Adherence to moral guidelines--precepts--is an essential protection from causing suffering to oneself and to others. While these guidelines define a code of discipline, the virtues that bring about moral behaviour can also be cultivated with the practice of a culture of the heart.

There are 5 basic precepts that Buddhist practitioners undertake (Monks and Nuns undertake many more). A modern analysis of these precepts is offered by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. They are:

  1. Reverence for Life (refrain from killing)
  2. Generosity (refrain from stealing)
  3. Sexual Responsibility (refrain from sexual misconduct)
  4. Deep Listening and Loving Speech (refrain from lying)
  5. Mindful Consumption (refrain from ingesting intoxicants)
In the context of the Eightfold path, these 5 precepts imply:

Right Speech

Right Speach means to tell the truth and speak appropriately in accordance with the 4th precept. Specificially, it implies abstaining from

Right Action

Right actions are the the actions that are consistent with precepts 1,2,3 and 5. They include actions that show reverence for life, generosity and restraint in sexual conduct.

Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that one should earn a living that allows the 5 precepts to flourish. Dealing in arms, drugs or violence; exploitation of others and profiteering cannot be conducive to the moral life.