Ah New Year’s, the time of year when we pledge to lose 10 pounds after just having gained 12 over the last 6 weeks. I know one lovely monk who has the same problem. The dude eats 1 meal a day! At any rate, this time of year is a lovely time to take on or renew your dedication to the 5 precepts. The 5 precepts are the basic commitments traditionally taken by lay Buddhists as the first step of the spiritual path. These aren’t arbitrary rules laid down by the Buddha to test you. They are instead practical pieces of advice for us to voluntarily take on to teach us to train the mind, help us avoid real-world problems, and to protect us from regret.
- I will not kill living beings.
- I will not take what is not freely given.
- I will avoid sexual misconduct.
- I will not tell a lie.
- I will not drink alcohol.
For the past few years I begin each meditation by chanting these precepts in Pali. It’s a powerful reminder that the every spiritual journey, no matter how profound it’s goal, has at the foundation the basic moral teachings recognized by everyone. Like the resolution to lose 10 pounds, it is difficult to go a year, even a day, without these precepts being tested. Indeed, it could be the path of a lifetime to practice these precepts. Take it on as your path for 2015.