THE FIVE WONDERFUL PRECEPTS
I understand that these five precepts are wonderful precepts because they are conducive to the well being and happiness of both myself and others. I will strive to keep these five precepts to the best of my ability.
May my keeping of these precepts be a supportive condition for the attainment of the highest peace and happiness of Nibbana. (This statement is an aspiration normally made by Buddhists when reciting the precepts.)
Virtue is the basis of a happy life. Without undertaking to keep certain moral and fundamental precepts we can’t be truly happy. Simply put, we are happy when we live a harmless life - one that hurts no one and is of benefit to others.
The Buddha pointed out that by keeping these precepts we are giving the gift of safety to others. No one need fear us. They will be safe in their association with us as we have no intention of harming them.
The Buddha urged us to keep these precepts for the welfare and happiness of both ourselves and others. Though we may not be able to keep these precepts perfectly, the important thing is we are trying to observe them as well as we can.
We should not look upon the precepts as “commandments” given by the Buddha but rather as an exhortation or advice to us to voluntarily undertake them for our own and others’ good. The Buddha described himself as a spiritual friend (kalyana mitta) who has our best interests at heart. The Buddha also taught the natural moral law of kamma which holds that unwholesome deeds will lead to painful consequences while wholesome deeds will lead to happy results.
Thus, when we undertake these precepts we do so voluntarily with a view to promoting the happiness of both ourselves and others. Whenever we break any one of the precepts we realize our breach and resolve or hope to do better next time.
Another thing to remember is that these precepts are general guidelines, not rules that are blindly and rigidly adhered to. There are instances where the issues are complex, not just black and white, there being mitigating and various other factors to consider, including the need to look at the bigger picture and see things in proper perspective.
So in judging an action by oneself or another, one should do so with full understanding of the factors and conditions that lead one or another to perform a certain action. It might be better for one judging to be prudent and not jump to hasty conclusions without careful and due consideration.
The original precepts are phrased in the negative of abstention. The positive phrases have been added as a consequential extension of what naturally follows when we refrain from a a particular unwholesome act. Also, as regards the fourth precept, the original from the Pali text, stated only the abstention from lying. We have added the rest to conform with Right Speech as defined in the Noble Eightfold Path.
It is always good to make an aspiration for the highest good in whatever we do. Thus Buddhists dedicate their merits towards the attainment of their cherished goal of Nibbana, the cessation of all becoming and suffering.
"The fragrance of flowers, sandalwood and jasmine blows not against the wind. But the fragrance of a virtuous person pervades every direction. Of all fragrances, that of virtue, which reaches even to the heavens, is by far the best."
- Buddha, Dhammapada 54-56
"Here he rejoices, hereafter he rejoices. In both states the good-doer rejoices. He rejoices, exceedingly rejoices, perceiving the purity of his own deeds."
- Buddha, Dhammapada 16