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Readings: Buddhist Precepts

The reading today is from the Buddhist Five Precepts with the second precept explained in one of the Pali commentaries which reached their present shape at the time of the Buddhaghosa at about 400 C.E. in Sri Lanka.

I undertake to observe the rule
to abstain from taking life;
to abstain from taking what is not given;
to abstain from sensuous misconduct;
to abstain from false speech;
to abstain from intoxicants as tending to cloud the mind.

°To take what is not given» means the appropriation of what is not given. It refers to the removing of someone else»s property, to the stealing of it, to theft. °What is not given» means that which belongs to someone else, and to act as so to appropriate it. Its blameworthiness depends partly on the value of the property stolen, partly on the worth of its owner. Five factors are involved: someone else's belongings, the awareness that they are someone else's, the thought of theft, the action of carrying it out, the taking away as a result of it. This sin, too, may be carried out in six ways. One may also distinguish unlawful acquisition by way of theft, robbery, underhand dealings, strategems, and the casting of lots.

(trans. Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures, London: Penguin, 70-1)