Buddhism is sometimes seen as a path that is governed by strict rules of discipline. There can be a tendency to see the ideal student of the Dharma as someone who endures great hardship in the name of practice, as the Buddha did before he discovered the Middle Way
In the early days of the Buddhist order strict rules for behavior were developed for monks and nuns. In many traditions these rules, called the vinaya, are still held in high regard and adhered to.
The Mahayana approach, however, often stresses a more flexible approach to behavior. The five precepts are considered the most important part of ethical conduct: Not to kill, not to steal, not to enage in sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to drink intoxicants. Although these have been set as rules, their purpose isn’t to shame us for breaking them, but to encourage the conditions that can help us come to an understanding of the Empty Mind Ground.
In the Mahayana tradition we are expected to be motivated by the viewpoint of the compassionate Bodhisattva.