8. Precepts

The sixteen bodhisattva precepts are a set of vows of ethical conduct taken many times in a Zen practitioner’s life. They derive originally from the vinaya, monastic vows taken on ordination during the Buddha’s time (250 precepts for monks, 348 for nuns). Lay people took only the first five vows. The bodhisattva precepts used in the Mahayana tradition emphasize conduct to benefit others, and are taken by both monastic and lay practitioners. The short set of sixteen precepts we use in our tradition were formulated by Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan. They form the basis of several ceremonies: jukai (receiving the precepts), priest ordination, marriage and funeral. Many Zen centers chant the precepts once a month on the full moon, in a ceremony of reflection, repentance and renewal.

 

The precepts are inexhaustible mindfulness practices. They are also lifetime koans. Norman's approach to the precepts is warm and down-to-earth, but also spacious and insightful. He helps us to apply the vivid moment-to-moment awareness of our zazen practice in our daily life of work, family and relationships.

 

THE SIXTEEN BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS Norman Fischer’s version

 

The Threefold Refuges

I take refuge in Buddha (the principle of enlightenment within).

I take refuge in dharma (the enlightened way of understanding and living).

I take refuge in sangha (the community of beings).

 

Pure Precepts

I vow to avoid all action that creates suffering

I vow to do all action that creates true happiness.

I vow to act with others always in mind.

 

Grave Precepts

Not to kill but to nurture life.

Not to steal but to receive what is offered as a gift.

Not to misuse sexuality but to be caring and faithful in intimate relationships.

Not to lie but to be truthful.

Not to intoxicate with substances or doctrines but to promote clarity and awareness.

Not to speak of others’ faults but to speak out of loving-kindness.

Not to praise self at the expense of others but to be modest.

Not to be possessive of anything but to be generous.

Not to harbor anger but to forgive.

Not to do anything to diminish the Triple Treasure but to support and nurture it.

  

(For additional versions of the precepts, please see 3 Versions of Zen Precepts.)

Books

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts
"'Being Upright'...takes us beyond the conventional interpretation of ethical precepts to the ultimate meaning that i...
Reb Anderson
Sep 01, 2000
2. The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
Robert Aiken Roshi's clear, insightful discussion of the complexities of Zen ethics, as they relate to personal and s...
Robert Aitken
Nov 01, 1984
Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up
Taking Our Places: the Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up, is a book about spiritual practice as a journey toward true...
Norman Fischer
May 04, 2004
Waking Up to What You Do
A down to earth discussion by a Zen teacher who is also a mother and a psychologist.
Diane Rizzetto
Jun 13, 2006

Audio

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
Zen Precepts (Talk 1 of 3)
General description of the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts and a Bodhisattva. Description of the three levels of precept...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Zen Precepts (Talk 2 of 3)
Discussion of the first three precepts: I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Zen Precepts (Talk 3 of 3)
Norman discusses his relationship with his teacher, Sojun Weitsman. The remaining thirteen precepts are discussed: th...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Basic Zen - Ethics (Talk 2 of 2)
Norman talks about Right Action from the Zen perspective.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 01, 2001
Basic Zen - Ethics (Talk 1 of 2)
Norman talks about Right Action from the Zen perspective.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 01, 2001
On Being a Priest
Talk on Being A Priest given at Empty Nest Zendo retreat for Everyday Zen priests and lay entrusted.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 23, 2008
History of Precepts 1
First of two part series on the History of Precepts. Norman first gave this talk at the Dharma Seminar on April 1, b...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Apr 15, 2009
History of Precepts 2
Second in a two part series of the History of Precepts.
Norman Fischer
Apr 22, 2009
Precepts 1 - 2011 Norman Only
Norman gives his first talk on Precepts for the Dharma Seminar 2011 series. This is edited for only Norman's portion...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Apr 06, 2011
Precepts 1 - 2011 Student Talk Only
Students Andrea Jacoby and John Murray give talks on their personal work with the precepts.
Andrea Jacoby John Murray
Apr 06, 2011
Precepts 2 - 2011 Chris Fortin only
Chris Fortin gives this second introductory talk on Precepts for the Dharma Seminar 2011 series. Student talks for t...
Chris Fortin
Apr 13, 2011
Precepts 2 - 2011 Student Talk Only
Student talks Alan Block and Mary Ann Sacksteder give talks on their personal practice with precepts.
Alan Block
Apr 13, 2011
Precepts 3 - 2011 Norman only
Norman gives the third talk on Precepts for the dharm seminar 2011 series. Student talks that evening are listed sep...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Apr 20, 2011
Precepts 3 - 2011 Student Talk Only
Students Florence Caplow and Laura Stillman give talks on their personal practice with precepts.
Florence Caplow Laura Stillman
Apr 20, 2011
Precepts 4 - 2011 Norman Fischer only
Norman gives the fourth and last talk on Precepts for the Dharma Seminar 2011 series. Student talks this evening are...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jun 02, 2011
Precepts 4 - 2011 Student Talk Only
Students James Flaherty and Joan Fenold give talks on their personal practice with precepts.
James Flaherty Joan Fenold
Apr 27, 2011
Mahaparinirvana Sutta 1
Norman gives the first talk on the Mahaparinirvana Sutta as found in The Long Discourses of the Buddha - Translation ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 04, 2012
Living by Vow - Talk 1
Norman gives his first talk on Living by Vow to the Dharma Seminar based on the book of the same name by Shohaku Okum...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Feb 06, 2013

Texts

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
Zen Precepts (Talk 1 of 3)
General description of the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts and a Bodhisattva. Description of the three levels of precept...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Zen Precepts (Talk 2 of 3)
Discussion of the first three precepts: I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Zen Precepts (Talk 3 of 3)
Norman discusses his relationship with his teacher, Sojun Weitsman. The remaining thirteen precepts are discussed: th...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 31, 2000
Basic Zen - Ethics (Talk 2 of 2)
Norman talks about Right Action from the Zen perspective.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 01, 2001
Basic Zen - Ethics (Talk 1 of 2)
Norman talks about Right Action from the Zen perspective.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 01, 2001
On Being a Priest
Talk on Being A Priest given at Empty Nest Zendo retreat for Everyday Zen priests and lay entrusted.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 23, 2008
3 Versions of the Zen Precepts
Here are three versions of the Bodhisattva precepts. The first is Norman Fischer's version of the 16 precepts, from h...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jun 03, 2009
History of Precepts 1
First of two part series on the History of Precepts. Norman first gave this talk at the Dharma Seminar on April 1, b...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Apr 15, 2009
History of Precepts 2
Second in a two part series of the History of Precepts.
Norman Fischer
Apr 22, 2009
Jukai
Norman speaks on the Precepts and Jukai (lay ordination) ceremony at the Mar de Jade, Mexico, Sesshin
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Apr 15, 2010
Sex, Lies, and Buddhism
A forum with Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Lama Palden Drolma and Andrew Olendzki, published in Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 20, 2010
Mahaparinirvana Sutta 1
Norman gives the first talk on the Mahaparinirvana Sutta as found in The Long Discourses of the Buddha - Translation ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 04, 2012