The Buddha taught five fundamental precepts which have to be observed if one is to be happy.
Abstaining from killing any living being.
Abstaining from stealing and taking things from others without their knowledge.
Abstaining from sexual misconduct.
Abstaining from lying and telling falsehoods to others.
Abstaining from taking intoxicating liquors and drugs.
When I was small, my grandfather would read and explain poems to me. One day, we were both having a nice time doing poetry, when a mosquito landed on my little arm. My immediate reaction was to swat it. However, my grandfather held my hand and said ‘don’t’… meaning not to kill the mosquito. Because of that little act of restraint in the midst of my irritation at the mosquito, I learned a profound lesson. All beings desire to live. No being desires to die. Even a mosquito, feels fear. That’s why, when a human tries to swat it, its immediate reaction is to quickly dart from there to another location. All life is precious.
Imagine if there were no guns in existence. How much more peaceful this world would be if we didn’t know what a gun was. If it was not in existence. It’s so sad that the gun culture is flourishing in horrendous ways. No one wants their lives to end in tragedy. To be the victim of a bullet fired by a gun. Not only guns. How could anyone have imagined that one day bombs would come to exist. Our ancestors in the past didn’t know what a gun was, what a bomb was. And life in the early days was all the more peaceful as a result. It’s truly sad that the value of life has been undermined by so many and that so many human beings in fact promote killings. The Buddha cherished all life. And he wished us humans to understand the value of life and to cherish it. Thus, he wanted us to abstain from killing. Any person wanting to travel on their individual spiritual journey can’t do so if they have a gun in their hands. Or promote their usage.
Regarding the taking of things belonging to another; in my small days in school I had a profound experience. I remember the principal at the time giving a speech to us children and something she told us left an indelible impression on my little mind. She said, not to take something which does not belong to oneself. Basically what she was teaching us was not to steal. Even a small thing like a pencil. We wouldn’t want someone else to steal away what we ourselves own. And similarly the same applies to others. They wouldn’t want us to steal something they own.
Abstaining from sexual misconduct; I’d say in matters relating to sex, one should always remain true to one’s partner. Be it a lover or spouse. There should be absolutely no secrets. If one desires to move away from one relationship to another, one can do so, with the knowledge of your current partner. So no hearts are broken and no tears are shed, unnecessarily. And there’s minimum suffering. Fundamentally, that’s keeping the third precept. Also, the union between two people is I’d say sacred shared space. And if a couple is happy together, it isn’t right for someone with malicious intents to try and break that union. In that sacred shared space exists real true love. However, this love is tested when another person poses a threat to it.
Abstaining from falsehoods; I can happily say that once this teaching of the Buddha sank into me, I have never ever intentionally told a single lie. And I stress the word intentional. Although at times for the purpose of sidetracking my son when necessary I might say something not absolutely true, which is not entirely a lie. However, that’s for his own good. I realise the importance of not acting in a very ignorant way by telling falsehoods. And it too has spared me the guilt and anguish at the probability of having lied.
Why do people lie? It could be due to fear of being threatened in some way. However, lying is its own limitation. When someone lies, he has to keep on lying and can lose track of the numerous lies he is transmitting to others. This is deadly. It takes courage and wisdom to abstain from saying falsehoods, and the reward is a calm and peaceful mind, untainted by guilt and self- blame.
As for intoxicating alcohol and drugs, it’s very easy to get addicted to them and momentarily forget and to enjoy. However, intoxicants taken for personal pleasure is not conducive to a person’s spiritual growth. Especially as it can be so harmful. If one is to learn and progress in the spiritual path, one has to be absolutely aware of the present moment and not get lost in ignorant behaviour -- especially when it comes to consuming alcohol and drugs. When people are under the influence of liquor, they can act in ways harmful not only to themselves but also to others.
Life unfolds moment by moment. It is important to be absolutely aware of the present moment and how we conduct ourselves in the present moment. We must live life with truth, integrity and wisdom if we are to be happy human beings. And it is possible, with the right amount of effort. One should also exert the right amount of effort to observe the five precepts.
There are four Brahma Viharas that can be cultivated along with observing the five precepts. so that the process of living this life is truly enriched and made whole. They are:
Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha.
Metta - Loving kindness; Karuna - All embracing compassion; Mudita - Sincere joy at the happiness of others and Upekkha - Equanimity or balance
What will this life of ours be without the presence of Love. Metta is a very beautiful word. The Buddha, expunged that loving kindness is the antidote to fear, grief and similar forms of suffering. In the Karaniyamettasutta, the Buddha says about how just as a mother loves her child, her one and only child - so should one cultivate boundless loving kindness towards others. This is a practice which will give us humans a lot of solace and comfort. The ability to love is a gift, not to be taken for granted.
Compassion is all embracing. It isn’t pity. It is the genuine feeling of the heart melting at the other’s plight. Wanting to help and alleviate the suffering of another. It’s easy to go past a suffering person. It takes a lot of compassion to do something concrete about the suffering. I recently saw a photo on the Internet where a man is begging on the streets. He is a total cripple. No arms, no legs. A woman who buys him a food packet bends down to his level and actually feeds him with her own hands. I found this image so very touching. It’s nice to know there are really genuinely caring people out there.
Joy at the happiness of others is also a very beautiful thing. If one is to think carefully, one can understand that life isn’t easy for everyone. As human beings, we are bound to have issues and problems of a certain nature. That’s life. And life being what it is, it should be easy to wish others well and want them to be happy. Although the fact remains that it’s a very unique and rare quality to be able to actually love another so much that one is genuinely happy at their successes and triumphs.
And lastly Upekkha or Equanimity. This means to be in balance. This comes with realising most of the Buddha’s teachings as being valid. Being calm in the face of the other’s anger. Wishing another happiness without being engulfed in feelings of jealousy. Wishing joy and happiness to others, etc. Equanimity could also be translated as the middle way. Avoiding the two extremes of over self-indulgence and self-mortification.
To sum everything up, if we human beings can observe the five precepts and cultivate the four Brahma Viharas, life can truly be beautiful. It needn’t be so difficult. And with this I shall leave you for today.
Sending many loving wishes to you and yours and a happy and peaceful Poya to you all.