Does Buddhism have any restrictions?

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[ Jul 1st, 2008 ] - [ read : 12064 ]
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Does Buddhism have any restrictions?
by: Venerable Nicolas Thanissaro

One major part of what Buddhists practice is to become more self-disciplined. This means that whatever sort of Buddhist you are, you try to follow a set of 'rules of training' or 'precepts' as a way to gain mastery over your mind. The idea of such 'precepts' is that by avoiding harmful ways of behaving or speaking, you can start to reduce the harmfulness of the intentions in the mind that generate those deeds and words. For lay Buddhists (i.e. those who are not monks or nuns) there is a minimum package of Five Precepts which are:
  • to abstain from taking the life of living beings
  • to abstain from taking what is not given (i.e. not stealing)
  • to abstain from sexual relations outside marriage
  • to abstain from telling lies
  • to abstain from drinking alcohol or taking other intoxicants such as tobacco or non-medicinal drugs.
These Precepts are not supposed to be commandments where you become eternally damned if you break them, but they are an ideal of behaviour Buddhists try to train themselves towards as a means to improve our habits and develop a full sense of responsibility for the human dignity of ourselves or others. Lay Buddhists would keep the Five Precepts 24 hours a day, seven days a week - not just on a particular day of the week.

If lay Buddhists want to train themselves more intensively (e.g. go on a meditation retreat or on the Buddhist quarter moon days) they may choose to follow Eight Precepts (see detail at the following link

For novice monks there is a fuller set of Precepts called the Ten Precepts (see detail at the link

Fully ordained monks follow a total of 227 Precepts (see detail at the link

Fully ordained Buddhist nuns follow a total of 311 Precepts (see detail at the link

The same objectives lie behind keeping the Precepts for monastic Buddhists and lay Buddhists alike, but for the monastics, the Precepts are more because they have elected to train themselves more intensely than lay Buddhists and are therefore considered to be on the 'fast-track' to Nirvana.

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