I was supposed to be a French-speaking guitarist with a love for swimming by December 2009. Instead I was an English-speaking girl with no musical talent whatsoever and who swims like a stone. In other words, the resolutions I made last New Year’s Day of learning how to speak French, play the guitar, and swim kinda sorta never happened. And by “never happened” I mean were “never attempted” or even really thought about after the first week of January. And to all of this I say, “Meh.” I have never been big on resolutions in the first place. By making resolutions and/or goals, I just set myself up for future disappointment. If I don’t try, I won’t fail.
While explaining my dislike for resolutions and my like for avoiding any kind of commitment to my friend, however, I realized how depressing my outlook was. And Lord/Buddha knows I need to improve my life, especially after the shit storm that was last year. With these things in mind, I decided that I would “give in” and resolute away. But what would my goals for the new year be? What did I want to learn, quit or do? While entertaining the idea of becoming a tight rope walker in the circus and learning to play the piccolo, it struck me that I have already made resolutions — five to be exact — and have been keeping them for a few years now. These five “resolutions” are the Five Precepts of Buddhism.
The Five Precepts is basically the code of ethics followers of Buddhism adhere to. These precepts are not commandments; Buddha never sat up in a cloud and delivered them on stone tablets to a super old dude at the top of Mount Horeb. The precepts are guidelines laypeople follow at their own free will in order to help them along the Buddhist path.
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
In Buddhism, all sentient beings have the ability to feel pleasure and pain, thus they suffer. By refraining to harm or kill another sentient being, one reduces the suffering in the world and thereby moves forward on the path towards enlightenment. Following this precept requires ongoing attention. Sure, you may not be murdering any old Russian pawnbrokers, but what about that slab of cow on your plate? Or that fly you mercilessly smashed on your window?
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
Sure, it may be seem harmless to claim that pen on the ground as your own — finders keepers, right? But perhaps the owner of that pen comes back for the pen and can’t find it. This upsets the pen owner and causes them suffering. Of course, the pen owner shouldn’t be so attached to the pen in the first place. And neither should you, pen thief.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
Controversial! But hey, man/woman, this is The V and we are all about bein’ in yo face and controversial and alternative and etc. Sometimes we even use the word “shit.” Anyway, just make sure you don’t use sex in careless, destructive ways. Easier said than done. And when done/doing, use protection.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
Minimize dishonesty. Refrain from mean-spirited and negative speech. Cut back on using the word “shit” in articles you write for The V. Done, done, and done.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
You may decide to interpret this as abstaining from all substances or using them in moderation and in a responsible manner, but the point is to not take anything that will lead to “carelessness,” which means don’t take that fifth shot because you will probably send multiple texts out to people saying things such as, “WOOHOO!!! dUde i am sOoOo waSted right now and you are like my best friend and i luv u and want to see you naked OMG!!!” Careless? Yeah, a little.
So there you have it. The Five Precepts and my new New Year’s resolutions. And guess what? You can copy me and claim these as your resolutions, too. Don’t feel as though you need to shave your head or wear robes or burn incense in order to follow the Five Precepts. In fact, you don’t even need to be a Buddhist. You could be a faithful Jebus believer for all I care. The point of the Five Precepts, along with most New Year’s resolutions, is to improve oneself and live a better, more fulfilling, peaceful life. Namaste.