Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Refrain from killing
14
40%
Refrain from stealing
0
No votes
Refrain from sexual misconduct
2
6%
Refrain from lying
16
46%
Refrain from intoxicants
3
9%
 
Total votes: 35

Ruud
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Ruud » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:47 am

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."


The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
(Itivuttaka 25)
On the other hand, the question regarding which one is more important to the path is somewhat misleading, since the first four (and some would include the fifth too) precepts overlap with at least three path-factors (right action,right speech,right livelihood).

So I think that for the path all are needed, but it is very common that lying accompanies breaking any of the other four, so I think lying can be singled out for extra and special effort and attention.
Dry up what pertains to the past,
do not take up anything to come later.
If you will not grasp in the middle,
you will live at peace.
—Snp.5.11,v.1099 (tr. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Whatever is will be was. —Ven. Ñānamoli, A Thinkers Notebook, §221

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Bundokji
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Bundokji » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:00 am

Ruud wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:47 am
This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."


The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
(Itivuttaka 25)
On the other hand, the question regarding which one is more important to the path is somewhat misleading, since the first four (and some would include the fifth too) precepts overlap with at least three path-factors (right action,right speech,right livelihood).

So I think that for the path all are needed, but it is very common that lying accompanies breaking any of the other four, so I think lying can be singled out for extra and special effort and attention.
I would add that lying is the one most directly connected to knowledge (intention). For instance, killing a human by mistake is not as kammically terrible as killing someone by mistake/accident. Also, if someone is truthful enough, he can be persuaded to stop breaking the other precepts when confronted with evidence (knowledge) but for someone who does not value truth, i don't see any hope moving forward.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by DNS » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:17 am

This is a good thought-experiment, but in reality they are all important. There is overlap among all of them and that is why there are 5 precepts, not 1.

When you kill, you are killing someone's access to truth, you are stealing their life.
When you steal, you are stealing a part of that person's life as well as their belongings.
When you engage in sexual misconduct, you might be stealing someone's partner and in almost all cases this leads to dishonesty to cover it up.
When you lie, you are stealing someone's access to the truth and lies can lead to killings (just look at politicians) and innumerable other things as noted in posts above.
When you engage in intoxicants, you might break all the other precepts, while under the influence.

Therefore, there is overlap among all the precepts. The best path is to follow all 5 all the time.

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by lyndon taylor » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:29 am

Well if the question was rephrased, by keeping which precept, are all the other precepts made easier to keep?? That would almost have to be sobriety.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:32 am

At that time Ven. Rahula was staying at the Mango Stone. Then the Blessed One, arising from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to where Ven. Rahula was staying at the Mango Stone. Ven. Rahula saw him coming from afar and, on seeing him, set out a seat & water for washing the feet. The Blessed One sat down on the seat set out and, having sat down, washed his feet. Ven. Rahula, bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side.

Then the Blessed One, having left a little bit of water in the water dipper, said to Ven. Rahula, "Rahula, do you see this little bit of left-over water remaining in the water dipper?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's how little of a contemplative there is in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie."


Having tossed away the little bit of left-over water, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, "Rahula, do you see how this little bit of left-over water is tossed away?"

"Yes, sir."

"Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that."


Having turned the water dipper upside down, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, "Rahula, do you see how this water dipper is turned upside down?"

"Yes, sir."

"Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that."


Having turned the water dipper right-side up, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, "Rahula, do you see how empty & hollow this water dipper is?"

"Yes, sir."

"Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is empty & hollow just like that.


"Rahula, it's like a royal elephant: immense, pedigreed, accustomed to battles, its tusks like chariot poles. Having gone into battle, it uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail, but keeps protecting its trunk. The elephant trainer notices that and thinks, 'This royal elephant has not given up its life to the king.' But when the royal elephant... having gone into battle, uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail & his trunk, the trainer notices that and thinks, 'This royal elephant has given up its life to the king. There is nothing it will not do.'

"In the same way, Rahula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie
, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do. Thus, Rahula, you should train yourself, 'I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.'
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:17 am

DNS wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:57 am
Personally, I think non-killing is the most important. A person could lie to me, steal from me; but at least I'd still be alive.
:thumbsup:
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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JMGinPDX
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by JMGinPDX » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:53 pm

chownah wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:55 am
The most important precept is the one which at the time you are tempted to breach.
chownah
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Right now, it's like this...

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Zom
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Zom » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:38 pm

Lying. With the absense of inner integrity (no lying to yourself) no significant progress on the path is possible.

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by manas » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:32 pm

I had to choose between not killing, and not lying, and although my gut response was 'not killing', I chose 'not lying'. I have heard from two respected monks that, from the time the Bodhisatta resolved to become a Buddha in a distant future lifetime, right up to his eventual full awakening as the Buddha Gotama, he never told a deliberate lie. Along the journey of so many lifetimes, sometimes other precepts may have been transgressed, but not that one.
Last edited by manas on Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Crazy cloud » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:54 pm

Refrain from lying

:)
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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Stiphan
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Stiphan » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:36 pm

Well, the Noble Eightfold Path begins with Right view. Right view is a facet of wisdom, and wisdom is knowing, seeing and understanding truth. So truthfulness and honesty, and the acknowledgement and appreciation of truth is a prerequisite, or what you first need, before you start practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.

Personally, the fourth precept is my favourite one, because I love Truth. Of all the precepts, the Bodhisatta that was to become the Buddha broke all except this one — he never lied. That says a lot.

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by DNS » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:53 pm

It also might be good to look at what the 4 parajikas are for a monk (defeats) and this might give some indication of importance too.
1. Sexual intercourse, that is, any voluntary sexual interaction between a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni and a living being.
2. Stealing, that is, the robbery of anything worth more than 1/24 troy ounce of gold (as determined by local law).
3. Intentionally bringing about the death of a human being, even if it is still an embryo — whether by killing the person, arranging for an assassin to kill the person, inciting the person to die, or describing the advantages of death.
4. Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior spiritual state, such as claiming to be an Arahant when one knows one is not, or claiming to have attained one of the jhanas when one knows one hasn't.
Note that it is not just any kind of untrue statement, but only those of claiming attainments, when one knows that one does not have it. It is not a defeat for example, to answer that one is "fine" when asked "how are you?" and one has chest congestion and not feeling well.

For stealing it is only a defeat for an amount higher than 1/24 ounce of gold, which today would be about $55 USD or more.

For sexual intercourse it is any type (for a monk or nun).

For killing it is any type, even if only an embryo.

Based on this analysis of the parajikas, it appears no sexual misconduct and no killing are the most important. However, the parajikas are rules for monastics, not lay people and that is why any sexual intercourse is not allowed.

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Nibbana
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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Nibbana » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:13 pm

Stiphan wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:36 pm
Well, the Noble Eightfold Path begins with Right view. Right view is a facet of wisdom, and wisdom is knowing, seeing and understanding truth. So truthfulness and honesty, and the acknowledgement and appreciation of truth is a prerequisite, or what you first need, before you start practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.
:goodpost:
I was just reflecting the same, honesty is the first step towards enlightenment.
How can one practice without honesty?
"Then you understand the brilliance of the Buddha's teaching of anatta, goes right to the heart of everything. They say the Dhamma is the source, not going to it's consequences not papancha, but going right into the very middle, the very essence, the very heart, the atta what you take to be you. From the body into the mind thinking, from the mind into the doer, from the doer into the knower. You can see you're not the knower, you can see you're not the doer..."

-Ajahn Brahm

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Re: Which is the most important precept to get right for the Noble Path?

Post by Digity » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:39 pm

I think first thing is to take care of gross levels of breaking the precepts and then progress until you eliminate even subtle forms of breaking them.

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