While zazen is central to Zen practice, Zen is something
more than that as well.
So in addition to sitting in zazen, we have:
Study of and
practice of the precepts.
Study of the Dharma.
A relationship to a teacher,
who as a kind of guide and mentor helps us with
the maturation of our understanding and our practice
The Bodhisattva Precepts
Early in this course I said that Zen addresses two
radical questions: “huh?” and “so?”
Hopefully you’ve had a glimpse of how your sitting
like a buddha, revealing your awakened mind, can address
the questions of what your life is, who you
are and what the meaning of this reality is.
The second question (“so?”) asks: given
what you’ve found, what are the implications
for living? This leads us to the precepts, the aspects
of living life as a Buddha.
You may have heard
or read that receiving the
precepts are part of the formal training
of Zen students and
are a part of the process of “taking
refuge.” This is true. But the precepts
are for all who practice.
The three treasures:
Being in the Buddha
Being in the dharma
Being in the sangha
The three pure precepts:
Don't cause suffering
Do good for others
The ten grave precepts:
Do not kill
Do not steal
Do not be greedy
Do not lie
Do not cloud the mind
Do not speak of others errors and faults
Do not elevate the self and blame others
Do not be withholding
Do not be angry
Do not slander the Three Treasures
Living the 16 Bodhisattva precepts
Reflect on the ways these
precepts address acts of body,
speech and mind.
Because they are often stated negatively — as “do
not”s — people
often mistake them for rules to be obeyed or disobeyed.
But this is a very limited way of understanding them.
The precepts are are ways of appreciating the wondrous
complexity and unity of our lives from 16 different
perspectives and living your life accordingly.
Try translating the precepts
for yourself, finding language that clarifies
If you hear them as proscriptions,
transform them into aspects of your life.
For example, “Do
not kill” could be lived as “affirm
When we speak of the
precepts, then, we’re really
talking about different aspects on our life. The
precepts are undertakings that we use to raise
our mindfulness of what is in accord with the practice
of Zen and what tends to take us off that track
And the longer you practice the more these precepts
serve as reminders.
Highways and freeways have raised
Botts-dots in California—
so that if your car strays across the lane
marker you hear and feel the bump,
bump, bump. They are reminders
of what we’re doing.
Zen practice involves a mindful awareness of how
these precepts are ways of understanding and living
means walking the walk as well as
talking the talk.
Working with the precepts we begin to get some sense
of what it means to live in accord with our sitting
practice. We begin to get a sense of the interrelatedness
of all life — the fact that we are not just all
in this together but that we are all this
together. And we begin to attune ourselves more sensitively
and more responsibly to what we can do to appreciate
what this life really is and how to make
this world a better place At whatever
operating – whether it's at home and family,
or at large in the community, or globally.
The Zen Peacemaker Precepts
The Zen Peacemakers offer a variation on the 16 precepts,
not expressing the precepts as"do
The Zen Peacemakers three tenets, the Three Steps
to Peace, are:
1. Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about
ourselves and the universe. Ride the breath into Great
Silence. Empty yourself and let go of all your knowing;
let go into spaciousness.
2. Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the
world. From not-knowing, see as many positions of a
given situation as possible. Listen deeply. Be inclusive
and connect with many perspectives, without being limited
by attachments and aversions and without fixing your
3. Loving actions towards ourselves and others. An
impulse to action will arise. We call this action a
loving or healing action because it has naturally emerged
from not-knowing and bearing witness to the wholeness
of a situation. Trust yourself Take action - do it!
Offer your action with gratitude and love for the well
being of all.
Click here for the 16 Zen Peacemaker precepts: >>>
This course offers
only a brief introduction to the precepts.
In a future Ashoka course you will have
an opportunity to study the precepts more