The Eight (Five) Precepts

Taking the Precepts

As Buddhists, during ceremonies and retreats we take all eight precepts as taken by monks. In the rest of our life we try our best to train ourselves in the first five precepts.

These Eight Precepts are guidelines; they are not burdensome rules that make you feel guilt-ridden if you don’t live up to their highest standard. You’re not expected to be perfect all at once.

This is a way of training, a way of guiding yourself towards recognizing the conditions of your mind, towards recognizing resistance, laziness, indulgence, and the resentment of being restricted.

Ajahn Sumedho

The wording of the Eight Precepts

The pattern of all the eight precepts wording is:

[thing]
veramaṇī
sikkhāpadaṁ
samādiyāmi
[thing]
refrain from
precept
i undertake

There are many translations of the precepts that can widen our understanding of their meaning and their application in our lives. Here is one:

  1. pānātipātā veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying breath (or, life).
  2. adinnadana veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. kamesu micchacara (when taking the Five Precepts) or
    abrahmacariyā (when taking the Eight/Ten Precepts)
    veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct (Five Precepts) / from all sexual activity (Eight/Ten Precepts) -- to be mindful of my bodily desires.
  4. musāvādā veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from harmful speech; to be responsible for what i say.
  5. surāmeraya-majjapamādaṭṭhānā veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from alcoholic drink and drugs -- from intentionally altering consciousness, and rather choosing the way of mindfulness as one in which we open our minds.
  6. vikāla bhojanā veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at inappropriate times -- to be mindful of my hungers and desires.
    This usually means, not eating after noon and before dawn.
  7. naccagītavādita-visūkadassanā-mālāgandha- vilepana-dhāraṇa-maṇḍana-vibhūsanaṭṭhānā veramaṇī veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, watching shows, wearing garlands, beautifying myself with perfumes and cosmetics -- to treat boredom with mindfulness rather than distraction.
  8. uccasayanā-mahāsayanā veramani sikkhāpadam samadiyami
    I undertake the precept to refrain from sleeping on high and luxurious beds -- can be regarded as not seeking escape through sleeping.

imāni attha [panca] sikkhā-padāni samādiyāmi [SAY THREE TIMES]
I undertake these eight [five] precepts. [BOW THREE TIMES]

As we chant them at retreat

The English translation of the Eight Precepts as we chant them at the retreat is here.

Other translations

TBD

Meaning, explanation, and discussions

On this website

Ajahn Sumedho, describes the Eight Precepts.

On other websites

The Precepts – Discussion at WisdomLib

Misusing the Precepts to find fault with others – Discussion at WisdomLib


The Five Precepts – Meaning of the Pali words, and interesting discussion, at Buddhism StackExchange

The Five Precepts – Translation, meaning of the Pali words, and a bit of confusion about pronunciation, at NewBuddhist.com

The Eight Precepts – Explanation and translation at Dhamma Wiki

The Eight Precepts – Nice explanation at DhammaDana.org

The Ten Precepts – at DhammaDana.org


The Third Precept – The manifold meaning of brahmacariyā, at Wikipedia. The literal meaning is “conduct consistent with Brahma” (god of creation – so – consistent with creation).

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