Home » Excerpts » Extend The Five Precepts To Cover All

As all moral precepts
extend from the Five Precepts,
they are basic yet profound,
in implications and applications.

– Shilashanti

Sulak reinterprets in Seeds of Peace the first five Buddhist precepts of abstaining from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and intoxicants. He extends these guidelines beyond an individual’s personal practice to society at large. For example, regarding the first precept, Sulak challenges the individual to understand that while we might not be killing outright, we must examine how our actions might support war, racial violence, or the breeding of animals for human consumption. Regarding the precept to abstain from stealing, Sulak questions the moral implications of capitalism and of the depletion of natural resources.

Ending political structures of male dominance and the exploitation of women is a natural extension of the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct. And the vow to abstain from false speech naturally raises questions about the false and biased views voiced by mass media and mainstream education. Finally, Sulak believes that the fifth precept, to avoid intoxicants, deals with nothing short of international peace and justice, since “the Third World farmer grow heroin, coca, coffee, and tobacco because the economic system makes it impossible for them to support themselves growing rice and vegetables.”

… Sulak is not advocating a new understanding of Buddhism but rather an appropriate application of the Buddha’s teachings to modern socioeconomic and political dilemmas. It is a mistake, he reminds us, to understand the teachings of the Buddha apart from their social dimension. He stresses the need to establish a strong foundation in a self-cultivated practice of mindfulness and awareness, but does not want individuals to abide in some kind of meditative bliss for long.

Once they have gained an appreciation for the interconnectedness of all beings through meditative insight, it is not enough for spiritual practitioners to eliminate the causes of suffering only in themselves; they must also recognize how they may be participating in societal structures that perpetuate suffering for others. Making individual progress on the spiritual path, in Sulak’s vision, cannot be separated from aspiring and working toward a more enlightened society.

Roar: Sulak Sivaraksa and the Path of Socially Engaged Buddhism
Matteo Pistono

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