How To More Fully Observe The Five Precepts

[1] I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
[2] I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
[3] I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
[4] I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
[5] I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

– The Five Precepts

Usually, for beginners, when we speak of commitment to observation of the Five Precepts to uphold basic morality, we focus on the actions to refrain from. However to more fully observe these precepts, we should realise that there are a total of three kinds of conduct, via the three gates of body, speech and mind. Physical action is merely the most visible form of conduct, with effects that are more readily experienced. Yet, such deeds, that we might or might not speak of before doing, always result from first entertaining thoughts of doing them. This means the primary way to observe all precepts is to always guard our minds, lest unchecked unwholesome thoughts multiply and manifest as unwholesome speech and deeds that more conclusively break the precepts. Thus, the below factors for mindfulness are good reminders for all of us –

Physical Precept Factors

[1] Refrain from deed of killing.
[2] Refrain from deed of stealing.
[3] Refrain from deed of sexual misconduct.
[4] Refrain from deed of lying.
[5] Refrain from deed of taking intoxicants.

Verbal Precept Factors

[1] Refrain from speech of wanting to kill.
[2] Refrain from speech of wanting to steal.
[3] Refrain from speech of wanting to have sexual misconduct.
[4] Refrain from speech of wanting to lie.
[5] Refrain from speech of wanting to take intoxicants.

Mental Precept Factors

[1] Refrain from thought of wanting to kill.
[2] Refrain from thought of wanting to steal.
[3] Refrain from thought of wanting to have sexual misconduct.
[4] Refrain from thought of wanting to lie.
[5] Refrain from thought of wanting to take intoxicants.

There are also clear and strong links between the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Actions (Deeds) of abstaining from [1] killing, [2] stealing, [3] sexual misconduct. [4] lying, [5] divisive speech, [6] harsh speech, [7] idle (useless, flowery) speech (gossip), [8] covetousness (greed), [9] ill will (hatred) and [10] wrong views (delusion). [1], [2], [3] and [4] correspond to the first four precepts, while [5], [6] and [7] extend the list with other factors beyond the Fourth Precept to have more wholesome speech. [8], [9] and [10] correspond to the Three Poisons, which cause breaking of the precepts via unwholesome actions in the first place. When we mindfully guard our minds against these poisons, we will most effectively uphold all the Five Precepts. Before attempting to nip the posions in the bud, we shoot prevent them from taking root!

[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.

– The Five Positive Precepts


  • What I love about today’s column is that much of what I read is what I try to do on a daily basis. I don’t believe I’ve succeeded in all Five Positive Precepts in One Day, but I’ve gotten 2/3 out of 5 on a regular basis (3 being the highest I’ve gotten).

    But I Love trying for all Five and that I’m not there yet is OK, although it wasn’t always that way. In the past failure meant ‘why try?’, but for some reason I kept on trying and this was even before I became a Buddhist. I felt I was a failure at being a good human being and my failures were proof of it. I despised myself and my weaknesses. It took some time before I realized that Buddhism had no judgment. This realization gave me the freedom to work out my imperfections with more honesty and hope that I Will one day reach my goal of becoming the lovely lotus. I thank the Buddha for putting the spotlight on that Path.

    On another note, as I believe I mentioned in a previous post, for me and many others drinking alcohol is for relaxation with family and friends only AND because I Love it with cheese and grapes. I do not use it to numb myself from the world, drown my sorrows or to ‘party hardy’. I did all that in my wilder younger days and learned it wasn’t all that much effective or fun. Plus the morning after was always depressingly ill. :-/

    However, I do not look down on abstinence either. In fact, as time goes on I find myself drinking less and less, sadly throwing away opened bottles of old wine (which is all I drink). LOL! In fact, I have an unopened bottle of wine that I’ve had for three months! Could be abstinence happens without one even realizing it … 🙂

  • Practice makes perfect! Let’s all work harder together!

    Buddhism discourages drinking of alcohol even for relaxation for these reasons: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/09/should-you-avoid-intoxicants-or-intoxication

    Here’s what is not great about dairy cheese: http://freefromharm.org/farm-animal-welfare/what-about-humanely-raised-milk-and-dairy-products :

    ‘Cheesemakers also need veal processors. Many common cheeses are made with ingredients from the tongues and stomachs of slaughtered calves, including rennet and lipase. Rennet is a complex of enzymes required to coagulate cheese. Traditionally, rennet is extracted from the fourth stomach chamber (the abomasum) of young, unweaned calves, a “by-product” of veal production. Many cheeses manufactured in the US are made with a vegetable-based rennet, which is cheaper, but calf rennet is still very common in European cheeses and others. (Because companies are not legally required to disclose the source/type of rennet used in their cheese, there’s usually no way to know from a packaging label which type of rennet has been used.) Lipase is a secretion taken from the tongue glands of freshly slaughtered calves or goat kids, and is used to impart a nutty flavor to cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, and Provolone.’

    Throwing away wine is good as it prevents the problems mentioned in the first link.

  • I mispoke when I said I drink to relax. I relax with friends and family and sometimes that’s when I may have a glass of wine (never two), at most 4 oz and Always with food. Having a husband with heart disease and COPD, I HAVE to be on my toes in case of an emergency.

    As for the cheese … geez did you HAVE to share? I LOVE cheese; it’s my comfort food. *Sigh* And I just bought bluebell cheese that I had to give away. 🙁 It’s disgustingly soulless what’s done to a calf and its poor mother. I can’t honestly enjoy something that causes so much agony.

  • Don’t give away cheese (or wine) – ditch it all. Cos the recipients might ‘learn’ to like that given and get more and more.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!