precepts

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In May, it will have been two years since Marcus, Carl, Joe, and myself took refuge and our five precepts. I was thinking of something I could do on the anniversary and the idea of doing the next set of precepts came to mind. The first thing I realized is that I don’t even know what the next set of precepts are!

According to Wikipedia, the second set of precepts are the original five with three more added:

  • I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is eating once, after sunrise, before noon).
  • I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
  • I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep.
  • The first one, I probably wouldn’t follow. I love food, I love eating food. Right now, I’m trying to not eat any fried foods, and I’m still struggling with that.

    The second, no perfume… no problem, cosmetics and garlands… fine, no dancing… ok, but what about sometimes? no entertainment performances… ouch! but what if a find a monk performing a Dhamma Talk entertaining? What about drumming before chanting at the temple? Okay, I’m getting facetious, BUT NO MUSIC??? NO WAY!!! I’m starting to think my mind’s not ready for this.

    The third is easy, but more out of circumstance than practice. Having a baby ensures not over sleeping… I haven’t owned a chair in nearly two years and have slept on my meditation cushion for the past two weeks… I do intend on buying a mattress when I can afford one, is that considered luxurious? If so, I don’t think my wife will be too keen on this precept!

    I decided to look back on how I’ve followed my five precepts:

  • I undertake to abstain from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human).
  • I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (stealing).
  • I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  • I undertake to abstain from wrong speech: telling lies, deceiving others, manipulating others, using hurtful words.
  • I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness.
  • The first, I broke a few times in the summer. In ever case, it was mosquitos! Twice after Fina woke up in the morning huge welts on her face, we hunted them down and when I was picking vegetables in the garden, I wasn’t able to restrain myself. I couldn’t count the amount of bites I had around my ankles, but it was around 150. At least I know the amount of nourishment I gave to spawn new mosquitos probably makes up for the amount that I slapped. That doesn’t really excuse me, though.

    No stealing… I was caught stealing when I was younger, and don’t intend on having that happen again. That one’s been easy.

    Sexual misconduct. I’m more worried about my thoughts than anything else.

    Wrong speech is the difficult one. Haven’t done so well with that. I’ve been a lot more truthful. Deception and manipulation are more subtle than out-right lying. There harder to catch yourself doing. Hurtful words, I’m usually good at this one, but find myself easily invoked by others. Over all, I haven’t done too bad on this one, but there’s a lot of improvement to make.

    No intoxicants; Since university, I’ve traded herb for tea and mushrooms for meditation. I was never a drinker, except for once in India, I haven’t done anything else.

    Until I can follow the first five precepts successfully, I shouldn’t take on anymore. If I do anything as a two-year celebration, I think it will be to keep my five precepts for the day! I hope my Dhamma Brothers can join me and do the same! ^^

    4 responses »

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Lovely post! Thank you!

      But I think the next 3 precepts you mention are the Therevadan ones. In the Mahayanan tradition the next five precepts go something like this:

      6. I vow not to talk about the faults of others.
      7. I vow not to praise myself and disparage others.
      8. I vow not to be covetous, but to be generous.
      9. I vow not to give way to anger, but to be harmonious.
      10. I vow not to slander the three jewels.

      But yes, you know, I think they’re all there in the first five, especially the one about right speech, which is – for me too – by far the most difficult!

      So yes, I’ll join you on the anniversary of our refuge by re-dedicating myself to those first five. Thank you so much for the inspiration Joseph!

      With palms together,

      Marcus

    2. Hi Joseph,
      The precepts 6-10 that you’re thinking of are the traditional precepts for renunciates, ie monks and nuns.
      The only addition I would make to Marcus’ expression of the precepts would be number 8, which I think of as “I vow not to withhold material or spiritual aid”

      To me, the original 6-10 are mostly for the daily life of monastics, where as the mahayana 6-10 are more expressions of our fundamental nature and are good for everyone, monastics included!

      with palms together,
      Chong Go

    3. HI Joseph,

      Precepts 6-10 are for laypeople, usually taken on Uposatha Days (full, quarter, new moons) or other days of special significance – Vesak Day, funerals, etc. In Myanmar, there are also a lot of older, retired folks who take 8-10 precepts for the duration of their lives and adhere to them pretty strictly. Should a precept be broken, there is no worldly penalty.

      That said, these precepts are also codified in the Vinaya for monastics and are much more detailed, e.g. specifying the height of the bed, the types of materials for sheets and blankets, etc, but in this case they become rules, the breaking of which entail some sort of “worldly” penalty, like expiation and forfeiture.

    4. Love the photo.

      The last three are traditionally taken by (serious) laypeople on new and full moons in SE Asia, as I’m sure Marcus knows. Once or twice a month it wouldn’t be a bad idea. The no-eating means no food after noon. I think it was meant to allow the monks a clearer mind for meditation. It’s difficult to concentrate after eating. It’s amazing to me these monks can live until their 90s, having eaten only two meals a day!

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