Monday, July 9, 2007

Lesson 9 - The Precepts

This Lesson is probably the most important lesson I will give you. It is the rock from which we Buddhist stand and is hands down the most fundamental of the practices. The Buddhist precepts are a moral code by which we live our lives. When you become a Buddhist you take vows that state you will uphold these precepts. You will see that the precepts are not written in such a way that say "thou shalt..." this is a defining difference in Buddhism which I think sets it apart from many other religious paths. In Buddhism we do not say one MUST do anything...rather we realize that by doing one thing we bring virtuous karma and while doing other things we generate negative karma. So the precepts should be looked at in this manner. What we do has cause and effect, following the precepts insures us that we are generating positive karma for ourselves and the world while avoiding those actions which rain down negative karma on us personally and the world at large. Having said this let us begin learning about the precepts.

We will start with the lay precepts these are the precepts that those of us who are not monks or nuns will follow on our Buddhist path. They are as follows.

1) Refrain from destroying life. We all have life. The universe itself is life. We should not destroy that of which we are a part of. This is the first vow for a good reason. If you do this you will go a very long way in not generating negative karma. This precept is why Buddhist do not eat meat. This precept has some deep implications and I will do my best to try to help you gain a good understanding of this. When you eat meat not only do you generate the negative karma from that action but you also generate a type of karma from the cause of this action. If you did not eat meat then animals would not have to suffer as they do being penned up and slaughtered, there would not be people generating the negative karma of actually killing those animals. So do you see how the action of you eating meat extends itself? If you did not eat the meat there would be no need for the animals to suffer or for people to do a negative occupation such as slaughtering animals. So if you wish to reduce your negative karma this is the one thing that will get you the farthest on that goal. This is also why you will never see a Buddhist kill an insect. ALL life is precious and worthy of us honoring it. Even the tiniest of be careful and don't step on ants! Negative karma is easy to generate.

2) Refrain from taking what is not given. We all have our own place in the world, our own position and property. We should not invade others position or property. So we should not steal.

3) Do not desire too much. We all have desire, but excessive desire is not the origin of happiness. It destroys our composure. Too much desire tends to make our lives very unhappy. This vow is usually interpreted also in regard to relationships. We should live in the morality not to have immoral desires for others. If you are in a relationship it would be considered immoral sexual conduct to desire another. In the monks and nuns vows this is the vow of celibacy.

4) Refrain from Lying. We are living in the universe. The universe is the truth itself. Truth and honesty are bound together. If we want to find the truth we must be honest. If we are not honest we can never find our real situation in the universe.

5) Refrain from intoxicants that cloud ones mindfulness. I have seen in my own Buddhist path this precept interpreted in a few ways so I will explain them to you as such. One school of thought says that this precept was originally intended to refer to not making ones livelihood by selling intoxicants. Other schools of thought say this precept was designed to mean not to partake of intoxicants on religious days. Personally I look at this precept in terms of merit. Of course should you choose a life that does not involve partaking of intoxicants I think you will receive more merit. I think if you partake of alcohol or drugs and attend a ceremony at the temple it would also be very obvious that you would generate great negative karma from the disrespect of this action.

Okay those are the precepts for the lay. If you wish you can vow to take the other additional precepts. All monks and nuns entering the monastery must take these additional vows.

6) Only eat at appropriate times. Which means only eat from sunrise to noon.

7) Refrain from viewing or participating in shows or wearing jewelry. This precept in our modern world relates to not viewing things that disturb our mind. Watching violence on TV. It also relates to not being showy and wearing lots of jewelry in a prideful manner.

8) Refrain from using high luxurious beds. This precept is about humility.

Those are the basics of Buddhist precepts. I will now give you a few more that I feel apply to those Buddhist true to the dharma. These precepts are good for the lay to follow as well and are mandatory for all monks and nuns to follow.

9) Don't discuss failures of Buddhist priest or layman.

10) Don't praise yourself or berate others.

11) Don't begrudge the sharing of Buddhist teachings or other things but share them freely.

12) Don't become angry.

13) Don't abuse the Triple jewels. The Buddha, the dharma, the sangha.

I hope this gives you a good code of moral conduct to follow. If you do these things I assure you, you will generate good karma and stay away from those actions which will create negative karma. I will leave you with one last thought on the precepts. My guru once told me. If you are unhappy with some aspect of your life you should look to the precepts and see which one you are violating. If you are the victim of people talking negative about you, you are talking negative about others. If you are suffering physically maybe you are violating the first precept and causing others to suffer. All of our lives are cause and effect, nothing happens TO us. We generate our own karma. Carefully observing the precepts is a must for all Buddhist who wish to live a good and fruitful life.

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