We begin Dharma practice by first taking the Refuge. If possible, we can further observe Nyungne or the Five Precepts, which would generate a cause for potential future monasticism and receipt of Pratimoksa precepts. Along our journey, we come across different ethical disciplines, but why do we observe them?
Ethical disciplines help to open up a path for the betterment towards proper conduct so our understanding of life is not delusional anymore. Our habitual tendencies in this lifetime are the causes in shaping future lives. Negative tendencies will bring forth unfavorable results. The more unfavorable conditions there are, the lesser positive ones – life would be more suffering as a result. Therefore, we need to cultivate a virtuous state of living. The Five Precepts for laity are delineated by the Buddha so people can refrain from wrongdoings. These include:
- No killing
- No stealing
- No sexual misconduct
- No false speech
- No intoxicants
Among all, no killing is about respecting lives. As this body is made up of various causes and conditions, we should respect others and refrain from making negative connections with them. Let’s put the cycle of retaliation to rest. No stealing is to respect others’ possessions. Do not take advantage of others, steal, rob, or scam. No sexual misconduct is to have proper relations with your spouse. Married couples would genuinely love each other with happiness and harmony. No false speech is about respecting oneself and others. One’s character would be decent and genuine with honesty. Lies are disrespectful which cause lots of harms. By refraining from false speech, mistrust and conflicts are reduced among people. No intoxicants means to avoid using substances that can lead to heedlessness. The aforementioned are what we need to give up on.
The Five Precepts are the principle of generating merits and avoiding nonvirtues. By observing these five, we will not take rebirth in the Three Lesser Realms but the Three Higher Realms. Ethical disciplines are to keep up a healthy conduct throughout this journey of living and dying. By accumulating the merits and wisdom, we are advancing towards genuine happiness.