I enjoy a glass of wine every now and then! I would even venture to say that in a social situation, I may have quite a few glasses. Many probably see from experience that people tend to lose all inhibitions when it comes to products that “cloud judgement”
Two or three Precepts stick out for me. Killing and “Fermented” drinks are the top two because I am not a vegetarian and while I am having that steak, I enjoy my wine. While I don’t consider myself dishonest, I know of examples when someone may have asked for my opinion and I resorted to False Speech because I didn’t want to hurt someones feelings. At the same time I would say that the occasional “Fermented Drink”, could be good for ones health :-).
Feel free to add your thoughts on the Five Precepts!
Thank you David for this introduction to the precepts. I was raised a Catholic and had fallen away from that religious practice. I found that learning about the Precepts and the Eight fold path helped bring me to a more mature relationship with ethical living. I had stopped compliantly following commandments and began considering for myself the morality of my actions based on wise guidance.
JK… Really?!?! I know I have lacked in the communication department with family, so I guess I never knew. But at the same time, I thought you leaned towards being a humanist. Similarly there is another brother who seems to have knowledge of some Buddhist principles as well. We should talk more! ha!