on Kumarajiva’s text
that time, Vairocana Buddha began speaking in general about the Mind-Ground for
the benefit of the Great Assembly. What
he said represents but an infinitesimal part, the tip of a hair, of His
innumerable teachings -- as numerous as the grains of sand in the river Ganges.
concluded: "The Mind-Ground has been explained, is being explained and will
be explained by all the Buddhas -- past, present, and future.
It is also the Dharma Door (cultivation method) that all the Bodhisattvas
of the past, present, and future have studied, are studying and will
have cultivated this Mind-Ground Dharma Door for hundreds of eons.
My name is Vairocana. I
request all Buddhas to transmit my words to all sentient beings, so as to open
this path of cultivation to all."
that time, from his Lion's Throne in the Lotus Treasury World, Vairocana Buddha
emitted rays of light. A voice
among the rays is heard telling the Buddhas seated on thousands of lotus petals,
"You should practice and uphold the Mind-Ground Dharma Door and transmit it
to the innumerable Shakyamuni Buddhas, (10) one after another, as
well as to all sentient beings. Everyone should uphold, read, recite, and single
mindedly put its teachings into practice."
receiving the Dharma-door of the Mind-Ground, the Buddhas seated atop the
thousands of lotus flowers along with the innumerable Shakyamuni Buddhas all
arose from their Lion seats, their bodies emitting innumerable rays of light.
In each of these rays appeared innumerable Buddhas who simultaneously
made offerings of green, yellow, red and white celestial flowers to Vairocana
Buddha. They then slowly took their
Buddhas then disappeared from the Lotus Treasury World, entered the
Essence-Nature Empty Space Floral Brilliance Samadhi, and returned to their
former places under the Bodhi-tree in this world of Jambudvipa. They then arose
from their samádhi, sat on their Diamond Thrones in Jambudvipa and the Heaven of
the Four Kings, and preached the Dharma of the "Ten Oceans of Worlds."
they ascended to Lord Shakyas palace and expounded the "Ten
Dwellings," proceeded to the Suyama Heaven and taught the "Ten
Practices," proceeded further to the Fourth Heaven and taught the "Ten
Dedications," proceeded further to the Transformation of Bliss Heaven and
taught the "Ten Dhyana Samádhi," proceeded further to the Heaven of
Comfort From Others' Emanations and taught the "Ten Grounds,"
proceeded further to the First Dhyana Heaven and taught the "Ten Vajra
Stages," proceeded further to the Second Dhyana Heaven and taught the
"Ten Patience’s," and proceeded further to the Third Dhyana Heaven
and taught the "Ten Vows." Finally, in the Fourth Dhyana Heaven, at
Lord Brahma's Palace, they taught the "Mind-Ground Dharma-Door"
chapter, which Vairocana Buddha, in eons past, expounded in the Lotus Treasury
World (the cosmos).
the other innumerable transformation Shakyamuni Buddhas did likewise in their
respective worlds as the chapter "Auspicious Kalpa" has explained.
that time, Shakyamuni Buddha, after first appearing in the Lotus Treasury World,
proceeded to the east and appeared in the Heavenly King's palace to teach the
"Demon Transforming Sutra.” He
then descended to Jambudvipa to be born in Kapilavastu -- his name being
Siddhartha and his father's name Shuddhodana. His mother was Queen Maya.
He achieved Enlightenment at the age of thirty, after seven years of
cultivation, under the name of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Buddha spoke in ten assemblies from the Diamond Seat at Bodhgaya to the palace
that time, he contemplated the wonderful Jewel Net (12) hung in Lord
Brahma's palace and preached the Brahma Net Sutra for the Great Assembly.
innumerable worlds in the cosmos are like the eyes of the net.
Each and every world is different, its variety infinite.
So too are the Dharma Doors (methods of cultivation) taught by the
have come to this world eight thousand times.
Based in this Saha World, seated upon the Jeweled Diamond Seat in
Bodhgaya and all the way up to the palace of the Brahma King, I have spoken in
general about the Mind-Ground Dharma Door for the benefit of the great
I descended from the Brahma King's palace to Jambudvipa, the Human World.
I have preached the Diamond Illuminated Jeweled Precepts (the Bodhisattva
precepts) from beneath the Bodhi-tree for the sake of all sentient beings on
earth, however dull and ignorant they may be.
Vairocana Buddha customarily recited these precepts when he first
developed the Bodhi Mind in the causal stages.
They are precisely the original source of all Buddhas and all
Bodhisattvas as well as the seed of the Buddha Nature.
sentient beings possess this Buddha Nature. All with consciousness, form, and
mind are encompassed by the precepts of the Buddha Nature.
Sentient beings possess the correct cause of the Buddha Nature and
therefore they will assuredly attain the ever-present Dharma Body.
this reason, the ten Pratimoksa (Bodhisattva) precepts came into being in this
world. These precepts belong to the
True Dharma. They are received and upheld in utmost reverence by all sentient
beings of the Three Periods of Time -- past, present, and future.
again, I shall preach for the Great Assembly the chapter on the Inexhaustible
Precept Treasury. These are the
precepts of all sentient beings, the source of the pure Self-Nature."
I, Vairocana Buddha
sitting atop a lotus pedestal.
a thousand flowers surrounding me
a thousand Shakyamuni Buddhas.
flower supports a hundred million worlds.
each world a Shakyamuni Buddha appears.
are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree,
simultaneously attain Buddhahood.
these innumerable Buddhas
Vairocana as their original body.
countless Shakyamuni Buddhas
bring followers along -- as numerous as
all proceed to my lotus pedestal
listen to the Buddha's precepts.
now preach the Dharma, this exquisite nectar.
the countless Buddhas return to
under a Bodhi-tree, proclaim these
and minor precepts
Vairocana, the Original Buddha.
precepts are like the radiant sun and moon,
a shining necklace of gems,
as numerous as motes of dust
them and attain Buddhahood.
precepts are recited by Vairocana,
precepts I recite as well.
reverently accept and uphold them.
once you have done so,
and teach them to sentient beings. (14)
listen attentively as I recite
Bodhisattva Pratimoksa -- the source of all precepts in the Buddha Dharma.
of you in the Great Assembly should firmly believe
you are the Buddhas of the future,
I am a Buddha already accomplished.
you should have such faith at all times,
this precept code is fulfilled. (15)
beings with resolve
accept and uphold the Buddha's precepts.
beings on receiving them
forthwith the ranks of Buddhas.
are in essence equal to the Buddhas,
are the true offspring of the Buddhas.
with utmost reverence
I proclaim the Bodhisattva Moral Code.
The Buddha Reciting the
that time, when Shakyamuni Buddha first attained Supreme Enlightenment under the
Bodhi tree, he explained the Bodhisattva precepts.
The Buddha taught filial piety toward one's parents, (16)
Elder Masters and the Triple Jewel. Filial
piety and obedience, he said, are the Ultimate Path [to Buddhahood]. (17)
Filial piety is called the precepts -- and it means restraint and cessation.
Buddha then emitted limitless lights from his mouth. Thereupon, the whole Great Assembly, consisting of
innumerable Bodhisattvas, the gods of the eighteen Brahma Heavens, the gods of
the six Desire Heavens, and the rulers of the sixteen great kingdoms (19)
all joined their palms and listened single mindedly to the Buddha recite the
Buddha then said to the Bodhisattvas: Twice a month I recite the precepts
observed by all Buddhas. All
Bodhisattvas, from those who have just developed the Bodhi Mind to the
Bodhisattvas of the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, and
the Ten Grounds also recite them. Therefore,
this precept-light shines forth from my mouth.
It does not arise without a cause. This
light is neither blue, yellow, red, white, nor black. It is neither form, nor
thought. It is neither existent nor nonexistent, neither cause nor effect.
(20) This precept-light is precisely the original source of all
Buddhas and all members of this Great Assembly. Therefore all you disciples of the Buddha should receive and
observe, read, recite and study these precepts with utmost attention.
of the Buddha, listen attentively! Whoever
can understand and accept a Dharma Master's words of transmission can receive
the Bodhisattva precepts (21) and be called foremost in purity.
(22) This is true whether that person is a king, a prince, an
official, a monk, a nun, or a god of the eighteen Brahma Heavens, a god of the
six Desire Heavens, or a human, a eunuch, a libertine, a prostitute, a slave, or
a member of the Eight Divisions of Divinities, a Vajra spirit, an animal, or
even a transformation-being. (23)
The Ten Major Precepts
Buddhas said to his disciples, "There are ten major Bodhisattva precepts.
If one receives the precepts but fails to recite them, he is not a
Bodhisattva, nor is he a seed of Buddhahood.
I, too, recite these precepts.
Bodhisattvas have studied them in the past, will study in the future, and are
studying them now. I have explained
the main characteristics of the Bodhisattva precepts. You should study and observe them with all your heart."
First Major Precept
disciple of the Buddha shall not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by
expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through
incantation or deviant mantras. He
must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of killing, and shall
not intentionally kill any living creature.
a Buddha's disciple, he ought to nurture a mind of compassion and filial piety,
always devising expedient means to rescue and protect all beings. If instead, he
fails to restrain himself and kills sentient beings without mercy, he commits a
Parajika (major) offense. (25)
Second Major Precept
disciple of the Buddha must not himself steal or encourage others to steal,
steal by expedient means, and steal by means of incantation or deviant mantras.
He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of
stealing. No valuables or possessions, even those belonging to ghosts
and spirits or thieves and robbers, be they as small as a needle or blade of
grass, may be stolen.
a Buddha's disciple, he ought to have a mind of mercy, compassion, and filial
piety -- always helping people earn merits and achieve happiness.
If instead, he steals the possessions of others, he commits a Parajika
Third Major Precept
disciple of the Buddha must not engage in licentious acts or encourage others to
do so. [As a monk] he should not
have sexual relations with any female -- be she a human, animal, deity, or
spirit -- nor create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of such
misconduct. Indeed, he must not
engage in improper sexual conduct with anyone.
Buddha's disciple ought to have a mind of filial piety -- rescuing all sentient
beings and instructing them in the Dharma of purity and chastity.
If instead, he lacks compassion and encourages others to engage in sexual
relations promiscuously, including with animals and even their mothers,
daughters, sisters, or other close relatives, he commits a Parajika offense.
Fourth Major Precept
Lying and False Speech
disciple of the Buddha must not himself use false words and speech, or encourage
others to lie or lie by expedient means. He should not involve himself in the causes, conditions,
methods, or karma of lying, saying that he has seen what he has not seen or
vice-versa, or lying implicitly through physical or mental means.
a Buddha's disciple, he ought to maintain Right Speech and Right Views always,
and lead all others to maintain them as well.
If instead, he causes wrong speech, wrong views, or evil karma in others,
he commits a Parajika offense.
Fifth Major Precept
Selling Alcoholic Beverages
disciple of the Buddha must not trade in alcoholic beverages or encourage others
to do so. He should not create the
causes, conditions, methods, or karma of selling any intoxicant whatsoever, for
intoxicants are the causes and conditions of all kinds of offenses.
a Buddha's disciple, he ought to help all sentient beings achieve clear wisdom.
If instead, he causes them to have upside-down, topsy-turvy thinking, he
commits a Parajika offense. (30)
Sixth Major Precept
Broadcasting the Faults of the Assembly
disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of
Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns
-- nor encourage others to do so. He
must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the
offenses of the assembly.
a Buddha's disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists or followers
of the Two Vehicles speak of practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the
precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a
compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana.
instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he
commits a Parajika offense. (31)
Seventh Major Precept
Praising Oneself and Disparaging Others
disciple of the Buddha shall not praise himself and speak ill of others, or
encourage others to do so. He must
not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and
a disciple of the Buddha, he should be willing to stand in for all sentient
beings and endure humiliation and slander -- accepting blame and letting
sentient beings have all the glory. If
instead, he displays his own virtues and conceals the good points of others,
thus causing them to suffer slander, he commits a Parajika offense.
Eighth Major Precept
Stinginess and Abuse
disciple of the Buddha must not be stingy or encourage others to be stingy.
He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of
stinginess. As a Bodhisattva, whenever a destitute person comes for help,
he should give that person what he needs. If
instead, out of anger and resentment, (33) he denies all assistance
-- refusing to help with even a penny, a needle, a blade of grass, even a single
sentence or verse or a phrase of Dharma, but instead scolds and abuses that
person -- he commits a Parajika offense.
Ninth Major Precept
Anger and Resentment
disciple of the Buddha shall not harbor anger or encourage others to be angry.
He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of anger.
a disciple of the Buddha, he ought to be compassionate and filial, helping all
sentient beings develop the good roots of non-contention.
If instead, he insults and abuses sentient beings, or even transformation
beings [such as deities and spirits], with harsh words, hitting them with his
fists or feet, or attacking them with a knife or club -- or harbors grudges even
when the victim confesses his mistakes and humbly seeks forgiveness in a soft,
conciliatory voice -- the disciple commits a Parajika offense.
Tenth Major Precept
Slandering the Triple Jewel
Buddha's disciple shall not himself speak ill of the Triple Jewel or encourage
others to do so. He must not create
the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of slander. If a disciple hears but a single word of slander against the
Buddha from externalists or evil beings, he experiences a pain similar to that
of three hundred spears piercing his heart. How then could he possibly slander
the Triple Jewel himself?
if a disciple lacks faith and filial piety towards the Triple Jewel, and even
assists evil persons or those of aberrant views to slander the Triple Jewel, he
commits a Parajika offense. (35)
Conclusion: The Ten Major Precepts
a disciple of the Buddha, you should study these ten Parajika (major) precepts
and not break any one of them in even the slightest way -- much less break all
of them! Anyone guilty of doing so cannot develop the Bodhi Mind in his current
life and will lose whatever high position he may have attained, be it that of an
emperor, Wheel-Turning King, Bhiksu, Bhiksunis -- as well as whatever level of
Bodhisattva hood he may have reached, whether the Ten Dwellings, the Ten
Practices, the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds -- and all the fruits of the
eternal Buddha Nature. He will lose all of those levels of attainment and
descend into the Three Evil Realms, unable to hear the words "parents"
or "Triple Jewel" for eons!
(36) Therefore, Buddha's disciples should avoid breaking any one of
these major precepts. (37) All
of you Bodhisattvas should study and observe the Ten Precepts, which have been
observed, are being observed, and will be observed by all Bodhisattvas. They
were explained in detail in the chapter, "The Eighty Thousand Rules of
The Forty-eight Secondary Precepts
the Buddha told the Bodhisattvas, "Now that I have explained the Ten Major
Precepts, I will speak about the forty-eight secondary precepts."
Disrespect toward Teachers and Friends
disciple of the Buddha who is destined to become an emperor, a Wheel-Turning
King. or high official should first receive the Bodhisattva precepts. He will
then be under the protection of all guardian deities and spirits, and the
Buddhas will be pleased. (39)
he has received the precepts, the disciple should develop a mind of filial piety
and respect. Whenever he meets an
Elder Master, a monk, or a fellow cultivator of like views and like conduct, he
should rise and greet him with respect. He
must then respectfully make offerings to the guest-monks, in accord with the
Dharma. (40) He should
be willing to pledge himself, his family, as well as his kingdom, cities,
jewels, and other possessions.
instead, he should develop conceit or arrogance, delusion or anger, refusing to
rise, greet guest-monks, and make offerings to them respectfully, in accordance
with the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.
On Consuming Alcoholic Beverages
disciple of the Buddha should not intentionally consume alcoholic beverages, as
they are the source of countless offenses. If he but offers a glass of wine to
another person, his retribution will be to have no hands for five hundred
lifetimes. (41) How
could he then consume liquor himself! Indeed, a Bodhisattva should not encourage
any person or any other sentient being to consume alcohol, much less take any
alcoholic beverages himself. (42)A
disciple should not drink any alcoholic beverages whatsoever.
If instead, he deliberately does so or encourages others to do so, he
commits a secondary offense.
On Eating Meat
disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat.
He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being.
The meat-eater forfeits the seed of Great Compassion, severs the seed of
the Buddha Nature, and causes [animals and transcendental] beings to avoid him.
Those who do so are guilty of countless offenses.
Therefore, Bodhisattvas should not eat the flesh of any sentient beings
whatsoever. If instead, he
deliberately eats meat, he commits a secondary offense.
On Five Pungent Herbs
disciple of the Buddha should not eat the five pungent herbs -- garlic, chives,
leeks, onions, and asafoetida. (44)
This is so even if they are added as flavoring to other main dishes.
(45) Hence, if he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary
On Not Teaching Repentance
a disciple of the Buddha should see any being violate the Five Precepts, the
Eight Precepts, the Ten Precepts, other prohibitions, or commit any of the Seven
Cardinal Sins or any offense which leads to the Eight Adversities -- any
violations of the precepts whatever -- he should counsel the offender to repent
and reform. (46)
if a Bodhisattva does not do so and furthermore continues to live together in
the assembly with the offender, share in the offerings of the laity, participate
in the same Uposatha ceremony (47) and recite the precepts -- while
failing to bring up that person's offense, enjoining him to repent -- the
disciple commits a secondary offense.
Failing to Request the Dharma or Make Offerings
an Elder Master, a Mahayana monk or fellow cultivator of like views and practice
should come from far away to the temple, residence, city or village of a
disciple of the Buddha, the disciple should respectfully welcome him and see him
off. He should minister to his needs at all times, though doing so may cost as
much as three taels of gold! Moreover, the disciple of the Buddha should
respectfully request the guest-master to preach the Dharma three times a day by
bowing to him without a single thought of resentment or weariness. (48)
He should be willing to sacrifice himself for the Dharma and never be lax
in requesting it.
he does not act in this manner, he commits a secondary offense.
Failing to Attend Dharma Lectures
Bodhisattva disciple who is new to the Order should take copies of the
appropriate sutras or precept codes to any place where such sutras,
commentaries, or moral codes are being explained, to listen, study, and inquire
about the Dharma. He should go
anywhere, be it in a house, beneath a tree, in a temple, in the forests or
mountains, or elsewhere. If he
fails to do so, he commits a secondary offense.
On Turning Away from the Mahayana
a disciple of the Buddha disavows the eternal Mahayana sutras and moral codes,
declaring that they were not actually taught by the Buddha, and instead follows
and observes those of the Two Vehicles and deluded externalists, he commits a
secondary offense. (50)
On Failure to Care for the Sick
a disciple of the Buddha should see anyone who is sick, he should wholeheartedly
provide for that person's needs just as he would for a Buddha.
Of the eight Fields of Blessings, looking after the sick is the most
important. A Buddha's disciple
should take care of his father, mother, Dharma teacher, or disciple --
regardless of whether the latter are disabled or suffering from various kinds of
instead, he becomes angry and resentful and fails to do so, or refuses to rescue
the sick or disabled in temples, cities and towns, forests and mountains, or
along the road, he commits a secondary offense. (52)
On Storing Deadly Weapons
disciple of the Buddha should not store weapons such as knives, clubs, bows,
arrows, spears, axes or any other weapons, nor may he keep nets, traps or any
such devices used in destroying life. (53)
a disciple of the Buddha, he must not even avenge the death of his parents --
let alone kill sentient beings! (54)
He should not store any weapons or devices that can be used to kill sentient
beings. If he deliberately does so,
he commits a secondary offense.
first ten secondary precepts have just been described.
Disciples of the Buddha should study and respectfully observe them.
They are explained in detail in the six chapters [now lost] following
On Serving as an Emissary
disciple of the Buddha shall not, out of personal benefit or evil intentions,
act as a country's emissary to foster military confrontation and war causing the
slaughter of countless sentient beings. As a disciple of the Buddha, he should
not be involved in military affairs, or serve as a courier between armies, much
less act as a willing catalyst for war. If he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.
On Unlawful Business Undertakings
disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately trade in slaves or sell anyone into
servitude, nor should he trade in domestic animals, coffins, or wood for
caskets. He cannot engage in these
types of business himself much less encourage others to do so.
Otherwise, he commits a secondary offense.
On Slander and Libel
disciple of the Buddha must not, without cause and with evil intentions,
slander virtuous people, such as Elder Masters, monks or nuns, kings, princes or
other upright persons, saying that they have committed the Seven Cardinal Sins
or broken the Ten Major Bodhisattva Precepts. He should be compassionate and filial and treat all virtuous
people as if they were his father, mother, siblings, or other close relatives.
If instead, he slanders and harms them, he commits a secondary offense. (57)
On Starting Wildfires
disciple of the Buddha shall not, out of evil intentions, start wildfires to
clear forests and burn vegetation on mountains and plains, during the fourth to
the ninth months of the lunar year. Such fires [are particularly injurious to
animals during that period and may spread] to people's homes, towns and
villages, temples and monasteries, fields and groves, as well as the [unseen]
dwellings and possessions of deities and ghosts. He must not intentionally set
fire to any place where there is life. If
he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.
Teaching Non-Mahayana Dharma
disciple of the Buddha must teach one and all, from fellow disciples, relatives
and spiritual friends, to externalists and evil beings, how to receive and
observe the Mahayana sutras and moral codes.
He should teach the Mahayana principles to them and help them develop the
Bodhi Mind -- as well as the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices and the Ten
Dedications, explaining the order and function of each of these Thirty Minds
instead, the disciple, with evil, hateful intentions, perversely teaches them
the sutras and moral codes of the Two Vehicle tradition as well as the
commentaries of deluded externalists, he thereby commits a secondary offense.
Unsound Explanation of the Dharma
Bodhisattva Dharma Master must first, with a wholesome mind, study the
rules of deportment, as well as sutras and moral codes of the Mahayana
tradition, and understand their meanings in depth. Then, whenever novices come
from afar to seek instruction, he should explain, according to the Dharma, all
the Bodhisattva renunciation practices, such as burning one's body, arm, or
finger [as the ultimate act in the quest for Supreme Enlightenment].
If a novice is not prepared to follow these practices as an offering to
the Buddhas, he is not a Bodhisattva monk. Moreover, a Bodhisattva monk should
be willing to sacrifice his body and limbs for starving beasts and hungry ghosts
[as the ultimate act of compassion in rescuing sentient beings]. (60)
these explanations, the Bodhisattva Dharma Master should teach the novices in an
orderly way, to awaken their minds. If instead, for personal gain, he refuses to
teach or teaches in a confused manner, quoting passages out of order, and
context, or teaches in a manner that disparages the Triple Jewel, he commits a
On Exacting Donations
disciple of the Buddha must not, for the sake of food, drink, money, possessions
or fame, approach and befriend kings, princes, or high officials and [on the
strength of such relationships], exact money, goods or other advantages.
Nor may he encourage others to do so.
These actions are called untoward, excessive demands and lack compassion
and filial piety. Such a disciple
commits a secondary offense. (61)
On Serving as an Inadequate Master
disciple of the Buddha should study the Twelve Divisions of the Dharma and
recite the Bodhisattva precepts frequently.
He should strictly observe these precepts in the Six Periods of the day
and night and fully understand their meaning and principles as well as the
essence of their Buddha Nature. (62)
instead, the disciple of the Buddha fails to understand even a sentence or a
verse of the moral code or the causes and conditions related to the precepts,
but pretends to understand them, he is deceiving both himself and others.
A disciple, who understands nothing of the Dharma, yet acts as a teacher
transmitting the precepts, commits a secondary offense.
On Double-tongued Speech
disciple of the Buddha must not, with malicious intent gossip or spread rumors
and slander, create discord and disdain for virtuous people. [An example is]
disparaging a monk who observes the Bodhisattva precepts, as he [makes offerings
to the Buddhas by] holding an incense burner to his forehead. (63) A
disciple of the Buddha who does so commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Liberate Sentient Beings
disciple of the Buddha should have a mind of compassion and cultivate the
practice of liberating sentient beings. He must reflect thus: throughout the
eons of time, all male sentient beings have been my father, all female sentient
beings my mother. I was born of them. (64) If I now slaughter
them, I would be slaughtering my parents as well as eating flesh that was once my
own. This is so because all
elemental earth, water, fire, and air -- the four constituents of all life --
have previously been part of my body, part of my substance.
I must therefore always cultivate the practice of liberating sentient
beings and enjoin others to do likewise -- as sentient beings are forever
reborn, again and again, lifetime after lifetime.
If a Bodhisattva sees an animal on the verge of being killed, he must
devise a way to rescue and protect it, helping it to escape suffering and
death. The disciple should always
teach the Bodhisattva precepts to rescue and deliver sentient beings.
the day his father, mother, and siblings die, he should invite Dharma Masters to
explain the Bodhisattva sutras and precepts. This will generate merits and virtues and help the deceased
either to achieve rebirth in the Pure Lands and meet the Buddhas or to secure
rebirth in the human or celestial realms.
(66) If instead, a disciple fails to do so, he commits a secondary
should study and respectfully observe the above ten precepts. Each of them is
explained in detail in the chapter "Expiating Offenses."
On Violence and Vengefulness
disciple of the Buddha must not return anger for anger, blow for blow. He should
not seek revenge, even if his father, mother, siblings, or close relatives are
killed -- nor should he do so if the ruler or king of his country is murdered.
To take the life of one being in order to avenge the killing of another
is contrary to filial piety [as we are all related through the eons of birth and
he should not keep others in servitude, much less beat or abuse them, creating
evil karma of mind, speech and body day after day -- particularly the offenses
of speech. How much less should he
deliberately commit the Seven Cardinal Sins?
Therefore, if a Bodhisattva-monk lacks compassion and deliberately seeks
revenge, even for an injustice done to his close relatives, he commits a
Arrogance and Failure to Request the Dharma
disciple of the Buddha who has only recently left home and is still a novice in
the Dharma should not be conceited. He must not refuse instruction on the sutras
and moral codes from Dharma Masters on account of his own intelligence, worldly
learning, high position, advanced age, noble lineage, vast understanding, great
merits, extensive wealth and possessions, etc.
Although these Masters may be of humble birth, young in age, poor, or
suffering physical disabilities, they may still have genuine virtue and deep
understanding of sutras and moral codes.
novice Bodhisattva should not judge Dharma Masters on the basis of their family
background and refuse to seek instructions on the Mahayana truths from them.
If he does so, he commits a secondary offense.
On Teaching the Dharma Grudgingly
my passing, if a disciple should, with a wholesome mind, wish to receive the
Bodhisattva precepts, he may make a vow to do so before the images of Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas and practice repentance before these images for seven days.
If he then experiences a vision, he has received the precepts.
If he does not, he should continue doing so for fourteen days, twenty-one
days, or even a whole year, seeking to witness an auspicious sign.
After witnessing such a sign, he could, in front of images of Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas, formally receive the precepts.
If he has not witnessed such a sign, although he may have accepted the
precepts before the Buddha images, he has not actually received the precepts.
the witnessing of auspicious signs is not necessary if the disciple receives the
precepts directly from a Dharma Master who has himself received the precepts.
Why is this so? It is
because this is a case of transmission from Master to Master and therefore all
that is required is a mind of utter sincerity and respect on the part of the
within a radius of some three hundred fifty miles, a disciple cannot find a
Master capable of conferring the Bodhisattva precepts, he may seek to receive
them in front of Buddha or Bodhisattva images.
However, he must witness an auspicious sign.
a Dharma Master, on account of his extensive knowledge of sutras and Mahayana
moral codes as well as his close relationship with kings, princes, and high
officials, refuses to give appropriate answers to student-Bodhisattvas seeking
the meaning of sutras and moral codes, or does so grudgingly, with resentment
and arrogance, he commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Practice Mahayana Teachings
a disciple of the Buddha fails to study Mahayana sutras and moral codes
assiduously and cultivate correct views, correct nature and the correct Dharma
Body, it is like abandoning the Seven Precious Jewels for [mere stones]: worldly
texts and the Two-Vehicle or externalist commentaries.
(69) To do so is to create the causes and conditions that obstruct
the Path to Enlightenment and cut himself off from his Buddha Nature. It is a
failure to follow the Bodhisattva path. If
a disciple intentionally acts in such a manner, he commits a secondary offense.
Unskilled Leadership of the Assembly
my passing, if a disciple should serve as an abbot, elder Dharma Master, Precept
Master, Meditation Master, or Guest Prefect, he must develop a compassionate
mind and peacefully settle differences within the Assembly -- skillfully
administering the resources of the Three Jewels, spending frugally and not
treating them as his own property. (70) If instead, he were to create disorder, provoke
quarrels and disputes, or squander the resources of the Assembly, he would
commit a secondary offense.
Accepting Personal Offerings
a disciple of the Buddha has settled down in a temple, if visiting Bodhisattva
Bhiksus should arrive at the temple precincts, the guest quarters established by
the king, or even the summer retreat quarters, or the quarters of the Great
Assembly, the disciple should welcome the visiting monks and see them off.
He should provide them with such essentials as food and drink, a place to
live, beds, chairs, and the like. If
the host does not have the necessary means, he should be willing to pawn himself
or cut off and sell his own flesh. (71)
there are meal offerings and ceremonies at a layman's home, visiting monks
should be given a fair share of the offerings. The abbot should send the monks,
whether residents or guests, to the donor's place in turn [according to their
sacerdotal age or merits and virtues].
(72) If only resident monks are allowed to accept invitations and
not visiting monks, the abbot is committing a grievous offense and is behaving
no differently than an animal. He
is unworthy of being a monk or a son of the Buddha, and is guilty of a secondary
Accepting Discriminatory Invitations
disciple of the Buddha must not accept personal invitations nor appropriate the
offerings for himself. Such
offerings rightly belong to the Sangha -- the whole community of monks and nuns
of the Ten Directions. To accept
personal offerings is to steal the possessions of the Sangha of the Ten
Directions. It is tantamount to
stealing what belongs to the Eight Fields of Blessings: Buddhas, Sages, Dharma
Masters, Precept Masters, monks/nuns, mothers, fathers, the sick.
Such a disciple commits a secondary offense.
Issuing Discriminatory Invitations
disciple of the Buddha, be he a Bodhisattva monk, lay Bodhisattva, or other
donor, should, when inviting monks or nuns to conduct a prayer session, come to
the temple and inform the monk in charge. The monk will then tell him:
"Inviting members of the Sangha according to the proper order is tantamount
to inviting the Arhats of the Ten Directions.
To offer a discriminatory special invitation to [such a worthy group as]
five hundred Arhats or Bodhisattva-monks will not generate as much merit as
inviting one ordinary monk, if it is his turn.”
is no provision in the teachings of the Seven Buddhas (75) for
discriminatory invitations. To do so is to follow externalist practices and to
contradict filial piety [toward all sentient beings]. If a disciple deliberately issues a discriminatory
invitation, he commits a secondary offense.
On Improper Livelihoods
disciple of the Buddha should not, for the sake of gain or with evil intentions,
engage in the business of prostitution, selling the wiles and charms of men and
women. (76) He must also
not cook for himself, milling and pounding grain.
Neither may he act as a fortune-teller predicting the gender of children,
reading dreams and the like. Nor shall he practice sorcery, work as a trainer of
falcons or hunting dogs, nor make a living concocting hundreds and thousands of
poisons from deadly snakes, insects, or from gold and silver.
Such occupations lack mercy, compassion, and filial piety [toward
sentient beings]. Therefore, if a
Bodhisattva intentionally engages in these occupations, he commits a secondary
On Handling Business Affairs for the Laity
disciple of the Buddha must not, with evil intentions, slander the Triple Jewel
while pretending to be their close adherent -- preaching the Truth of Emptiness
while his actions are in the realm of Existence. Furthermore, he must not handle
worldly affairs for the laity, acting as a go-between or matchmaker (77)
-- creating the karma of attachment. Moreover, during the six days of fasting
each month and the three months of fasting each year, (78) a disciple
should strictly observe all precepts, particularly against killing, stealing,
and the rules against breaking the fast. Otherwise, the disciple commits a secondary offense.
Bodhisattva should respectfully study and observe the ten preceding precepts.
They are explained in detail in the Chapter on "Prohibitions.”
Rescuing Clerics Along with Sacred Objects
my passing, in the evil periods that will follow, there will be externalists,
evil persons, thieves and robbers who steal and sell statues and paintings of
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and [those to whom respect is due such as] their parents. They
may even peddle copies of sutras and moral codes, or sell monks, nuns, or those
who follow the Bodhisattva Path or have developed the Bodhi Mind to serve as
retainers or servants to officials and others.
disciple of the Buddha, upon witnessing such pitiful events, must develop a mind
of compassion and find ways to rescue and protect all persons and valuables,
raising funds wherever he can for this purpose.
If a Bodhisattva does not act in this manner, he commits a secondary
On Harming Sentient Beings
disciple of the Buddha must not sell knives, clubs, bows, arrows, other
life-taking devices, nor keep altered scales or measuring devices.
He should not abuse his governmental position to confiscate people's
possessions, nor should he, with malice at heart, restrain or imprison others or
sabotage their success. (82)
In addition, he should not raise cats, dogs, foxes, pigs, and other such
animals. (83) If he intentionally does such things, he commits a
On Watching Improper Activities
disciple of the Buddha must not, with evil intentions, watch people
fighting, or the battling of armies, rebels, gangs, and the like.
(84) He should not listen to the sounds of conch shells, drums,
horns, guitars, flutes, lutes, songs or other music, nor should he be party to
any form of gambling, whether dice, checkers, or the like.
(85) Furthermore, he should not practice fortune telling or
divination nor should he be an accomplice to thieves and bandits.
He must not participate in any of these activities.
If instead, he intentionally does so, he commits a secondary offense.
Temporary Abandoning of the Bodhi Mind
disciple of the Buddha should observe the Bodhisattva precepts every day,
whether walking, standing, reclining, or seated -- reading and reciting them day
and night. He should be resolute in
keeping the precepts, as strong as a diamond, as desperate as a shipwrecked
person clinging to a small log while attempting to cross the ocean, or as
principled as the "Bhiksu bound by reeds".
(86) Furthermore, he should always have a wholesome faith in the
teachings of the Mahayana. Conscious
that sentient beings are Buddhas-to-be while the Buddhas are realized Buddhas,
he should develop the Bodhi Mind and maintain it in each and every thought,
without retrogression. (87)
a Bodhisattva has but a single thought in the direction of the Two Vehicles or
externalist teachings, he commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Make Great Vows
Bodhisattva must make many great vows -- to be filial to his parents and Dharma
teachers, to meet good spiritual advisors, (89) friends, and
colleagues who will keep teaching him the Mahayana sutras and moral codes as
well as the Stages of Bodhisattva Practice (the Ten Dwellings, the Ten
Practices, the Ten Dedications, and the Ten Grounds). He should further vow to
understand these teachings clearly so that he can practice according to the
Dharma while resolutely keeping the precepts of the Buddhas.
If necessary, he should lay down his life rather than abandon this
resolve for even a single moment. If
a Bodhisattva does not make such vows, he commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Make Resolutions
a Bodhisattva has made these Great Vows, he should strictly keep the precepts of
the Buddhas and make the following resolutions:
I would rather jump into a raging blaze, a deep abyss, or into a mountain of
knives, than engage in impure actions with any woman, thus violating the sutras
and moral codes of the Buddhas of the Three Periods of Time.
I would rather wrap myself a thousand times with a red-hot iron net, than let
this body, should it break the precepts, wear clothing provided by the faithful.
would rather swallow red hot iron pellets and drink molten iron for hundreds of
thousands of eons, than let this mouth, should it break the precepts, consume
food and drink provided by the faithful.
would rather lie on a bonfire or a burning iron net than let this body, should
it break the precepts, rest on bedding, blankets and mats supplied by the
would rather be impaled for eons by hundreds of spears, than let this body,
should it break the precepts, receive medications from the faithful.
would rather jump into a cauldron of boiling oil and roast for hundreds of
thousands of eons, than let this body, should it break the precepts, receive
shelter, groves, gardens, or fields from the faithful.
I would rather be pulverized from head to toe by an iron sledge hammer, than let
this body, should it break the precepts, accept respect and reverence from the
I would rather have both eyes blinded by hundreds of thousands of swords and
spears, rather than break the precepts by looking at beautiful forms. [In the
same vein, I shall keep my mind from being sullied by exquisite sounds,
fragrances, food and sensations.]
I further vow that all sentient beings will achieve Buddhahood. (91)
a disciple of the Buddha does not make the preceding great resolutions, he
commits a secondary offense.
Traveling in Dangerous Areas
a cleric], a disciple of the Buddha should engage in ascetic practices
twice each year. He should sit in
meditation, winter, and summer, and observe the summer retreat.
During those periods, he should always carry eighteen essentials such as
a willow branch (for a toothbrush), ash-water (for soap), the traditional three
clerical robes, an incense burner, a begging bowl, a sitting mat, a water
filter, bedding, copies of sutras and moral codes as well as statues of Buddhas
practicing austerities and when traveling, be it for thirty miles or three
hundred miles, a cleric should always have the eighteen essentials with him.
The two periods of austerities are from the 15th of the first lunar month
to the 15th of the third month, and from the 15th of the eighth lunar month to
the 15th of the tenth month. During
the periods of austerities, he requires these eighteen essentials just as a bird
needs its two wings.
each month, the novice Bodhisattva should attend the Uposattha ceremony and
recite the Ten Major and Forty-eight Secondary Precepts.
Such recitations should be done before images of the Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas. If only one person
attends the ceremony, then he should do the reciting.
If two, three, or even hundreds of thousands attend the ceremony, still
only one person should recite. Everyone
else should listen in silence. The
one reciting should sit on a higher level than the audience, and everyone should
be dressed in clerical robes. During
the summer retreat, each and every activity should be managed in accordance with
practicing the austerities, the Buddhist disciple should avoid dangerous areas,
unstable kingdoms, countries ruled by evil kings, precipitous terrains, remote
wildernesses, regions inhabited by bandits, thieves, or lions, tigers, wolves,
poisonous snakes, or areas subject to hurricanes, floods and fires.
The disciple should avoid all such dangerous areas when practicing the
austerities and also when observing the summer retreat.
(92) Otherwise, he commits a secondary offense.
Order of Seating Within the Assembly
disciple of the Buddha should sit in the proper order when in the Assembly.
Those who received the Bodhisattva precepts first sit first; those who
received the precepts afterwards should sit behind.
Whether old or young, a Bhiksu or Bhiksunis, a person of status, a king,
a prince, a eunuch, or a servant, etc., each should sit according to the order
in which he received the precepts. Disciples
of the Buddha should not be like externalists or deluded people who base their
order on age or sit without any order at all -- in barbarian fashion.
In my Dharma, the order of sitting is based on seniority of ordination.
if a Bodhisattva does not follow the order of sitting according to the Dharma,
he commits a secondary offense. (93)
Failure to Cultivate Merits and Wisdom
disciple of the Buddha should constantly counsel and teach all people to
establish monasteries, temples, and pagodas in mountains and forests, gardens
and fields. He should also
construct stupas for the Buddhas and buildings for winter and summer retreats.
All facilities required for the practice of the Dharma should be
a disciple of the Buddha should explain Mahayana sutras and the Bodhisattva
precepts to all sentient beings. In
times of sickness, national calamities, impending warfare or upon the death of
one's parents, brothers and sisters, Dharma Masters and Precept Masters, a
Bodhisattva should lecture and explain Mahayana sutras and the Bodhisattva
precepts weekly for up to seven weeks.
disciple should read, recite, and explain the Mahayana sutras and the
Bodhisattva precepts in all prayer gatherings, in his business undertakings and
during periods of calamity -- fire, flood, storms, ships lost at sea in
turbulent waters or stalked by demons ... In the same vein, he should do so in
order to transcend evil karma, the Three Evil Realms, the Eight Difficulties,
the Seven Cardinal Sins, all forms of imprisonment, or excessive sexual desire,
anger, delusion, and illness. (95)
a novice Bodhisattva fails to act as indicated, he commits a secondary offense.
Bodhisattva should study and respectfully observe the nine precepts just
mentioned above, as explained in the "Brahma Altar" chapter.
Discrimination in Conferring the Precepts
disciple of the Buddha should not be selective and show preference in conferring
the Bodhisattva precepts. Each and
every person can receive the precepts -- kings, princes, high officials,
Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, laymen, laywomen, libertines, prostitutes, the gods in the
eighteen Brahma Heavens or the six Desire Heavens, asexual persons, bisexual
persons, eunuchs, slaves, or demons and ghosts of all types. Buddhist disciples
should be instructed to wear robes and sleep on cloth of a neutral color, formed
by blending blue, yellow, red, black and purple dyes all together.
clothing of monks and nuns should, in all countries, be different from those
worn by ordinary persons. (96)
someone is allowed to receive the Bodhisattva precepts, he should be asked:
"have you committed any of the Cardinal Sins?” The Precept Master should not allow those who have committed
such sins to receive the precepts.
are the Seven Cardinal Sins: shedding the Buddha's blood, murdering an Arhat,
killing one's father, killing one's mother, murdering a Dharma Teacher,
murdering a Precept Master or disrupting the harmony of the Sangha.
for those who have committed the Cardinal Sins, everyone can receive the
Dharma rules of the Buddhist Order prohibit monks and nuns from bowing down
before rulers, parents, relatives, demons and ghosts.
who understands the explanations of the Precept Master can receive the
Bodhisattva precepts. Therefore, if
a person were to come from thirty to three hundred miles away seeking the Dharma
and the Precept Master, out of meanness and anger, does not promptly confer
these precepts, he commits a secondary offense. (97)
Teaching for the Sake of Profit
a disciple of the Buddha, when teaching others and developing their faith in the
Mahayana, should discover that a particular person wishes to receive the
Bodhisattva precepts, he should act as a teaching master and instruct that
person to seek out two Masters, a Dharma Master and a Precept Master.
two Masters should ask the Precept candidate whether he has committed any of the
Seven Cardinal Sins in this life. If
he has, he cannot receive the precepts. If not, he may receive the precepts.
he has broken any of the Ten Major Precepts, he should be instructed to
repent before the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
He should do so six times a day and recite the Ten Major and Forty-eight
Minor Precepts, paying respect with utter sincerity to the Buddhas of the Three
Periods of Time. He should continue
in this manner until he receives an auspicious response, which could occur after
seven days, fourteen days, twenty-one days, or even a year.
Examples of auspicious signs include: experiencing the Buddhas rub the
crown of one's head, or seeing lights, halos, flowers and other such rare
witnessing of an auspicious sign indicates that the candidate's karma has been
dissipated. Otherwise, although he
has repented, it was of no avail. He
still has not received the precepts. However,
the merits accrued will increase his chances of receiving the precepts in a
the case of a major Bodhisattva precept, if a candidate has violated any of the
Forty-eight Secondary Precepts, he can confess his infraction and sincerely
repent before Bodhisattva-monks or nuns. After
that, his offense will be eradicated.
officiating Master, however, must fully understand the Mahayana sutras and moral
codes, the secondary as well as the major Bodhisattva precepts, what constitutes
an offense and what does not, the truth of Primary Meaning, as well as the
various Bodhisattva cultivation stages -- the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices,
the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds, and Equal and Wonderful Enlightenment.
should also know the type and degree of contemplation required for entering and
exiting these stages and be familiar with the Ten Limbs of Enlightenment as well
as a variety of other contemplations.
he is not familiar with the above and, out of greed for fame, disciples, or
offerings, he makes a pretense of understanding the sutras and moral codes; he
is deceiving himself as well as others. Hence,
if he intentionally acts as Precept Master, transmitting the precepts to others,
he commits a secondary offense.
Reciting the Precepts to Evil Persons
disciple of the Buddha should not, with a greedy motive, expound the
great precepts of the Buddhas before those who have not received them,
externalists, or persons with heterodox views.
Except in the case of kings or supreme rulers, he may not expound the
precepts before any such person.
who hold heterodox views and do not accept the precepts of the Buddhas are
untamed in nature. They will not,
lifetime after lifetime, encounter the Triple Jewel. They are as mindless as trees and stones; they are no
different from wooden stumps. Hence,
if a disciple of the Buddha expounds the precepts of the Seven Buddhas before
such persons, he commits a secondary offense.
Thoughts of Violating the Precepts
a disciple of the Buddha joins the Order out of pure faith, receives the correct
precepts of the Buddhas, but then develops thoughts of violating the precepts,
he is unworthy of receiving any offerings from the faithful, unworthy of walking
on the ground of his motherland, unworthy of drinking its water.
thousand guardian spirits constantly block his way, calling him "Evil
thief!” These spirits always
follow him into people's homes, villages, and towns, sweeping away his very
footprints. Everyone curses such a disciple, calling him a "Thief within
the Dharma.” All sentient beings
avert their eyes, not wishing to see him.
disciple of the Buddha who breaks the precepts is no different from an animal or
a wooden stump. Hence, if a disciple intentionally violates the correct
precepts, he commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Honor the Sutras and Moral Codes
of the Buddha should always single mindedly receive, observe, read, and recite
the Mahayana sutras and moral codes. He
should copy the sutras and moral codes onto bark, paper, fine cloth, or bamboo
slats and not hesitate to use his own skin as paper, draw his own blood for ink
and his marrow for ink solvent, or split his bones for use as pens.
(100)He should use precious gems, priceless incense, flowers, and
other precious things to make and adorn covers and cases to store the sutras and
if he does not make offerings to the sutras and moral codes, in accordance with
the Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.
Failure to Teach Sentient Beings
disciple of the Buddha should develop a mind of Great Compassion.
Whenever he enters people's homes, villages, cities or towns, and sees
sentient beings, he should say aloud, "You sentient beings should all take
the Three Refuges and receive the Ten [Major Bodhisattva] Precepts.”
Should he come across cows, pigs, horses, sheep and other kinds of
animals, he should concentrate and say aloud, "You are now animals; you
should develop the Bodhi Mind.” A
Bodhisattva, wherever he goes, be it climbing a mountain, entering a forest,
crossing a river, or walking through a field should help all sentient beings
develop the Bodhi Mind. (101)
a disciple of the Buddha does not wholeheartedly teach and rescue sentient
beings in such a manner, he commits a secondary offense.
Preaching in an Inappropriate Manner
disciple of the Buddha should always have a mind of Great Compassion to teach
and transform sentient beings. Whether
visiting wealthy and aristocratic donors or addressing Dharma gatherings, he
should not remain standing while explaining the Dharma to laymen, but should
occupy a raised seat in front of the lay assembly.
Bhiksu serving as Dharma instructor must not be standing while lecturing to the
Fourfold Assembly. During such
lectures, the Dharma Master should sit on a raised seat amidst flowers and
incense, while the Fourfold Assembly must listen from lower seats.
The Assembly must respect and follow the Master like filial sons obeying
their parents or Brahmans worshipping fire.
If a Dharma Master does not follow these rules while preaching the
Dharma, he commits a secondary offense.
On Regulations Against the Dharma
disciple of the Buddha, who has accepted the precepts of the Buddhas with a
faithful mind, must not use his high official position (as a king, prince,
official, etc.) to undermine the moral code of the Buddhas.
He may not establish rules and regulations preventing the four kinds of
lay disciples from joining the Order and practicing the Way, nor may he prohibit
the making of Buddha or Bodhisattva images, statues and stupas, or the printing
and distribution of sutras and codes.
(103) Likewise, he must not establish rules and regulations placing
controls on the Fourfold Assembly. If
highly placed lay disciples engage in actions contrary to the Dharma, they are
no different from vassals in the service of [illegitimate] rulers.
Bodhisattva should rightfully receive respect and offerings from all.
If instead, he is forced to defer to officials, this is contrary to the
Dharma, contrary to the moral code.
if a king or official has received the Bodhisattva precepts with a wholesome
mind, he should avoid offenses that harm the Three Jewels.
If instead, he intentionally commits such acts, he is guilty of a
secondary offense. (104)
On Destroying the Dharma
disciple of the Buddha who becomes a monk with wholesome intentions must not,
for fame or profit, explain the precepts to kings or officials in such a way as
to cause monks, nuns or laymen who have received the Bodhisattva precepts to be
tied up, thrown into prison or forcefully conscripted.
If a Bodhisattva acts in such a manner, he is no different from a worm in
a lion's body, eating away at the lion's flesh.
This is not something a worm living outside the lion can do.
Likewise, only disciples of the Buddhas can bring down the Dharma -- no
externalist or demon can do so. (105)
who have received the precepts of the Buddha should protect and observe them
just as a mother would care for her only child or a filial son his parents.
They must not break the precepts.
a Bodhisattva hears externalists or evil-minded persons speak ill of, or
disparage, the precepts of the Buddhas, he should feel as though his heart were
pierced by three hundred spears, or his body stabbed with a thousand knives or
thrashed with a thousand clubs. He
would rather suffer in the hells himself for a hundred eons than hear evil
beings disparage the precepts of the Buddha.
How much worse it would be if the disciple were to break the precepts
himself or incite others to do so! This
is indeed an un-filial mind! Hence,
if he violates the precepts intentionally, he commits a secondary offense.
preceding nine precepts should be studied and respectfully observed with utmost
Buddha said, "All of you disciples! These are the Forty-eight Secondary
Precepts that you should observe. Bodhisattvas of the past have recited
them, those of the future will recite them, and those of the present are now
of the Buddha! You should all
listen! These Ten Major and
Forty-eight Secondary Precepts are recited by all Buddhas of the Three
Periods of Time -- past, present, and future.
I now recite them as well."
Buddha continued: "Everyone in the Assembly -- kings, princes, officials,
Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, laymen, laywomen and those who have received the Bodhisattva
precepts -- should receive and observe, read and recite, explain and copy these
precepts of the eternal Buddha Nature so that they can circulate without
interruption for the edification of all sentient beings.
They will then encounter the Buddhas and receive the teachings from each
one in succession. Lifetime after lifetime, they will escape the Three Evil
Paths and the Eight Difficulties and will always be reborn in the human and
have concluded a general explanation of the precepts of the Buddhas beneath this
Bodhi Tree. All in this Assembly
should single mindedly study the Pratimoksa precepts and joyfully observe them.
precepts are explained in detail in the exhortation section of the "Mark
less Celestial King" chapter.
that time, the Bodhisattvas of the Three Thousand World System (cosmos) sat
listening with utmost reverence to the Buddha reciting the precepts.
They then joyously received and observed them.
Buddha Shakyamuni finished explaining the Ten Inexhaustible Precepts of the
"Mind-Ground Dharma Door" chapter, (which Vairocana Buddha had
previously proclaimed in the Lotus Flower Treasury World), countless other
Shakyamuni Buddhas did the same.
Shakyamuni Buddha preached in ten different places, from the Mahesvara Heaven
Palace to the Bodhi Tree, for the benefit of countless Bodhisattvas and other
beings, all the countless Buddhas in the infinite lands of the Lotus Treasury
World did the same.
explained the Buddha's Mind Treasury (the Thirty Minds), Ground Treasury,
Precept Treasury, Infinite Actions and Vows Treasury, the Treasury of the
Ever-Present Buddha Nature as Cause and Effect of Buddhahood.
Thus, all the Buddhas completed their expositions of the countless Dharma
sentient beings throughout the billions of worlds gladly receive and observe
characteristics of the Mind-Ground are explained in greater detail in the
chapter "Seven Forms of Conduct of the Buddha Floral Brilliance King."
sages with great samádhi and wisdom
observe this teaching;
before reaching Buddhahood
are blessed with five benefits:
the Buddhas of the Ten Directions
keep them in mind and protect them.
at the time of death
hold correct views with a joyous mind.
wherever they are reborn,
Bodhisattvas are their friends. (106)
merits and virtues abound as
Paramita of Precepts is (107) accomplished.
in this life and in succeeding ones,
all precepts, they are filled with
Merits and wisdom.
Such disciples are sons of the Buddha.
people should ponder this well.
beings clinging to marks and self
obtain this teaching.
can followers of the Two Vehicles,
abiding in quietude,
Plant their seeds within it.
nurture the sprouts of Bodhi,
illuminate the world with wisdom,
should carefully observe
True Mark of all dharmas: (108)
born nor unborn,
eternal nor extinct,
the same nor different,
coming nor going.
that single minded state
disciple should diligently cultivate
adorn the Bodhisattva's practices and deeds
the teachings of study and non-study,
should not develop thoughts of discrimination.
is the Foremost Path --
known as Mahayana.
offenses of idle speculation and meaningless debate (109)
disappear at this juncture.
Buddha's omniscient wisdom
arises from this.
all disciples of the Buddha
develop great resolve,
strictly observe the Buddha's precepts
though they were brilliant gems.
Bodhisattvas of the past
studied these precepts;
of the future will also study them.
of the present study them as well.
is the path walked by the Buddhas,
praised by the Buddhas.
have now finished explaining the precepts,
body of immense merit and virtue.
now transfer them all to sentient beings;
they all attain Supreme Wisdom;
the sentient beings who hear this Dharma
Verses of Dedication
the Lotus Treasury World,
explained an infinitesimal part of the Mind-Ground Door,
it to the Shakyamuni’s: (110)
and minor precepts are clearly delineated,
sentient beings receive immense benefits.
to Vairocana Buddha,
of the Brahma Net.
9. The Brahma
Net Sutra was translated from a Sanskrit text.
A Tibetan translation is also extant, confirming the Indian origin of the
Sutra. Master Kumarajiva's
translation bureau was reportedly composed of some three thousand monks.
Net Sutra is "a two-fascicle sutra translated into Chinese in A.D. 406
by Kumarajiva of the Later Chin dynasty. According
to the preface written by his disciple Seng-chao, this text corresponds to the
tenth chapter of a much longer Sanskrit original consisting of 120 fascicles
comprising sixty-one chapters. The first fascicle ... expounds forty stages of Bodhisattva
practice ... The second sets forth ten major and forty-eight minor precepts.
This sutra was highly valued in China, [Korea, Vietnam] and Japan as a
work detailing precepts for Bodhisattvas, and many commentaries were written on
it" (A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, p. 30).
Please note that the
Mahayana Brahma Net Sutra, (and the Bodhisattva precepts contained
therein), is a different text from the sutra of the same name found
in the Digha Nikáya of the Pali (Theravada) canon.
Mahayana monks and nuns traditionally take these Bodhisattva precepts a
few days (or sometimes immediately) after they take their precepts of ordination
as a Bhiksu or Bhiksunis. The
Bodhisattva precepts are also given on these occasions to advanced laymen and
laywomen. Although the Brahma Net Sutra can be high in tone
and demanding of practitioners, readers should not be scared away or
discouraged. They should not,
however, expect to grasp the full significance of the injunctions without
developing the Bodhi Mind and engaging in serious practice.
The Sravaka (monks'
and nuns') precepts were established by the Buddha to correct problems as they
occurred. For example, during the alms rounds, young monks would receive less
food than older ones and so would sometimes go hungry.
Therefore, the Buddha established the rule that donations should be
pooled and shared equally among all monks.
The Bodhisattva precepts, on the other hand, are based on eternal truths
inherent in the Self-Nature (e.g., the precepts on generosity).
Thus, while the Sravaka precepts are practical rules, the Bodhisattva
precepts are independent of time and space, but part and parcel of the
Self-Nature -- the Mind.
10. In Mahayana
texts, the word "Shakyamuni" can be taken to mean a) a greatly
compassionate being and b) an ascetic who has calmed his mind. In the cosmos,
there are an infinite number of such sages -- an infinite number of Shakyamuni
Each time a Buddha
is about to teach the Mahayana Sutras, he first emits lights from various parts
of his body as an auspicious sign. This
is to help members of the assembly to develop faith and deep respect, thus
becoming more receptive to the teachings and receiving extra benefits.
Emitting light is thus an act of compassion of the Buddhas.
years of cultivation: this refers to the six years the future Shakyamuni
Buddha practiced alone (after discovering that the ascetic teachings he received
earlier were not leading to
Supreme Enlightenment), as well as the forty-nine days he meditated under the Bodhi tree.
Net (of Indra): one of the most beautiful and profound metaphors in the
Mahayana tradition. It is
associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra, with its conception of unity
and universal interdependence:
away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra (Brahma), there is a wonderful
net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it
stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the
artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each "eye" of the net,
and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in
number. There hang the jewels,
glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold.
If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look
closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected
all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number.
Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also
reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process
Hua-Yen [Avatamsaka] school has been fond of this image, mentioned many times in
its literature, because it symbolizes a cosmos in which there is an infinitely
repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos. This
relationship is said to be one of simultaneous mutual identity and mutual inter
causality (Francis Cook, Hua-Yen Buddhism,p.2).
have come to this world 8,000 times. The
Buddha has been among us countless times, in countless forms.
He knows our world, and we can rely on His teachings (cf. Lotus
disciples should transmit the Bodhisattva precepts to sentient beings.
There is no such requirement in any other set of precepts.
15. Important point:
if we truly believe that sentient beings are the Buddhas of the future, we would
never think of killing them, or harming them in any way.
Rather, we would have feelings of compassion toward all sentient beings,
without exception. This sense of
compassion is the very essence of the Bodhisattva precepts.
Therefore, the Brahma Net Sutra states: "If you should have
such faith/ then this precept code is fulfilled."
piety (filiality) toward one's parents means not only to avoid causing them
pain, but also to strive to make them happy.
To be filial, therefore, is to have compassion towards our parents.
"parents" in the Mahayana context does not mean one's parents in this
lifetime only but also throughout the eons of time. Through the eons
of rebirth, all men and women must have been our fathers or mothers at one time
or another. Thus, the word "parents" represents all sentient beings.
In other words,
to be filial toward one's parents means to have compassion for all sentient
beings. Thus, if a person is truly
filial to his parents, he is in effect observing all the Bodhisattva
precepts. This is because all these precepts have but one goal -- to nurture
compassion for all sentient beings by showing them the way to Enlightenment.
Path: The Path or Way to Buddhahood, not Arhat-ship (goal of the Two Vehicles
or Theravada) or the paths of gods and humans. For example, if one were to
donate ten thousand dollars to a temple, hoping to receive wealth in a future
lifetime or to obtain happiness, one would not be following the Ultimate Path.
On the other hand, transferring the merits one has accrued to all
sentient beings so that they, as well as our selves, may achieve Buddhahood is
the Ultimate Path.
and Cessation: The basic or Sravaka precepts taught by the Buddhas (i.e.,
the five lay precepts, the ten precepts of novice monks, or the 250 for Bhiksus)
all have an essentially negative tone. They are meant to prevent the
practitioner from committing offenses. The Bodhisattva precepts, on the other
hand, shift the emphasis toward the altruistic aspect: we should consider all
sentient beings as part of our family; we should be filial to them, have
compassion for them. Thus the Bodhisattva's precepts, unlike other precepts,
have two components: self-benefit and benefit to others, with the
emphasis on benefit to others.
19. There were 16
great kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent at the time of the Buddha.
20. In other words,
the Bodhisattva precepts are above differentiations, above idle speculation --
above human reasoning. Trying to understand the Bodhisattva precepts in
their totality with our limited mind is no different from viewing the
heavens through a child's telescope! It is for this reason that the editors have
relied on the commentaries of knowledgeable Dharma Masters in preparing these
21. The Sravaka
precepts (lay and Bhiksu/Bhiksunis precepts) are conferred only on able-bodied
persons in full possession of their mental and physical capacities. This is
because monks and nuns are the temporal representation of the Buddha on earth.
Joining the Order is like being selected as officers in the army, the
army of liberation.
Bodhisattvas take the ideal of benefiting sentient beings as their only goal.
Therefore, with a few specific exceptions, everyone can receive the precepts and
everyone can study and put them into practice. Please note in this connection
that for a Bodhisattva precept to be broken and either a Parajika (major) or
secondary offense created, several factors must come into play: a)
foundation, b) intention, c) action, d) result.
For example, in the
case of the precept against killing: a) the object has to be a sentient being
and the perpetrator aware of this fact; b) the aim must be to kill; c) an act of
violence must be perpetrated; d) the victim must actually die. However, even if
only one factor, intention (motivation) is involved, the Bodhisattva
still incurs some negative karma for having violated part of the precept. (The
importance of the mind is reflected in modern jurisprudence through the
distinction between manslaughter, attempted murders, murder in the first and
Knowledge as to when
and how a precept is violated would remove some of the fear and
reluctance that laypersons sometimes have with regard to taking the precepts.
22. Before they
receive the Bodhisattva precepts, sentient beings differ greatly in wisdom,
status, wealth, and so forth. However, once they receive the precepts, they have
joined the ranks of the Awakened, those "foremost in purity":
sentient beings receive the Bodhisattva precepts ...
At that time, they become "supreme vehicles of the Dharma", and are foremost in purity.
beings: refers to certain types of sentient beings, such as gods or dragons,
who can take the appearance of human beings for the purpose of, for example,
attending sermons or receiving the precepts (as such opportunities are not
necessarily available at all times in their respective realms). See also note
24. The mind is the
key factor in all Bodhisattva precepts. For example, Dr. J.J.M. de Groot, wrote
the following, with reference to Chinese Buddhist monks in the nineteenth
when they are away from their temples, the monks strictly abstain from
non-vegetarian food. In any case the temptation does not arise for them: after
following a vegetarian diet for a year or two, they develop an invincible
disgust for meat and fish. On several occasions, when the author of these lines
has had the opportunity to take his meals [in one of the huts reserved for lay
guests adjacent to the monastery where he was staying], he was visited by monks
curious to see how and what he ate. However, as soon as they smelled the odor of
his pork roast or his leg of lamb, they would dash out of the hut -- sick and
ready to throw up (Le Code du Mahayana en Chine, p. 103).
Killing by expedient means: refers to the means employed to facilitate the killing of a sentient being, such as pointing out the whereabouts of a chicken to others, cornering it, binding its feet, forcing its head onto the butcher block, etc.
offense. A major offense, which warrants expulsion from the Buddhist Order.
(In practice, the cleric is given the opportunity to repent and reform.)
beings, including slaughtering animals for food, is among the heaviest
transgressions in Buddhism. This is not only because such acts create untold
suffering but also because they cut short the lives of future Buddhas (as all
sentient beings have a common Buddha Nature). The injunction against all forms of
killing (including suicide), covering all sentient beings, is unique to
Buddhism. Jainism, for example, approves of the penance of death by
self-starvation, while Hindu ceremonies such as the Srauta rites
offering into the altar fires oblations of milk, butter, honey ... domestic
animals ..." (K. Crim, Dictionary of Religions, p. 369 and 790.)
There are important exceptions to this rule. A well-known recent example is the
self-immolation (suicide) of Master Thich Quang Duc in the early sixties to
protest the persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam. The Master, a recognized and
respected figure, killed himself not to escape personal suffering, but rather to
call attention to the plight of the population at large, bring a halt to the
persecutions and, in the good Mahayana tradition, save the perpetrators
themselves from major transgressions.
The first Sravaka
precept (the precepts of Bhiksus/ Bhiksunis) is not to indulge in sexual
relations, while the first Bodhisattva precept is not to kill. This is because
the Sravakas' main goal is to become Arhats and escape Birth and Death.
Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, take compassion as their main calling,
and killing is the very antithesis of compassion. Another explanation is that
the Sravaka precepts are specific to an audience and time. Thus, in the time of
the Buddha, when a Bhiksu/Bhiksunis committed a certain offense, the Buddha, in
response, instituted a certain precept or regulation. This is how the first
Bhiksu/Bhiksunis precept against sexual relations came into being. Bodhisattva
precepts, on the other hand, are universal in scope, beyond time, space, and
audience. They were promulgated
independently of specific offenses, to help the practitioner return to his
Self-Nature and achieve Buddhahood -- they are the precepts of the Mind.
26. The life of a
sentient being can be divided into two aspects: the internal, related to the
physical body, and the external, having to do with food, possessions, and the
like. The physical body is
sustained by food and other essentials. If
these essentials are stolen, life becomes very difficult. In extreme cases, stealing them is tantamount to taking a
person's very life. Therefore, the precept 'not to steal' is second in
importance only to the precept 'not to kill.' Please note, too, that in the
"Four Means of Salvation," charity is first and foremost.
These are the four means by which Bodhisattvas interact with society in
order to carry out their work. Charity, the giving of one's possessions to
benefit others, is the antithesis of stealing.
Stealing by expedient means: refers to such acts as hiding other people's possessions, etc. and then adopting an air of innocence, feigning ignorance as to what occurred.
27. According to the
commentaries, improper sexual behavior includes such actions as engaging in sex
at inappropriate times (in the daytime, on fasting or auspicious days) or in
inappropriate places (outside a couple's bedroom, for example).
28. Sexual relations
with any sentient being are strictly forbidden to monks and nuns.
The purpose is to sever attachments and cut off the very cause of Birth
and Death (see Charles Luk, tr., Surangama Sutra, p. 152 ff). See
note 77 and the following:
precept is placed third, indicating that it is not as heavy as the precepts
against killing and stealing. But if you seek to get out of the Triple Realm by
cultivating the Way, then sexual conduct is a factor that obstructs you even
more than killing or stealing. Sexual
conduct is... called "conduct which is not Brahma-like," because
Brahma means pure. It's not pristine, not pure. It's also called "impure conduct " because it is
the very root of Birth and Death. It's the source of revolving on the wheel of
rebirth. In the Shurangama Sutra it says: "All living beings are
sustained in their lives because of sexual desire." If they cut off sexual
desire, they can transcend revolving in samsára; they can leap out of Birth and
Death (Master Hsuan Hua).
Examples of physical means include nodding, shaking one's head, etc. An instance
of lying through mental means is when someone who has committed a misdeed
remains silent when asked. The most
serious example of false speech in Buddhism, constituting a major offense is to
claim to have achieved a level of attainment (Arhat-ship, for example) when one
has not in fact attained it. The
purpose of such a claim is, of course, to receive respect and offerings. Other
lies are considered secondary in importance.
alcoholic beverages is considered a major offense while consuming alcoholic
beverages is only a secondary one. (secondary precept No. 2). This is because
Bodhisattvas place compassion first and foremost and aim at benefiting others --
to sell liquor is to harm others, to consume liquor is to harm only oneself.
Why should we not consume alcoholic beverages?
Buddhism prohibits alcoholic beverages not to deny enjoyment of life, but
because alcohol clouds the mind and prevents one's innate wisdom from emerging.
Thus, to sell liquor goes against the Bodhisattva's compassionate goal --
to help sentient beings develop wisdom and achieve Buddhahood.
Bodhisattva's aim is to benefit sentient beings.
Therefore, when someone commits an offense, the Bodhisattva does not
advertise it but patiently finds ways to counsel him. Furthermore, a Bodhisattva should mention the good points of
others so as to encourage them on the right path and help them develop their
the Lotus Sutra relates the story of a Bodhisattva named "Never
Despise." Whenever he encountered a layman or cleric, he would approach
him, bow down to him, and say aloud, "I dare not look down on you because
you will become a Buddha in the future.”
This declaration angered some persons, who would insult and beat him.
In response, Never Despise would simply run far away and repeat, "I
dare not look down on you because you will become a Buddha.”
Why did the Bodhisattva Never Despise act that way?
It was because he cultivated the practice of seeing everything with eyes
of equality, of respecting all sentient beings equally, as they all have the
Buddha Nature and are all future Buddhas. Another
explanation could be that many cultivators cannot conceive of themselves as
future Buddhas. The Bodhisattva Never Despise was raising their sights, urging
them to strive for the full Enlightenment of Buddhahood.
32. "One can
say that the habit of praising oneself and looking down on others is common to
most people. That is why wherever we go, if we do not hear a person praise
himself, we can hear him speak ill of others. Seldom do we hear anyone speak
about his own shortcomings while praising the good points of others.
That is why, since ancient times, it has never been easy to create an
atmosphere of non-contention and happiness between individuals on this earth.
If people got into the habit of "returning the light and looking
within", aware every minute, every hour that they still have many
shortcomings, while others have many good qualities, there would never be
self-congratulation or criticism of others. This is particularly true in the
case of Bodhisattvas, who should always admit their own mistakes and never
entertain the thought of hiding them. If
they were to hide their mistakes, those mistakes would not only not disappear,
they would, on the contrary increase in intensity until in time they would
control everything. By then, to
extinguish them would be impossible. Moreover, not only should Bodhisattvas not
hide their shortcomings, they should not boast of their achievements either. To do so would lessen the value of these achievements until
in time they would disappear entirely. Then,
even if they wanted to boast, they could no longer do so." (Master Yen-p'ei)
oneself and speak ill of others necessarily makes other people suffer.
Not only that, such action tends to raise the ego -- the very opposite of
the goal of cultivation. Furthermore,
in the Avatamsaka Sutra (chapter 49), sentient beings are compared
to the roots of a tree growing in the rocks and sand of the barren wilderness,
while the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are the flowers and fruits. Therefore,
Bodhisattvas need sentient beings. How can they go about criticizing them,
unless it is for the purpose of helping them correct their mistakes?" (Rev.
33. The Buddhist
disciple becomes angry and loses his temper because the other party keeps asking
34. This ninth
precept includes two parts: (1) being angry and (2) harboring grudges.
This precept, like others, takes compassion as its cornerstone.
Once anger arises, all compassion is lost.
The Bodhisattva should not harbor grudges toward anyone and should gladly
forgive the mistakes of others.
Moreover, once we
are reborn in this impure world, we are bound to meet with events that go
against our wishes. When these events occur -- as they are bound to -- we should
keep calm and try to transcend them. What is the use of getting angry or getting
even? Supposing we were lost in the depths of the forest, filled with poisonous
plants, deadly insects, and ferocious beasts.
We should expect to be pricked by thorns and bitten by insects.
The best course of action is to find a way out of the forest.
To lose one's temper, cursing the thorns and insects, is irrational, to
say the least. (After Master Yen-p'ei)
35. "Few people
would dare slander the Buddha. However slandering the Dharma or Sangha is
another story. An example of
slander of the Dharma is to criticize the Two-Vehicle Teaching as inadequate for
all sentient beings. Slandering
the Sangha is very common nowadays. If a cleric breaks the precepts, he will
receive bad karma, but this does not preclude him from being a good teacher. It
is like being lost with a group of people in a deep, dark ravine and among them
is a leper who happens to have a torch. A
wise person would suppress his revulsion and follow the leper to safety.
Please note in this regard the teachings on the Four Reliance's, the most
important of which is reliance on the Dharma, not on any particular teacher.
Moreover, the Buddhist disciple should have a calm mind, free of
discrimination in all circumstances. To speak ill of others is to harbor a mind
of discrimination, not yet realizing that good and bad, correct and incorrect
are in essence non-existent and dream-like.”
(Rev. Minh Duc)
Major Precept #8 stems from greed, #9 from anger and #10 from delusion.
36. Someone who
falls into the Three Evil Realms (hell, hungry ghosts, animality) can expiate
his offenses and achieve rebirth in the human realm only after countless years.
Only then will that person be likely to understand family obligations or
learn the teachings of the Buddha. According to Buddhist teachings, cultivation
is easier in the human realm, which contains both hardship and happiness, than
in a realm with too much hardship (Three Evil Realms) or too much happiness
37. All the
Bodhisattva precepts are based on compassion, on avoiding harm and being of
benefit to others. To break them
intentionally is to have no compassion toward sentient beings and to lose the
seed of Enlightenment. One is then
cast out of the Sea of the Dharma and is no longer a Bodhisattva.
Note that the most important thing in cultivation is to develop and
nurture the seed of Enlightenment (the Bodhi Mind), because without that seed,
one cannot become a Buddha.
38. This chapter was
not transmitted outside of India.
39. A Buddhist
disciple who is to become an emperor or a high official should first receive the
Bodhisattva precepts because the mistakes made by a person in high position have
wide and far-reaching implications. It
is, then, an act of compassion to urge leaders to study and observe the
Bodhisattva precepts so that they can work for the benefit of the many instead
of the few.
40. Why should one
rise to greet and make offerings to Elder Masters? It is because they are the
causes and conditions which help the cultivator attain Enlightenment. To fail to
respect and draw near them is to lose the benefits of their teachings. In
accord with the Dharma: with body, speech and mind (rising to greet them,
saying welcoming words, in all sincerity).
41. No hands
for 500 lives: the disciple will be reborn as a worm, reptile, etc.
This retribution appears unusually harsh at first sight; however, in
Buddhism, the worst karma is to lack wisdom, the consequence of intoxication.
Without wisdom, we can never escape Birth and Death and are bound to
revolve in samsára not only for 500 lives but even for untold eons!
A story is told of
Mahakasyapa (the senior disciple of the Buddha) visiting the Jeta Grove
accompanied by Anathapindika (a famous benefactor of the Order), and suddenly
catching sight of a black ant scrambling across his path.
Drawing Anathapindika's attention to the insect, he recalled that in untold
eons past, during the times of the six previous Buddhas, he had come across
that ant. Now, under Shakyamuni, the seventh Buddha, he himself had become an
Arhat, but the poor ant, after eons of rebirth, was still just an ant, condemned
to scavenge for scraps of food, condemned to the sufferings of an insect's life
-- as devoid as ever of wisdom! Please note that selling alcoholic beverages is
a major or root offense as opposed to consuming intoxicants, which is only a
minor offense. To drink alcohol hurts only oneself, but to sell alcoholic
beverages hurts others and goes against the Mind of Compassion that a
Bodhisattva should nurture at all times.
"When the Buddha was in the world, King Prasenajit's Queen had received the
eight precepts of a layperson. One
time, King Prasenajit wanted to kill his cook. When his Queen heard about this
she wanted to save the cook, so she bedecked herself in fine adornments, put on
fragrant powders, placed flowers in her hair, and prepared delicious food and
wine. Then she took along several ladies-in-waiting and went to see the King.
King Prasenajit was extremely pleased with the wine and the food, and afterwards
the Queen beseeched the King to forgo his idea of killing the cook.
The King consented, and so in this way the cook was saved.
The next day, the Queen went to the Buddha's place and repented.
She had already taken the eight lay precepts, and one of them is that one
can't put fragrant oils or perfumes on one's body or flowers in one's hair.
She had also drunk wine the previous day...But since the only
reason she did all that was because she wanted to save the cook's life, the
Buddha said, "Not only have you not transgressed the precepts, you actually
have gained merit and virtue" (Master Hsuan Hua).
43. Eating meat not
only goes against the spirit of Great Compassion, it also has far-reaching
health implications as illustrated by the recent refusal of the European
Community to buy American beef from cattle fattened with hormones. See also the following passage from the Lankavatara
Sutra, the only text recommended by Bodhidharma:
the present sutra, all meat eating, in any form, in any manner, and in any
place, is unconditionally and once for all, prohibited for all.
Thus, Mahamati, meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not
permit, I will not permit. Meat eating, I tell you, Mahamati, is not proper for
homeless monks (D.T. Suzuki, Lankavatara Sutra, p. 219).
44. Pungent herbs: "They are: leek, onion, garlic, and a few other such herbs such as asafoetida, an ingredient common in curries etc. Eaten raw they are believed to incite people to anger and disputes; eaten cooked they increase one's sexual desire." Buddhist adepts are advised to avoid them, as their consumption tends to disturb the peacefulness of the mind. "According to the [Shurangama Sutra], garlic, three kinds of onions, and leeks are the five forbidden pungent roots. 'If eaten raw, they are said to cause irritability of temper, and if eaten cooked, to act as an aphrodisiac; moreover, the breath of the eater, if reading the sutras, will drive away the good spirits.'"
Much of the publicized health benefits of garlic and other pungent roots may be
industry-inspired and/or commercial puffery.
Buddhist practitioners, particularly those who recite mantras, are
usually advised to avoid them altogether.
45. Important point.
46. In a spirit of
compassion, the Buddhist disciple should counsel an offender to practice
repentance. He should not watch in silence as the offender repeats the offense.
Offenses arise from
Repentance is done by the mind.
When the mind forgets them,
The offenses exist no more.
The mind forgetting and the
Both then are empty.
This is true repentance and reform.
(Master Hsuan Hua, tr.)
Semi-monthly gathering of monks and nuns to recite the precepts.
It is incumbent on the host to request the guest master to teach the Dharma as
often as three times a day, time and health permitting.
49. Note the example
of the youth Sudhana in the Avatamsaka Sutra, who traveled
"south" to some one hundred and ten cities in search of the truth.
If it were not for his determination to go wherever required to find the
Dharma, how could he finally be admitted to Maitreya’s Tower and achieve
Enlightenment in one lifetime? An exception to this rule is when one is already
fully conversant with a particular sutra or commentary, or when the sutra or
commentary is being taught in a language one does not understand.
The sutras teach
that when attending a Dharma lecture, a practitioner should concentrate on
listening and learning the Dharma. He
should avoid personal reactions to the teacher, such as, the teacher i) has/has
not violated the precepts; ii) comes from a poor/wealthy background; iii) has a
pleasant/unpleasant physical appearance; iv) has good diction / a speech
impediment; v) has a melodious/harsh voice.
50. When preaching
the Dharma, a Bodhisattva disciple should always emphasize the development of
the Bodhi Mind. Thus, when teaching
the practice of Buddha Recitation, for example, he should urge his listeners not
only to recite the Buddha's name but also to teach others to do likewise -- all
the while seeking rebirth in the Pure Land as a stepping stone to Buddhahood.
An exception to the rule of not turning away from the Mahayana is when
the capacity of the audience is limited and, for reasons of expediency, can only
be taught the Two-Vehicle Path as a stopgap measure.
51. This precept --
looking after the sick -- exists only in the Bodhisattva precepts. Reason:
The Bhiksu/Bhiksunis and lay moral codes are based on self-cultivation and
purification, while the Bodhisattva moral code rests on compassion -- compassion
for the sick and helpless. Why are the sick foremost among the Eight Fields of
Blessings? It is because the other Fields of Blessings, including the Buddhas
and sages, derive from our sense of gratitude. We are grateful to
Shakyamuni Buddha for leaving his throne and luxurious life to find
the Path to Enlightenment and teach it to us.
The sick, on the other hand, constitute a Field of Blessing based
on compassion. Since the
highest moral attribute in Buddhism is compassion, the sick represent the
foremost Field of Blessings.
52. The following
story is a good illustration of taking care of the sick, as the foremost Field
the Han dynasty, an official named Yuan-Nang murdered an official named Ch'ao
Ts'o. Afterwards, day and night, he saw the ghost of Ch'ao Ts'o coming to take
revenge. Realizing his mistake, he left home and became a Bhiksu, cultivated
vigorously, and was no longer troubled by the ghost. Because he did not
encounter the ghost again, he vowed to become a Bhiksu in his succeeding lives
and became a great, renowned Dharma Master who lectured on Sutras and taught
widely, coveting neither fame nor wealth. For ten lives he cultivated diligently
and met no more ghosts. He rose to a higher and higher position in every life
until, in his tenth life, he became the Emperor's teacher and was given the
title "National Master." The Emperor made him a gift of an aloes wood
chair, the kind only emperors used. It was so handsome and beautifully carved
that when National Master Wu Ta sat down on it he suddenly thought, "Just
how many Dharma Masters are there as lofty as I? How many have received a gift
from an Emperor as fine as this chair?" His one thought of arrogance laid
him open for the attack of the revengeful ghost of Ch'ao Ts'o of ten lives past.
Instantly, one of his legs began to swell, and a sore which had the shape of a
human face formed on it. It was complete with a mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. Not
only that, it could talk. "You want to get away from me, " it would
say, "but you can't. I am determined to take your life." It also
demanded to be fed, and would eat only fresh, raw meat. If Wu Ta didn't give
meat to the sore, it would cause him unbearable pain. Even though he was a
National Master, Wu Ta had no way to get rid of the sore ... Earlier, National
Master Wu Ta had taken care of the Venerable Kanaka when the latter's body had
broken out with noxious boils. He had waited on him, served him broths and
medicines, and had cured him. At that time, the Venerable Kanaka had said to
him, "In the future, no matter what difficulty besets you, no matter how
insoluble your problem may seem, come to such and such a place in Szechwan and I
will find a way to help you. Wu Ta had no recourse but to find Kanaka in
Szechwan. The Venerable Kanaka used "samádhi water" to wash Wu Ta's
sore, and the human face disappeared. Actually, the Venerable Kanaka, who was a fourth stage Arhat,
did not really have an illness. He
deliberately manifested a disease as a method to save National Master Wu Ta in
the future. (Master Hsuan Hua)
Not looking after the sick (Minor precept No. 9) is to fail to save lives, while
storing weapons is to create the conditions for actually destroying life. Both
go against the Mind of Compassion of a Bodhisattva.
54. A Bodhisattva
disciple should not avenge even the death of his parents because this would be
killing the parents of a past lifetime to avenge the parents of the current
lifetime. Such action goes counter to the spirit of compassion -- the very
marrow of Buddhism. Note in this regard the concept of filiality in note 16.
During the Ch'ing Dynasty in China, in Yang Chou, there was a person named Ch'eng Pai Lin. One day he had a dream in which Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva told him, "Tomorrow the Ch'ing army will arrive. Out of the seventeen people in your household, sixteen will survive. But you cannot escape your fate. Tomorrow Wang Ma Tze will kill you, because in a past life you stabbed him twenty-six times and killed him." Then Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva added, "There is still an expedient method that may work. Prepare a fine feast tomorrow, and when he comes, invite him to eat with you. Afterwards, allow him to kill you. Perhaps that will change things."
dream was vivid and when Ch'eng Pai Lin awoke the following morning, he went out
and bought wine and vegetables, brought them back, and had a feast prepared.
Then noontime came, someone knocked at the door. He opened the door and said,
"Are you Wang Ma Tze?" "How strange," said the man at the
door, "I'm from the north, how did you know my name?" His host invited
him in and said, "... You're welcome; I've prepared a feast for you. Won't
you join me?" Then he related the dream he'd had the night before.
"Last life I killed you with twenty-six stabs of a knife, and so this life
you have come to kill me. After we've finished this meal, you can do it."
Wang Ma Tze pondered over this and said, "But if you killed me last life,
and I kill you this life, won't you kill me again next life? It will just go on
and on. No, I won't kill you.” Then
he took his knife and scratched twenty-six marks on his host's back to represent
that the debt had been repaid. Not
only did Wang Ma Tze not kill his host, but afterwards they became very good
friends. Wang said to his host, "The Ch'ing army is following en masse.
They are not reasonable, so the best would be for you and your family to go to
Su Chou. It's safe there." So that is what Ch'eng Pai Lin did. This is a
case of turning grievance into friendship and reversing the retribution that is
due one. From this you can see that it's possible to alter one's fate. (Master
In Buddhism, the more offenses a person commits and the heavier these offenses are, the more a Bodhisattva should have compassion for him. Buddhism exists because there are people who commit infractions and offenses. Thus, the most revered and most popular Bodhisattvas of the Mahayana always live in places of great turmoil and suffering.
55. A Bodhisattva
should not act as a country's emissary for the purpose of spying or fostering
war. However, if he were to do so to put an end to war or military
confrontation, he would be acting in a spirit of compassion. The key words in
this precept are for personal benefit or evil intention.
56. To sell human
beings and domestic animals is to make one's living off the life of
others; to sell coffins and products connected with the disposal of corpses is
to make one's living off the death of others. Unconsciously, if not
consciously, one is happy to see others die, since one's livelihood is dependent
on the number of deaths. The
offense can be subtle -- in the rejoicing mind -- or not so subtle, as
demonstrated by periodic exposures of questionable practices in the funeral
industry. (See US News and
World Report, March 23, 1998.) To make one's living off the life and death
of others is to lack compassion, the very essence of Mahayana Buddhism.
Therefore, all professions or trades connected with the above are
forbidden to aspiring Bodhisattvas.
57. This secondary
precept 13 is related to major precept 7 (praising oneself and disparaging
others) and major precept 10 (slandering the Triple Jewel).
The offense committed here is secondary because: a) unlike in major
precept 7, there is no self-praise and b) unlike in major precept 10, the
objects of slander are virtuous persons, which include the Sangha (the community
of monks and nuns) but not the Triple Jewel as a whole (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha).
More important, this
secondary precept 13 deals specifically with slander without cause.
For a follower of the Two Vehicles (Theravada), this type of slander is a major
offense, because it is immoral. (The emphasis here is on the personal
integrity of the slanderer.) However, for a Bodhisattva, it is a secondary
offense, because baseless slander can be refuted and is thus less likely to do permanent
damage to the victim than slander based on fact. (The emphasis in this instance has shifted to the well-being
of the victim -- compassion being the basis of Bodhisattva hood.)
(After Master Yen-p'ei)
illustrates the major difference between the Bodhisattva and other precepts.
See also note 62.
58. This precept
refers to the setting of fires for farming and other such necessary purposes.
Otherwise, the offense would be that of killing or stealing (Major
precepts No. 1 and No. 2).
In Asia, the period
between the fourth and ninth months coincides with the reproductive cycles of
such insects as ants and earthworms. Therefore, the Buddha forbade the setting
of fires during those periods, out of a spirit of compassion toward all
creatures, however lowly and helpless.
The blanket bombing of enemy targets, common in modern warfare, can be subsumed
under this precept. Even when not
many persons are harmed, tremendous destruction may be wrought on other sentient
beings, seen and unseen, as well as on the environment.
59. To the followers
of the Monastic Tradition (i.e., early Buddhism or Theravada), the attainment of
the state of Arhat is the ultimate goal. They are attached to that teaching as
the orthodox and highest form of Buddhism.
For Mahayanists, such a goal is limited and unwholesome.
Therefore, unless a person cannot profit from Mahayana teachings,
it is an offense for a Bodhisattva to teach the Two Vehicle Tradition.
To do so would cause sentient beings to lose the great benefit of Supreme
Enlightenment and Buddhahood.
mind: in the Mahayana context, means to seek Buddhahood and to rescue all
Why should a
Bodhisattva teach the difficult Bodhisattva renunciation practices to a novice
coming from afar? It is to test his
capacity as a potential Bodhisattva and strengthen his resolve for the difficult
tasks ahead. Moreover, to succeed in cultivation, a novice must cultivate a wholesome
mind (seek Buddhahood and rescue sentient beings). To do so, he has to (1)
set aside the ego/sever the attachment to the self (burn one's body...) and (2)
be willing to sacrifice himself for sentient beings (forsake his body for
starving beasts...). Unless the novice is ready to make such commitments, he is
not a good "vessel of the Dharma" and is likely to fail.
A famous example of such commitment is the story of Master Hui-k'o, the
second patriarch of Zen, who knelt in the snow for days and finally cut off his
arm, to persuade Bodhidharma to accept him as a disciple
.N.b. This precept is directed specifically at monks and nuns, as
an example of the Bodhisattva ideal. See also The Seeker's Glossary of
Buddhism, under "Generosity".
61. The offenses
described here are relatively minor, such as charging high rent or high interest
on loans. Otherwise, the transgressions would be the major offense of stealing
(second major precept). On filial
piety, see note 16.
of the Bodhisattva precepts: The Sravaka precepts were promulgated by the
Buddha as the offenses actually arose. They were expressly devised for monks and
nuns and are to be taken only by them. The Bodhisattva precepts, on the other
hand, are the precepts of the Mind, and are common to all sentient beings.
Therefore, they can be observed by all.
of the Buddha Nature includes such qualities as compassion, filiality, etc.
Each of us intrinsically possesses the Buddha Nature, the primary cause
of Buddhahood. Observance of the Bodhisattva precepts creates the conditions
for the Buddha Nature to manifest itself. When cause and conditions come
together, the result is Buddhahood. This is referred to as the "essence of
the Buddha Nature".
engage in countless cultivation practices. One such practice is to light incense
and then either place the incense pieces on a large incense burner before the
image of a Buddha or, alternatively, raise a small burner to one's forehead and
recite verses of praise or mantras while facing the Buddha.
If a disciple, out of envy, gossips about a Bodhisattva who engages in
these practices (calling him a fake and a showoff, for example), the disciple
commits a secondary offense.
This precept is
similar to precept 13, but differs with respect to the goal of the offender.
In precept 13, the aim of slandering monks in particular is to defame
them and make them lose offerings, while in this precept it is to cause discord
within the Sangha.
the eons of time, all male sentient beings have been my father; all female
sentient beings have been my mother. I was born of them." This is a
poetical way to express the truth that we are all related throughout the eons of
time, and thus to save sentient beings is to save one's family and ultimately
65. Precept #20 has
two parts, the first part concerning the living and the second part
(1) In the first
part, there are two related concepts, "rescue and protect" and
"rescue and deliver". The first concept relates to the potential
victim, while the second concept embraces the killer as well. To help both, it
is necessary to develop the killer's sense of compassion. Once there is true
compassion, all killing ceases, and both the killer and the victim are
liberated. Thus, the sutra states: "the disciple should always teach
the Bodhisattva precepts to rescue and deliver sentient beings." (2)
Furthermore, not only the living, but also the dead, should be liberated.
Therefore, monks and nuns should be invited to explain the Bodhisattva sutras
and precepts on the death anniversaries of parents and other kin.
"If a Bodhisattva sees an animal on the verge of being killed, he must
devise a way to rescue and protect it":
if you wish to save a certain being but it's beyond your capacity, then you
should single-mindedly recite the Buddha's name. For example, you may see some pigs or sheep that are about to
be slaughtered, and you can't liberate them because you aren't able to buy them
all. At this time you should single-mindedly recite the Buddha's name so those
creatures can hear it. You can speak Dharma also. You can say to them, "All
of you living beings should bring forth the Bodhi resolve [Bodhi Mind].'"
This is creating causes and conditions for rescuing their wisdom-light (Mind).
Although you are not saving their physical bodies, you are rescuing their
wisdom-light. (Master Hui Seng)
When a Buddhist dies, it is the practice for relatives to recite the sutras and
perform other meritorious acts, transferring all the merits to the dead. This
helps the deceased achieve rebirth in the Pure Lands ("behold the
Buddhas") or, alternatively, to obtain a good rebirth in the human or
celestial realms. Rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is the aim of many
Mahayana Buddhists, as this is viewed as a realistic goal,
considering the circumstances of ordinary human beings in the Saha World. See
also note 94 last part.
Bodhisattva must not return anger for anger. This is because wherever there
is anger, all compassion is lost. "To seek revenge and maim and kill and
prosecute" is to create the causes of future sufferings and ensure that
they will never end. Even today, this lesson has unfortunately not been learned
despite all the hindsight available to us from past warfare and genocide:
"President Clinton came [to Kigali] today to talk to scarred and mutilated
survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and to acknowledge that the world could
have protected them, though it did not . . . Both in his meeting with the
victims and the speech to an invited audience here, Mr. Clinton called for
sharper vigilance against genocide and swifter prosecution of its perpetrators
..." (NY Times: March 26, 1998).
Buddhists do not cultivate a sense of vengefulness because they realize that
sentient beings know only Cause and Effect in the present, but not in past or
future lifetimes. The present perpetrators might have been the victims in a
previous lifetime; thus, to exact retribution now may be to jeopardize the
parents of one lifetime in order to avenge the parents of another! This truth
can be glimpsed in the current wave of ethnic conflicts in Africa and the
Balkans. See also secondary precepts 10 and 21 as well as note 64.
to the Brahma Net and Avatamsaka Sutras, we should ignore
appearances and external forms when seeking a good teacher. For example, we
should disregard such traits as youth, poverty, low status or lack of education,
unattractive appearance or incomplete features, but should simply seek someone
conversant with the Dharma, who can be of benefit to us. Nor should we find
fault with good spiritual advisors for acting in certain ways, as it may be due
to a number of reasons, such as pursuing a hidden cultivation practice or
following an expedient teaching. Or else, they may act the way they do because
while their achievements may be high, their residual bad habits have not been
extinguished. If we grasp at forms and look for faults, we will forfeit benefits
on the path of cultivation.
when Buddha Shakyamuni was still alive, the Bhikshu Kalodayin was in the habit
of moving his jaws like a buffalo; a certain Bhiksunis used to look at herself
in the mirror and adorn herself; another Bhikshu liked to climb trees and jump
from one branch to another; still another always addressed others in a loud
voice, with condescending terms and appellations. In truth, however, all four
had reached the stage of Arhat-ship. It is just that one of them was a buffalo in
a previous life, another was a courtesan, another was a monkey, and still
another belonged to the Brahman class. They were accustomed to these
circumstances throughout many lifetimes, so that even when they had attained the
fruits of Arhat-ship, their residual habits still lingered.
"We also have the example of the Sixth Patriarch of Zen.
Realizing that the cultivators of his day were attached to a literal
reading of the sutras and did not immediately recognize their Buddha Nature, he
took the form of an ignorant and illiterate person selling wood in the
marketplace. Or else, take the case of a famous Zen Master who, wishing to avoid
external conditions and concentrate on his cultivation, took the expedient
appearance of a ragged lunatic, raving and ranting. As a result, both
distinguished Masters were criticized during their lifetimes. The Sixth
Patriarch was faulted for his ignorance, while the Zen monk was called insane
and berserk. Therefore, finding a good spiritual advisor is a difficult task
indeed" (Thich Thien Tam, Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith).
A Bodhisattva should not follow the Two Vehicle teachings or worldly teachings
because they all have one principle in common: the rejection of the concept of
Buddha Nature as basic to all sentient beings.
There are exceptions
to this precept not to study and practice non-Mahayana teachings. "If one
needs to understand worldly doctrines in order to rescue people from the world,
then one can study those doctrines. However, if one studies them with the sole
purpose of benefiting oneself and fails to seek Supreme Enlightenment, then it
is not permissible to study them." (Master Hui Seng)
70. "What is
meant by skillfully administering the resources of the Three Jewels? If one
receives goods for the Buddha Jewel but uses them for the Dharma Jewel, this is
misusing goods. Or, if one receives them for the Sangha Jewel but uses them for
the Buddha Jewel, that is also misusing goods. In Buddhist teachings, it becomes
clear that Cause and Effect are quite complicated. If money is given to repair
an image of Shakyamuni Buddha and the money is used to print sutras instead,
then one has used the Buddha Jewel money for the Dharma Jewel.
Misuse of funds of
the Triple Jewel in this way is considered stealing. If one is not very clear
about the precepts, however, one may not realize this and assume that as long as
the money is used for the Triple Jewel, it is permissible." (Master Hui
71. To pawn
himself, or cut off and sell his own flesh: is a figure of speech for
selling one's physical labor or one's intellectual labor. (Master Tri Quang)
visiting Sangha members should be invited to receive offerings in accord with
their position in the Sangha (seniority of ordination). They are part of the
assembly that keeps the precepts and, as such, should receive their share of the
offerings. If one does not offer a visiting Sangha what he rightly deserves, if
one is greedy for profit and receives individual offerings, that is a violation
of the precept against stealing." (Master Hui Seng)
In ancient times, a meal offering was a particularly welcome opportunity, as it
spared the clerics the time and effort of the alms round and allowed them more
time for practice.
73. This precept
specifically prohibits a cleric from seeking invitations and donations for
himself personally. In the regulations on offerings there is a stanza that
should go to the Buddhas of the Ten Directions;
In the middle, to the community of monks;
Below, to all sentient beings of the Six Realms.
Offerings belong to all without distinction.
offerings destined for the community of monks belong to all monks and nuns, not
only those residing at the temple, but also to current visiting monks and
nuns as well as future visitors. Thus, technically, the offerings should
be divided equally among all those present, with a portion set aside for future
remembers visiting a temple in India and upon seeing goods piled up in corner
rooms, thinking to himself that the temple was too wealthy. Later he realized
that these goods had been set aside for visiting monks in observance of this
74. It is very
important to issue invitations to monks and nuns according to their proper order
or seniority according to the time of their full ordination as a Bhiksu or
Bhiksunis. This is to avoid discord and dissension within the assembly, with
popular monks receiving the bulk of the invitations and others receiving none.
For a layperson to fail to respect this precept is to lose deep merit and
virtue, as he would, in effect, disrupt the harmony of the Sangha. Thus, to
issue a discriminatory invitation goes against the spirit of compassion and
non-discrimination that all Buddhists, particularly Bodhisattvas, should
offer a discriminatory invitation even to 500 Arhats is not necessarily
meritorious because the degree of merit or virtue depends on three factors: the
recipient, the gift and, most important, the mind of the giver. If the
gift is presented with a mind of compassion and equanimity, with no thought of
gift, recipient or giver, then the merits accrued become infinite. Otherwise,
they are limited. See in this connection the Vimalakirti Sutra.
75. Seven Buddhas:
Shakyamuni Buddha and the six Buddhas who preceded him. By extension, it means
all the Buddhas.
This is probably an injunction against the ancient Indian custom of temple
In general, an
improper livelihood is any occupation that is contrary to the spirit of
compassion toward sentient beings. Such occupations include not only traditional
ones like fisherman and hunter but also working in slaughterhouses or ammunition
factories. In the sutras, the
Buddha even forbade monks and nuns from tilling the soil, planting crops, or
pressing seeds to get oil because such actions often result in the killing of
small animals and insects. (Laymen,
being subject to a lesser standard of morality, are not prohibited from engaging
in such activities. Moreover, they may even be given the opportunity to earn
merit and virtue through service to the clergy. Monks and nuns, relieved of
daily chores, can then concentrate on their main calling -- practicing the
Dharma for the benefit of all.)
77. Matchmaking is
singled out in this precept because it creates the karma of attachment, the
very cause of endless births and rebirths within Samsara. A Bodhisattva,
motivated by compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings in the cycle of
existence, cannot be a party to the creation of such karma. (See also note 28.)
78. Six days of
fasting, three months of fasting. Fasting in this context means not eating
Buddhism, the special days and months of fasting are explained as special
times when the celestial rulers of this galaxy go on their inspection trips to
assess the compliance of human beings with the basic moral tenets.
Therefore, people watch themselves during those times and are on their
best behavior by abstaining from all offenses!
On a deeper level, this is an expedient means of bringing practitioners
gradually to a pure style of living all year.
79. This precept
deals with offenses from the point of view of timing. From that
perspective, killing or stealing at particular times (fasting days) constitutes
a minor offense, on top of the major offense.
80. This Chapter was
not transmitted outside of India -- see Introduction.
Bodhisattvas, Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, can be understood literally (as in time of
war) but can also refer to those who take advantage of Buddhism to further their
personal interests, financial and otherwise. Examples that immediately come to mind are salespeople who
gain clients through connections with the clergy as well as politicians on the
lookout for votes.
82. A Bodhisattva
should not sell knives. The Bodhisattva precepts are the precepts of the
Mind-Nature. Thus, if one were to store knives and clubs to kill and maim, it
would be against the spirit of compassion inherent in the Mind-Nature and
therefore against the precepts. However, if knives are stored as kitchen
utensils, such action does not go against the spirit of compassion, and
therefore is not against the precepts.
possessions: As theft,
confiscation of property is a major offense. However, in this context, the
emphasis is on the abuse of power, which constitutes a secondary offense.
83. A Bodhisattva
should not raise cats, dogs. There are several reasons for this. One is
compassion: cats eat other sentient beings, while pigs are raised to be eaten
themselves and foxes for their skins or for medicinal purposes. Secondly,
raising domestic animals gives rise to feelings of attachment, which is
precisely what the cultivator seeks to avoid. It also takes time and effort,
which would better be devoted to the "great matter of Birth and
Death." Yet, there are exceptions to this rule: to give temporary shelter
to a starving cat in the middle of winter is clearly the right thing for a
Bodhisattva disciple to do.
Under this precept, to keep a dog to watch over one's property is not considered
an offense for a lay Bodhisattva.
84. A Bodhisattva
cannot watch fights (gang fights, bullfights ...) or armed battles because such
action goes against the spirit of compassion. How can a compassionate person
watch maiming and killing and derive enjoyment from it? The same goes for being
party to gambling, where one party necessarily has to lose.
the key expression here is "unwholesome intentions." If the
Bodhisattva's intention is to mediate conflict and prevent bloodshed, he not
only may watch battles, etc., he may indeed be obligated to do so.
85. A Bodhisattva
cannot listen to music or attend theatrical performances because he needs to
keep the mind empty and still at all times ...
86. Bhiksu bound
by reeds. In the time of the Buddha, there was a Bhiksu who observed the
precepts to the letter. One day, he was accosted by brigands who stole his
clothes and begging bowl and, fearing reprisal, were about to kill him.
Fortunately, there was someone among them who knew about Buddhism. He said,
"There is no need to kill him. Just tie his hands and feet and leave him
among the living reeds. That will be enough." The Bhiksu thus bound did not
move lest he uproot the fresh reeds and thus break the precept "not to
kill." When the brigands had left, a passer-by saw the monk and untied him.
Henceforth, he became known as the "Bhiksu bound by reeds."
beings are Buddhas-to-be, while the Buddhas are realized Ones. This is the
basic tenet of the Mahayana, distinguishing it from Theravada Buddhism and
Story on Keeping the Bodhi Mind. A
Bodhisattva should maintain the Bodhi Mind in each and every thought without
retrogression: In days of yore, an older master was traveling along a winding
country road, followed by a disciple carrying his bags. As they walked, they saw
lands being tilled while farmers and oxen were strained to the utmost. Countless
worms and insects were maimed or killed in the process, and birds were swooping
to eat them. This led the disciple to wonder to himself, "How hard it is to
make a living. I will cultivate with all my strength, become a Buddha and rescue
all these creatures." Immediately the Master, an Arhat able to read
the thoughts of others, turned around and said, "Let me have those heavy
bags and I will follow you." The disciple was puzzled but did as
instructed, changing places with his teacher and walking in front. As they
continued on their way with the hot sun bearing down on them, dust swirling all
around them, the road stretching endlessly in front, the disciple grew more and
more tired. It wasn't long before he thought to himself, "There are so many
sentient beings and there is so much suffering, how can I possibly help them
all? Perhaps I should try to help myself first." Immediately, the
Master behind him said, "Stop. Now you carry the bags and follow me."
The puzzled disciple did as told, knowing he was not supposed to ask questions.
He took up the bags again and walked behind. This sequence repeated itself
several times. The Master walked in front with the disciple carrying the bags,
then the disciple in front with the Master carrying the bags, back and forth,
until noontime came and they stopped for lunch. Then the disciple gathered his
courage and asked the reason why. The Master said, "When you had exalted
thoughts of saving all living beings, you were a Bodhisattva in thought, and I
as an Arhat had to follow you. But as soon as you had selfish thoughts of saving
yourself only, you were no longer a Bodhisattva, and being junior to me in years
and cultivation, you had to carry my bags."
88. See Introduction
(Characteristics of the Sutra).
89. The word
"parents" refers to our fathers and mothers through the eons, i.e.,
all sentient beings. The words "good spiritual advisors" can include a
friend or even an enemy since both can teach us aspects of the truth. Note the
concept of "adverse-conduct" Good Spiritual Advisor. In the Lotus
Sutra, Devadatta was such a person who, through constant goading, allowed
Shakyamuni Buddha to perfect the paramita of patience. The Buddha thus attained
Supreme Enlightenment faster than He would have, had it not been for the
constant thorn in His side that Devadatta represented.
90. The general
point of the resolutions is to cut down on the poison of greed. The Buddhist
disciple should rather die than break the precepts. Why? Because death concerns
only this present life while breaking the precepts can cause suffering
over many lifetimes.
91. Precept 36,
which applies to clerics, can be summarized as five main groups of resolutions:
(1) to abstain from
sexual relations with anyone;
(2) to earn the offerings of the laity (clothing, food, shelter ...) by faithfully observing the precepts;(3) to earn the respect of the laity by faithfully observing the precepts;(4) to control the mind of attachment to the five dusts (form, sound, fragrance, taste and touch);(5) to help all sentient beings attain Buddhahood.
The most important
resolutions are the last two.
92. A disciple
should not travel to dangerous areas as this would be flirting with death -- the
taking of his own life -- an offense against Major precept no. 1. Moreover, as a
Bodhisattva, he should not provoke others to incur evil karma through harming
93. This precept
establishing the order of seating, i.e., the ranking of a monk by his sacerdotal
age (the date he took the precepts) only, is revolutionary, considering that it
was promulgated more than 2,500 years ago.
An important exception to this seniority rule is made for those who lecture on the Dharma. In this case, anyone, including a layperson, can deliver Dharma talks and even Dharma Masters should listen if the need arises. This custom is expressed in the well-known saying, "The novice speaks the Dharma, the Dharma Masters listen." (The novice referred to here is Master Wu Ta, who lectured on the Lotus Sutra to the Fourfold Assembly at the age of 15! See also note 52.)
94. This precept is
divided into two parts. "When the precept tells people to establish
monasteries and temples, it is so they can cultivate blessings; when it
tells people to explain the Great Vehicle Sutras, it is so they can cultivate wisdom."
(Master Hui Seng)
should have a clear understanding of the causes and conditions of calamities and
fortunate events. These occur as a result of bad or good karma -- and karma has
its source in the mind. Reciting or explaining sutras has the power to change a
wicked mind into a pure mind, a deluded mind into an enlightened mind. Thus, to
recite or explain sutras is to create good karma, enabling sentient beings,
alive or dead, to escape or mitigate the impact of negative karma. Since a
Bodhisattva's mission is to rescue sentient beings and guide them to
enlightenment, he should recite and explain Mahayana sutras on all occasions,
and particularly during the ceremonies for the dead. (Master Prajna-Suddhi)
More than a century
ago, in his extensive study of the Brahma Net Sutra, the Dutch clergyman
Dr. J.J.M. de Groot wrote:
and lectures on the [Amitabha] Sutra, accompanied by ritual
services ... [are held not only for deceased monks but] also for laypersons
every seven days for seven consecutive weeks, if the family of the deceased so
desires and can afford them ... These ceremonies for the dead are special events
in their own right and, as long as they last, the family life of all concerned
becomes topsy-turvy ... Suffice it to say that these ceremonies are almost never
neglected, thus making the 39th precept of the Bodhisattva Code one of those
which exercise the most practical influence on the life of the Chinese. (Le
Code du Mahayana en Chine, p. 146.)
Ceremonies for the dead are in fact the best occasions to meet and teach the living!
95. A disciple of
the Buddha should explain Mahayana sutras and moral codes to all sentient beings.
From the point of view of the early schools of Buddhism, the Dharma is a
precious jewel and it should therefore not be given out without the proper
From the point of
view of the Mahayana tradition of being of benefit to all sentient beings, the
Bodhisattvas should freely share and make it available to all. Sentient beings
are upside down and deluded. How can they know about the Dharma and request it?
96. The Buddha
taught that monks and nuns should wear garments of a different hue from those
worn by ordinary persons. Their clothes should also be different in cut and
appearance and their heads should be shaved. However, these distinctive features
are also found among other people. For instance, some convicts shave their heads
in American prisons, while in China, certain groups of religious people wear
robes similar in appearance and color to those of Buddhist monks and nuns. The
truly distinguishing features of a Buddhist cleric could be the marks on the top
of his head, the result of voluntarily burning dots with incense on the day of
his full ordination.
97. Precept 40
emphasizes that the Bodhisattva precepts should be conferred upon everyone, but
goes on to exclude those who have committed any of the Five Cardinal Sins.
While this may
appear contradictory, it actually is not. In the egalitarian spirit of Buddhism,
everyone should be able to take the Bodhisattva precepts. However, the purpose
of conferring any precept is to benefit the recipients and lead them to
Enlightenment. With their heavy karma and strong guilt feelings (always sad,
nervous and self-reproachful), those who have committed the Cardinal Sins are
not normally good vessels for the precepts. They may even denigrate the
precepts, creating even more negative karma. Thus, to withhold the precepts
temporarily while advising them to engage in sincere repentance is a realistic
course of action. This notwithstanding, those who have sincerely repented and
demonstrated their true change of heart may, under certain circumstances,
receive the precepts. (Even King Ajatashatru, guilty of patricide, was able to
repent and become an Arhat.) This is in conformity with the pre-eminent role of
the mind in Buddhist teaching and the all-compassionate spirit of Buddhas and
The Dharma rules
prohibit monks and nuns from paying respect and bowing to kings, parents,
relatives. Monks and nuns
represent the Dharma, which should not be subject to (or seen as subject to)
temporal authority. More fundamentally, the clergy should not rely on ("bow
to") advice and teachings outside the Dharma.
98. People with
heterodox views. From the Mahayana point of view, any person who does not
develop the Bodhi Mind (the Mind of rescuing all sentient beings, leading them
to Supreme Enlightenment and Buddhahood) is heterodox and limited.
An exception is made
in the case of kings, rulers or high officials, to whom the Brahma Net Sutra
should be taught, even if they are not Buddhists or hold heterodox views. This
is because a ruler's views can influence multitudes, and Bodhisattvas, out of
compassion for the many, should make an attempt to expose him to the
compassionate teachings of the Buddhas.
In precept 39, the Buddha taught that a Bodhisattva should explain the Mahayana
sutras and moral codes (i.e., the Brahma Net Sutra) to all sentient
beings, regardless of time and place. In precept 42, on the other hand, He
forbids the recitation of the Bodhisattva precepts to those who have not
received them or to externalists. This seeming contradiction is understood as
follows. In precept 39, the Buddha was speaking from the point of view of rescuing
and liberating sentient beings, while in precept 42, He was speaking from
the viewpoint of preventing evil karma. Thus, those who have not received
the precepts may not attend the monthly Uposattha recitation, which
includes confessions of offenses, as they may then tend to criticize the
"sinners" and incur negative karma for themselves. On the other hand,
anyone can listen to the sutra itself on other occasions and benefit
precept is referring to people who deliberately decide to break the precepts. It
prohibits the intent to violate precepts before one has actually violated
them." (Master Hui Seng). If a particular precept is actually violated, the
offense depends on the specific violation.
If a Bodhisattva
monk develops thoughts of violating the precepts, he is unworthy of receiving
any of the offerings from the faithful.
A story is told in the sutras of three deities who were washing a Bhiksus robe
in the Ganges but could not hold it under water. Yet, as soon as they took a
single grain of rice donated to a temple and placed it on the robe, the robe
sank to the bottom. The story illustrates how important offerings of the
believers are, particularly if they are made with a pure mind. If a monk or nun
accepts such offerings, but does not cultivate the precepts, these offerings
become great liabilities, leading the errant cleric down the path of perdition.
Even deities and ghosts follow such a cleric and sweep away his very footprints
to prevent anyone from following his example.
stump. A monk who breaks the
precepts, who is unclear about what constitutes keeping or breaking them, is no
different from a sentient being driven by instinct or an inanimate object.
Therefore, he is "no different from an animal or a wooden stump".
100. One way to
observe this precept nowadays is to print and distribute Mahayana sutras and
commentaries free or for a nominal charge, for the benefit of all. The great
teachings on the Buddha Nature are contained in the Mahayana sutras; therefore,
one should revere the sutras by adorning and displaying them.
101. The essence of
Mahayana teachings is to help all sentient beings develop the Bodhi Mind, and
create the causes and conditions of full Enlightenment. Sentient beings here, of
course, include animals as well as unseen deities and ghosts. Thus, the sutra
says that wherever he goes, be it crossing a mountain, entering a forest,
crossing a river or walking in a field, a Bodhisattva should help all sentient
beings develop the Bodhi Mind. Teaching the Dharma to animals and ghosts, for
example, can benefit them, because their minds are then influenced by the
compassionate words of the Bodhisattvas. Thus, this precept contains the
expression "concentrate and say aloud". See, for example, the
... an incident from the Buddha's time. There were Bhiksus in the assembly who
had certified to Arhat-ship. Some of them were old and didn't have any teeth.
When they recited the Sutras, they didn't sound very eloquent. This prompted a
[novice] to say, "When you recite the Sutras, you sound like a bunch of
dogs barking." Just because of this one sentence of slander, in his next
life he fell into the destiny of a dog. One of the Bhikshus he slandered was an
Arhat. If he had slandered an ordinary person, he would have had bad karma, but
it would not have been so bad. But because he scolded a sage, in his next life
he became a dog. Because he was a dog, he had the habits of a dog, and he liked
to steal food to eat. He would grab tidbits from the kitchen of his master.
Once, his master saw this and cut off the dog's four legs and threw him out onto
the grass. The dog was yelping in pain. Shariputra happened to walk by at that
point. He spoke Dharma for the dog, telling him, "You know, the Four
Elements are really suffering. Your body is false. Put it down; don't get
angry." After Shariputra spoke Dharma, the dog didn't yelp anymore, and he
died in peace, passing away quite happily. Since at the moment of his death he
didn't give rise to anger, he was reborn again as a person and left the home
life at seven years of age under Shariputra. Shariputra spoke the Dharma for
him, at which point he certified to Arhat-ship. So you see, this person was once
a novice, then he became a dog, and then he became a person again.
he was a dog, he still retained the good roots from his past lives, and that's
why he could understand human speech. Since he died happily, in his next life he
became a left-home person again. After that, he never took the full Bhikshu
precepts; he wanted to stay a novice forever so he could serve his teacher
Shariputra, to repay his kindness ...Therefore, if animals and transformation
beings can understand the Dharma Master's words, they can take these precepts.
Of course, if they don't understand, they can't take them. (Master Hui Seng)
There are many ways to teach sentient beings: verbal teachings, bodily teachings, and mental teachings. The verbal form of the Dharma, the most common among humans, is the least effective and the least efficient. If one does not have the capacity to teach verbally, one can teach via one's behavior (bodily teaching). This is one of the methods used by the Buddha: upon seeing His marks of greatness, people develop respect and become his disciples. The last form of teaching, mental teaching, is done by silent vows and dedication of merit.
102. Why should a
Dharma Master occupy a high seat while speaking the Dharma? It is because
sentient beings learn and accept the teachings better when their minds are
receptive, i.e., when they have developed eagerness and respect. Furthermore, a
Dharma Master should be seated, as it is then easier to keep his mind empty and
exceptions to this rule. In the Sanghika Vinaya it says 'a Bhiksu may be
running chores and performing affairs for the stupa, the temple or the Sangha.
When he goes to the king or sees the lords of estates, and if they should say to
him, 'Bhiksu, would you please speak the Dharma for me?' at this time the Bhiksu
can't insist that the king sit on a lower seat while he sits on a high chair.'
He can't immediately force that type of situation. He can't hold to the letter
of the law. This is an exception to the rule." (Master Hui Seng)
A Dharma teacher can
be anyone -- a monk, nun, layman, or even an inanimate object such as a
meditation cushion. The Avatamsaka and Amitabha Sutras, for
example, speak of clouds and trees speaking the Dharma ... Upon watching leaves
fall one by one from a tree, a person can awaken to the truth of impermanence --
the transitory nature of all life forms. The youth Sudhana in the Avatamsaka
Sutra had fifty-two teachers, ranging from Bodhisattvas, to deities, to
courtesans. The story is told in the sutras of a group of people lost in a deep,
dark ravine. Among them is a leper who happens to have a torch. A wise person
would suppress his revulsion and follow the leper to safety.
Why is a Dharma
Teacher or good spiritual advisor necessary on the path to Enlightenment? It is
because he can nurture our Bodhi Mind and our wisdom -- the two crucial factors
103. Four kinds
of lay disciples: Upasakas, Upasikas, as well as ordinary laymen and
An originally well-intentioned disciple might turn against the Dharma out of
jealousy of the respect accorded to the clergy, anger at their criticism of his
own mistakes, or disappointment at the behavior of individual monks and nuns.
104. This precept
and secondary precept No. 1 apply exclusively to laymen. Both urge laymen to
join hands with the Sangha to protect and preserve the Dharma.
should rightfully receive offerings from all:
Whatever a cleric receives is for the benefit of the Sangha as a whole (and by
extension, all sentient beings). Therefore, he need not thank laypersons for
their donations, except as an act of courtesy. In fact, thanking a donor
actually decreases the latter's merits (ego-based giving vs. altruistic giving)
and is thus a disservice to him.
105. If a
Bodhisattva acts in this manner, he is no different from a worm in a lion's
body, eating away at the lion's flesh. The lion is the fiercest of animals,
and when he roars all the other beasts flee. In the same way, people who have
taken the precepts are likened to a lion; no other beings will bother them.
However, just as worms that live in the lion's body dare to feed on the lion's
flesh, so too, disciples within Buddhism can undermine the entire system.
Buddhist disciples themselves are capable of destroying the Dharma, more so than
the people outside Buddhism. (Master Yen-p'ei)
are their friends: a reference to the pure lands of the Buddhas,
particularly the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, where the faithful will be reborn
in the company of Bodhisattvas and other spiritual friends. See the Amitabha
Shariputra, all those born in the Land of Utmost Happiness never fall back.
Among them are many whose next birth will be in Nirvana. The number of them is
extremely large; there is no reckoning that can tell it. Only in measureless,
unlimited, innumerable kalpas could it be told. Shariputra, the beings who hear
this ought to make a vow -- a vow to be born in that land. Why should they?
Having succeeded thus, all are then persons of the highest virtue; all are
assembled in the same circumstances." (H. Seki, tr.)
The Paramita of precepts is the second of the six Paramitas, or
"perfections". See the following story on the "perfection of
precepts" and its exceptions:
when the Buddha Shakyamuni was in the world, there were two Bhikshus cultivating
in the mountains. One day, one of the Bhikshus went down the mountain to get
food and left the other one sleeping. In India at that time, the Bhikshus simply
wore their sashes wrapped around them; they did not wear clothing underneath.
This Bhikshu had shed his robe and was sleeping nude. He probably was a lazy
person, and with no one on the mountain to watch after him, he'd decided to take
a nap. At that time a woman happened along, and seeing the Bhikshu, she was
aroused and took advantage of him. Just as she was running away from the scene,
the other Bhikshu returned from town and saw her in flight. Upon investigation
he found out that the woman had taken advantage of the sleeping Bhikshu, and he
decided to pursue her, catch her, and take her before the Buddha in protest. He
took out after her, and the woman became so reckless that she slipped off the
road and tumbled down the mountain to her death. So one Bhikshu had violated the
precept against sexual activity and the other had broken the precept against
killing. Although the Bhikshu hadn't actually pushed her down the mountain, she
wouldn't have fallen if he hadn't been pursuing her.
a mess.' concluded the two Bhikshus. Messy as it was, they had to go before the
Buddha and describe their offenses. The Buddha referred them to the Venerable
Upali. But when Venerable Upali heard the details, his verdict was that, indeed,
one had violated the precept against sexual activity and the other against
killing, offenses which cannot be absolved. 'You're both going to have to endure
the hells in the future,' he concluded. Hearing this, the two Bhikshus wept, and
they went about everywhere trying to find someone who could help them.
they found the Great Upasaka Vimalakirti, who asked why they were crying. When
they had related their tale, he pronounced his judgment that they had not
violated the precepts. 'If you can be repentant,' he said, 'then I can certify
that you didn't break the precepts.' 'How can that be?' they asked. 'The nature
of offenses is basically empty,' replied the Upasaka. 'You did not violate the
precepts intentionally, and so it doesn't count. It is an exception.'
Hearing this explanation by the Great Teacher Vimalakirti, the two Bhikshus were
enlightened on the spot and were certified as attaining the fruition...So there
are many exceptions within the prohibitive precepts. But if people always look
to the exceptions, they will simply not hold the precepts..." (Master Hui
N.B. In the above story, Vimalakirti was referring specifically to the two major precepts of not killing and abstaining from sexual activities. The two monks did not violate these precepts because the mind (intent) was not involved. Vimalakirti was not addressing possible issues of secondary responsibility.
108. The True
Mark of all dharmas is a key concept in this sutra. It refers to the essence
or noumenon of the Bodhisattva precepts, which is "neither born nor unborn,
neither eternal nor extinct, neither the same nor different, neither coming nor
going." In other words, the True Mark of all dharmas = essence of the
Bodhisattva precepts = Emptiness. To observe the Bodhisattva precepts in
the true sense, we have to transcend the ego -- there is no practitioner, no
sentient beings to be saved, no precepts being observed. Otherwise, our practice
is merely a human practice, tainted by ego and self-interest, not a Bodhisattva
practice, not a paramita action. (Rev. Nhat-Chan)
109. See the famous
Zen story of Master Pai-chang and the fox, which warns against meaningless
speculation and debate (and rejection of the law of Cause and Effect):
there was an old cultivator ... Although he claimed to be a Buddhist, all he
cultivated were outside ways. That meant his outlook and knowledge were deviant.
One day a person came and asked him, 'You're an old cultivator with a lot of
practice behind you, but does a great cultivator fall within Cause and Effect or
not?' ... The old cultivator very casually, without a moment's hesitation,
replied majestically 'Great cultivators do not fall within Cause and Effect.'
He bellowed it out. Now, that sentence might not have seemed important, but when
he died he became an old fox ... The old fox ... had some [karmic affinities]
with Ch'an Master Pai Chang. It began to turn up at the Master's Sutra lectures,
taking on the appearance of an elderly layman with a long white beard and the
ruddy face of a child -- for it had spiritual powers by then."(Master Hsuan
the layman/old fox was enlightened by Master Pai Chang, who taught: "Great
cultivators are not unclear about Cause and Effect. It is not that they don't
come under it; they are not obscure about it." Soon afterward, the
layman/old fox died peacefully and was given the last rites of a monk.
See note 10.