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In Pali, the word for the five precepts is "pancasila." The five precepts are simple moral guides that remind us to mindfully practice a virtuous life. These precepts guide one to conduct a way of life every lay Buddhist should follow.
A person can take the precepts by making a resolution with herself or himself that s/he will refrain from unskillful actions.
It is also not unusual have the precepts given to one by a monk or nun, or, where one is not available, by a novice.
When one want to take the five precepts from a monk or nun, one first recites, with folded palms, the request passage which runs as follows:
Mayam bhante, visum visum rakkhanatthaya,
tisaranena saha, pancasilani yacama.
Venerable Sir, we do seek from you, for individual observance, the five precepts along with the Three Gems. Dutiyampi, mayam... For the second time, ... Tatiyampi, mayam... For the third time, ... The monk or nun would then recite three times the acknowledgement of the Buddha, the Tathagata, and the disciples or devotees repeat after him or her: Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa. Homage to Him, the Blessed One, the Exalted One, the Fully-Enlightened One. What follows is the acceptance of the Three Gems as Refuge, to be repeated sentence by sentence after the monk or nun. Buddham saranam gacchami. I go to the Buddha for refuge. Dhammam saranam gacchami. I go to the Dharma for refuge. Sangham saranam gacchami. I go to the Sangha for refuge. Dutiyampi buddham... For the second time... Tatiyampi buddham... For the third time... Then the monk or nun concludes at this point: Tisarana-gamanam nittitam. (The Going for the Three Refuges is now complete.) And we respond with, for example: Ama bhante (So it is, Venerable Sir.) This summing up is omissible, but we should still learn it. Many monks do include it in the procedure.
Now the monk or nun recites the five precepts one by one, to be repeated likewise by the lay devotees:
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. 1. I observe the precept refraining from killing; 2. Adinnadana veramani... 2. ... stealing; 3. Kamesu micchacara veramani... 3. ... sexual misconduct; 4. Musavada veramani... 4. ... falsehood; 5. Suramerayamajja-pamadatthana veramani... 5. ... intoxicants that cause carelessness. Having completed the five precepts, the monk then concludes by advising us as follows: Imani pancasikkhapadani. There, then, are the five precepts. Silena sugatim yanti. People attain a happy state through sila. Silena bhogasampada. People prosper through sila. Silena nibbutim yanti. People attain peace through sila. Tasma silam visodhaye. Therefore, keep sila ever pure. The devotees respond with: Sadhu! (Very well!). Then they prostrate three times. The procedure is now complete.
These precepts are not commandments imposed on us by any dogmatic system. They are, in fact, clearly the morality or ethics that we willingly undertake to observe out of clear understanding and firm conviction that they are good for ourselves, as well as for everyone on the planet. Life would be truly less complicated, and more happy, certainly less problematic, and international society would become a much safer and more peaceful place to live in if these precepts are observed in earnest.
Source: BuddhaDharma web site, http://buddhadharma.org/index.html
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