Dear Luang Phaw, I would like to ask how we can keep the 5 precepts correctly. I would also like to have your advice regarding the wholesome strategy and method for keeping the 5 precepts solidly at all times.
by Venerable Dhattajeevo Bhikku
It is easy to remember that the right method for keeping the precepts requires determination.
You cannot be counted as keeping the precepts without this determination.
If you demonstrate determination, you will not commit a transgression. When we are in a position to transgress, but we do not transgress because of our determination to keep the precepts, this is truly keeping the precepts.
Why do we need to have determination? When we show determination not to kill, we still do not kill, even when our lives are in danger. Even when we are about to lose everything, we do not steal. Even when we have the chance to satisfy our lust, we do not engage in extramarital sex. Even when our situation is dire, we do not lie or speak falsehoods. Even when our emotions are intense, we do not drink alcoholic beverages. Stop consuming all types of alcoholic beverages and addictive drugs. There is no more to say.
If someone holds a knife against your throat or a gun
against your head to make you transgress against the 5 precepts, even if you
must die do not commit this transgression. I must speak this way because many
people misunderstand. Invite
someone to the temple and he will respond “Why do I need to go to the
temple? I didn’t do anything bad. So if I didn’t do anything bad, I am a good
person.” Oh, this is so dangerous. You must change your perspective.
How do we know
what qualities make a person good? People who show the determination to
act virtuously are good people. There are people who do not act virtuously, who
are indifferent and do not behave badly. People who simply do not act badly do not count as good people.
Convicts incarcerated in dark prison cells, these people are wicked and must spend their days in dark cells, in solitary confinement. They have no chance to kill, steal, to engage in sexual relations, to lie, or to drink alcohol. Are these prisoners keeping the 5 precepts? The answer is “It depends.” Why?
If a prisoner commits these precepts to heart, such that if an ant, mosquito, or mite pesters him and he does not squash or swat it, this counts as keeping the precepts. But if he thinks that whatever creature comes to annoy him must be crushed and killed, this demonstrates that he is not determined to keep the precepts.
Therefore he is not a person keeping the precepts. It is necessary to analyze this: a person who does not violate the precepts with his actions does not mean this person is keeping the precepts. It only means he did not violate the precepts yet.
People who keep the precepts are those who are determined to keep the precepts. They do not violate the precepts in their actions and their speech. When an opportunity for breaking the precepts arises, they do not do so. This person is truly someone who keeps the precepts. This should be clear.
Next, what strategy, what technique, what means will enable us to always maintain the precepts? I would like you to keep something in mind. If I use other people as an example, those are still just others. I will tell you about how I did it when I was a layman.
At the time I was still a layman, I used an easy method: I
took the effort to keep the precepts day by day. How did I do this? In the morning before I left my house, I
placed my hands in a gesture of prayer around the Buddhist amulet I wore around
my neck and chanted the Triple Gem three times. After this, I promised to the Buddhist amulet in my hand that
under no circumstances would I violate the first precept: “Panatipata veramani”. I would not kill even an ant or a
mosquito. I promised the amulet in my
“Adinnadana veramani.” I promised that on that day I would not
violate the second precept prohibiting theft. I did not make a promise for the following day because it would not be
good to make a promise then be unable to keep it.
“Kamesu micchacara veramani.” I promised that on that day I would not
violate the third precept prohibiting adultery. I would not become involved with anyone’s wife or daughter. I would cease all adulterous actions and
thoughts from that moment on.
“Musavada veramani.” I promised that on that day I would not violate the fourth precept prohibiting speaking falsehoods. On that day I would have to speak only the truth. I would not speak about anything untrue. To speak untruths about others would cause them harm. So it is better not to speak if the speech is false. This is unquestionably how it should be.
“Suramerayamajjapamadatthana veramani.” I promised that on that day I would not violate the fifth precept prohibiting the consumption of intoxicants. Be it whiskey or beer or rice whiskey, any kind of alcohol, I would not have it.
Tomorrow I could not predict. I made promises to myself each day. When I ended a day without violating the precepts, I felt pleased that I had overcome the obstacles for one day. One has to admit that the world today is hectic. There are many pressures upon us that can lead to violations of the precepts.
But when we are determined to keep the precepts day by day, it does not feel like a burden. It eases the passage of the day. It is not hard work and does not require a lot of preparation.
If you do this everyday you will feel happy everyday. When you have done this for a full year, keeping the precepts will become instinctual at some point. It will be part of your nature. When something comes along that provokes you into violating the precepts, your mind will reject it. Because the precepts have become part of you, deeply rooted in your mind.
I would like to tell you that keeping the precepts is a
process. When you first start to keep the precepts, when a mosquito bites you,
you react immediately by swatting it. But when you hand nears the mosquito you realize that today you are keeping
the precepts. Ah, I cannot kill this
It is like dipping a tamarind into sugar. The sweetness is on the outside but the tamarind remains sour. It is like this at first, wobbling and unsure. But keep the precepts for one, two, three months continually. The sugar will start to saturate the tamarind.
When a mosquito bites you, you will chase it away, shoo it off instead of swatting it. When you feel the pain of the bite, you will brush it off.
When you have practiced keeping the precepts for a year, when a mosquito bites you, you will consider the cycle of existence. If you remain in the cycle, you will still have the chance to mistreat each other.
When you have eliminated the defilements, you will not encounter anything that will bring about such further mistreatment. If a mosquito bites you, you will contemplate attaining nirvana. Here, this is when the sugar infuses itself into the tamarind and makes it sweet.
Therefore, keeping the precepts is not something you do on and off. It must become your life.