5, 8 and 10 Precepts

Here is a comparison of 5, 8 and 10 precepts or also known as a regular lay Buddhist, a serious Buddhist, and a Novice monk.  It is important to know these classes to know which rules are more important to follow.  It also can explain, what class of rules a monk is following.  It is a unique way of looking at Monastic Morality.  It is also important for lay people who take 8 precepts to really take real 8 precepts.  Otherwise it is just rights and rituals, something that is in the opposite direction as Enlightenment and what The Buddha preached.

The conversation I had with another monk who approached me with a question a few months ago is below:

Question: “Bhante, what is worse, to eat after NOON or to use money? I think that using money is worse because money is a “forfeiture” classed rule (Nissaggiyā Pācittiyā) and eating is only a confession classed rule (pācittiya).”

A comparison of 5, 8 and 10 precepts
A comparison of 5, 8 and 10 precepts

 

Answer: (modified slightly)
“Let us look at the 3 levels of precepts. Regular lay people follow 5 precepts, serious lay yogis follow 8 precepts and novice monks follow 10 precepts*.

Lay People
1. Killing
2. Stealing
3. Sexual Misconduct
4. Lying
5. Intoxicants

Serious Lay People
1. Killing
2. Stealing
3. Celibacy
4. Lying
5. Intoxicants
6. Eating after NOON
7a. Entertainment
7b. Beautification & Adornments
8. High & large beds

Novice Monks
1. Killing
2. Stealing
3. Celibacy
4. Lying
5. Intoxicants
6. Eating after NOON
7. Entertainment
8. Beautification & Adornments
9. High & large beds
10. Using Money

We could say that one can be defined by the rules they follow. So it is important to not use money. If you do, you are only following the rules of a serious Buddhist lay person. There is only one rule that separates the serious lay practitioner and the novice monk and that is using money. However, if you eat after NOON, you are no longer even following the rules of a Serious Buddhist Lay Person. You are just following the rules of a regular “run of the mill” Buddhist Lay person. About the classes of offenses. Lying is simply “only a confession classed rule (Pācittiyā).” Do you agree that a monk who lies is below the morality of a monk who eats after NOON and below a monk who uses money? Of course, because he is no longer classed as following the rules of even a simple Buddhist lay person. He is sub-humane. The Buddha said, “In the same way, Rahula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do.” (MN 61).  Therefore, although breaking both eating and money rules are bad, we can say that eating after NOON is worse because the monk is not even following the morality of a serious Lay Buddhist practitioner. He is only following the precepts of a “run of the mill” lay Buddhist person.

*Rules 7a and 7b and are abbreviated into general terms. Although the rules are all negative rules, I left “celibacy” as a non-negation. It really should read non-celibacy, but I think it is clear and understood this way since we know them as rules.

 

Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.

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