I've been wondering: five precepts shouldn't be that hard to remember. Compare that to the patimokkha containing 227 (or respectively 331) rules, including some really arcane, such as the ones about travelling with a bikkhuni on a boat: ok when crossing, bad when going downstream, but ok without appointment. Unlike the patimokkha, the difficulty with the five precepts, or rather their traditional phrasing, is that they are somewhat compendious which - although good for easy memorisation- leaves some room for interpretation. This is probably intended, since an overly meticulous phrasing might lead to lengthy text involving paragraphs about bikkhunis on boats, which would be self-defeating. Still, some people such as myself who are a little bit thick, occasionally wish for a more fleshed out version, especially an interprtation that has direct relevance to modern life.
Thich Nath Hanh has attempted this by phrasing the so-called "five mindfulness trainings" that are patterned after the first five precepts. I have reproduced them below. I found Thich Nath Hanh's phrasing immensely helpful, as it provides not only concrete guidelines, but also offers some reflection on the larger ethical context of the precepts. I haven't come across any comparable "exegesis" within the Theravada until now, which may well be due to not looking hard enough. So my question is: did you? Are there any adaptations of the five precepts to modern life that contemporary Theravada schools teach? Comments and suggestions by recognised teachers? I'd be interested in hearing them. Perhaps we can collect them here. Thank you.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings according to Thich Nath Hanh wrote:-First Training-
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.