Are there precepts that must be respected all the time and others that must not?


I understand that you must never kill a living being, whatever the circumstances. Even if a mafia threatens to kill me if I don’t squash a cockroach, I have to accept being killed and refuse to squash the cockroach.

But do ALL precepts have to be strictly applied in all situations? For example, in DN 1, the Buddha says that we shouldn’t talk about politics. But imagine the situation of a person in a country that is potentially going to war: wouldn’t it be justified for that person to gather information about the political situation and discuss this information with his family, with the aim of organizing himself to flee the country to avoid war and save his life? In other words, couldn’t political chatter be allowed for the sake of survival? Or should we refuse to discuss this information, even if it might lead us to make poor, life-threatening choices?

That’s why I’m wondering whether ALL precepts should be respected whatever the situation, or whether some should not be respected in certain situations.

Thank you in advance

May all beings free themselves from hatred.

1 Like

Is that the way things really are, or is that an idealistic dream?
In Dhamma we strive to understand what is really true, what is really present - this is not about imaginating we have special virtue beyond other people. We learn to see just how much dirt is there, it is more than we thought and it has to be understood just as much as any desirable states like metta.

As for talking about politics, it depends.
The more we look into Dhamma the more interesting it becomes: and so issues in politics might come up now and then but really how can it absorb us much. It is so cyclable and predictable, just an outward shadow of samsara. The real world is right here in this fathom length body.


If you want to perfect your sila parami to the fullest, then yes, you should follow each precept diligently no matter the circumstance.

Realistically, only Buddha’s have perfect sila and its kinda expected that one would break a precept every so often under intense pressure from circumstances. You have to perfect sila eventually to be a Buddha, and itll also happen by itself when you become an ariya.

If you had to choose between killing a cockroach or dying, someone of perfect sila would choose dying. But most of us are not at that level yet and most Buddhists would rather accept the bad kamma of killing a cockroach and live longer than to have thier own life shortened. Do your best to keep sila, but you are not obligated to follow the precepts perfectly no matter what or you’ll be kicked out of Buddhism or something.

As for the political talk, the Buddha says that about monks, as it is not proper for monks to waste thier time discussing politics as there is no good reason a monk would be doing so. discussing politics for the sake of politics is also considered a waste of time for laypeople, but unlike with monks, there are circumstances discussing politics can be helpful for laypeople.


Thank you for your message

Yes, I think you’re right, it’s wise.
But don’t you agree that the most effective way to achieve nibbana is to let yourself be killed and not crush the cockroach?

1 Like

I see. Thank you.
But I could imagine a monk in a war-torn country where he could survive if he read up on politics and discussed it with other monks. For example, there were communist countries that exterminated tens of thousands of monks… So even in this situation, it’s better to take the risk of dying, rather than discussing politics to organize a rescue.

Even if a mafia threatens to kill a monk if he doesn’t sit on a high, luxurious seat, the monk must let himself be killed!

In fact, it’s true that respecting Sila 100% seems ultra-hard. It scares me a little because I’ve understood that respecting sila is fundamental for samadhi and panna…

And are you sure that only Buddhas have perfect sila? Isn’t that the case for arahants?

1 Like

Ahh hmm, no. Who, in reality, would die rather than kill a cockroach - well the sotapanna for sure. But the rest? like @Trobinson465 said.

The way I look at Dhamma - and thus the world- is that every moment is conditioned, totally.
I didn’t imagine 40 years ago I would become interested in the teachings of the blessed one, yet here I am - by conditions.
And the moments pass by so quickly, with no manager running things. So I don’t think of Dhamma as a rule book to follow - rather as a pointer to what is actually real. And reality, as I indicated, is rather messy.
I told my children the story about the layman in Sri lanka who was attacked by a snake but threw away his knife rather than kill it (and the snake released him and went away). So they speculate about what they would do…


Thank you very much !

1 Like

A classic quote from mn 21,

Kakacupama Sutta

"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.

“Monks, if you attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw, do you see any aspects of speech, slight or gross, that you could not endure?”

“No, lord.”

“Then attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw. That will be for your long-term welfare & happiness.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words.


Only Buddhas have the 10 paramis perfected completely is what i mean. Meaning even before enlightnment a Buddha’s sila is perfect. Ariyas have perfect sila too, but after enlightenment.