Refuge and precepts ceremony

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This ceremony was recorded at Sravasti Abbey on August 23, 2007. The teachings preceding the ceremony prepare three separate groups of participants to take the five lay precepts, the five lay precepts with celibacy, and the eight precepts with celibacy.

  • Having clarity to take precepts
  • Understanding the causes of happiness
  • The meaning of taking the five and eight precepts
  • Results of karma
  • An explanation of the precepts
  • Precept ceremony verses

Exploring Monastic Life 2007: Refuge and precepts explanation and ceremony (download)

Refuge and precepts ceremony motivation

Let’s reflect on the motivation a bit. They always tell us to rejoice at the virtues of others, and especially at the virtues of the holy beings as well as ordinary beings. I always rejoice at the virtues of the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas making so many offerings and manifesting so many different forms and different directions to benefit sentient beings. What always seems really wonderful to rejoice at is the virtue of ordinary people who are taking a really positive step in their life. When you think about us ordinary beings, we’ve sat together for three weeks and we’ve talked about our stuff in very open ways, haven’t we? We’ve shared it with each other and acknowledged it to ourselves. Having done that, our mind is able to say, “Okay, that all happened and I learned something very important from it, and now I want to put my energy in another direction.”

I think that’s what’s so astounding and rewarding about what you people are doing, what all of us as ordinary beings are doing. I think for the bodhisattvas it must be much easier to create merit. They train their mind for so long and we’re just kind of stumbling along. For us to come to a very clear constructive conclusion is really very major. That’s a major thing in our lives, considering what we’ve been doing up until now. I think it’s something to be very much rejoiced at. I appreciate very much what all of you are doing. It’s really quite wonderful.

Group of participants from the 2007 Exploring Monastic Life retreat at the Abbey.

Keeping precepts is a very good way to direct our body, speech, and mind in the future.

The causes of happiness

You’re taking refuge. It’s the refuge ceremony, and with it precepts. Some of you are taking all five precepts. Some of you are taking five precepts with celibacy, and one of you is taking celibacy with the eight precepts. I think whatever anybody is doing is really fantastic. It’s such a good way to direct our body, speech, and mind in the future. By doing this, it just sets such a strong foundation for our Dharma practice and also for a happy life. We’ve all had lots of experiences, haven’t we?

If we ask, “Where has the happiness come from in our lives?” I don’t think somebody would say, “Well, it happened when I killed so and so. Or it happened when I stole their stuff. Or it happened when I hurt their feelings during an improper sexual relationship. Or it happened when I lied to them. Or it happened when I got drunk or stoned.” I don’t think anyone would say that. That’s just talking about this life. If we think back upon the times in our life where we had happiness, I don’t think they were the times when we were acting the opposite of the precepts.

We have worldly happiness. Think of the happiness that comes in your mind from keeping the precepts. Like today, the kind of clarity you have in your mind about your life and what you want to do. Of course, not everything is crystal clear but some very important things are clear. It’s so important for these basic ethical values to be clear in our lives because they set the foundation for the happiness of this life. They set the foundation for our Dharma practice, and thus they set the foundation for the happiness of future lives, for liberation and for full enlightenment.

Getting clear about ethical conduct

Think about it, the Buddha, the first thing he instructed us on was ethical conduct. In the story of the Buddha’s life, that’s the first thing he did himself. He had that motivation of renunciation, of bodhicitta, and then he went forth. He kept good ethical conduct. Keeping the five precepts or eight precepts, or whatever, we are following right behind the Buddha. It’s like we’re taking the Buddha as our role model, who we want to become like, and we’re doing what the Buddha did. You can’t go wrong doing that.

What’s so nice about precepts is when we make up our mind and we take the precepts in the presence of our preceptor, in the presence of the Three Jewels—then when situations happen in our life in which, normally, our mind would just go bonkers and we would want to do this, that, or the other thing, all of a sudden there’s clarity in the mind. We realize we’ve already made the decision about how to act. We don’t need to get confused. So much of our life we spend in confusion, don’t we? We spend in doubt, “Should I do this? Should I do that? Do I do this? Do I do that?” When we take precepts, then we’ve made some very important decisions—and that stops all this doubt and meandering mind.

If you’re ever with somebody and somebody offers you something to drink or smoke, the decision’s already been made. There’s no reason to get confused. You just say, “No thank you.” That’s very simple. If somebody wants you to lie about something, get involved in some shady business deal that involves siphoning off funds, or who knows what, already we’ve made the decision. Today we’re making the decision for how we’re going to act in those future circumstances. When those things happen, then we already know. There is no confusion. We just say, “No.”

It brings a lot of peace to the mind and it prevents having regret—all that energy we used to waste in confusion and then in regret. Now that energy is all freed up to develop love, compassion, and wisdom. The mind is free of all that kind of regret and confusion. The precepts are such a strong way to do purification for the negative actions we’ve done in the past.

Four results of karma

Whenever we do a negative action (or a positive one too), there are four results. Sometimes they say three results. One of them gets divided into two so then it comes out as four.

  1. There’s the maturation result, which is principally the realm you’re going into.
  2. Then there’s the result that corresponds to the cause in terms of the experience. This means whatever you made somebody else experience, when say you’re born as a human, you then experience that.
  3. Then there’s the result that corresponds to the cause in terms of the habitual behavior. This is the one that gets purified. Part of the karmic result is where you set up a habit to do the same thing again because we’re creatures of habit.
  4. The fourth one is the environmental result.

When we take a precept, we’re really setting up a dam against that energy. And so, that habitual energy to act in a destructive way, there’s a real strong barrier to that now. That gets purified in quite a strong way. When you think about it, the worst of the karmic results is that tendency to do the negative action again. With the other ones, the karma from the previous negative action is getting used up—finished. But with the one (#3 above) that corresponds to the result in terms of behavior, when you have that one, then you’re creating more negative karma. That result is the real one that gets us. When we take precepts, we’re stopping that. If so much negative karma gets purified, then so much future negative karma gets prevented. It’s really something quite wonderful, that’s very good.

Rejoicing

When we keep precepts, then when we go to bed at night we feel peaceful in our hearts. We may have gotten angry or greedy, or whatever, during the day but we work that out in our meditation. Our basic ethical values, these five precepts, when we go to bed at night we rejoice. We say, “I kept my five precepts.” You rejoice when you go bed. Then when you wake up in the morning, you wake up feeling really good. Sometimes when we do negative actions, when you go to bed, you feel lousy. When you wake up the next day, you feel even worse. This is just the opposite. You go to bed, you feel good, and you wake up and feel good.

As you keep the precepts over time, then you get this gut feeling from your own experience of what it means to create positive potential or merit. Lots of times at the beginning of a practice we hear about merit and this, “What in the world is that?” We don’t get it. But as we keep the precepts, after a few years, then your life feels like its grounded and it’s based on something that’s really wholesome. We’re no longer out there zooming around in space, in confusion. We have a store of positive energy that we’ve created that builds up and our life rests on that. Then when the time of death comes, we rejoice. We can rejoice in a life well lived. If we’re able to die with a sense of rejoicing in our life, then there’s refuge there and good karma ripens for future lives. It’s something that brings so many benefits. Your relationship with the Three Jewels just becomes so close and so dear to you. You feel it in your heart and you come back to it everyday.

After you take refuge, in the morning when you wake up, you take refuge. And every evening before you go to bed you take refuge. When you wake up in the morning you do three prostrations and, before you go to bed in the evening, you do three prostrations. Your life is framed by your spiritual practice. It gives some kind of structure and a good feeling to our lives. And then, we like ourselves, don’t we? One of our big reasons for not liking ourselves, when we get into that mood, is because of negative actions we’ve done. When we keep precepts, we stop doing those negative actions and we abandon the cause of disliking ourselves because then, every evening before we go to bed, we go, “Oh good.” This isn’t arrogance, and it’s actually something quite important in our spiritual practice. We have to rejoice in our own virtue. We have to be able to go, “Good on us. You did something wonderful today.” We just feel good when we go to bed and when we wake up. And when we die, there’s that foundation of virtue that we take with us into the next life. We feel that incredible connection with the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Benefits of refuge in one’s life

I remember once when I was in a hospital. I don’t know what I was doing there, making a hospital visit or something—maybe going for a test. Anyway, I saw them wheeling somebody down the corridor on a gurney, probably going to surgery or something like that. I thought, “Wow. Probably that person doesn’t have any refuge.” What do you do with your mind if you’re an ordinary being and you have to go for surgery, or there’s an accident and you have no refuge? Whoa! Scary! I thought, “What do you do with your mind?” Your mind just completely goes bonkers. But if you have refuge, then you just take refuge in the Three Jewels. Like it says in the Thirty Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas verse: “Therefore when you seek refuge, take refuge in the Three Jewels which will not betray you”—you have your refuge. Then, even if you’re going to surgery or whatever it is, there’s the refuge in your mind. You trust in the goodness in the universe.

When you take refuge, what you’re doing is practicing the Dharma. Taking refuge isn’t just, “Buddha save me.” It’s, “Buddha, tell me how to work with my mind. Here I am in a difficult situation. 911 Buddha! What do I do with my mind?” I do this all the time. I do my 911’s to Buddha. Something happens and I go, “What do I do now?” Somebody’s asking for help and I don’t know what to say. I just go, “911 Buddha.” What comes up in your mind because you’ve heard a lot of teachings, you’ve contemplated those teachings and meditated on those teachings, then what comes up in your mind is what you need to do. You know what direction to put your mind in and what thought you need to focus your mind on. The Dharma that comes in your mind at that time for how to deal with that situation—that’s the real refuge. When you practice that, then your mind changes and you have some resolution in the difficult situation that you’re in the middle of or focused on.

Sometimes, we might be somewhere and somebody’s yelling at us at the top of their lungs. Our usual habitual tendency is either to run away or smack him in the face. Or get angry and say, “Stuff it,” or who knows what. When you do your 911 to the Buddha, because you’ve taken refuge, then the Buddha says, “Practice patience.” Then you go, “Okay, what are the teachings on patience? What’s the extension number I need to dial?” You remember Working With Anger, “Oh yes, the other person’s suffering.” Or, “My karma put me in this situation, don’t get mad at them.” We remember one of the teachings that we’ve heard about how to work with anger.

When people are criticizing us and we remember that, we steer our mind in that direction as best as we can. That’s practicing Dharma. Right then and there in that situation, it’s practicing the Dharma. Even if we can’t do it in this situation, even if at that time our mind is just going “muuuuh” when we come home, we sit down and we remember all of that and we start to practice. Then you really begin to feel the presence of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in your life. Not like the Buddha’s something physical there. You see the Buddha at your heart or Buddha is on top of your head. You can ask for Dharma instructions whenever you want.

I remember one time I was in North Carolina at this Dharma center. There had been this really ‘blah’ situation which I won’t bore you with. I was really upset about something somebody did and something somebody said, and everything. My mind was just “nraaaa.” Then I just did a 911 to my teacher, “What do I do?” I just heard Lama Yeshe. He used to say to us, “Keep it simple, dear.” He used to give these kinds of pith instructions, “Keep it simple, dear.” I realized my mind had not been keeping it simple. My mind was making this horror story extravaganza. When I just said, “Okay, keep it simple. Let’s drop all of that.” Then the mind got peaceful. You develop that kind of closeness in your life, where you can really call out when you need help.

Keeping your refuge alive in your life

When you take the refuge, there are refuge precepts to keep which I will read over at the end. They’re also explained in more depth in Taming the Mind. There’s a chapter there on refuge that I encourage you to read. They’re in the blue Pearl of Wisdom book, so I encourage you to go through those. Also, another very good thing to do is twice a month read your refuge guidelines. Go over your precepts. Do some special purification. Do some special pondering about how you did and renew your intention for the next two weeks. You can do it on new and full moon days. If it’s hard for you to remember those days, then do it on the 15th and the 30th of every month, or however you want to do it. That’s a very good practice, to renew things.

Explanation of the precepts

Regarding the precepts, it’s good if you understand the meaning. What constitutes a root break and what constitutes just an infraction. If we commit a root break, then we damage the lay ordination and we need to purify. If you commit an infraction, you haven’t destroyed or damaged the ordination. There’s still the need of purification.

[The first five are the five lay precepts.]

  1. Avoid killing

    The precept of killing: The root break is if you kill a human being and you have the intention to kill them. You know who you want to kill and you’ve identified them properly so you don’t mistake who it is. You have a negative mental state in your mind, you do the action, or you tell somebody else to do it. You feel good about it afterwards and the other person dies before you do. That would be like a complete root break.

    You can see that’s quite different than stepping on an ant accidentally, isn’t it? That’s why the Buddha set up these different things. Let’s focus on the most important thing and stop that, and then we’ll work backwards from there instead of getting worried about the ants and not paying any attention to how we’re treating human beings. Still, it’s good to pay attention to where we walk. You know what I’m getting at. That was an accident with the ant.

  2. Avoid stealing

    With stealing it is with an intention. You know what the object is you want to steal, you’ve identified it properly. There’s a negative motivation of ignorance, anger, or attachment in your mind. You take the object or you have it stolen. It may be something that can be physically moved or you might do the legal things in order to change the ownership to yourself. Then you think, “Now, it’s mine.” You’ve completed the act by thinking or saying, “Now, it’s mine.” The object has to be something of value in the society where you live such that the police would get involved.

  3. Avoid unwise sexual behavior

    The one about unwise or unkind sexual relationships, this is using sexuality unwisely or unkindly. The way I’m giving this may be a little different than the way other people give it because I don’t want to get so bogged down in the details. What I consider this one is, first, sex that is not protected. If there is a danger of sexually transmitted diseases, either to you or to the other person, I think that is unwise, don’t you? Not using protection when it’s needed. Unkind sexual behavior would be using the other person for our own sexual gratification without really caring about them. I would include one night events in that category. You met somebody, you don’t care much, want some pleasure and that’s it. Any kind of sexual contact where you’re really using somebody and don’t really care about their emotional state afterwards because, in sex, people get emotionally attached. And then if we just say, “Oh well, who cares.” People can be hurt by that.

    I think breaking it from the root would entail if you’re in a relationship, going outside your relationship; or if you are not in a relationship, you go with somebody who is. I think that is the heaviest of the unkind unwise behavior. That really affects families and quite a number of people.

  4. Avoid lying

    The fourth one is lying. To break it from the root it has to be a lie about our spiritual attainments. Even if we don’t say it ourselves, somebody else says, “Oh, you must have realized emptiness,” and we go, “Hmmmm,”—kind of going along with it. Or for whatever reason we lie about our spiritual attainments for self gain. That’s really detrimental to our self and to other people. We should abandon all the other lies too, but this is the one in particular that makes us break the vow from the root. There’s the intentional lie and there’s a negative state of mind. We say the words or we lead somebody through our actions to believe that we have spiritual attainments that we don’t have. Then the other person believes it and we’re glad.

  5. Avoid intoxicants

    The fifth one is the one for intoxicants. Because that’s not a naturally negative action, it doesn’t have one of breaking it from the root. The way I give the one on intoxicants is, it’s not one drop. That’s very easy. Not one drop—easy.

    Sometimes people say, “What about putting wine in food?” Technically speaking, the wine has been cooked out if it has been cooked. I think, in a way better still, avoid that because if you taste the wine in the food, the desire to drink may come and you don’t want that for yourself. That wouldn’t technically be a break of the precept because there’s no alcohol, but it’s an unwise thing to do because it could lead you closer. It’s like being in a room with a bunch of people smoking dope and you don’t smoke. You say, “Well, I’m not getting intoxicated.” Of course you’re going (inhales deeply) from all the side smoke. You don’t want to do that. Not one puff, not one drop, not one anything. Then it’s just so simple.

  6. Celibacy

    Now, some of you are taking the celibacy precept. To break that one from the root, that is if there is penetration the depth of a hair. And it doesn’t matter into what orifice it is, whether you’re a man or a woman, or whatever. If you’re being penetrated or you’re penetrating somebody else, it doesn’t matter. The depth of the width of a hair—better not get close to that. This is in regards to heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior. It doesn’t matter what it is.

  7. Avoid singing, dancing, playing music

    The ones about singing, dancing, and playing music: It’s yourself singing or going for entertainment, playing music yourself or going for entertainment. If you’re in a store and they’re playing music, then you can’t go around in the store like this (fingers in ears). You’re not breaking the precept. Hopefully, you’re not going to Safeway to listen to the music.

    Dancing and entertainment: That could be sports. It could be all sorts of TV, entertainment, whatever. If it’s a documentary for the sake of education, that’s fine because that’s not entertainment. I’ve had situations where I’ve been at interfaith programs and people are chanting something together. Now, I will not chant something that has words in it expressing meanings that I don’t believe in. I won’t chant any prayers at interfaith about God or Jesus or this kind of stuff. Sometimes there might be certain chants that express just an ethical principle or a feeling of loving-kindness. There’s one Psalm or something, I sing it sometimes in Jewish circles, about weapons turning into plowshares? Bible study was not my expertise. Something that wasn’t about the theology, but it just expressed a nice meaning. In that kind of thing, if it’s an interfaith gathering and they’re asking everybody to participate, then I’ll sing in that situation. Happy birthday, I won’t. You just kind of sit there and look around. People don’t care if you sing Happy birthday or not anyway.

  8. Avoid sitting on a high expensive beds or seats

    Sitting on high or expensive seats or beds: It’s usually referring to a cubit but here [which is the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger]. I’m sitting on this for the sake of the Dharma. [The place where she is seated is typical of our culture and is higher than one cubit.] If my mind is thinking, “I’m better than everybody else,” then I shouldn’t be sitting here. If we sit on a chair in our society, usually that’s okay. Nobody goes on an ego trip because it’s a high chair. But if you do, then better not. If you’re sleeping on the top bunk bed and you’re looking down on everyone thinking you’re better than them, maybe you’d better sleep on the lower bunk. Other than that, it’s more a thing of, “I want to sit in an expensive seat, and a very nice comfortable seat, and a beautiful seat,”— something where, “I’m going to be special,” and our arrogance comes up.

  9. Avoid eating at improper times

    The one about eating food at improper times: Here it’s eating after midday—solid food after midday. You can take things that are diluted, like tea with milk, but not a whole glass of milk. Stuff like that.

Audience: With the singing, sometimes our minds are so infatuated with that. I notice that sometimes I try not to, but sometimes my foot’s tapping. I catch myself. How does that work as far as the precepts?

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): If you’ve taken that precept not to have singing and then, in your mind, the cha-cha is going on, the waltz, Beethoven’s symphony, or the latest rap music. Whatever it is that’s going on in your mind, or even TV jingles from when you were three years old. Who knows what comes to this mind. But it’s not coming out of your mouth. You’re not yet singing so you definitely want to stop that. What I find helpful at that time is to start chanting mantra out loud. If I do it out loud, that overpowers the melody of whatever was going on in my mind.

Everybody’s ready?

We have three different things going on. We have the five lay precepts. Then we have the five lay precepts with celibacy. Then we have the eight precepts with celibacy. I’m thinking what we’ll do is everybody will do the five lay precepts. We’ll do that. Then, after that, we will do it again for the people who are taking it with celibacy. Then after that, we’ll do it again for you who’re taking the eight. What you repeat after me is almost the same, except at the end you’re going to say, “…as a Buddhist who maintains five precepts,” or “…as a Buddhist who maintains five precepts plus celibacy,” or “…as a Buddhist who maintains eight precepts plus celibacy.” At the end, what you repeat after me will be a little different each time.

Then there’s another verse that you say, where you again say the precepts and you repeat that one time after me. That’s a little bit different according to what precepts you’ve done. We’ll just do the ceremony many times.

The important thing is to really have a very deep wish to free yourself from cyclic existence and to become a Buddha and free all sentient beings from cyclic existence. Just hold that as the long-term motivation and purpose of your life, of all your lives, because it’s the most noble, most wonderful thing you could ever aspire for.

Actual refuge ceremony with the five lay precepts

In the space in front, imagine the Buddha. His body is made of golden light. It’s not just a statue, it’s a real living being. The Buddha is surrounded by a lot of other Buddhas, and bodhisattvas and arhats. They’re all looking at you and they are so happy that you’re taking refuge and precepts.

If the Buddha were seated on his lotus flower, he would be jumping up and down with delight, “You’re taking refuge and the precepts.” The Buddha’s main wish is for us to have happiness and its causes; and so when the Buddhas see us creating causes for happiness, then that’s the best thing that could happen to them.

Do three prostrations and kneel down.

Then renew your visualization of the Buddha, and although you’re repeating this after me, think that you’re repeating it after the Buddha because that will really make your connection close.

Your hands at your heart [in prayer position].

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts.

That was the first repetition. We’ll do it two more times.

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts.

That was the second repetition. At the end of the third repetition, when I snap my fingers, then you really concentrate and you imagine so much light coming from the Buddha into you. This light is the nature of the refuge, the nature of very pure precepts. You feel this light just fill you up and then you have a conscious thought, “Now I’ve received the five pure precepts.”

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts.

Concentrate. (Venerable snaps her fingers)

When I say, “This is the method,” meaning this is the method for practicing towards liberation, you say, “Very good.”

This is the method.

Participants: Very good.

VTC: Then you repeat after me. We’ll go through the five precepts now.

Preceptor, please pay attention to me. Just as the arhats abandoned killing and turn away from killing as long as they live, I, named (say your name), from now until the end of my life will also abandon killing, and turn away from killing. With this first branch (that means the first precept) I will learn from, emulate, and follow the way of the arhats. Furthermore, just as arhats abandoned stealing, unwise or unkind sexual relationships, lying, intoxicants, I, named (say your name), for the rest of my life, will also abandon stealing, unwise or unkind sexual relationships, lying, and intoxicants. With these five branches, I will learn from, emulate, and follow the way of the arhats.

This is the method.

Participants: Very good.


VTC: Then you should make three prostrations.


Now you may sit down again.


The ceremony now says you should say, “The precious preceptor is very kind.”

Good. I’m supposed to sprinkle flowers (which Venerable does).

Actual refuge ceremony for the five lay precepts plus celibacy

Now we will do the ceremony for those who are taking the five lay precepts and celibacy

Do three prostrations and kneel down.

Renew your visualization of the Buddha and, although you’re repeating this after me, think that you’re repeating it after the Buddha because that will really make your connection close.

Your hands at your heart.

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts and celibacy.

That was the first repetition.

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts and celibacy.

At the end of the third repetition, I snap my finger. Really concentrate and you imagine so much light streaming from the Buddha into you. This light is the nature of the refuge, the nature of very pure precepts. You feel this light just fill you up and then you have a conscious thought, “Now I’ve received the five pure precepts and celibacy, and feel really happy.”

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains the five precepts and celibacy.

Now, concentrate. (Venerable snaps her fingers)

This is the method.

Participants: Very good.

VTC:

Preceptor, please pay attention to me. Just as the arhats abandoned killing and turn away from killing as long as they live, I, named (say your name), from now until the end of my life, will also abandon killing and turn away from killing. With this first branch, I will learn from, emulate, and follow the way of the arhats. Furthermore, just as arhats abandoned stealing, sexual relationships, lying, and intoxicants, I, named (say your name), for the rest of my life, will also abandon stealing, sexual relationships, lying, and intoxicants. With these five branches, I will learn from, emulate, and follow the way of the arhats.

This is the method.

Participants: Very good.

VTC: Then you should make three more prostrations. Do you remember what you’re supposed to say now?

Participants: The precious preceptor is very kind.

Actual ceremony for the eight precepts plus celibacy


Now we will do the ceremony for those taking the eight Mahayana precepts.

Do three prostrations and kneel down.

Renew your visualization of the Buddha.


Your hands at your heart [in prayer position].


Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who has celibacy and the eight precepts.

That was the first repetition.

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains celibacy and the eight precepts.

At the end of the third repetition, I snap my finger. Really concentrate. You imagine so much light streaming from the Buddha into you and this light is the nature of the refuge, the nature of very pure precepts. And so you feel this light just fill you up and then you have a strong determination, “Now I’ve received the five pure precepts and celibacy, and feel really happy.”

Venerable, please pay attention to me. From now until the end of my life, I, named (say your name), take refuge in the Buddha, the supreme amongst human beings. I take refuge in the Dharma, the supreme abandonment of attachment. I take refuge in the Sangha, the supreme assembly. Venerable, please care for me as a Buddhist who maintains celibacy and the eight precepts.

Concentrate. 
(Venerable snaps her fingers)

This is the method.

Participant: Very good.

VTC:

Preceptor, please pay attention to me. Just as the arhats abandoned killing and turn away from killing as long as they live, I, named (say your name), from now until the end of my life, will also abandon killing and turn away from killing. With this first branch, I will learn from, emulate, and follow the way of the arhats. Furthermore, just as arhats abandoned stealing, sexual relationships, lying, intoxicants, performing or listening to music, song, dance, and entertainment, wearing garlands and ornaments, using perfume and cosmetics, sitting on high or expensive seats or beds, and eating at an improper time, I, named (say your name), for the rest of my life, will also abandon stealing, sexual relationships, lying, and intoxicants, performing or listening to music, song, dance, and entertainment, wearing garlands and ornaments, using perfume and cosmetics, sitting on high or expensive seats or beds, and eating at improper times. With these eight branches, I will learn from, emulate and follow the way of the arhats.

This is the method.


Participant: Very good.

VTC: Make three prostrations.

Participant: The precious preceptor is very kind. (Venerable sprinkles more flowers)

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