The Ten Precepts are the training rules for Buddhist monks or nuns. As part of the Six Paramitas, they build upon the basic Five Precepts or Mindfulness Trainings, and are seen as guidelines to help you attain liberation from illusion.
These rules are for serious ascetics and wannabe saints only. In fact, living by these precepts outside the walls of a monastery would be almost impossible and I doubt you’d have many friends. With that in mind, here they are:
- Refrain from killing
- Refrain from stealing
- Refrain from sexual activity (including sensuality and lust)
- Refrain from false speech
- Refrain from taking intoxicants
- Refrain from eating at inappropriate times (i.e. after noon)
- Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment performances
- Refrain from wearing perfume, cosmetics and decorative accessories
- Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on soft beds
- Refrain from accepting money
In other words – have no fun. Ever.
Obviously these rules are designed to push you towards enlightenment but I can’t help thinking they may be a little over the top. After all, what’s wrong with sleeping in a comfortable bed or humming a little tune to yourself every once in a while? I don’t think I’ll be signing up to join a nunnery any time soon!
However, you can still use these precepts as a guide to help you in your daily practice, even if you’re not a monk or a nun. The precepts arise directly from your Buddha Nature, so aligning yourself with these principles will bring you closer to liberation from illusion and suffering. A fully enlightened person would behave in accordance with these precepts without giving it a second thought; it would simply be natural for them to be this way.
The precepts are not easy to follow but that’s why you practise. They’re designed to nudge you in the right direction and there’s no need to be rigid or dogmatic in following the rules. You only need to do your best.
Ten Precepts in Zen:
- Do not kill – affirm life
- Do not steal – be generous
- Do not misuse sexuality – honour the body
- Do not lie – be truthful
- Do not cloud the mind – cultivate clarity
- Do not speak ill of others – be respectful
- Do not elevate yourself above others – recognise we are all one
- Do not be possessive – cultivate sharing
- Do not be angry – cultivate loving-kindness
- Do not defile the Three Jewels – cultivate awakening