When one takes the five precepts they are not so much for the “morality” of it – though that is a big part, because they tie in with Kamma – but because they (by breaking them) cement the hindrances. If the mind is full of regret, guilt, anger, etc, it is really hard to still it.
- I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
- I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
- I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
- I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
- I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
Most secular meditation groups rarely bring up why the five precepts are important, or why the hindrances stop you from progressing in meditation, and how all of this ties in with Dependent Origination. And all of those things are really important to the teachings of the Buddha. “Whoever sees dependent co-arising sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent co-arising.”
There is a good Dhamma talk from Bhante Vimalaramsi about why the Five Precepts are important:
Mindfulness has to be an every hour of everyday pursuit, not just during meditation, or retreat, etc.
By keeping the precepts, one starts noticing, “Oh, Anger! I see you, you are not me (or mine, or self).” and it is actually a lot easier when people are mean to you, because the hindrances come up and you have a field day releasing them till you get to the serene state of mind again.
You get to a point where meeting “disagreeable” people is actually really helpful, you thank them, and send them love and kindness, because they show you which hindrances you still have left to work on. You stop taking things personally. Anger – or any emotion really, which is why equanimity is the final state of mind – is not self.