Taking of Precepts

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Zen Buddhist Precepts

People who practice Buddhism do not formally “convert” to Buddhism, but instead take precepts as a way of solidifying their commitment to the practice. It is possible to take Buddhist precepts and continue practicing another religion. The taking of precepts is a formal commitment to practice. When you take five precepts, you will receive a Buddhist name.

  • I vow to abstain from taking life.
  • I vow to abstain from taking things not given.
  • I vow to abstain from misconduct done in lust.
  • I vow to abstain from lying.
  • I vow to abstain from intoxicants, taken to induce heedlessness.

Taking the five precepts means recognizing the importance of practicing, and making it part of your everyday life. It means joining a family of other people who have made the same decision, practicing with them when you can. If you live near a Zen Center, you can frequently join others in formal meditation and will find great support practicing within a community of other Zen students. If you live at a distance from a Zen Center, you will find it helpful to come to intensive retreats periodically.

Members of our school are eligible to take precepts according to the precepts order and teaching of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Any member is eligible to take the first five precepts after:

  • Becoming a member of the Zen Center of Las Vegas or another Kwan Um School of Zen center
  • Sitting at least four days of retreats at a Kwan Um Zen Center
  • Filing a precepts application (available at our Zen Center) with the KUSZ at least a month before the scheduled precept ceremony date

Precepts can also be taken to become a Dharma Teacher in Training, Dharma Teacher, Senior Dharma Teacher, Bodhisattva Teacher or a monastic. In order to take precepts as any of the above, please consult your Guiding Teacher.

The first level of precepts is 5 precepts: not to kill, lie, steal, do bad things out of lust, or take intoxicants in order to induce heedlessness. Taking 5 precepts signals a serious commitment to practice. A person taking the 5 precepts is given a short bib-like garment (called a kasa) to symbolize this commitment. The 5 precepts are common to all forms of Mahayana Buddhism.

Taking precepts is a step in making a commitment to our practice and to live our life in the bodhisattva way. That means my life is not for me, but for others. The precepts are like a simple road map of a path we already know. By keeping them we can access these simple instructions on leading a correct life whenever we lose our direction.

In the Kwan Um School of Zen, taking 10 precepts means that a person has shown maturity in their practice and is ready and willing to help lead practice, help beginners, and give short talks. These people are called dharma teachers in training, and after further maturity and training they are given long robes and called dharma teachers.

Taking 16 precepts means that a person is mature enough to give consulting interviews in which students may ask questions relating to practice, or about how practice relates to their lives. Such a person is called a senior dharma teacher, and few students in the Kwan Um school have this title.

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