Refrain from killing
We should refrain from taking the lives of any living being because this
is the cause for rebirth in the three undesirable realms (animals, hungry
ghosts and hell). To be reborn as a human being, first and foremost, we
must refrain from killing. If all people observe this precept, then many
calamities in this world can be avoided; for example, the suffering arising
from illnesses, atrocities of fighting and war, natural disasters and
epidemics. Observing the precept of not killing as a cause shall reap
having good health, longevity, and endowment with beauty and good personality
as the effects. To refrain from killing does not only mean to avoid committing
the act of killing personally, it also means that we do not instruct others
to kill and to ensure that no act of killing is committed for our sake.
This precept also extends to refraining from providing any of the conditions
that might lead to the taking of lives, such as the sale of tools and
equipment that are used for such purposes. Not only must we refrain from
killing; we must also protect the lives of all sentient beings. In this
way, we develop our compassionate mind. A compassionate mind is fundamental
to all good deeds.
2. Refrain from stealing
Stealing refers to robbery and theft of properties that belong to other
people. It includes those taken away by force, without due notification,
without consent, by deceit and infringement of the owners' right, etc.
According to the principles of Buddhism, stealing covers an even wider
area. It includes taking anything without the consent of its owner, be
it a trivial blade of grass, a leaf, a stalk of flower or a plant, or
a piece of thread or a needle. Conspiracy to cheat is considered stealing
too. It includes overcharging customers or giving the customers less than
what they pay for, infringing other people's rights for personal benefit,
not returning what was lost by others, failure to repay a loan, taking
advantage at other's expense, tax evasion, fabricating false accounts,
paying less postage fees or bus fare than what is due. Not only does the
Buddhist precept forbid people to steal, but we must also refrain from
instigating others to do so, or creating any of the conditions that induce
others to steal.
3. Refrain from sexual misconduct
Besides the sexual relationship between a lawfully married couple, or
between the husband and his mistress who is approved of by the wife, and
which is in line with nature, the law of the country and the code of morals,
all other relationships are deemed promiscuous. This precept advises against
sexual intercourse between husband and wife at improper times and places,
at excessive frequencies or in ways that are harmful to the body. It also
disapproves of casual sex, sexual intercourse during the daytime, sexual
intercourse with infants, between people of the same gender or with animals.
Prostitution or the like, sexually tempting literature and all forms of
pornography are also in breach of the precept as they contribute to creating
the conditions for sexual misconduct.
4. Refrain from telling lies
Lies are false speech or words that are not true and not based on facts.
These include claiming to have seen or heard when they have not actually
seen or heard, and the use of words that cause confusion and harm to others.
Even countries forbid false declarations, fabricating false evidence or
false accusations and have enacted laws that impose severe punishments
for such offences. It is natural, therefore, that the Buddha-dharma that
sees so clearly the universal phenomenon of cause and effect forbids false
It is stated in "The Buddha speaks on Xu-Lai Sutra" that "those
who do not speak the truth firstly deceive themselves, and secondly are
not in accord with the code of ethics. Their mouths emit foul smells,
their words are worthless, others denounce them, they are spiritually
haggard and they deserve no mercy. Their bodies will change in colour,
their blessings are depleted, and their names and status tarnished. Certainly
people who are wise and virtuous do not approve this kind of dishonest
conduct. They lose the fundamentals of morality. They are treated with
contempt. They bring destruction upon themselves by obstructing virtuous
paths that lead to good prospects. They lead themselves into defilement
and darkness, and bring misfortune upon themselves in their next life."
The Buddha's teachings
are true and we should heed His advice and observe the precepts.
Refrain from consuming alcohol
Alcohol can intoxicate our mind. It is also used as medicine to treat
certain illnesses when consumed together with concoctions of herbs, and
in limited amounts. Alcohol aids blood circulation. Apart from these,
alcohol can confuse the mind, and cause the loss of wisdom and resulting
in ignorance and foolishness. Many evil acts are committed as a result
of intoxication, such as stealing, sexual misconduct, killing, arson,
cheating and many other crimes. In the Sutra of Good and Evil Retribution,
the Buddha speaks of 36 kinds of wrong doings that stem from intoxication.
These wrong doings will lead to disasters and innumerable ensuing repercussions.
Therefore, Buddhism advises against the consumption of alcohol. Not only
must we refrain from consumption ourselves; we should not offer or encourage
others to do so. The sale or brewing of alcoholic drinks breaches this
precept. It is only by refraining from the consumption of such intoxicants
that all people will be able to maintain a sober mind, thereby developing
their wisdom and creating a world of peace.
Because of killing,
stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication by the human race,
what would have been a blissful world is turned into an impure land of
suffering. At the same time, they sowed the causes for having to suffer
helplessly in the three undesirable realms.
With his great compassion and loving kindness, the Buddha, for the sake
of purifying human life and the world we live in, advises us to observe
the Five Precepts, to maintain our human body lifetime after lifetime
and to "avoid committing all that are evil and perform all that are
good". Furthermore, the Buddha advises us to aspire for the Bodhi-mind,
practise the Bodhisattva Path, build a pure land in this world and realize
the greatest objective of transforming the Saha world into a Buddha Land.
Thus, it is for this reason that the Five Precepts are fundamental to
Jen Chen Buddhism.