My third precept, as taken at Hanmaum, goes like this;
3. The Precept of Avoiding Improper Sexual Conduct.
Letting go of lust and harmful states of mind, I vow to strive to keep my mind pure.
As far as I’m concerned, Zen Master Daehaeng couldn’t have put it anymore perfectly. The third precept is really about maintaining a pure mind. Before lust, desire, fetish, etc., take action, they occur in our thoughts. Whenever I feel myself being overcome by lust or desire, I repeat the last part of this precept as a mantra. The difficulty is that I have accumulated a greater karma of surrendering to desire than overcoming it, but after three years of practicing this, I’m able to hold them off much longer. Not giving into these desires has also given me the opportunity to really examine the effects of this desire as it grows and how very deep its roots reach.
The Buddha described sexual desires as one of the biggest obstacles of enlightenment and one of the most difficult to overcome. Knowing this gives me a great respect for this emotion, as one must respect the greatest forces of nature. I know that I will fail many times, but also that it is a hugely important one to keep practicing with.
As for Ray Charles and Betty Carter, how many of us haven’t been on one side or the other of this exchange, if not both? It’s not too difficult to see through the disguise of his concerns to whats really on his mind! It also shows how the precepts seem to weave themselves together. This could be as much about the fourth precept as the third, and the fifth precept isn’t left untouched either…