jackson_last wrote:I was thinking about the five precepts earlier today, and I'm wondering if they might be ordered the way they are due to the severity of breaking them, in a very general sense. Obviously there are situations where speaking a falsehood would be worse than taking what is not given, so my theory is far from perfect. Anyway, does anyone know the reason why they are ordered the way they are? Or is the order totally irrelevant?
Well, what would you prefer to do if you are destined to commit an offence? Killing/beating your partner, stealing from your partner, cheating your partner, lying or being rude to your partner, or taking some alcohol that possibly lead to one of these? Also, how would you feel about these things if they were directed towards you?
I think there is a clear sequence in priority; killing being the gravest form of ignorance and selfishness, because with it we directly place ourselves and our usually petty interests above other sentient beings and their most important interest: their whole life. For me, it's hard to imagine to kill or to encourage killing without enormous amount of underlying ego and ignorance.
The only thing that puzzles me is the fact that stealing is the second in the list, because I consider sexual misconduct as a more serious offence. I can think of three speculative reasons for this: 1) Stealing is a universal offence, while sexual misconduct (apart from rape which is also a physical abuse) can only affect a small set of people; 2) in Buddha's time what we now consider poverty was possibly general, and stealing might easily cause serious harm to one's well-being, while nowadays our basic necessities for life are very rarely jeopardized by robbery; 3) at that time people was less serious about sexuality.
As for intoxication, it can contribute to all kinds of offences in extreme cases, but in itself it doesn't constitute any harm to others. I think this is the reason why it is the last.
Of course these are just my own reflections.
There are probably much better examinations and explanations from authentic teachers. But, for example, I heard Ajahn Brahm several times mentioning an order of priority in the precepts, so I don't think that my view is unique.
"Just as in the great ocean there is but one taste — the taste of salt — so in this Doctrine and Discipline there is but one taste — the taste of freedom"