The Five Precepts for the Young

Venue: SBS
Most of you from Simpang Buddhist Society Dhamma Sunday School are probably not familiar with the Pali version of the Buddha Vandana, Tisarana and Pañca Sila that we have just chanted. I believe, however, that all of you have learnt them in Mandarin. Let me then pose you this question: do you understand what they mean?

The Vandana is paying homage to the Buddha, our teacher. When we recite the Tisarana, it means that we accept the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as our refuge, our protection. I am sure most of you will know the Five Precepts by heart. Now my next question is do you practise and observe them? Let’s go through them.

1. I undertake the precept to abstain from killing 

[Someone from the audience said something and Ven Kumara repeated it to the crowd.] One of you said that you cannot avoid killing mosquitoes. Let us put it this way. What would you think if you were to bite someone and that person killed you for that? All beings, including you and mosquitoes, are afraid to die. Mosquitoes bite only because they are hungry and need food. We kill them mostly because we hate them. Furthermore, it is dana if you donate just that tiny amount of blood. If you don’t wish to do that, you can easily blow them away. There is absolutely no need to kill.

2. I undertake the precept to abstain from stealing 

I suppose this precept should be quite easy to keep. Some really hard-core poor resort to stealing, not that this is justified. On the other hand, some well-to-do people also steal, but for fun. I think none of you here have any reason to steal and should be able to keep this precept well.

3. I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct 

This precept is more suitable for the older ones. (Ven Kumara shifts his attention to the teenagers, particularly the boys.) It means that you should not do it with those who are married, or still protected by their parents. Sexual activity should best be avoided until one is mentally mature enough. Furthermore, having sex at a young age leads to a host of problems. It is unhealthy for both your body and mind.

4. I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech 

Have you told lies before? If you have, raise your hand. [Many (probably all) raised their hands.] I am glad to see that most of you here are honest enough to admit to having told lies before. I raised my hand too. Having known that what we did was wrong, should we feel sorry and miserable for it? No. Instead, we just have to try to do better and not repeat the same mistakes.

Some people say that it does not pay to be too honest and that an honest person gets cheated. Do you agree? [Many nodded in agreement.] However, if you think about it carefully, you will see that he gets cheated not because he is honest, but because he is stupid. [Laughter.] Everyone will always seek those who are honest and trustworthy. Isn’t that true? For example, if you buy from a certain grocer and find out later that he fixes the scale and gives you less, would you like to buy from him again? [“No.”] Would you prefer to buy from someone who does not short-change you? [“Yes.”] So, it DOES pay to be honest, doesn’t it?

5. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness. 

I don’t know why people choose to take liquor. Personally, I don’t find it tasty at all. When intoxicated, a person acts stupidly. Taking other types of intoxicants like drugs is even worse. It causes the mind of that person go haywire. In that frame of mind, a person can do all kinds of stupid things including jumping off a tall building thinking that he can fly! [While Ven Kumara spoke, a teenage boy kept interjecting on various things that happens to an intoxicated person, seemingly to hint that he takes intoxicants.]

Some people drink because they are pressured by their friends, saying that they are not man enough if they don’t drink. I think if a man is man enough, he wouldn’t need alcohol to prove that he is a man.

[Some laughed apparently at that teenage boy. The boy quickly said, “I don’t believe that there is any guy who doesn’t drink alcohol.” Ven Kumara raised his hand and said, “We over here (i.e., the monks) don’t.” There was a big clap of hands. The boy retorted that monks don’t count. After a pause, Ven Kumara turned his attention to where a group of teenage girls sat and said, “Let me ask you girls. When you grow older, old enough to get married, would you choose a man who drinks alcohol or one who does not.” There was a clear unanimous answer, “One who doesn’t!” He then turned to the boy and said, “You’re in trouble.” There was a loud laughter.] 

[Ven Kumara then led the audience, kids and overgrown kids alike, in a game which can only work and be fun if the participants are willing to play fair and honestly. Those who honestly leave the game are awarded with praise and applause.] 


As you can see, even when it is just a game, honesty is necessary to make it work and make it fun. The same applies with life, which is like a game. If we live our lives honestly, it can be fun too.

All of you here go to Dhamma Sunday School to learn good values. The 5 precepts, if followed, will lead you on the path to a righteous life. It will help you to have good relationship with your family, friends, teachers and other beings, and lead a happy life.

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