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The Five Precepts: The Five Faultless Gifts

And today, we can read from one of the ancient Buddhist writings that will recap the five precepts.

Five faultless gifts

“There are these five gifts, five great gifts ‚Äî original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning ‚Äî that are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests. Which five?

“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift ‚Äî original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning ‚Äî that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests.

“Furthermore, abandoning taking what is not given (stealing), the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking what is not given. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the second gift.

“Furthermore, abandoning illicit sex, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from illicit sex. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the third gift.

“Furthermore, abandoning lying, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from lying. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the fourth gift.

“Furthermore, abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the fifth gift, the fifth great gift ‚Äî original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning ‚Äî that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests. And this is the eighth reward of merit, reward of skillfulness, nourishment of happiness, celestial, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, leading to what is desirable, pleasurable, & appealing; to welfare & to happiness.”

And so there you have it, the five precepts, the five commandments of Buddhism. I’m sure you have questions.

4 comments to The Five Precepts: The Five Faultless Gifts

  • I clearly see the first four precepts, but do not understand how the fifth precept works to give the freedoms, so long as the first four precepts are followed. It seems the fifth precept is arguing that intoxicants either cause harm innately, or that they will cause a violation of the other four (and therefore cause harm). Also, please clarify what it means not to be ‘open to suspicion’. Does it mean that considering and questioning of the precepts is considered taboo?

  • My thinking behind the phrase “open to suspicion” is that it’s so obviously true that no one can argue against it; beyond question. That doesn’t mean you CAN’T question it (you just did!) it just means that the author of that document felt it was inarguable. I would say it’s similar to the phrase in the (American) Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” and then goes on to give a bunch of basic human rights. If those ideas were REALLY self-evident, then there was no need to write them down, was there?

    Anything and EVERYTHING in Buddhism is open to debate, consideration, and contemplation. Especially the contemplation bit! There are lots of things in Buddhism that have taken people decades to come up with themselves and then centuries of contemplation by others, so there is very little that hasn’t been analyzed to death. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will make sense to us folks in the 21st century without a little re-working.

  • Sorry, that only answered half of your question.

    My explanation of the fifth precept probably wasn’t as thorough as it should have been. Yes, being drunk (or whatever) may cause you to break the other precepts. But I think the main idea behind the fifth precept is that it affects YOUR mind. It’s hard to attain enlightenment or realize the truth if your mind is clouded by “intoxicants” such as alcohol, drugs, or (as TNH added) harmful TV shows, gossip, etc.

    We haven’t really gotten into meditation or contemplation yet, but it’s coming soon. Self-examination and understanding is really the key to everything, and so they included this rule to keep you from harming yourself (either physically or by indirectly keeping you from reaching your enlightenment).

    That’s my reading of it; I’m eager to hear dissenting opinions or other ideas!

  • Great! Thanks. I’ll need to learn more before I have more questions. Right now it seems like, what’s the harm in blowing off some steam every once in a while? Everything in moderation of course. I can start to anticipate a few answers/alternatives you may have, but would prefer not to hear them until after the weekend. :>