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Five Precepts

This article is about Buddhism. For Taoism, see Five Precepts (Taoism).
Translations of
Five Precepts
English: five precepts, five virtues
Pali: pañcasīlāni
(Devanagari: पञ्चसीलानि)
Sanskrit: pañcaśīlāni
(Devanagari: पञ्चशीलानि)
Bengali: পঞ্চশীলানি
Burmese: ပဉ္စသီလ ငါးပါးသီလ
(IPA: [pjɪ̀ɴsa̰ θìla̰ ŋá bá θìla̰])
Chinese: 五戒 pinyin: wǔjiè
(Cantonese Jyutping: ng5 gaai3)
Japanese: 五戒
(rōmaji: go kai)
Khmer: km:សិក្ខាបទ៥, សីល៥, បញ្ចសីលា
Korean: 오계
(RR: ogye)
Mon: သဳ မသုန်
([sɔe pəsɔn])
Sinhala: පන්සිල්
Thai: เบญจศีล, ปัญจศีล, ศีลห้า
(rtgsBenchasin, Panchasin, Sin Ha)
Glossary of Buddhism

The Five Precepts (Pali: pañcasīlāni; Sanskrit pañcaśīlāni[1]) constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken by upāsaka and upāsikā ("lay followers") of Buddhism. The precepts in all the traditions are essentially identical and are commitments to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication.

Undertaking the five precepts is part of both lay Buddhist initiation and regular lay Buddhist devotional practices. They are not formulated as imperatives, but as training rules that lay people undertake voluntarily to facilitate practice.[2]

Additionally, in the Theravada schools of Buddhism, the bhikkhuni lineage died out, and women renunciates practicing Theravadin Buddhism have developed unofficial options for their own practice, dedicating their life to religion, vowing celibacy, living an ascetic life and holding eight or ten precepts. They occupy a position somewhere between that of an ordinary lay follower and an ordained monastic and similar to that of the sāmaṇerī. In Thailand, they are called maechi[3][4] (Thai: แม่ชี, IPA: [mɛ̂ː tɕʰiː]); in Sri Lanka, they are dasa sil mata; the Burmese thilashin are also now found in Nepalese Theravadin Buddhism as well; and in South East England, the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery founded by Ajahn Chah has siladhara.

Pali texts

Pali literature provides the scriptures and commentary for traditional Theravadin practice.

Pali training rules

The following are the five precepts (pañca-sikkhāpada)[5] or five virtues (pañca-sīla) rendered in English and Pali:[6][7]

1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from killing. Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given. Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
3. I undertake the training rule to avoid sensual misconduct. Kāmesumicchācāra veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech. Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness. Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.[8]

For more on the first precept, see ahimsa. In the fifth precept sura, meraya and majja are kinds of alcoholic beverages. In some modern translations, Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā, is rendered more broadly, variously, as, intoxicants, liquor and drugs, etc.


In the Pali Canon, the following typifies elaborations that accompany these identified training rules:[9]

According to the Buddha, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and lying are never skillful.[10]


In the Pali Canon, the Buddha describes the Five Precepts as gifts toward oneself and others:[11]

In the next canonical discourse, the Buddha described the consequences of breaking the precepts.[12][13]

Chinese Mahayana texts

The format of the ceremony for taking the precepts occurs several times in the canon in slightly different forms,[14][15][16] and each temple or tradition has slightly different ordination ceremonies.

One ceremonial version of the precepts can be found in the Treatise on Taking Refuge and the Precepts (simplified Chinese: 归戒要集; traditional Chinese: 歸戒要集; pinyin: Guījiè Yāojí). In recitation, the characters 某甲 should be substituted with your name:

1. As all Buddhas refrained from killing until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from killing until the end of my life.

Simp. Chinese: () (zhū) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (shā) (shēng), () (mŏu) (jiǎ) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (shā) (shēng)

Trad.Chinese: (ㄖㄨˊ) (ㄓㄨ) (ㄈㄛˊ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄕㄚ) (ㄕㄥ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄇㄡˇ) (ㄐㄧㄚˇ) (ㄧˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄕㄚ) (ㄕㄥ)

2. As all Buddhas refrained from stealing until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from stealing until the end of my life.

Simp. Chinese: () (zhū) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (tōu) (dào), () (mŏu) (jiǎ) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (tōu) (dào)

Trad. Chinese: (ㄖㄨˊ) (ㄓㄨ) (ㄈㄛˊ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄊㄡ) (ㄉㄠˋ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄇㄡˇ) (ㄐㄧㄚˇ) (ㄧˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄊㄡ) (ㄉㄠˋ)

3. As all Buddhas refrained from sexual misconduct until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from sexual misconduct until the end of my life.

Simp. Chinese: () (zhū) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (yín) (), () (mŏu) (jiǎ) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (xié) (yín)

Trad. Chinese: (ㄖㄨˊ) (ㄓㄨ) (ㄈㄛˊ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄧㄣˊ) (ㄩˋ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄇㄡˇ) (ㄐㄧㄚˇ) (ㄧˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄒㄧㄝˊ) (ㄧㄣˊ)

4. As all Buddhas refrained from false speech until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from false speech until the end of my life.

Simp. Chinese: () (zhū) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (wàng) (), () (mŏu) (jiǎ) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (wàng) ()

Trad. Chinese: (ㄖㄨˊ) (ㄓㄨ) (ㄈㄛˊ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˊ) (ㄨㄤˋ) (ㄩˇ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄇㄡˇ) (ㄐㄧㄚˇ) (ㄧˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˊ) (ㄨㄤˋ) (ㄩˇ)

5. As all Buddhas refrained from alcohol until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from alcohol until the end of my life.

Simp. Chinese: () (zhū) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (yǐn) (jiǔ), () (mŏu) (jiǎ) () (jìn) 寿(shòu) () (yǐn) (jiǔ)

Trad. Chinese: (ㄖㄨˊ) (ㄓㄨ) (ㄈㄛˊ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄧㄣˇ) (ㄐㄧㄡˇ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄇㄡˇ) (ㄐㄧㄚˇ) (ㄧˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄕㄡˋ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄧㄣˇ) (ㄐㄧㄡˇ)

The same treatise outlines the option of undertaking fewer than all five precepts,[17] though nearly all modern ceremonies involve undertaking all five precepts. Certainly, committing more skillful and fewer unskillful actions is beneficial. But before entering nirvana, the Buddha said his disciples should take the precepts as their teacher,[18] so few ceremonies are held for partial precept undertaking. There are exceptions, however.[19][20][21]

In concise terms, the late Dharma Master Yin-Shun, listed the Five Precepts simply as (translation by Wing H. Yeung, M.D.):[22]

  1. "Do not kill." (Unintentional killing is considered less offensive)
  2. "Do not steal." (Including misappropriating someone's property)
  3. "Do not engage in improper sexual conduct." (e.g. sexual contact not sanctioned by secular laws, the Buddhist monastic code, or by one's parents and guardians)
  4. "Do not make false statements." (Also includes pretending to know something one doesn't)
  5. "Do not drink alcohol."

Other precepts

Different Buddhist traditions adhere to other lists of precepts that have some overlap with the Five Precepts. The precise wording and application of any of these vows is different by tradition.

Eight Precepts

Lay Theravada

Offerings · Bows
3 Refuges · 5 Precepts
Chanting · Meditation
8 Precepts
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The Eight Precepts are for upāsakas and upāsikās who wish to practice Buddhism more strictly than through adherence to the five precepts. The eight precepts focus both on avoiding morally bad behaviour, as do the five precepts, and on leading a more ascetic life.

The Buddha gave teachings on how the eight precepts are to be practiced,[23] and on the right and wrong ways of practicing the eight precepts.[24]

  1. I undertake to abstain from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human).
  2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (for example stealing, displacements that may cause misunderstandings).
  3. I undertake to abstain from sexual activity.
  4. I undertake to abstain from wrong speech: telling lies, deceiving others, manipulating others, using hurtful words.
  5. I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness.
  6. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is after sunrise, before noon).
  7. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
  8. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep.

In Theravada Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand, laypersons will often[citation needed] spend one day a week (on the Uposatha days: the new moon, first-quarter moon, full moon and last-quarter moon days) living in a vihara and practicing the eight precepts.

Ten Precepts

The Ten Precepts (Pali: dasasila or samanerasikkha) refer to the precepts (training rules) for Buddhist samaneras (novice monks) and samaneris (novice nuns).[25] They are used in most Buddhist schools.

  1. Refrain from killing living creatures.
  2. Refrain from stealing.
  3. Refrain from unchastity (sensuality, sexuality, lust).
  4. Refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. Refrain from taking intoxicants.
  6. Refrain from taking food at inappropriate times (after noon).
  7. Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment programs (performances).
  8. Refrain from wearing perfume, cosmetics and garland (decorative accessories).
  9. Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on luxurious, soft beds.
  10. Refrain from accepting money.

In practice

Lay followers undertake these training rules at the same time as they become Buddhists. In Mahayana schools a lay practitioner who has taken the precepts is called an upasaka. In Theravada, any lay follower is in theory called an upasaka (or upasika, feminine), though in practice everyone is expected to take the precepts anyway.

Additionally, traditional Theravada lay devotional practice (puja) includes daily rituals taking refuge in the Triple Gem and undertaking to observe the five precepts.

See also


  1. ^ In Pali and Sanskrit, "five precepts" is more literally translated as pañca-sikkhāpada and pañca-sikśāpada, respectively. Thus, for instance, Harvey (2007, p. 199) translates pañca-sīla as "five virtues."
  2. ^ Stewart McFarlane in Peter Harvey, ed., Buddhism. Continuum, 2001, page 187.
  3. ^ Nancy J. Barnes (1996). Christopher S. Queen; Sallie B. King, eds. Buddhist Women and the Nuns' Order in Asia. Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist liberation movements in Asia (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press). p. 267. ISBN 978-0791428436. 
  4. ^ Karma Lekshe Tsomo (2008). Buddhist Women in a Global Multicultural Community. Malaysia: Sukhi Hotu Dhamma Publications. p. 227. 
  5. ^ As indicated in the translation below, sikkhāpada is also translated as "training rule" (e.g., Gunaratana, 2007) and "rule of training" (e.g., Harvey, 2007, p. 199; and, Khantipalo, 1982/95).
  6. ^ "Access to Insight: the Panca Sila (with Pali)". Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  7. ^ "Buddhist Ethics". buddhanet. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ The Pali can be found, for instance, in Elgiriye Indaratana (2002), p. 2.
  9. ^ "Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta" [To Cunda the Silversmith]. Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight. 1997. AN 10.176. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  10. ^ "Sammā-diṭṭhi Sutta" [Right View]. Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight. 2005. MN 9. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  11. ^ "Abhisanda Sutta" [Rewards]. Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight. 1997. AN 8.39. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  12. ^ AN 8.40 (Thanissaro, 1997c).
  13. ^ AN 4.111 "Kesi Sutta: To Kesi the Horsetrainer" (Thanissaro, 1997)
  14. ^ "CBETA T18 No. 916¡m¨ü¤§Ù¤K§Ù¤å¡n¨÷1". Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  15. ^ "CBETA T24 No. 1488¡mÀu±C¶ë§Ù¸g¡n¨÷3". 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  16. ^ "CBETA X60 No. 1129¡mÂk§Ùn¶°¡n¨÷3". 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  17. ^ starting on line 0682c05(07)
  18. ^ line p0019a07(06)
  19. ^ "Welcome to American Zen Buddhist Temple - Vairocana Monastery". 2003-03-09. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  20. ^ "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas". Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Yin-Shun, Venerable (1998). Wing H. Yeung, M.D., ed. The Way to Buddhahood: Instructions from a Modern Chinese Master. Wisdom Publications. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0-231-11286-6. 
  23. ^ Anguttara Nikaya 8.43
  24. ^ Anguttara Nikaya 3.70
  25. ^ "The Ten Precepts: dasa-sila", edited by Access to Insight. Access to Insight, 26 May 2010, . Retrieved on 20 September 2013.


External links