The heart and essence of our Zen practice is the practice itself. If we don’t establish and maintain a strong meditation practice then even the word of Buddha and the full extent of precepts will not help us. But as we develop as Zen practitioners, our Buddhist teachings, teachers and precepts become the guideposts to help us mature both as individuals and helpful members of our modern world.

Taking the Buddhist Precepts is a significant aspect of our training. At their core, the Precepts are an expression of the life of a Buddha and how a Buddha functions in the world. The Precepts serve as a model for how enlightened wisdom naturally manifests as we relate to other human beings and this planet, and make moral and ethical decisions in everyday circumstances.

In moments when we are not clear, we can rely on the Precepts as a compass to navigate our moment-to-moment world. In moments of clarity our natural wisdom and compassion makes the Precepts’ literal instructions unnecessary. As it says at the beginning of our Temple Rules, “Know when to keep them and when to break them, when they are open and when they are closed. Let go of your small self and become your true self.”

Five Precepts

Taking five precepts is a public acknowledgement that the Zen path of the Golden Wind Order is the path that we have chosen to follow. By publicly acknowledging this, we make our practice direction clear for ourselves and others. Also, each of the first five precepts helps guide us toward ethical and compassionate conduct as we begin and maintain the path of clear mind, open heart, before-thinking practice.

These precepts are:

1. I vow to abstain from taking life.

2. I vow to abstain from taking things not given.

3. I vow to abstain from misconduct done in lust.

4. I vow to abstain from lying.

5. I vow to abstain from intoxicants, taken to induce heedlessness.

Ten Precepts

In taking Ten Precepts, we deepen our commitment to practice and also we demonstrate our responsibility to sangha — the Zen sangha, our families and world community — by stepping up to take on roles of responsibility.

These precepts are:

6. I vow not to talk about the faults of others.

7. I vow not to praise myself and put down others.

8. I vow not to be covetous and to be generous.

9. I vow not to give way to anger and to be harmonious.

10. I vow not to slander the three jewels (Buddha, dharma, sangha).

16 Precepts

The 16 precepts holders wear the long dharma robes. This signifies that these are our long-time practitioners, and therefore 16 precept holders should set a strong practice example for other students and be a model of what it means to support the sangha. A close look at the Precepts for this level reveals a strong focus on service to others.

These precepts are:

11. I vow homage to the Buddha.

12. I vow homage to the dharma.

13. I vow homage to the sangha.

14. I vow generosity to people.

15. I vow compassionate speech and compassionate action toward people.

16. I vow together action with people and to become one and to attain the Buddha Way.

Interested members of BHZC are encouraged to read the Precepts Requirements document in the Information for Members section of this web site.