by Abby Layton
Abby did not write this article for publication. She wrote it for her preparation to take the precepts. Laughing - she told me that she would have done a "better" job of it if she had know it would go into the newsletter - laughing - it seems perfect to me. Kozen
I wish to commit to these precepts to provide a holding environment, a formless container, for deep practice. The precepts help me to live in the Buddha's way of peace, love and benefiting all beings. These precepts challenge us to do good, and to cease from doing harm. Until one has committed, one may draw back from trying their best. A commitment, says, I put both feet, and my whole body in the circle, and fully live by the precepts.
These precepts give endless teachings of Dharma: they are as mirrors, that go on and on reflecting images of light, which open facets of being, dissolving ego clinging, and allowing Buddha nature to be as it is.
The precepts are tools of awareness, in that in order to carry them out, one becomes more and more awake, as to carry out the precepts, one must understand them first. In this way, they are a means of awakening, right now, right here.
Each one of these precepts is an endless practice that contains all Dharma in each precept, liked to a hologram. Also, each precept is woven in each other precept, they are interconnected and not separate.
The Three Jewels are reminders. The Buddha reminds us to rest in and to trust the awareness of the Buddha Mind. Buddha is all-ness, oneness, the fertile ground of awareness. The Dharma reminds us to open the heart mind through the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are happening every moment, so the Dharma asks that we stay awake. The Sangha offers support by allowing us to live in community that is doing the work of awakening together, and to help each other in this work of living in Buddha's ways.
In Japan, Jukai is the initiation ceremony that formally confirms one entering the Buddhist path. It is known as "entering the stream". Tokudo is becoming a formal student, or disciple.
The 10 Cardinal Precepts
I resolve not to kill, but to cherish all life.
This precept first requires that I notice all life, that I recognize how precious life is to every living thing. It requires that I know there is "not two" when recognizing any living thing. It calls us to revel, in L'Chayim, that life is precious, and that life is full, and to be cared for. Then, this precepts ask that I resolve not to kill. To not kill is endless, and can not be done perfectly ever. We kill every time we breath. We kill when we flush the toilet, or do laundry. But this precept helps us to begin to be aware, of the delicate balance of life, and how important it is to do our part in sustaining this.
I resolve not to take what is not given, but to respect the things of others.
Waiting to take until the "thing" is given is a very good practice. And it takes patience and faith that you will receive what you need. Leaving others' things alone, and not taking them for your own is a lifelong practice of awakening. Consider taking anothers reputation, or taking credit for their teachings, or taking a friendship from them through wrong speech. Environmentally, this precepts teaches us to not eat more than we need, to not pollute this planet, to not live in greed and acquiring. By doing so we are stealing from others. But often, I just notice myself taking a soda from Kozen and Kirk's fridge. Little lapsed moments, mildly asleep. I feel cleaner when I do not violate the boundaries of others, but respect what is theirs.
I resolve not to engage in improper sexuality, but to lead a life of purity and self-restraint.
Again, this precept is about not violating another being, but also it is about not betraying oneself. Improper sexuality harms so many, from sexualizing contact to rape, from lewd speech, to incest, the common factor is the deep wound bestowed upon the victim, and upon the perpetrator. There is a devouring, a taking, an overpowering that, if not mutually agreed upon, is injurious to all. A life of purity to me means a life of non-harm, a life that is not tainted with self centered gluttony, the using of the other. Self restraint, is simply the stepping back, the pause to consider, the reminder again to do no harm.
I resolve not to lie, but to speak the truth.
Now this is a difficult precept as they all are, but this one, stopping the stories we tell others, and that we tell ourselves is very difficult. So much of what we tell ourselves is a lie; an appeasing of neurosis, a cover to translate reality in a way that serves our delusion. And lying to each other contains not only the stories we tell, but what we leave out. We humans try so hard to manipulate the world, and each other, to fit our needs. Stopping this takes a constant awareness of our mind.. It takes listening to ourselves, and going slowly, each word being truthful. And a coming to authenticity, the honesty of not hiding.
I resolve not to cause others to take substances that impair the mind, nor to do so myself, but to keep the mind clear.
In the easiest sense, this precept asks us not to do drugs or drink alcohol, and to not offer substances to others. This is easy for me, since I am not drawn to drugs or alcohol. But give me an unhealthy food, like potato chips, or chocolate, and all of a sudden, the fast wanting to grasp arises, and often, has left me defenseless to causing harm to my self. Then my mind becomes unclear. What about other addictions? I was taught as a therapist that every one of us suffers from addiction. What about violent pornography? what about fundamentalist hate literature? What about addictive thought patterns?There are many addictive substances that can cloud the mind in many ways. And also, there are many ways we can cause others to act out their addictions: our actions, our speech, our reactivity, may cause others to reach for substances.
I resolve not to speak of the faults of others, but to overcome my own shortcomings.
It is so difficult to stay on one's own side of the net. We find it so much more comforting to tear the other apart, to analyze how they need to be different, and to blame them, than to look at our own selves. We want our world to arrange itself in perfect harmony of how we wish it to be, and, let's face it, the messiness of other people just gets horribly in the way. I used to have a cat, Kasha, that I blamed for everything. And it felt great to not have to take responsibility. But by not taking responsibility, the way gets narrower and narrower, until you are isolated with just yourself, in a world that you have designed for your own comfort. In our society, it is expected that we gossip about others. I went for a lot of years not doing so, when I was in the orthodox Jewish community, and it was so difficult. But I loved the feeling of knowing that I was not putting harm on another, and that no one was talking about me either. It was very clean.
I resolve not to praise myself and disparage others, but to overcome my own shortcomings.
Again, the resolve to stay on my side of the net, taking responsibility for my own work in life. This is a great precept for me, as I consider myself a recovering narcissist. I have a voice that almost always has seen me as superb and others as less. I no longer believe it, but it is so seductive to go through the world believing that you can bestow, teach, be above, and not be touched by others. Luckily, I have also always loved people, and by loving them a bit more each day, I have developed a bit more equanimity.
I resolve not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but to give them freely where needed.
I have a friend, who gives to others so freely. He has taught me the great delight of aiding. There is a mitzvah to give in the Jewish tradition, one gives 20% of their earnings to those who have less, and one runs to give. With joy. Our culture in the west, tends to encourage us to hold back, for ourselves, for when we might need it. And giving from our heart, is also so contagious and uplifting for each other. Generosity begets love and tolerance.
I resolve not to indulge in anger, but to exercise restraint.
It is so easy to use anger to hold "our self" together, to fortify the ego, and cause us to not feel our fear or hurt. Anger is always a secondary emotion, and it can cause such harm. Again, the practice of stepping back two steps, holding the heart, and asking yourself what is really going on, could change the world so completely. Being willing to be vulnerable, wrong, or humble is such a healing practice. Working on our anger, can bring up feelings of helplessness, and despair, but resting in the softening can again bring us to the practice of doing no harm.
I resolve not to revile the three treasures, (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), but to cherish and uphold them.
Since we are all Buddha, this teaching not only asks us to not betray our commitment, but also asks us to honor each being. Since each moment is the teaching of Dharma, we honor each moment as the most important teaching. Since we are all Sangha through our vast interconnection, we honor the whole of experience as our friend, and our teacher. And we cherish and uphold them, at every moment. Also, we hold great love and respect for the gift of Buddhism as a path, that we have been given, and are being given at each moment.
I am willing to open to being aware at each moment, and to promise to do the work necessary within my heart mind, to undo the delusion of self so that I may be an empty cup for Buddha Dharma and live by the precepts given to me. I promise to take responsibility at each moment for my the delusional thoughts and reactivity that arises, and I pledge to clear these with love and caring toward myself and others. I do this to help end suffering in our world, and to help all beings awaken.
I will need to continue eating some fish in order to support health because of MS. And I may need to take medications too for MS. I am sure I will break most of the precepts in small ways, but my promise is the work at hand.
I am taking nuns vows soon, and this is the platform of support for those vows. Also, there is a process of putting all the eggs in one basket, of dedicating further to the Boddhisattva vows that I took many years ago. I wish to shed more of the me, mine, hunger that propels us all, and pause more often to consider the way of the Buddha, a way of peace and love. These precepts are very helpful in supporting this turning in the deepest seat of being.
With great appreciation, Abby