To understand Buddhists morality, one must understand one of the principles that Buddha laid out: the Five Precepts. They are the social and moral code that prevents people from destroying themselves and others and brings them closer to the path of nirvana. It helps people develop trust, respect, value, and wisdom. And it enhances them to live in harmony with others and much more.
Abstain from taking life
Any killing is never encouraged or justified in Buddhism. It is still considered killing whether people take life intentionally or unintentionally. Nevertheless, the escape from karmic reaction depends on people’s intention, motivation, and action. In the article “Mercy Killing,” Ven. K. Sir Dhammanada Maha Thera explained that a person is not responsible for the action unless the killing is intentional. In other words, killing out of anger, hate, greed, or jealousy has more weight on karmic reaction than killing without any of those reasons. Examples of killing people intentionally are haters who commit hate crimes, and killers who kill for money or to hide their dirty secrets.
Refrain from stealing
Slavery, genocide, human trafficking, unfair wages and treatments, oppression, and claiming ideas and inventions that belong to others are examples of stealing. It takes away joy and happiness since stealers do not give others a chance to live a meaningful life. They go out to hurt others only to fulfill their needs. They hide the truth from everyone, and they are not aware of the consequences they bring until the end.
Do not lust
“From the past to the present day, many happy families have been broken up or disrupted due to man’s inordinate sexual desires,” said Ven. K. Sir Dhammanada in the article “Moral and Ethical Conduct of Buddhism.” Adultery is still considered one of the sinful acts throughout the centuries. It breaks the vow and trust between two people. It brings misery to themselves and others. In addition, it leads people to make wrong decisions, acts, and behaviors.
Avoid deceiving others
Spreading false propaganda ruins the lives of others, such as their good name, self-esteem, and reputation. It stirs troubles. It leads to negative outcomes, such as war, favoritism, preference, suspicion, distrust, anger, hate, unfairness, bigotry, and discrimination. It does not benefit anyone even though it may help liars to get ahead or get praise. In the long run, liars not only harm others but also themselves. Verse 306 in the Treasury of Truth, chapter 22 said:
With one denying truth there goes to hell
that one who having done says ‘I did not’.
Both of them are making kammas base
are equal after death.
Stay away from intoxicated drugs
“The Five Precepts: The Buddhist Golden Rule,” by the late Supreme Patriarch Prince Vajirananavarorasa listed six consequences of taking intoxicated drugs: diminishes reasoning skills, develop health problems, waste money, act imprudently, and dishonor the family, society, or community. In addition, people who take intoxicated drugs are not able to follow and apply Buddhist’s instructions.
The Five Precepts are simple and direct, and they lead people away from distraction, destruction, and deception. It is just up to them if they want to apply them or not. If they do, good things will follow. For instance, the teaching of Buddhism teaches those who cultivate kindness and compassion will not kill. Those who have patience will not steal. Those who are contented do not commit adultery. Those who like the truth do not hide the truth. Lastly, those who are cautious avoid taking intoxicated drugs.