The Five Precepts – Pañca Sīla

Revised February 12, 2020

1. The five precepts (pañca sīla; pronounced “pancha seela”) are normally recited after paying homage to the Buddha (Namaskāraya), and then taking the refuge (Tisarana), i.e., one says nine times that one takes the refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. In the following they are combined, as customary; see the previous post for pronunciations and details.

  • Even for a Buddhist, it is not necessary to recite the precepts.
  • It is important to keep in mind that JUST BY RECITING PRECEPTS does not do anything to purify the mind. The Buddha said, “Yaṃ samādānaṃ taṃ vataṃ. Saṃvaraṭṭhena sīlaṃ“, or “reciting precepts is a ritual (“vata“), moral behavior is attained by seeing and controlling ‘san‘”.
  • However, it is good to recite Namaskaraya, Tisarana, and the precepts, to attain citta pasāda or calmness and joy of mind, especially before a formal meditation session. If one does it WITH UNDERSTANDING and RESOLVE, it can bring benefits.
  • Furthermore, reciting precepts and suttā is preferred by those with developed sadhhā (faith) indriya; see, “Pañca Indriya and Pañca Bala – Five Faculties and Five Powers“. For those who lack sadhhā indriya, this may be something they want to consider doing.

2. It is important to realize that the five precepts have deep meanings, and thus should not be taken lightly; see, “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them“. The true meaning of the five precepts are discussed there.

  •  Only an Arahant is capable of strictly keeping those precepts (abstaining from all ten defilements or dasa akusala); thus one needs to recite with the intention of doing one’s best to keep the precepts. Otherwise, we will be lying from the outset.

Here a Venerable Thero is reciting the Namaskāraya, Tisarana, and the five precepts with the audience repeating them (volume adjustment on the right):

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Here is a pdf file with the text and translation:

Pañca Sīla    (click to open)

3. To emphasize, these English translations are the conventional (“padaparama“) or mundane ones and the real meanings are discussed in  “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them“. Also, while reciting, one needs to keep in mind that one is promising to do one’s best to keep the precepts.

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