Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Buddhist Precepts II

In addition to the five Precepts, serious Buddhists will try to practise the eight Precepts (attha sila), at least on the half and full moon days of every month. The eight Precepts are the same as the five except that the third is replaced by abstinence from all sexual behavior, and the additional three Precepts are: (6) not to eat after midday (7), to abstain from dancing, singing, playing or listening to music, personal adornment and makeup, and (8) not to use high seats and couches. Novice monks and nuns are expected to practise the ten Precepts (dasa sila) in preparation for their monastic life. These ten are: (1) not to harm living beings, (2) not to steal, (3) to abstain from sexual behaviour, (4) not to lie, (5) not to take alcohol or intoxicating drugs, (6) not to eat after midday, (7) to abstain from dancing, singing and musical entertainment, (8) to abstain from adornment and makeup, (9) not to use high seats and couches, and (10) not to use gold and silver, i.e. money.
It will be noticed that while the five Precepts pertain to moral behaviour, the last three of the eight Precepts and the last five of the ten Precepts, are not about morality, but about behaviour that simplifies and uncomplicated one's life so one can focus fully on the spiritual. The failure to understand this (somewhat common in traditional Buddhist countries) can cause all sorts of confusion. Over the next few days I will have a look at these 'lifestyle simplification' Precepts.


Yashas said...

Maybe "gold and silver" means large sums or bigger coins, and copper coins are thus still usable for novices ?

Yashas said...

In Mahayana the expression "three groups of precepts" occurs in several sutras and is explained to mean 1. not doing the bad, 2. doing the good, and 3. doing what is beneficial. What are the precepts for the last two groups ?
Recently I saw in some theravada book a quote where Buddha says: "Monks, don't be afraid of doing good works!" ( I think it is from Itivuttka ). In Mahayana there is the opening scene in the Sutra of the future Buddha Maitreya where the four groups of buddhist sangha are engaged in repairing public roads! Any comments?