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Living within the five precepts

Living within the five precepts

Part of a series of Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks given during the Green Tara Winter Retreat from December 2009 to March 2010.

  • Following the five or eight precepts
  • How to relate to others during the retreat

Green Tara Retreat 003: Living in community (download)

By living together as a community for the duration of the retreat, it’s good if we live according to the five precepts. These are the Buddha’s advice for living together harmoniously.

  1. The first precept is not to kill. That includes bugs and mice and chipmunks, let alone human beings; this is so everybody feels safe.
  2. The second precept is not to take what hasn’t been given to us. We need to respect everybody else’s property. We should not borrow things without asking the person, unless it’s somebody we know very well. In that case, it’s good to leave them a note that we borrowed something. Be very careful about community property. If it’s not something like brooms, and so forth, which are left for people to use to clean the monastery, don’t go and take something for your personal use without asking somebody in the community.
  3. Then, there should be no unwise or unkind sexual behavior. For the duration of the retreat at the Abbey everybody is celibate.
  4. Do not lie, especially about our spiritual attainments. Try and be truthful with ourselves. In other words, we should take responsibility for what is our responsibility, but not to take responsibility for what isn’t our responsibility. Sometimes we lie to ourselves by taking too much responsibility that we don’t have or not taking enough responsibility. Try to learn to be honest.
  5. Finally, do not take intoxicants. This includes recreational drugs or abusing prescription medicine. Remember that whatever prescription medicine that you have from your doctor, please continue to take it properly while on retreat. Also, tobacco products are not allowed and we don’t drink coffee at the Abbey should you have any. Tea is okay. Chocolate is okay.

These are things that help us live together harmoniously. These things help us to have a happy community and also a peaceful mind.

Together with this we have some extra guidelines. These pertain to the people doing the retreat here; for the people doing retreat from afar, of course it’s different. We don’t need to wear jewelry, or ornaments, or perfumes, as if we are trying to attract anybody. We don’t need to sing, dance, play music, hum, or watch entertainment. This includes the kind of entertainment on the Internet. You can watch the kitties—it’s very entertaining to watch them sleep. You might want to read a Dharma book instead or do something interesting. These are the kinds of things that we can do to really create a good continuum for our Dharma practice. In terms of what you read, try and stick to Dharma materials or some kind of documentary. Don’t read novels and science fiction, or those kinds of things that are going to get your mind very emotional or cause it to start imagining all sorts of things. This will really take you away from your meditation. Take long walks—that is something that is quite good for you.

All of these things can help us to live together harmoniously and create a good ambiance for doing retreat.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.