Buddhism is the most profound and wholesome education directed by the Buddha towards all people. Five precepts are the curriculum of Buddhist teaching, which are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism. By observing precepts, not only do you cultivate your moral strength, but you also perform the highest service to your fellow beings. The Five Precepts are:
1. Do not kill
2. Do not steal
3. Do not indulge in sexual misconduct
4. Do not make false speech
5. Do not take intoxicants
These are the basic precepts that all people should practice and abide by. As a result, you will live in Three Good Paths (Gods, Demigods & Human), not in Three Evil Paths (Hell, Hungry Ghosts & Animals), enjoy all the blessings, happiness and freedom in Human and Deva Realm.
1. Do not Kill
One must not deliberately kill any living creatures, either by committing the act oneself, instructing others to kill, or approving of or participating in act of killing. It is a respect to others' lives.
One should not deprive others (animals not excluded) of the right to live. If one is hurt or killed, one's family, relatives, friends will suffer. It is the cause of rebirth in Three Evil Paths. The effect of killing to the performer are brevity of life, ill health, handicapped and fear.
In observing the first precept, one tries to protect life whenever possible. Furthermore, one cultivates the attitude of loving kindness to all beings by wishing that they may be happy and free from harm.
2. Do not Steal
It is a respect to other's properties and the right to own property. If something is not given, one may not take it away by stealing, by force or by fraud. Besides these, one should avoid misusing money or property belonging to the public or other persons. In a broader sense, the second precept also means that one should not evade one’s responsibilities. If an employee is lazy and neglects the duties or tasks assigned to him, he is, in a way, "stealing" time that should have been spent on his work.
In its broadest sense, observing the second precept also means that one cultivates the virtue of generosity. A Buddhist gives to the poor and sick because of their need. He makes offerings to the monks, nuns and masters because he respects the qualities they possess. He is generous in his gifts to his parents, teachers and friends because of the advice, guidance and kindness they have shown him.
Besides giving material things to the needy and the worthy, Buddhists should also offer sympathy and encouragement to those who are hurt or discouraged. It is said, however, that the best of all gifts is the gift of the Dharma in the form of teaching it or in the production and distribution of Buddhist books.
Greed is one of the Three Poisons, which leads us to attachment and suffering. The bad effect of stealing are poverty, misery, disappointment, etc.
3. Do not Indulge in Sexual Misconduct
Though the moral standards are different in different countries and in different times, rape, adultery and other abnormal sexual behaviour that involve physical and mental injury to others should be prohibited. It is also a matter of respect for people and personal relationships.
Sexual desire is one of the main causes of rebirth in the Six Paths. If we wish to end the birth and death cycle, we should not indulge in sexual misconduct or any other abnormal form of sexual relationship.
The effect of sexual misconduct are having many enemies, always being hated, and union with undesirable wives and husbands.
4. Do not Lie
To refrain from telling lies is to show respect for the truth. No good can come from telling lies, be it out of fun or malice. When a Buddhist observes the fourth precept, he refrains from telling lies or half-truths that exaggerate or understate, and instead cultivates the virtue of truthfulness. Once people uphold the respect for truth, there will be fewer quarrels and misunderstandings and fewer cases of false accusations in the courts of justice. Society will then become more peaceful and orderly.
5. Do not Take Intoxicant
Buddhism emphasises wisdom. Taking intoxicant will descend and lose the seed of wisdom. Intoxicants, such as drugs, liquor, smoking, etc., are harmful to health. It seems that taking intoxicant is not hurting others. However, if we are drunk and lose our consciousness, we may easily commit evil deeds and hurt others. Therefore, one who breaks this precept will tend to break all other precepts along with it.
The fifth precept is based on respect for mental health. It guard against the loss of control of one’s mind. It is particularly important to those who meditate because, by refraining from taking intoxicants, they can more easily cultivate awareness, attention and clarity of mind. Thus the observance of the fifth precept not only contributes to happiness in the family and peace in society, it also prepares a person for the practice of Mental Development.