What are Buddhist Ethics?


The Buddhist Precepts

The five ethical precepts practised by Buddhists are principles that emulate the spontaneous behavior of an Enlightened being and are based in a deep sense of interconnectedness and love. The five precepts, which we usually chant together in a language called Pali, are translated as follows into English:

  1. I undertake to abstain from taking or harming life.
  2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not freely given.
  3. I undertake to abstain from causing harm through sexuality.
  4. I undertake to abstain from false speech.
  5. I undertake to abstain from taking intoxicants that dull the mind.

The positive counterparts are stated as follows:

  1. With deeds of loving kindness, I purify my body.
  2. With open-handed generosity, I purify my body.
  3. With stillness, simplicity and contentment, I purify my body.
  4. With truthful communication, I purify my speech.
  5. With mindfulness clear and radiant, I purify my mind.

Ethics is the first part of what is known as the Threefold Path, which is Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom. To know what the precepts are getting at will probably mean getting a basic understanding and experience of Buddhism and Buddhist practice. Ethics is one of the subjects covered in our 6-week Introduction to Buddhism course.