The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts are guidelines that point towards what is universally accepted as moral and ethical living.  They embody such eternal values as compassion, self-restraint, social justice, honesty, respect, and wisdom.  At their foundation is the idea, “first, do no harm”.

In my own recovery from addiction, I made a conscious choice to turn away from old, self-destructive patterns of thinking and acting.  Those patterns, which might be identified as the “addict self-schema”, are replaced by what can be referred to as the “spiritual self-schema”.  The Five Precepts provide the guidance that I need to reorient my life in a way that is incompatible with addiction and the associated lifestyle.

The following version of the Five Precepts are translated by Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

1. Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and to learn the ways of protecting the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

2. 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 do everything in my power to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

4. Aware of suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to the suffering of others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or bring suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that can inspire self confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain, and not to criticize or condemn things I am not sure of. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicants, or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain T.V. programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body and my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation, and for the transformation of society.