What are the basic principles of morality?

A strong foundation of morality is the key to develop meditation. When you practice morality, you will have a blameless mind.

In Theravada Buddhism, there are five virtues that a person needs to adhere to at the minimum level. They are called the five precepts.

This article will discuss those five basic principles and their importance for the individual progress in developing meditation.

 What are the five precepts?

The five basic precepts set out in Buddhism are;

  • refrain from killing
  • refrain from stealing
  • refrain from sexual misconduct
  • refrain from lying
  • refrain from taking intoxicants

What is killing?

Killing means taking the life faculty of a living being.

As it is stated in Buddhism, five factors are needed to fulfill the act of killing.

They are;

  • there should be a living being
  • the knowledge of a living being
  • one thinks to kill the living being  
  • doing a deliberate act of killing
  • as a result of the deliberate act, the other party’s life comes to an end

If one or more requirements are not fulfilled, the act of killing is not accomplished.


Killing includes killing all living beings; both man and animals. Also, Buddhism does not advise selling live animals for consumption.

Debatable issues such as capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia have not been recommended in Buddhism.

  • What is stealing?

As same as in killing, five factors are necessary for stealing to be accomplished.

  • there should be someone else’s belongings,
  • the knowledge that the object belongs to another person,
  • the idea of taking the object,
  • the act of taking the object
  • as a result, the owner is deprived of his possession
  • What is sexual misconduct?

When a spouse is in an extramarital relationship, that is called sexual misconduct. In Theravada Buddhism, only lay people are allowed to have a physical relationship with their spouse. In monastic life, monks and nuns are strictly advised on celibacy. Further, lay people are encouraged to live on celibacy on special days like full moon day.

  • What is telling lies?

If a person tells what he knows to be untrue, that is lying. When a person tends to tell lies, he can engage in any type of immoral conduct.

  • What is taking intoxicants?

Taking intoxicants means taking substances that can diminish the physical or mental ability of a person.

What happen when you break the precepts?


When one kills another, there will be legal repercussions. The wrongdoer is subject to punishment depending on the degree of the offense he has committed.

Suppose a person was declared guilty of murder when he was twenty years old. If he was given life imprisonment, his energetic youth will go wasted. Also, a murderer is looked upon with fear by others in society. 


When you are caught red-handed in taking what is not given, there are legal and social consequences. People who live in society cannot move around freely without fearing for the safety of their belongings. On the other hand, theft is an offense punished by law.

All of us are attached to the possessions we have. If someone is deprived of his possessions, he will go through mental agony.

Sexual misconduct:

Sexual misconduct would lead to the separation or divorce of spouses because adultery is considered to be serious wrongdoing. As a result, family ties will be broken. Children go through both mental and physical adverse consequences when parents get separated.

Telling lies:

When a person tells lies, no one believes in his words.

Taking intoxicants:

Taking intoxicants creates a range of issues such as engage in crimes that will raise safety issues in society.

What are the benefits of observing 5 precepts?

  • Everyone can live in the society with no fear for the safety of their lives

The right to life is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by constitutions around the world.

Big or small, every creature treasures the opportunity to live. If one willingly takes away that opportunity, he engages in breaking a basic moral principle

  • Everyone can carry or store up their belongings without the fear that someone else will take them away
  • Family ties will be strong
  • People will trust you
  • There will be fewer accidents and other crimes done by drug addicts`

Why is it important to uphold virtues?

Virtues are one of the utmost important requirements that creates a safe and peaceful society. The quality of life depends on the safety of a particular society. When one does not feel safe, he cannot enjoy his life. Therefore, it is very important to protect these values in a society.

What is the connection between morality and meditation?

If a person has pious conduct, his mind is free from negative emotions such as; guilt, shame, fear, blameworthiness, hatred, lust, etc.

Instead, his mind fills with positive emotions like compassion, kindness, sympathetic joy, happiness, etc.

When the mind is not clouded with impurity, he can start meditation easily. His bodily conduct will be free of any wrongdoing. Also, his verbal deliverance will be pleasant to others around him. He will stand out in society as a person with good moral conduct. Therefore, he will find it easy to meditate with a blameless mind.

Practicing virtue starts with a strong desire to live righteously. Virtues are recognized and respected by every society. When each and every individual is ready to live a moral life, society will become a safe place to live.

Finally, the observance of morality would make a person better. He will be respected and trusted for his own good behavior. Also, it will help to develop his mind easily. If someone cannot protect even the basic morality, he cannot expect to uplift his mind which is harder than observing morality. Therefore, let us focus on adhering to whatever virtues we can.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash


Rathsara (Sara) is an attorney-at-law who holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies in ITBMU. She has engaged in community service in Sri Lanka and the United States helping many individuals. She is interested in reading, writing, and researching areas related to mindfulness. Inspired by spiritually developed individuals around the globe, Rathsara is keen to learn and practice mind-developing techniques. In the meantime, she would like to share her experience and knowledge for the well-being of others.

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