5 Precepts Talk

by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

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Is smoking allowed?

   A person may not have intended to boast, but it's very easy to tell a lie without even realizing it. Telling lies can happen very fast. A lie comes out before we know it. For instance, someone may ask a person, "Have you stolen something?" The person may reply, "I didn't" without even stopping to think even if he did. If in fact, the person stole, then, by denying it, he commits the offense of lying on top the offense of stealing. Another example is a person who went outside to smoke. When he came back, I asked him, "How many cigarettes did you smoke?" "I didn't smoke." he said. "Some people saw you." I replied. "Oh. I smoked one cigarette," he said. You see. He said he didn't smoke and then said he smoked one cigarette. I said, "How many cigarettes have you got left?" "Three." "Where are the other seven?" "Well, I don't know." I picked up a club and hit him right on the head--Pow! "Do you know what is this? Does it hurt?" "Yes." "Yes? Then why did you lie?" "Well…the Vinaya doesn't prohibit smoking."

   "Have you studied the Vinaya? Do you know for sure that it doesn't prohibit smoking? Smoking is included in the precept against taking intoxicant." "Oh! I didn't know." The smell from smoking is terrible. Not only does it make a person smell bad outside, it also makes the inside of his body smells bad. Bodhisattvas and Dharma-protecting good spirits will not want to protect you when they find out you smell like smoke. No matter how much merit and virtue you may have, they will leave you alone and you will have many accidents happen to you. We don't have to talk about others, currently there is one person among us who smoked stealthily and caused a very dangerous incident to occur. It happened because he was smoking, but he still doesn't realize it.

   People who smoke will fall into the hell of Flames after they die. The hell of Flames is especially prepared for smokers. Whoever likes to smoke has the chance to go down there. If you refrain from smoking, you will cut off the path that leads to the hell of Flames. If you don't, however, you will have a share of it in the future. People do not know the seriousness of such matters and do whatever they like. When you understand, you will not do it. Smoking is a more severe problem then drinking. Why didn't Shakyamuni Buddha prohibit smoking but disallowed drinking? It is because during that time when the Buddha was in the world no one knew how to smoke.

The importance of receiving the five precepts

   If one can uphold the five precepts and practice the ten good deeds, one will ascend to the heavens. The five precepts are not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, and not taking intoxicant:

Not killing allows one to be kind and compassionate,
Not stealing allows one to be righteous,
Not engaging in sexual misconduct allows one to be an outstanding person,
Not lying allows one to be a loyal and faithful person,
Not taking intoxicant allows one to be a proper person.

Killing brings the retribution of short life spans,
Stealing brings the retribution of being poor and having difficulty in life,
Sexual misconduct brings the retribution of being born as pigeons or mandarin ducks.

Birds are impractical and lustful. If people act that way, they will be reborn as birds. I often tell you these things, but you never pay much attention. I do not mind going to the trouble to tell you something else once again. What is it? People must not kill, because all living beings have either been our relatives or friends throughout limitless eons. They had been our parents or ancestors, it's not for sure.

   If we kill beings that might have been our former parents, who, because of offenses they committed have now been reborn as pigs or cows, then that would be the same as killing our own parents indirectly. As for stealing, it's said, "We should not do to others what we would not like done to us." You should not do things to others that you don't like done to you. Since we don't like having our belongings stolen, we should not steal others' property or wealth. In the law of cause and effect, the punishment for sexual misconduct is very heavy. Husbands and wives should not casually get divorced. If you get married and then get divorced later, in the law of cause and effect, your body will be divided into two parts because you had two relationships. You will be sawed in half from head to toe. You will be sawed into as many pieces as the number of marriages you have had. If one woman married a hundred men, she would be cut into one hundred pieces. Each man would get a piece of her.

   What's bad about being cut into fragments? It will be hard for the spiritual nature to get together again. Such a chance would be difficult to come by. If the chance does not arise, the spiritual nature will forever be incomplete and one will become an insentient thing, much like wood or grass. One's nature will be so fragmented that it will be insufficient to function as a sentient being. Even if someone with a fragmented nature were to become sentient, it would be in the form of a swarm of eighty-four thousand mosquitoes or the like. Those mosquitoes would in turn become mosquitoes that also lacked any awareness of how to change their course. Having turned away from enlightenment, they would merge with the mundane world. They would be unable to turn their backs on the mundane dust and unite with enlightenment. They would continually be born and die within the cycle of transmigration. Thus, it's said, "Once the human body is lost, it will not be recovered in tens of thousands of eons." If we lose the human body, we will have to pass through millions of eons and still may not be able to regain it.

The benefit of receiving the five precepts

Not caging birds in this life, we will not be put into the jail in future lives;
Not fishing in this life, we will not become a beggar in future lives;
Not killing in this life, we will not encounter disasters and difficulties in future lives;
Not stealing in this life, we will not be robbed in future lives;
Not engaging in sexual misconduct in this life, we will have good marriages in future lives;
Not lying in this life, we will not be cheated in future lives;
Not drinking in this life, we will not lose sanity in future lives.

"Not caging birds in this life, we will not be put into the jail in future lives."
Think about it. When someone puts a bird in a cage, he takes its freedom away. By doing that, the person is not abiding by the constitution of this country. This country advocates freedom. Caging a bird is the same as putting the bird behind bars. The bird will start chanting the mantra, "retribution, retribution…" In the future, the bird will go before the Jade Emperor, who is the Lord of the Heavens, and will file a suit against the person who caged it. The Heavenly Lord will say, "Okay, this person has not been fair. He shall undergo the retribution!" You will then go to jail in future lives. This is because the bird has been chanting the mantra of retribution from morning to night. When the Lord of Heavens hears it, his verdict is that the person who caged the bird should be put behind bars. I don't recall whether it was in this life or some other lives in the past, but I remember that I was deluded and didn't understand principles then. I saw people fishing so I went fishing too. I was quite fond of doing it. When the fish took the bait, it would cause the water to ripple. Then I would swing the fishing pole upward and the fish would be hooked. What happened to me afterward? I became a beggar in next life. I had to extend my bowl and beg for food because I couldn't get anything to eat. Thus, it's said,

"Not fishing in this life, we will not become a beggar in future lives." It's quite bitter to beg for food. It's only right that we Buddhists do less fishing. Someone may say, "I can do less fishing. I'll fish just once a year. And I will only fish for small and not big fish. Will that be okay?" Well, a small fish is a life, just the same as a big fish. Fishing once a year, you still end up killing, just the same as when you fish many times a year. However, if you fish less, your debt will be less; fish more, and you will have more debt to pay. That is to say, if you catch half a pound of fish, you must pay back eight ounces in the future.

Not killing in this life, we will not encounter disasters and difficulties in future lives. If you refrain from killing any living beings, then in future lives you will not be killed and you will be free from all disasters and difficulties. You will not be killed by gunshots, burned by fire, or drowned in water. Since you didn't kill in previous lives, you will also be free from all illnesses.

Not stealing in this life, one will not be robbed in future lives. If you don't rob others of their things, no one will rob you in future lives. Why would you get robbed? It would happen because you had stolen and robbed people in previous lives. You thought it was quite clever to steal others' belongings. This life, they snatch things back. This revolving cause and effect is quite inconceivable.

Not engaging in sexual misconduct in this life, we will have good marriages in future lives. What is a good marriage? It means there will be no divorce nor any other trouble in the marriage. Divorce and trouble in marriage are a result of failure to follow precepts. Those who have engaged in sexual misconduct will be born with a bad body odor. Whoever had not observed precepts, will have a very bad body smell in this life. The smell will be so strong that no perfume will be able to cover it. Men usually like women. But when they smell that odor, they will run away. Women are also fond of men, originally, if a man has such a smell, women will also run away from him. Such a person will not be loved. Anyone who does not uphold precepts will not have a fragrant. If you uphold precepts in a serious manner, your body will emit a fragrance, and is said to be "adorned with fragrant light." The Fragrant Concubine of Chin Dynasty in China, perhaps a native of a remote tribe, always emitted a fragrance. She didn't have to use perfume or a fragrant soap bar. She had this natural fragrance from her body that is more fragrant than anything else. The deluded Chinese emperor waged a war and took her back. He called her "Fragrant Concubine," which had caused all of his other women to become jealous. The emperor had many wives and the empress killed her out of jealousy. This Fragrant Concubine was no longer fragrant. In this life, if you do not engage in sexual misconduct and never get involved in affairs with other men or women, you will not get divorced in future lives. But if you have not been faithful in previous lives, your marriage in this life will not be a happy one. Various things will happen to disrupt your marriage. That is the retribution for engaging in sexual misconduct.

"Not lying in this life, we will not be cheated in future lives." If we don't lie in this life, no one will cheat us in future lives. If someone cheats us, we must realize, "Oh, I must have lied in a previous life and so I am being cheated in this life." Someone told me that the four people from the Philippines[delete] who say they want to leave the home life really do not want to. They're taking the advantage of this chance to come to the United States and after they get here they will not leave the home-life. I said that it's all right. I know very clearly their intention to fool me. I still believe them because I don't want to cheat people and I also believe that people will not deceive me. Even if I know someone is cheating me, I will not bring forth the thought that he is. The person when hears it may say, "Oh! That's good." In this world, many people put up defensive front against each other. You fear that I may cheat you and I am afraid that you may deceive me. Am I taking a loss by not minding being cheated? If I am, it doesn't matter.

"Not drinking in this life, we will not lose sanity in future lives." Why is it that people lose their sanity or have mental illness in this life? It is because they drank too much and took a lot of drugs in previous lives. Therefore, the insane nature still continues into this life. The circular flow of cause and effect is this way whether you believe it or not. Whether you believe it or not is not of my concern, I will say it just the same.


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