The Buddhist Moral Code
There are several aspects of the Buddhist code of living. Vegetarianism was not a duty for his followers; monks were allowed to eat meat. Though the same expectations were not made of lay Buddhists, it was expected they would support the monks with food, clothing, and other necessities. In addition, it was imperative that they would obey a moral code consisting of five negative rules. The prohibitions included killing, stealing, lying, engaging in improper sexual conduct, and partaking of intoxicants.
The Pali Sermons described the conduct the monks were to follow:
And How, O king, is a monk accomplished in morality?
Herein a monk abandons the killing of living things and refrains from killing; laying aside the use of a stick or a knife he dwells modestly, full of kindness, and compassionate for the welfare of all living things. This is his behavior in morality.
Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he refrains from the taking of what is not given; he takes and expects only what is given; he dwells purely and without stealing.
Abandoning incontinence, he practices continence and lives apart, avoiding the village practice of sexual intercourse. Abandoning falsehood, he refrains from falsehood; he speaks truth; he is truthful, trustworthy, and reliable, not deceiving people.
Abandoning slanderous speech, he refrains from slanderous speech; what he has heard from one place he does not tell in another to cause dissension. He is even a healer of dissensions and a producer of union, delighting and rejoicing in concord, eager for concord, and an utterer of speech that produces concord.
Abandoning harsh speech, he refrains from harsh speech; the speech that is harmless, pleasant to the ear, kind, reaching the heart, urbane, amiable, and attractive to the multitude, that kind of speech does he utter.
Abandoning frivolous speech, he refrains from frivolous speech; he speaks of the good, the real, the profitable, of the doctrine and the discipline; he is an utterer of speech worth hoarding, with timely speech and purpose and meaning.
He refrains from injuring seeds and plants.
He eats only within one meal time, abstaining from food at night and avoiding untimely food.
He refrains from dancing, singing, music, and shows.
He refrains from the use of garlands, scents, unguents, and objects of adornment; from a high or large bed; from accepting gold and silver; from accepting raw grain and raw meat.
He refrains from accepting women, girls, male and female slaves, goats and rams, fowls and pigs, elephants, oxen, horses, mares, and farm-lands.
He refrains from going on messages and errands; from buying and selling; from cheating in weighing, false metal in measuring; from practices or cheating, trickery, deception, fraud, from cutting, killing, binding, robbery, pillage, and violence.
Buddha died at the age of eighty after eating spoiled pork curry. Legend says that his final words were, “Subject to decay are all component things. Strive earnestly to work out your own salvation.”
There is little if any evidence that Buddha thought of himself as inventing a new religion. He grew up under the influence of Hinduism. He rejected the authority of the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, and considered the Hindu pantheon of gods mere mortal beings that, like humans, were subject to karma. Buddha's view of the human condition, and the solution to the spiritual ills of that condition, can be found by living according to the Four Noble Truths.