Precept Practice

Observing the Precepts

Precepts are at the heart of Buddhist ethics. The five universal precepts, related to Wise Action on the Eight-fold Path, are based in an intention of non-harming and living into a life of compassion, loving kindness, generosity and forgiveness.

As people following a Buddhist path of recovery, we commit to avoiding actions that cause harm, especially those listed in the Five Precepts which represent a basic system of ethical behavior. As listed in the book Recovery Dharma, the Five Precepts are as follows:

I undertake to...

... avoid taking the life of another living being, or from causing harm to ourselves or another living being.

... avoid taking what is not freely given.

... avoid causing harm through my sexual (sensual) conduct, and to be aware of the consequences and impact of my sexual (sensual) activity and desire.

... speak honestly, not lying, and not using speech in a harmful way.

... avoid the use of intoxicants and intoxicating behaviors that cloud my awareness.

Ethical behavior and mindfulness are closely related. Through meditation we discover behaviors which are skillful and wholesome, and learn to avoid those which are unskillful and unwholesome. The mindfulness we find in meditation helps us become aware of actions which cause suffering; to refrain from them; and to replace them with more skillful actions.

But in order for this awareness to play a truly meaningful part in our lives, we need to not just establish mindfulness in our meditation, but also carry it into our daily actions. Thich Nhat Hahn tells us, "When we are able to come back to our breathing and stop the confused activities of our mind, we shall know intuitively what to do and what not to do."

There’s a link between this idea and our practice of Anapanasati contemplations.

    • In meditation we observe our breath and our bodies and attune ourselves into calmness and contentment.

    • We observe our feelings, our reactive patterns, understand their impermanent nature, and allow them to calm so we can see more deeply with clarity and insight.

    • We experience the essence of our minds, and feel the suffering that is there. We observe the impermanent nature of our suffering, and allow each expression of suffering to calm and to pass.

    • We learn to find the space in between these expressions of suffering, and to live there in gladness, with deeper concentration, and a growing sense of liberation.

A mindful practice of precepts aids our recovery by providing an ethical standard against which we can view our thoughts, words, and actions. Through this, we deepen our commitment to a life of Right Action.

Talks on the Five Precepts

Audio Recording, Recovery Dharma retreat at the North Carolina Zen Center, 2019. (52 minutes)

Audio Recording, PBO/RD Meditation Group. 10 minutes

Audio Recording, PBO/RD Meditation Group. 15 minutes

Audio Recording, PBO/RD Meditation Group. 16 minutes

Audio Recording, PBO/RD Meditation Group. 19 minutes

Audio Recording, PBO/RD Meditation Group. 13 minutes

Practicing Buddha's Precepts : A Recitation Ceremony

Download Here

This recitation ceremony was created for use by the Pittsboro Recovery Dharma Precept Practice Group, though anyone is welcome to use it if it seems helpful on your path of recovery.

The intention in reciting the precepts is to keep the precepts alive in our minds and hearts, keeping us close to our values as we work to transform the suffering of ourselves and those around us.

  • Suggested Reading

Thich Nhat Hanh

The Mindfulness Survival Kit. Available on Amazon

Interbeing. Available on Amazon

For a Future To Be Possible. Available on Amazon

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are the Whole of the Dharma

by Christoper Reed (5 pages)

The Loving Kindness (Metta) Sutra

Traditional (1 page)

Morality Brings Happiness

by Ajahn Chah (14 pages)

A New Paradigm for Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic

By Marisela Gomez and Valerie Brown (2 pages)

The Precepts: A Special Practice Section

Tricycle Magazine (10 pages)

From a Zen Perspective

Koshin Paley Ellison. Whole Hearted. Available on Amazon

John Daido Loori. The Heart of Being. Available on Amazon

Robert Aitken. The Mind of Clover. Available on Amazon

Reb Anderson. Being Upright. Available on Amazon

Diane Eshin Rizzeto. Waking Up to What You Do. Available on Amazon