Six thousand years earlier some thinkers started to think about what is different between people and animals. They understood that all of us are dealing with three things. These three things are food, housing, and reproducing. They show this as being the similarities, however, animals find food for themselves. For example, animals will kill a weaker one or whatever type of food they like. Turn to yourself. You are working and you do so many things for your food. Even kids are studying in order to obtain their future food.
The second similarity is having a house. Animals are making or choosing a house wherever is convenient. This could be a cave, a cage, a hole, or whatever is a suitable home to live in. We are also doing the same thing. We could live in an apartment, a house, a palace, or wherever we can afford.
The third similarity is reproducing. Animals reproduce to continue their species. Humans do the same thing, but from a different aspect.
Think that by yourself you do so many things because of these three activities. We love human beings. We like our family. We protect our generation. Animals, to some extent, do so too.
You may think we have a different figure by using clothes to cover our bodies, however that is not a big deal.
Then these thinkers some six thousand years ago decided that all of us, that is animals and humans, are the same since we do only those three things during our lives.
As they understood this, they decided that in order for humans to be different from animals, we should have some guidelines. The first guideline is that as animals kill any animal for the sake of eating, we should not harm others for our food. This is the first line to divide people from animals.
Then they understood that animals grab and steal each other’s food. Think about what would happen if you gave one bone to many dogs. They would fight for it. No one would be able to have a bone without being wounded. So, the second line to divide people from animals is not to steal or grab things that don’t belong to them.
Third, they understood that animals don’t have any notion of respect in their families. This is not an idea that they have to protect. However, as humans, we have to cultivate and protect respect for out families. We know who our mothers, kids, relatives, and so on are, so we have to keep respect for these people and other family members. Animals don’t. They don’t have to protect this idea of respect. The third line between animals and people is to protect this notion of respect with regards to the family.
They tried to find some more lines to divide people from animals. They understood that some animals cheat others in order to get things they need, such as food. These ancient thinkers decided another line of division would be for humans not to lie. This was the fourth line.
As a fifth line, they found that humans shouldn’t attach too much to food or drink. In other words, don’t let food control you. This is because they have seen some animals die because of their attachment to food. For example, some fish loose their life because of food. There is an animal in tropical countries, which we call Uguduwa (looks like a raccoon). If this animal eats a certain kind of banana, he will die by loss of motion. But, sometimes this animal likes to eat so much, that it will eat it anyway. Then you know the result. He likes to tease himself. When he sees the banana tree, he thinks, “I will go to the tree, but not climb up.” When he is up close to the tree he thinks, “I will climb up, but not too close to the bananas.” When he reaches the top of the tree trunk he thinks, “I will go close to the bananas, but not touch them.” When he gets close to the bananas he thinks, “I will touch one, but not take one.” But when he touches it, he thinks, “I came all the way here, so I might as well take one.” As you may guess, one banana leads to another, and finally he suffers.
So, we know that if you let food or drink control yourself, you will protect animal’s thinking. The people back then found these five lines that divide humans from animals more than six thousand years ago.
They believe the way to keep human condition are:
1) Not to kill
2) Not to steal
3) Not to engage in sexual misconduct
4) Not to lie
5) Not to use intoxicating liquor
So Buddha did not give this. When he became Buddha, people already protected this. To be just human being is not for the enlightenment. This is a very good point. Buddha started from this point. He wanted to go further than just a human being. He thought about how to turn a human being into a super human being. First, we have to be a human being. Then we have to start practicing how to be a super human being. To be a super human being, Buddha modified these five precepts. He asked us to follow them until the supreme enlightenment.
He explained if you do something, that it would come back to you. So don’t harm anyone. Don’t even hurt anyone, not your mother, your father, or your kids. Otherwise, it will return to you. As the saying goes, “what comes around, goes around.” Don’t hurt anyone by borrowing things that they own. For monks, our rule is we can’t steal. If we steal, then we can no longer be monks. There is a rule that says something like, don’t ask someone more than three times to borrow something. I’ll let you understand it.
Don’t feed too much your sensual pleasures. This means, don’t over feed your eyes, tongue, nose, or your skin. We have to know the limit to what we need to feed them.
The fourth rule is that our speech should be right speech. We have to tell the truth, but harmless truth. If our true words could make someone unhappy, then we don’t need to tell it.
The fifth rule is not to let food or drink control us.
By following these five precepts, we can become a human beings to a superhuman beings. Whoever follows this path, we can consider them a Buddhist. So, human beings can be Buddhist, and Buddhists can become superhuman beings.