The First Precept – To Abstain from Harming Living Things

The Five Precepts are a guide from Buddhists to live ethically and morally. It is up to the individual Buddhist to decide how to follow them and apply them to their lives. If they live in a Monastic Community they may have to follow the Five Precepts more strictly. You can read more about the Five Precepts here.

First Precept – To Abstain From Harming Living Things

Buddha wanted his followers to follow the 5 precepts as an ethical code. All of the precepts are vague and up for personal interpretation. There are 3 key questions that arise.

  • What qualifies as a living thing; is it just humans? Are animals included? What about plants?


  • What is meant by harm? Does it just apply to physical harm such as assault, murder etc. Does emotional harm or our behaviour count? Doe it matter what we are harming? Can we eat vegetables? What about wearing leather?


  • To what extent does this harm apply? How far am I responsible? Does it matter if I keep my money with a bank that funds wars? What if I use a product that tests on animals? Should I shop somewhere that also sells meat products? Can I eat eggs, because they did not harm the animal?


Buddhists should try to practice compassion or loving kindness towards all living things. It is not enough just to avoid harming them we should be making steps to improve their lives. For example: Campaigning for Animal rights and being a considerate person.

Further Reading



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