There can be no success in getting happiness out of Lord Buddha’s Dharma until we understand and use Sila, which is a Pali-Sanskrit word meaning morality. The Five Precepts are often called Pancasila, which means “the Five Moralities” or “the Five Rules of Good Conduct”. No matter how clever we may be at learning and understanding even the deepest teaching of Buddhism, we cannot call ourselves true followers of Lord Buddha until we follow the five “do nots”.
As a rule, these five rules are recited after the Three Refuges and are usually considered as a necessary part of the ceremony of becoming a Buddhist. Every one who understands these rules knows it is good and wise to follow them all, but many persons have weak characters and do not make a real attempt to be guided by these Five Rules that all Buddhists must follow. They are:
Mercy is found only among human beings. A human being who delights in killing, is on a level with jungle animals. Not only must we avoid killing, we must show mercy to all living things and respect all life.
The rule against taking whatever is not rightfully ours must be obeyed fully. The fact that a theft is small does not excuse it. Every wrong act we do has an unhappy result. One of the worst results of breaking any or all of these five rules is that we do not only lose the respect of others, but we also lose self-respect.
The rule against impurity tells us that we must respect our bodies and not make improper use of them. Human beings know the difference between right and wrong and this places on us an obligation to behave ourselves in a way that is very different from animal conduct.
As for the rule against untruthfulness, perhaps this is the rule that is broken most of all. Once a person gets a reputation for being a liar, no one is willing to trust that individual anymore. Lying is also one of the very quickest ways to lose self-respect. The Buddha said: “He whose words are truthful and kind is loved and respected by all and, when he passes from this world, he is sadly missed.”
No Buddhist can make or sell intoxicating drinks or evil drugs. Anyone who engages in such a business is not a true follower of Lord Buddha. A real Buddhist will not have anything to do with any drink or drug that will poison his body or mind.
Perhaps you have some schoolmate who urges you to take part in some action you now to be wrong. There are silly fellows who think it clever to do wrong and succeed in keeping anyone from finding out what they have done. There is a line from a poem that gives good advice on this point:
“Be good, let those who will be clever.”
Actually it is never really clever to do wrong. Any boy or girl who observes the Five Precepts faithfully will be happy. If these precepts are observed all through life, then much sorrow will be avoided. Last of all, let us all remember that no one, boy or girl, man or woman, young or old, can be a real Buddhist unless he uses the Five Precepts as the guide to daily moral living.
OUR BLESSED MASTER
The Blessed Master teaches
That children must be true,
In every thought and every word,
In every act they do.
The Holy Master teaches
All children must be pure,
If they would walk His Pathway,
And happiness secure.
The Gentle Master teaches
That all must surely bring,
Tender care and kindness
To every living thing.
Our Blessed Master teaches
Each child must slay within,
The ugly selfish longing
That leads to acts of sin.