What Are the Five Precepts of Buddhism?

What are the five precepts of Buddhism? This is what Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (October 11, 1926–January 22, 2022) explores in his altogether indispensable For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life. In this book, he offers us a unique translation and interpretation of the five precepts the Buddha considered vital for his followers on the path to a happier, more fulfilling life. Here are the five Buddhist precepts and their vows by Thich Nhat Hanh:

1. Abstaining from the Destruction of Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

2. Abstaining from Taking What Is Not Given

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving-kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others.

3. Abstaining from Sexual Misconduct

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others.

4. Abstaining from False Speech

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.

5. Abstaining from the Use of Intoxicants

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant…. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations.

Complement For the Future to Be Possible with our articles on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path, 5 best Buddhism books for beginners, and 8 best mindfulness books by Thich Nhat Hanh.

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