Ajahn Sumedho description of the Eight Precepts

This is taken from a description by Thai Forest Tradition teacher Ajahn Sumedho of each of the Eight Precepts.

The pattern of all the eight precepts wording is:

[precept rule]
[precept rule]
“refrain from”
“i undertake”

Explanation of the Eight Precepts, by Ajahn Sumedho

1) pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“taking breath”
… refraining from intentionally taking the life of any living creature.
You have to learn to respect the lives of living creatures, rather than just getting rid of them for your own convenience. You must be more considerate of even the most insignificant form of life, no matter how unpleasant it might be. Pāṇātipātā makes us more patient, more respectful towards the rights of all creatures on this earth. We no longer look at this earth as something to be made as we want it to be, so that it’s convenient for us at the expense of all other living creatures.
2) Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“not taking that which is not given”
… refraining from taking things that do not belong to us,
so that we train ourselves to respect that which belongs to others [physically, mentally, emotionally].
3) abrahmacariyā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“brahma” “conduct consistent with”
… celibacy …
This means total abstinence from any kind of intentional sexual behaviour. It is the way of a brahmacārin, in which we relinquish sexual delight for the religious quest. In other words, we take the energy given out in sexuality up into the heart, the spiritual centre.
4) musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“untruth speaking”
… refraining from lying
and being more responsible for what you say – not using language to insult others, for exaggeration or for gossip.
5) surāmeraya-majjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“intoxicating drinking drink ???”
… refraining from alcoholic drink and drugs.
[We] refrain from intentionally altering consciousness, recognizing the way of mindfulness as one in which you open our minds to understand conditions, rather than trying to get away from them by manipulating our minds.
6) vikāla bhojanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
inconvenient time – eating
… refraining from eating at inappropriate times,
so we don’t spend the whole day indulging in eating food. An anagārika and bhikkhu may eat between dawn and noon – here we usually eat the one meal just before noon. In the winter when it’s colder we have rice gruel in the early morning, but the idea is to eat just what is necessary rather than spending our time preparing and eating food. In ordinary life one tends to munch on things all day long – at least, I did! – but here we limit our habits rather than just following them.
7) naccagītavādita-visūkadassanā-mālāgandha- vilepana-dhāraṇa-maṇḍana-vibhūsanaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
” “
[We] no longer seek distraction through entertainment.
You abstain if you become bored or want some fun, if you want to go to movies, to discos and so forth. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re against fun and entertainment, but that we simplify our lives rather than seeking distraction through the sensual world. If we feel bored or weary now, we move inward, towards the peace within. Actually, you begin to realize that true peace of mind is much more delightful than any kind of sensual pleasure, and after a while the sense pleasures begin to seem less enticing, as you start to recognize the strength within yourself.
8) uccasayanā-mahāsayanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi
“luxurious beds – high beds”
[The precept of] not sleeping on high and luxurious beds
is about sleeping. It is usually translated as not sleeping on high and luxurious beds, but can be regarded more as not seeking escape through sleeping all the time. There’s a side of us which when life becomes difficult wants to sleep all the time, eradicate ourselves through sleeping fourteen hours a day – and, of course, that’s possible if you have high, luxurious beds. But in the monastic life we train ourselves to sleep on harder surfaces, which are not the kind of places where you can spend hours lost in sleep. So you begin to develop your meditation and learn to limit sleep to just what is necessary for the body, and you know how much is an indulgence or an escape. You know for yourself how to live with your body and mind in a way that is skilful.

These Eight Precepts are guides

They are not meant to be 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.
You should want to see these things, so that you can release yourself from the burdens of repression and indulgence and find the Middle Way.

Note: The above explanation and guidelines wording is taken from Ajahn Sumedho, Anthology, Vol. 1, Peace is a Simple Step, ch. 6, p.48 — slightly reformatted, and very lightly edited at the beginning of each precept, to be more orderly and less discursive, for study. No words are added/changed. Oh — and oxford commas 🙂