Householder Angus, interested,
- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
first of all, precepts, as a means of harmlessness and therefore freedom of remorse, which is required to gain concentration, wisdom and release, has layers, starting by the most outwardly, keeping conventions in relationships outwardly, are then observed in more and more refined stages, turning more inwardly. Only once ones own mind and it's quality is known, precepts become non-hypocritical in all aspects and only if the Dhamma has been realiced, precepts become naturally.
The five precepts focus is that of a worldling (faith, dhamma-follower) to possible arrive at the path at lifetime or to gain good next existance, and the path of Dhamma is actually the observance of eight precepts, at least part-time, observing the Brahma-caria, abstaining from sense-pleasures, beginning with the Uposatha on Uposatha days and permanent for Yogies. The eight are the obsevances of a Dhammika, Upasaka, Upasika, real insiders.
For learning to observe precepts, one may take on this talk given: Obsering the (5) precepts - Einhalten der (5) Tugendregeln
A person outwardly the Dhamma-Vinaya (not instructed with the good Dhamma) might observe what ever precepts good for his particulary relationships, but this virtue is seldom the virtue of the Noble Ones and merely always hypocritical, taking side for own interests and own relations for gains.
The first stage is that of a faith-follower, simply using them as no-go by faith, as far and as often he remembers them, to make decitions. He trust that the 6 senses and it's objects are not real, no refuge and therefore harming on their sake would not have much value.
The second person is that of a Dhamma-follower, who understands by logic that the six senses and objects are not real, no refuge, and so follows likewise the first person.
Only the stream enter, one who has actually realized that the senses and there objects, and all phenomenas arising related (feeling, touch...) to them, are not real, no refuge, not satifying, subject of decay, not worthy to give into, is a person with purified virtue, keeps precepts out of understanding. Yet he still might break in not fatal amout out of affect-actions, quickly see the fault, not hide them, pardon for them, and walk on.
Only an Arahat has perfect virtue since he has not only abound holding on things, but also no more taking on them at first place.
On that matter my person had given more extended explainings in a requested Dhammatalk: Perfect virtue. (one may feel given to take birth, an account, to access)
Let my person continue here later for now.
Now let us look on the 3 prectept, which starts by not harming societies harmony, yet it is a society that nevertheless engages in sexuality. By indulging in the sense-pleasure without unfare trade, without harming the partner, without acting disturbing and fear increasing for society and others, it is enought at this point. Don't forget that intercourse means actually "marriage" and taking on responsibilities, having caused relationship. On a more refined stage, one that abstains from sensual pleasures, it becomes a matter of Brahmacariya, holy life, and also here are stages, seven counted by the Buddha, ending at the last unvirtuose life for the sake of heavenly unification:
AN 7.47: Methuna Sutta — The Discourse on Coupling
The Buddha explains that the bondage of sexuality is not just a matter of sexual intercourse. In this discourse he describe a certain Brahman the seven levels of bondage out of drive for unification.
This practice beyond just physical intercourses is that of one having reached the path to once-returner till Arahatship. Even within this seven stages, there are many aspects, only seen by one knowing mind. Engaging in normal sozialisation is also a-brahmacariya.
Now the same counts for indoxication, the 5th precept, which cause heedlessness or lack of shame and fear of wrongdoing. The pleasure of indoxicating, in and of itself, is not really that bad, but the actions which follow easy can be very harmfull. For oneself indoxication has the result that being never respected by others, that it cause stupidy and lazyness, leading to poorness in all aspects.
It starts by taking means that cause lose of moral shame, alcohol, certain drugs penetrating the body via mouth, blood or beath. Physical indoxication that causes heedlessness, lack of conscious. Intensive indulgence in sense pleasures, by the strong addiction, can cause heedlessness as well, thinking on stealing, killing... for the sake of strong beloved sense pleasure. Only if sense-desire has overcome, all indoxications, causing more or lesser shamelessness, are abound.
On the most refined level there are the three indoxications:
- indoxication with youth
- indoxication with health
- indoxication with life
As long one is drunken in not seeing the first Noble truth, aging, sickness and death, the dangers and meaningless grasping after senses and there objects, one will not be perfect in leading the holy life, Brahmacariya.
Seeing now that there are so many stages and aspects, it's hard to distinguish and compare the levels of virtue beyound the three levels of still attached to sensuality, abound sensuality, and abound all desires for the world of all senses.
One possible way to distinguish those levels are the five kind of beings and six kinds in the world:
- virtue of a worldling heading downwardly
- virtue of a worldling heading upwardly
- virtue of a streamwinner
- virtue of aonce-returner
- virtue of a no-returner
- virtue of an Arahat
Vipassana starts with observing Silas, body, speech, and it's realted intentions. One who observes Silas serious in daily life, following the pattern given in the teachings to the Buddhas son, Rahula, is sure to arrive at Unbond and release.
Now, if having already taken refuge, taken precepts, it's good to express encouragement, possible to take refuge on it, to take Silas by heart on it, as well.
Sīlena sugatiṃ yanti.
Through virtue they go to a good bourn.
Through virtue is wealth attained.
Sīlena nibbutiṃ yanti.
Through virtue they go to Liberation.
Tasmā sīlaṃ visodhaye.
Therefore we should purify our virtue.
A possible extented, revised and more detail answer as well as given proper space to ask further and discuss, has been given here: [Q&A] Confusion about the equal value, priority, of the single 5 precepts
(Note that this gift of Dhamma is not dedicated for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as a means to make merits toward release from this wheel)