Buddhist precepts are guidelines. They aren’t strict rules and laws. They aren’t dogmatic. The five precepts are, however, the foundation of all Buddhist paths. For this reason, they are sometimes called the ‘Foundation Precepts’. They are: 1) Not taking life. 2) not stealing 3) not indulging in sexual misconduct. 4) not lying or being dishonest. 5) Not consuming intoxicants with an intent to induce heedlessness.
Not taking life applies to humans as well as animals, although taking the life of an animal is considered a more minor offense. In some branches of Mahayana Buddhism this is taken to mean that consuming meat is wrong. There is much debate on this within Buddhism.
Not stealing applies to taking things that don’t belong to you regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. We can’t take things that don’t belong to us without permission from the owner.
No sexual misconduct applies to sexual behaviors that violate trust and are clearly harmful such as: rape, prostitution, pedophilia, etc.
No lying applies to lies and exaggerations. Major lies include claiming falsely claiming enlightenment or supernatural powers. Minor lies include bearing false witness, concealing the truth, or fabricating stories.
No intoxicants applies to abusing drugs. Having a glass of wine with dinner is fine, but drinking because you want to drink until you black out is not.
The purpose of the precepts is to help us live in harmony with others.