Three things cannot be long
hidden: the sun, the moon,

and the truth.


The Buddha


Living the Precepts

First, the precepts are not commandments. They are undertaken as a personal commitment to Buddhist practice. Falling short is unskillful (akusala) but not sinful -- there is no God to sin against.


Further, the precepts are principles, not rules. It's up to us to decide how to apply the principles. This takes a greater degree of discipline and self-honesty than the legalistic, "just follow the rules and don't ask questions" approach to ethics. The Buddha said "be a lamp onto yourself." He taught how to use our own judgments about religious and moral teachings.


Followers of other religions often argue that without clear, external rules, people will behave selfishly and do whatever they want. This sells humanity short, I think. Buddhism shows us that we can release our selfishness, greed and grasping and cultivate loving kindness and compassion.


Indeed, I would say that a person who remains in the grip of self-centered views and who has little compassion in his heart is not a moral person, no matter how many rules he follows. Such a person always finds a way to bend the rules to disregard and exploit others.