19 May 2008

The Five Precepts in Taoism

The Five Precepts in Taoism (Chinese: 五戒; Pinyin: Wu Jie; Cantonese: Ng Gye), constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken mainly by Taoist lay-cultivators. For Taoist monks and nuns, there are more advanced and stricter precepts. These precepts are no different as the Buddhist Five Precepts, but with minor differences.

According to The Ultra Supreme Elder Lord's Scripture of Precepts, the five basic precepts are:

  • The first precept: No Murdering;
  • The second precept: No Stealing;
  • The third precept: No Sexual Misconduct;
  • The fourth precept: No False Speech;
  • The fifth precept: No Taking of Intoxicants.

Their definitions can be found in an excerpt of The Ultra Supreme Elder Lord's Scripture of Precepts:

The Elder Lord said: "The precept against killing is: All living beings, including all kinds of animals, and those as small as insects, worms, and so forth, are containers of the uncreated energy, thus one should not kill any of them."

The Elder Lord said: "The precept against stealing is: One should not take anything that he does not own and is not given to him, whether it belongs to someone or not."

The Elder Lord said: "The precept against sexual misconduct is: If a sexual conduct happens, but it is not between a man and a woman who are married to each other, it is a Sexual Misconduct. As for a monk or nun, he or she should never marry or practice sexual intercourse with anyone."*

The Elder Lord said: "The precept against false speech is: If one did not hear, see, or feel something, or if something is not realized by his Heart, but he tells it to others, this constitutes False Speech."

The Elder Lord said: "The precept against taking of intoxicants is: One should not take any alcoholic drinks, unless he has to take some to cure his illness."**

The Elder Lord said: "These five precepts are the fundamentals for keeping one's body in purity, and are the roots of the upholding of the holy teachings. For those virtuous men and virtuous women who enjoy the virtuous teachings, if they can accept and keep these precepts, and never violate any of them till the end of their lifetimes, they are recognized as those with pure faith, they will gain the Way to Tao, will gain the holy principles, and will forever achieve Tao -- the Reality."


*The precept against Sexual Misconduct also outlines that sexual acts such as masturbation, premarital sexual conduct, adultery, prostitution, having intercourse with prostitutes, homosexual intercourse, etc, are all sexual misconducts.

**Smoking, the use of intoxicants other than alcohol, and the like, are also forbidden by the precept against Intoxicant-Taking.

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