Precepts, What They Are and Why We Need Them

As the four noble truths say, there is suffering and a way out of suffering. Meditation and skillful means point the way as to what behaviors to accept and what to reject. Suffering does not just come out of nowhere. There are conditions for suffering and conditions for happiness. Knowing what to accept and what to reject is skillful means. Precepts are not a list of do’s and don’ts. They are not threats that if not abided by will land us in hell. Rather, they are conditions we can create for ourselves that can either bring us closer to well being, or dis-ease.

Shambhala has been weak in stressing precepts. I think it is a major flaw in our community that needs to be addressed now. There are no Shambhala police that are going to enforce precepts. It is always up to each individual. But it is our responsibility as leaders and teachers to stress their importance. The first precept is about protecting the lives of human beings, animals, vegetables and minerals. The second is to prevent the exploitation by humans of other living beings and of nature. It is also the practice of generosity. The third is to protect children and adults from sexual abuse. The fourth is to practice deep listening and loving speech. The fifth precept is about mindful consumption,

All the precepts support good heath and happiness for ourselves and society. A deeper look at precepts reveal their encouragement to refrain from stealing, lying, sexual exploitation, killing, and the use of alcohol and drugs? Ah, there is the rub. I think as Shambhalians we have rationalized our consumption of alcohol and killing animals for food.

Our deepest aspiration is to wake up. Common sense tells us that abusing alcohol takes us in the opposite direction. As far as consuming animals, the Buddha did not walk in the rainy season for fear of stepping on worms and small insects driven to the surface by the rain. So meat consumption by him was clearly out of the question. Perhaps there was a time for certain cultures under certain conditions to consume other sentient beings. But we are not living under those conditions now.

So, as Director of PBS I suggest we emphasize the precepts and follow them as best we can in our center and in our households. We should be mindful that following precepts creates liberation from suffering for ourselves and other beings.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s life was cut short by excessive alcohol use and we were robbed of many more precious years with him. Our current Sakyong has expressed that alcohol is the cause of his sexual misconduct.

As part of our practice we must try to be mindful of the precepts as part of the Six Paramitas and the Eight Fold Path given to us by the Buddha. These were his greatest teachings that point the way to liberation from suffering for us and all beings.

The Dharma and the Precepts should not be a matter of convenience. As members of Shambhala let us remember the precepts and why we need them. May all beings benefit from this aspiration to be mindful to refrain from harming ourselves, animals and all beings.

Be Sociable, Share!