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The Five Precepts: The Second Precept

The Second of the Buddhist precepts is no to take that which is not given. Nope, stealing is a bad thing, but living in a modern civilized society, we already knew that. But just as with the first precept, there’s more to it than it appears at first glance. Remember that one of the steps on the Eightfold Path was Right Livelihood. That means not making a living taking or exploiting what is not yours. There’s no cheating or stealing allowed either. Being lazy at work is even a form of stealing; you are taking time away from your job that you are being paid for.

This also means that Buddhists encourage charitable giving. Give to the poor, the needy, and the sick. Give your money, give your time, and give as much as you can. You don’t have to give everything you own, but selfishness and greed are really bad. We’ll talk about selfishness and greed more next week, but remember that giving is good.

Yesterday, I introduced Thich Nhat Hanh. What does he have to say in his updated version of the precepts?

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. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

As you can see there’s a lot more to this than just not stealing.

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