What are the Five Precepts?
The five precepts are rules for ethical conduct and represent morality, the foundation for the rest of our practice. The precepts are to be followed during a a more intensive meditation period and to the best of your abilities in normal daily life as well.
They are very beneficial for the meditation practice. They help us become more mindful of thought/emotion and actions during our daily lives. They also help reduce the grip of unwholesome or harmful emotions and thoughts by not acting on them.
I invite you to investigate for yourself, in your own experience, how following these precepts can help you live a life with more peace and less suffering.
The Five Precepts
Abstaining from Killing
When we kill a being intentionally we have to generate a lot of ignorance and indifference to another living being and their subjective experience. Abstaining from killing even small insects helps us cultivate compassion and awareness.
Abstaining from Stealing
The act of taking what is not ours to take is often rooted in greed and desire. Maintaining this precept helps us become mindful when greed/desire arise and develop equanimity.
Abstaining from False Speech
This means not lying and not speaking with an intention to hurt or harm another being.
All speech is preceded by thought. Becoming mindful of speech helps us become mindful of our intentions behind our actions so that we can begin to choose to think compassionate and kind thoughts to ourselves and others.
Refrain from the use of Intoxicants
Intoxicants include alcohol and other stimulants/depressants. They are often taken to induce a "state change" because of a current unpleasant state. We want to reduce the habit of avoiding to face ourselves when we are struggling and start to be with our struggle open-heartedly, with compassion and wisdom.
Intoxicating substances also cloud our ability to perceive reality clearly, without any layers and fog. This will be very beneficial to our Vipassana practice as Vipassana literally means "to see clearly".
Refrain from sexual misconduct
Sexual energy is one of the most powerful forces and can really cloud our judgement and make us act in unwise ways which can be harmful to others. Bringing awareness to our intentions behind engaging sexually can be transformative. Sexual energy can be very healing and bonding if there is awareness and one is not acting from selfishness or using it as a distraction.
Tips for following the Precepts
The foundational and simplest yet hardest practice is to live a moral and ethical life. Following the precepts is not meant to create more judgement or guilt in your life. If you unintentionally break one of the precepts, no worries, tomorrow is another day. Just like the maintenance of a daily meditation practice, it requires patience, self kindness and mindfulness. These qualities will continue to grow as you practice and as you see the direct effects of breaking the precepts on your mind and body it will continue to become easier to follow them.