This is in some sense a continuation of the last blog – this time I want to talk about the five precepts. Before we get into that let’s talk about Sila, Samadhi and Panna.


The picture above depicts the three groups of the Noble Eightfold Path – Don’t worry this is not going to be a in-depth analysis of the concepts mentioned in the picture above [Maybe another blog…]

Let’s talk about Sila – Morality.  The premise is that you need to have a strong Sila to get established and continue on the path. And in order for that you have to undertake five precepts in the beginning which are:

  1. to abstain from killing any being;
  2. to abstain from stealing;
  3. to abstain from all sexual activity;
  4. to abstain from telling lies;
  5. to abstain from all intoxicants.

1#, 2#, 5# are easy and very clear. For #3 – For householders it means “To stay celibate until they get married and limit themselves to one partner afterwards.

#4: is the one that I find the most hard. As a student in a 10-day course you are silent throughout the course so there’s no way to break this Sila. However, as a server on the course it’s very difficult. In order to understand why we need to know what we mean by Right Speech. When speaking, servers must practice Right Speech, refraining from:

  • Speaking lies or anything less than the truth.
  • Harsh language or rude words. Someone practicing Dhamma should always be polite and soft-spoken.
  • Slander or backbiting. There should be no criticism of others arising from one’s own negative feelings. A problem should be brought to the attention of the person concerned or to the assistant teachers or center management.
  • Idle gossip, singing, whistling or humming.

I admit that while having conversations I sometimes get carried away – For example: the story about when I splashed ink on a classmate in 3rd standard turns into me emptying the ink bottle on her. It’s difficult for me not to embellish my stories a little bit. There are tons of other instances where I genuinely don’t remember, for example: if I had send the report in an email or in the meeting invite.

I know, this is being too pedantic so let’s move onto the other aspects of the Right Speech – I am guilty of all other three. I know they are not good things to engage in but I still lack the will/strength to abstain from them. For example: if you are talking about a common friend A with another friend B – are you engaging in slander or backbiting? If you have a chat with work colleague over coffee about others is that Idle Gossip?

What is the right answer? Srikumar Rao – who taught us Creativity and Personal Mastery in London Business School had said “In this plane, you cannot find the answer and outside this plan there’s no one to ask this question.” or Sometimes you have to live the question long enough to start living the answer.

Why does it matter to me?

In a setting like a 10-day Vipassana Course it’s a lot easier to stick to the five precepts as everybody on the path. I am trying to maintain these in my daily life too because I believe they make me a better human being and they may lead to enlightenment but when I follow five precepts I Feel Good – end of story.

Leaving you with a words of Buddha

Whoever destroys living beings,
     speaks false words, who in the world
     takes that which is not given to him,
     or goes too with another's wife,
     or takes distilled, fermented drinks --
     whatever man indulges thus
     extirpates the roots of himself
     even here in this very world.

                        (Dhp. 246-7)


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