In turning to an examination of Buddhist moral thought, we do not enter, for the time being, into the notion and place of the virtues in Buddhist ethics, nor into their role in Buddhist attitudes towards the natural environment. These are matters for Chapters 4 to 6. The aim in the present chapter is to assemble the materials necessary for addressing those matters. To begin with, we provide some of the context – social, religious and so on – in which Buddhism emerged: for, as the Buddha himself emphasized, his teachings both continued and reacted against ways of thinking current in the India of his times. Second, we offer a resume – for many readers, only a reminder – of his central teachings: the Four Noble truths, for example, and the doctrine of ‘not-self’ (anatta). Finally, we discuss the place of ethics within Buddhist thought and soteriology, though without, as yet, committing ourselves over the question of the precise character of Buddhist ethics. Having challenged one familiar understanding of the Buddhist conception of morality, we proceed to argue against those commentators who grant only a modest or subordinate place to morality within the wider Buddhist dispensation. In these sections, our focus will be upon ‘early Buddhism’: the teachings, that is, which are either found in the Discourses of the Buddha himself or ascribed to him by followers of ‘the Way of the Elders’ (Theravāda), the oldest tendency in Buddhist thought. In a final section, however, we consider later developments in moral thought that took place in certain Mahāyāna (‘Great Vehicle’) schools of Buddhism.