The Eight Precepts

Imitating the Enlightened Ones

The Buddha encouraged his lay disciples to follow extra training rules as often as they could. They are an enhanced version of the five precepts they follow every day.

The Eight Precepts are:

  1. Abstaining from killing
  2. Abstaining from stealing
  3. Abstaining from sexual activity
  4. Abstaining from telling lies
  5. Abstaining from intoxicating drinks and drugs
  6. Abstaining from eating after noon
  7. Abstaining from entertainment and beautifying the body
  8. Abstaining from using luxurious furniture

We follow these precepts thinking, “The fully enlightened disciples of the Buddha followed these precepts for their entire lives. Let us, imitate these great beings for this day.”
Lay people can follow these precepts as often as they like. Traditionally, Buddhists come together to observe these precepts, listen to teachings, and practice meditation on the full and new moon days. Here in Halton, we do this on the Third Sunday of every month at a Sinhala language event.

If you have questions about following these precepts on your own or with a group, please speak with one of the monks.

Taking Eight Precepts

Usually we begin by paying homage to the Buddha and going for refuge to the Triple Gem. Then we recite:

1. I observe the precept of abstaining from killing beings.
2. I observe the precept of abstaining from stealing.
3. I observe the precept of abstaining from incelibacy.
4. I observe the precept of abstaining from telling lies.
5. I observe the precept of abstaining from taking intoxicating drinks and drugs.
6. I observe the precept of abstaining from eating at improper times.
7. I observe the precept of abstaining from dancing singing music shows wearing garlands and beautifying with cosmetics.
​8. I observe the precept of abstaining from using luxurious and comfortable seats and beds.

​Imitating great arahants, I follow these precepts for happiness in this life, for rebirth in heaven, and to realize the Four Noble Truths in this Gautama Buddha’s Dispensation.

Buddha’s Words

when virtue is well-developed it yields great fruit and brings great advantages in regard to concentration, when concentration is well-developed it yields great fruit and brings great advantages in regard to wisdom, when wisdom is well-developed the mind is completely liberated from the pollutants, that is to say: the pollutant of sensuality, the pollutant of craving for continued existence, the pollutant of ignorance.”

– Mahāparinibbānasutta –

Buddha’s Words

Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years without virtue and stillness of mind.

–  Dhammapada –

Frequently Asked Questions:

No. It is beneficial to wear white, but not essential. Some people wear a white shirt and any color pants. Traditionally, people often wear a white piece of cloth over their left shoulder and pinned together at the waste under the right arm.

Fruit juice, water, sugar, honey, rock candy. Tea and coffee can be taken without milk.

If you are able to keep the precepts for 24 hours, that’s a great effort. Normally we keep eight precepts for 24 hours. But you can discontinue any time in the day.

Try and sleep on the simplest bed possible, using the most basic bedding you have. It is good if you can put the mattress on the floor.

Most people will first recite the Three Refuges and then simply recite the eight precepts out loud.

Absolutely. Traditionally, people will observe them on full and new moon days. But the Buddha encouraged people to observe them as often as possible.

This is very easy to do if we are observing the precepts at home or anywhere outside a group setting. Don’t worry. Simply mentally determine to take the precept again. You may find that wearing white helps you remember. You may even like to put up a sign on the fridge.

No. It is traditional, and of course very beneficial, to devote the day to Dhamma practice. But it is still beneficial to keep the precepts on a day when we may not be able to dedicate ourselves entirely to spiritual practice.

Why Should You Do It?

Precepts or training rules laid down by the Supreme Buddha are there to uplift moral conduct through refraining and guarding physical and verbal actions. Sila or moral conduct is the foundation of the path to enlightenment. You are the owner of the consequences of your actions. Adopting a simple lifestyle and being knowledgeable enough to avoid actions that are considered evil gains you good karma.  The good Karma collected helps you in the path to end suffering. This is why the Eight Precepts are paramount to a practitioner.

What Do You Get in Return?

Observing Eight Precepts enables us to collect good karma by avoiding the harmful actions we would otherwise engage in our daily lives. Living a simple lifestyle during this day, the practitioner mindfully avoids actions that are considered bad. These could be simple things like watching a movie that arouses your sensual desires or even actions that arouses anger. At the end of the day, the practitioner could reflect on the good karma collected during the twenty-four-hour period. Not only does it make you happy and adds up to your baggage of good deeds in the Samsara (cycle of rebirth), but it also helps you to have a healthy life through fasting after the midday meal.