Introduction to the Five Precepts and Three Jewels

Background

Living a life in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path is itself a form of worship. There is no God in Buddhism and Buddhists do not worship Buddha himself as a divine being. The Buddhist community is called the Sangha. The Sangha can refer to a monastic community (Monks living together) or to the wider Buddhist Community.

The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts are guidelines for ethical and moral behaviour so that the Sangha (community) can work well together. They are not strict but are instead suggestions for suitable behaviour. Buddhists should follow these as they help reduce suffering and harm to themselves and others. They outline behaviours to avoid or abstain from.

  1. To Abstain from harming living things
  2. To Abstain from taking the not-given.
  3. To Abstain from sexual misconduct.
  4. To Abstain from false speech.
  5. To Abstain from taking intoxicants which cloud the mind.

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Buddhists should also try to practice the opposite of the precepts too. Meaning as well as avoiding harming living things they should also be helping living things. When abstaining from taking the not given they will also try to be generous.

The Five Precepts help a Buddhists on the path to enlightenment as they avoid behaviours that cause suffering to others and to themselves. It helps them develop good kamma and overcome the Three Poisons which will bring them closer to escaping from Samsara.

The Five Precepts in the Monastic Community

Some monastic communities use the precepts as the basis for their own monastic laws. In some monastic communities is taken very seriously and breaking one of these laws could mean that person may be permanently exclusion from the Sangha.

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The Patimokha (the Tibetan monastix discipline code) has four codes of conduct called the parajikas.

  1. No voluntary sexual acts between a bhikku (monk) and a living being including kissing, holding hands and inciting a sexual response. 
  2. No stealing anything worth more than 1/24th Ounce of Gold decided by local law.
  3. No intentionally bringing about the death of another human being, from the embryonic stage. This includes arranging their death, inciting their death or encouraging their death by describing the advantages of their death. 
  4. No lying about your status and claiming you have achieved a higher human state e.g. Arahant (someone who has attained Nibbana) 

If a bhikkhu (monk) intends to break any of them they may not become a monk again. You may be able to draw similarities between this code of conduct and the first four precepts.

We will be studying each of the 5 precepts in more detail each week and we will add a post up about each precept as we cover them.

The Three Jewels

The Three Jewels are 3 common features of all branches of Buddhism. The three Jewels are The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha. They each have their own colour and significance.

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The Buddha – The yellow jewel at the top represents Buddha and the colour of his robes. It reminds Buddhist that Buddha was a man who worked hard to achieve enlightenment. His actions should be copied and respected and his life and teachings should be followed in order to achieve enlightenment.

The Dharma  is the practice of Buddhism, the moral code as set out in the Dharma (teachings). It is represented by a blue jewel that symbolises the vast ocean like freedom of the Dharma. Such things as the Noble Eightfold Path reveal how a buddhist shoudl live their life so they are succesful on the path to enlightenment and overcome the Three Root Poisons. The Five Precepts are guides for ethical conduct.

The Sangha is the thrid jewel, represented by the red jewel. Sangha is the community of Buddhists from all over the world. Sangha includes everyone who has made a pledge to follow the teachings of the Buddha by trying to act in an ethical way that reduces suffering and combats the Three Root Poisons. The Sangha can also refer to the Monastic community.

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Further Reading

Tricycle Explained

Sangha Explained

Buddhanet – 5 Precepts

The Three Jewels and the 5 Precepts

 

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