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Dec. 4, 2018

Everyday Buddhism 18 - The 5 Precepts: Gentle Guides Not Commandments

Everyday Buddhism 18 - The 5 Precepts: Gentle Guides Not Commandments

Tools, Not Rules

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In this episode I'll talk about my uneasy relationship with the 5 Precepts. Do they produce more questions—and more confusion—than answers? Do they cause more suffering than they prevent? I'll explore how, if looked at as rules and "thou shall not's", they set up barriers between Right View and the Dharma I believe the Buddha taught. And they can also separate people from each other and themselves, if they feel like failures.

When we work with the precepts, we do so with the understanding that "self" and "other" are delusions. There is nothing external to us acting as an authority. Clearing up ignorance is what alleviates suffering. This requires working with ourselves on a very deep and intimate level—honestly evaluating our own motivations and thinking deeply about how our actions will affect others.

Don't look "out there" for permission or an authority who will reward or punish us for breaking the "rules." This concept of ethics in the 5 Precepts is not one based on a transactional experience, but is firmly anchored in the non-dual perspective central to Buddhist philosophy.