Precepts in the Real World

The Noble Eightfold Path can sometimes be summed up with three branches – “Sila, Samadhi, and Pañña”, or “Morality, Mental Composure, and Wisdom”. The positioning of Sila at the beginning of the list is not by chance – as many learn when they first experiment with Buddhist practice and try to meditate, they get only as far as their conduct allows. If their Sila is off their mind will be a mess of regret, desire and aversion.

Samadhi, the personal experience of peace, is dependent on moral living. Pañña, the seeing of things as they really are, will never arise without Samadhi. It all begins with Sila, and as we survey those beings further down the path towards Nibbana it is Sila that stands out as the most obvious criteria to gauge another’s progress.

The first and most important step in the development of Sila is the taking of the Five Precepts. They are framed as ‘trainings’, and this is how they are meant to be held: not as rules to be followed, but as guidelines for moral living meant to be explored. In taking them up we are challenging the notion that we cannot change and grow. We are taking responsibility for our actions. And we inevitably discover first-hand the true meaning of the word ‘Refuge’. The lessons we learn through developing our Sila and letting go of unskillful habits will be our first real taste of Pañña, and the peace we get after overcoming a bad habit will be well earned.

The development and understanding of the five precepts was the focus of this Sunday’s morning session with Vihara Parivara Dhamma Acala. You can find the recording on TheResidentofDhamma YouTube channel, at:

 

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