Generally in Buddhism “good” and “bad”, “right” or “wrong” are not distinguished, rather the focus of our awareness is directed to wholesome or unwholesome actions. In particular it is about recognising and understanding the results of our actions on others. From the understanding of the mutual conditionality of all phenomenon, mindfulness arises towards others and oneself.
The starting point is the imperfection of existence and its overcoming as formulated in the Four Noble Truths. The practice of ethical actions, as one part of the three parts of the Noble Eightfold Path, states to ethically train one’s own mind and - as a consequence - one’s own actions. This training does not occur through blind and unconditional adherence to rules or regulations; rather, through personally responsible actions with consideration to what is happening. For example, it is not in every case wholesome to say the absolute truth when the time and place are not suitable. In these cases the truth can have an unwholesome impact.
We are therefore challenged to develop our minds constantly in order to achieve a deeper awareness of the wholesome and unwholesome effects of our actions.
SInce the five ethical rules (Silas) are also to be understood as training paths for all Buddhist laity (ordained nuns and monks are subject to far more rules), the introduction to each rules begins with the words, “I promise ...”
The five Buddhist ethical precepts:
I promise to abstain from killing or hurting any living beings.
I promise to abstain from taking that which is not given to me.
I promise to use my senses diligently, and to harm no one through sexual misconduct.
I promise to use my words mindfully and to be aware of the effect of my words.
I promise to abstain from confusing my already afflicted mind with intoxicating substances.