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Interview Questions from Lay-friends

Can you identify the Five Precepts for Lay Buddhists and elaborate on what each of them means?

Five Precepts for Lay Buddhists

The Moral code of Buddhism: The Five Precepts

Buddhism is not just a religion; it is also a discipline and a way of life that encourages people to follow certain guidelines that help them to conquer suffering and to achieve enlightenment. Buddha’s teachings are about being peaceful and righteous, having compassion, loving-kindness, understanding and thoughtfulness. The Five Precepts of Buddhism are essential teachings to live ethically. They are a moral guideline that people can follow to overcome The Three Poisons - ignorance, greed and hatred. The Buddha taught these precepts through his wisdom in seeing the cycle of suffering and the workings of Karma. Karma produces good or bad results depending on the seeds we plant. Following the Five Precepts keeps us from planting the seeds of suffering. The Buddha cannot remove your Karma. He can only show us the path. These practical precepts can be practiced not only by Buddhists, but by anyone who wishes to build up their moral strength to live peacefully and to lead a blissful, harmonious, and honest life.


I. Abstain from killing: 

This precept is about being non-violent. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected. It is also considered a wrong-doing when you approve of the killing of living beings by others. Participation in killing by tacit approval or through your thoughts of murder and death produces the same result. Focus on protecting lives and cultivating an innate kindness toward all other living beings. Live peacefully and harmoniously and respect the lives of others. This precept also encourages people to be vegetarians/vegans since this teaching discourages harm toward living beings.


II. Abstain from stealing:

This precept is about awareness and respect towards other people’s belongings. Do not take things by stealing or by force. If something does not belong to you and/or has not been given to you, then you have no right to it. Stealing does not only apply to material goods but also includes time and effort. One should be responsible and not misspend someone else’s time (e.g. employer’s time). This precept encourages the cultivation of kindness and generosity. You become free from attachments and selfishness by not coveting the things you don’t have.


III. Abstain from sexual misconduct: 

Sexual desire is one of the biggest hurdles to enlightenment and one of the most difficult temptations to overcome according to the teaching of Buddhism. Examples of sexual misconduct are adultery and rape, which cause mental, emotional and physical injury to others and are absolutely forbidden. This precept urges people to respect others by abstaining from all misconduct of a sexual nature and any overindulgence in sensual pleasure.


IV. Abstain from lying

Respecting the truth is one of the most important principles of Buddhism. This precept directs you to avoid the deception of others by words or deeds. There are four different types of deception: 1) something which is not – a lie, 2) the thought of deception, 3) an effort and energy to carry out an untruth and continue it, 4) the communication of a falsehood to someone else like gossip. Denying the truth is also lying, which can create guilt, confusion, and tension. Being completely honest with oneself and others will reduce disharmony and misunderstandings.


V. Abstain from all intoxicants: 

Buddhism places a lot of importance on wisdom. Consuming intoxicants like alcohol and drugs (but not prescription medication) can cloud the mind and cause heedlessness. Alcohol and drugs are substances that could cause one to break the other four precepts. Being in a state of intoxication increases the chances of committing crimes and wrongdoing. People can commit evil deeds and/or injure others when they are drunk and/or drugged. This precept is the traditional way of detoxifying our bodies and minds.

Practicing these precepts in our daily lives will help us with meditation. We may also want to practice the Noble Eightfold Path which are the Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Meditation is very important to becoming more aware and attentive. Only a calm mind can meditate. Observing these precepts will help people to lead a blissful and harmonious life.

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