Oakville Zen Meditation

#65.Zen Buddhism Precepts: what are they? 25JUL15

  1. The precepts:

 The core ethical code of Zen Buddhism is known as the five precepts onto which 5 others are added. All of them are the distillation of Zen Buddhism existential principles dominated by “NOT HARM SELF, NOT HARM OTHERS”

To live is to act ethically, and our actions can have either harmful or beneficial consequences not only for us but also for all others living beings. Above all Buddhist ethic is concerned with the principles and practices to assist you and I in helping rather than harming self and others.

Despite being somewhat similar to those found in other religions the Buddhist precepts are not rules or commandments but rather ethical principles to learn and apply for self-enhancement and proper social behavior such as helping others. These principles are undertaken freely and need to be put into practice with intelligence, mindfulness and sensitivity during our life with the assistance of the teacher and others members of the Sangha (Zen Buddhist community).

The Buddhist teaching acknowledges that we are not perfect and life is and can be very complex throwing at us many difficulties, challenges, unwanted and unexpected disasters. Therefore it does not suggest that there is a single proper course of action that will be perfect in all circumstances since there are always exemptions. Indeed, rather than speaking of actions being either right or wrong, Zen Buddhism speaks of being skillful or unskillful, mindful or thoughtless, respectful or not with self and with others. The concept of sin does not exist per se since nothing is black or white.
During the ceremony the incoming Buddhist reads out loud the following list in front of the Zen Master(s) and the congregation. Precepts can be taken several times during life if requested.

The core first 5 precepts:

  • Do not harm life but cherish all forms of living creatures.
  • Do not steal but respect the properties of others.
  • Do not engage in sexual misconduct, but practice purity of mind and self-restraint.
  • Do not lie but speak the fact.
  • Do not misuse intoxicants of all form and do not deal with firearms.

The next 5 (in nonspecific order).

  • Do not back talk, harbor enmity and blame others about the wrongs and weaknesses of others and do not elevate oneself.
  • Don’t be stingy, but practice openness, understanding, sharing, generosity and compassion.
  • Promote love, peace and justice through non-violent means.
  • Control your anger and other negative feelings against yourself and others.
  • Respect the 3 Jewels: Buddha (the awakened one), Dharma (teaching) and Sangha (Buddhist community). The 3 Jewels are called “Refuges”.

  2. The refuges:

  • “I go for refuge to the Buddha, and resolve that with all beings I will realize the Great Way and develop a heart of Enlightenment.
  • I go for refuge to the Dharma, and resolve that with all beings I will penetrate the teachings and uncover wisdom as vast as the ocean.
  • I go for refuge to the Sangha, and resolve that with all beings I will seek great peace and harmony so that nothing will impede our progress towards an enlightened society.
  • I go for refuge to the Three jewels within myself, and resolve that with all beings I will lead a bodhisattwa’s way of life, ( the one who shows example ) time and time again, until all beings develop full wisdom and compassion.”


Ven. Ji Gong Sunim. July 25th 2015.