Triple Gem
Chapter Three


A) The Five Precepts
B) The Three Additional Precepts
C) The Four Immeasurables

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A) The Five Precepts

1) Do not kill
2) Do not steal
3) Do not lie
4) Do not be unchaste
5) Do not take drugs or drink intoxicants

1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.

2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.

3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.

4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.

5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts. These are the basic precepts expected as a day to day training of any lay Buddhist.

B) The Three Additional Precepts

On special holy days, many Buddhists, especially those following the Theravada tradition, would observe three additional precepts with a strengthening of the third precept to be observing strict celibacy. The additional precepts are:

6) To abstain from taking food at inappropriate times. This would mean following the tradition of Theravadin monks and not eating from noon one day until sunrise the next.

7) To abstain from dancing, singing, music and entertainments as well as refraining from the use of perfumes, ornaments and other items used to adorn or beautify the person. Again, this and the next rule.

8) To undertake the training to abstain from using high or luxurious beds are rules regularly adopted by members of the Sangha and are followed by the layperson on special occasions.

C) The Four Immeasurables

(1) Love
(2) Compassion
(3) Sympathetic joy
(4) Equanimity

(1) Love

The definition of love in Buddhism is: wanting others to be happy.
This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance (including self-acceptance).
The "near enemy" of love, or a quality which appears similar, but is more an opposite is: conditional love.
The opposite is wanting others to be unhappy: anger, hatred.
A result which one needs to avoid is: attachment.

This definition means that 'love' in Buddhism refers to something quite different from the ordinary term of love which is usually about attachment, more or less successful relationships and sex; all of which are rarely without self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to de-tachment and the unselfish interest in others' welfare.

'Even offering three hundred bowls of food three times a day does not match the spiritual merit gained in one moment of love.' Nagarjuna

(2) Compassion

The definition is: wanting others to be free from suffering.
This compassion happens when one feels sorry with someone, and one feels an urge to help.
The near enemy is pity, which keeps other at a distance, and does not urge one to help.
The opposite is wanting others to suffer, or cruelty.
A result which one needs to avoid is sentimentality. Compassion thus refers to an unselfish, de-tached emotion which gives one a sense of urgency in wanting to help others. From a Buddhist perspective, helping others to reduce their physical or mental suffering is very good, but the ultimate goal is to extinguish all suffering by stopping the process of rebirth and the suffering that automatically comes with living (enlightenment).

(3) Sympathetic joy

The definition is: being happy with someone's fortune/happiness. Sympathetic joy here refers to the potential of bliss and happiness of all sentient beings, as they can all become Buddhas.
The near enemy is hypocrisy or affectation.
The opposite is jealousy, when one cannot accept the happiness of others.
A result which one needs to avoid is: spaced-out bliss, which can easily turn into laziness.
Note: sympathetic joy is a great antidote to depression for oneself as well, but this should not be the main goal.
By rejoicing in others' progress on the spiritual path, one can actually share in their positive karma.
Sympathetic joy is an unselfish, very positive mental attitude which is beneficial for oneself and others. In this case, it also refers specifically to rejoicing in the high rebirth and enlightenment of others.

(4) Equanimity

The definition is: not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.
The near enemy is indifference. It is tempting to think that just 'not caring' is equanimity, but that is just a form of egotism.
The opposite is anxiety, worry, stress and paranoia caused by dividing people into 'good' and 'bad'; one can worry forever if a good friend may not be a bad person after all, and thus spoiling trust and friendship.
A result which one needs to avoid is apathy as a result of 'not caring'.
Equanimity is the basis for unconditional, altruistic love, compassion and joy for other's happiness and Bodhicitta.
When we discriminate between friends and enemies, how can we ever want to help all sentient beings?
Equanimity is an unselfish, de-tached state of mind which also prevents one from doing negative actions.

"If one tries to befriend an enemy for a moment, he becomes your friend.
The same thing occurs when one treats a friend as an enemy.
Therefore, by understanding the impermanence of temporal relations,
Wise ones are never attached to food, clothing or reputation, nor to friends or enemies.
The father becomes the son in another life,
Mother becomes the wife,
Enemy becomes friend;
It always changes.
Therefore there is nothing definite in samsara."

The Buddha

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