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3 Versions of the Zen Precepts

By Zoketsu Norman Fischer | Jun 03, 2009
In topic: Buddhist Ethics / Precepts
Here are three versions of the Bodhisattva precepts. The first is Norman Fischer's version of the 16 precepts, from his book, "Taking our Places: A Buddhist Guide to Truly Growing Up." The second version is the 16 precepts from the Everyday Zen Wedding Ceremony. The third is a version of the 10 grave precepts, with commentary by Bodhidharma & Dogen Zenji.

 

 

THE SIXTEEN BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS

Norman Fischer's version


The Threefold Refuge

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.



THE SIXTEEN BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS

- from the Everyday Zen Wedding Ceremony


The Threefold Refuge


I take refuge in Buddha.

This is the stillness, the clarity, the kindness that is the real nature of all life.


I take refuge in Dharma.

This is the way of life, day by day, that accords with Buddha.


I take refuge in Sangha.

This is the community of all being that is our refuge and support.

 

The Three Boundless Precepts


I vow to refrain from all action that increases suffering.

This is the intention to always practice a wise restraint.


I vow to perform all action that increases awareness.

This is the intention to actually do what occurs to us that can make ourselves and others truly happy.


I vow to live for and with all being.

This is the intention to always try to see everything with an unselfish eye.

 

The Ten Clear Mind Precepts


A follower of the way cultivates and encourages life, does not take life.

One who is committed to following the way lives with awareness.  Such a person can never knowingly harm a single thing.


A follower of the way honors the gift not yet given, does not steal.

Everything belongs to us and nothing belongs to us; but we don't take anything unless it is offerred to us as a gift.


A follower of the way remains faithful in relationships, does not misuse sexuality.

There is no way to remain deeply in relationship without complete honesty and openness.


A follower of the way communicates truth, does not lie.

Our speech must be true and accurate and kind.  We make and destroy worlds with our words.


A follower of the way polishes clarity, dispelling delusion, does not intoxicate self or others.

To share spirits moderately with friends may be all right; but intoxication as a way to relax or cope, whether it be with substances or doctrines, creates confusion and unhappiness.


A follower of the way creates wisdom from ignorance, does not criticize others mindlessly.

This precept is very important in marriage. We make an effort to be thoughtful and caring in our speech about others.  In this way we can love and be loved.


A follower of the way maintains modesty, praises others, not self.

This precept is also very important in marriage.  Please let each other know, frequently, how much you love and respect each other and why.


A follower of the way shares freely, is not stingy.

Since there is nothing we can possess, especially others, we approach the world and each other with open hands.


A follower of the way dwells in equanimity, does not harbor anger or ill will.

When there is anger, see it as anger; respect it but don't keep it close; try as much as you can to let it go.  Try not to let a single day end with ill will between you.  There is no justification for resentment. Remember this.


A follower of the way respects the Buddha, unfolds the Dharma, nourishes the Sangha.

With the taking of these precepts we express our vow to live a life that is in accord with the sacred nature of all that is.

 

 

 

THE 10 GRAVE PRECEPTS

with commentary by Bodhidharma & Dogen Zenji

 

The First Grave Precept:  Not Killing


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the everlasting Dharma, not giving rise to concepts of killing is called the Precept of Not Killing."


Dogen Zenji said, "The Buddha-seed grows in accordance with not taking life.  Transmit the life of Buddha's wisdom and do not kill."

 

The Second Grave Precept:  Not Stealing


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of  the unattainable Dharma, not having thoughts of gaining is called the Precept of Not Stealing."


Dogen Zenji said, "The self and the things of the world are just as they are.  The gate of emancipation is open."

 

The Third Grave Precept:  Not Misusing Sex


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the ungilded Dharma, not creating a veneer of attachment is called the Precept of Not Misusing Sex."


Dogen Zenji said, "The Three Wheels are pure and clear.  When you have nothing to desire, you follow the way of all Buddhas."

 

The Fourth Grave Precept:  Not Lying


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the inexplicable Dharma, not preaching a single word is called the Precept of Not Lying."


Dogen Zenji said, "The Dharma wheel turns from the beginning.  There is neither surplus nor lack.  The whole universe is moistened with nectar, and the truth is ready to harvest."

 

The Fifth Grave Precept:  Not Giving or Taking Drugs


Bodhidharma said "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the intrinsically pure Dharma, not giving rise to delusions is called the Precept of Not Giving or Taking Drugs."


Dogen Zenji said, "Drugs are not brought in yet.  Don't let them invade.  That is the great light."

 

The Sixth Grave Precept:  Not Discussing Faults of Others


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the flawless Dharma, not expounding upon error is called the Precept of Not Speaking of Faults of Others."


Dogen Zenji said, "In the Buddha Dharma, there is one path, one Dharma, one realization, one practice.  Don't permit fault-finding.  Don't permit haphazard talk."

 

The Seventh Grave Precept:  Not Praising Yourself While Abusing Others


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the equitable Dharma, not dwelling upon I against you is called the Precept of Not Praising Yourself While Abusing Others."


Dogen Zenji said, "Buddhas and Ancestral Teachers realize the empty sky and the great earth.  When they manifest the noble body, there is neither inside nor outside in emptiness.  When they manifest the Dharma body there is not even a bit of earth on the ground."

 

The Eighth Grave Precept:  Not Sparing the Dharma Assets


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the genuine,

all-pervading Dharma, not being stingy about a single thing is called the

Precept of Not Sparing the Dharma Assets."


Dogen Zenji said, "One phrase, one verse - that is the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses; one dharma, one realization - that is all Buddhas and Ancestral Teachers.  Therefore, from the beginning, there has been no stinginess at all."

 

The Ninth Grave Precept:  Not Indulging in Anger


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the selfless Dharma, not contriving reality for the self is called the Precept of Not Indulging in Anger."


Dogen Zenji said, "Not advancing, not retreating, not real, not empty.  There is an ocean of bright clouds.  There is an ocean of solemn clouds."

 

The Tenth Grave Precept:  Not Defaming the Three Treasures


Bodhidharma said, "Self-nature is subtle and mysterious.  In the realm of the One, not holding dualistic concepts of ordinary beings and sages is called the Precept of Not Defaming the Three Treasures."


Dogen Zenji said, "The teisho of the actual body is the harbor and the weir.  This is the most important thing in the world. Its virtue finds its home in the ocean of essential nature.  It is beyond explanation.  We just accept it with respect and gratitude."