Why should we take the five precepts?


Don't miss the chance to take the five precepts

What is "laity"?

Precepts should be requested from a left-home person

The basic rules to be observed by a Buddhist

Can smoking be allowed?

The importance of taking the five precepts

The benefit of taking the five precepts

There's no benefit in studying Buddhadharma

Will shunning away from taking precepts give you true "freedom"?

What if I broke the precepts?

The story of an old cultivator

Manjusuri Bodhisattva's Precious Pearl

Don't act as your own defense lawyer

What are pure precepts?

Always look for our own faults

Don't regret it at old age



Not killing in this life, one will not encounter disasters and difficulties in future lives.

Not stealing in this life, one will not be robbed in future lives.

Not engaging in sexual misconduct in this life, one will have good marriage in future lives.

Not lying in this life, one will not be cheated in future lives.

Not drinking in this life, one will not lose sanity in future lives.

Some people have taken the refuge with Triple Jewel for many years and yet they do not want to take the five precepts. They fear that once they take the five precepts they will lose their freedom. The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua taught his lay disciples that one either lose freedom now and be free in the future, or be free now and lose freedom in the future. Don't think that you can be free to kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct, tell lies, and drink wine since you have not taken the precepts. That is self-deceiving. In fact, it's very easy for you to fall into the three paths by doing these things.

The five precepts are the most fundamental precepts that one should observe. Since you have taken the refuge with the Triple Jewel, which indicates your willingness to study Buddhadharma, it would be best if you can also become a Dharma protecting laity who takes the five precepts and practices the ten wholesome deeds.


Don't miss the chance to take the five precepts

People, who take the five precepts or the eight precepts, are called "Upasika" (for men) or "Upasaka" (for women). If they take the Bodhisattva precepts then they are called Bodhisattvas. Those who take Bodhisattva precepts are just Bodhisattvas. Originally, only left-home people take Bodhisattva precepts. However, Bodhisattvas are people who benefit both self and others, so lay people can also take Bodhisattva precepts.

In Buddhism, taking precepts are very important. So now, those who like to take precepts should not miss the chance.

You can take one precept, two precepts, three precepts, four precepts, or five precepts, or even eight precepts. However, you cannot take ten precepts, as they are Shramanera precepts. But you can take Bodhisattva precepts, the ten-major and forty-eight-minor precepts.

Taking one precept is called taking "minimum share precept,"

Taking two precepts is called taking "half share precept,"

Taking three precepts is called taking "majority share precept,"

Taking five precepts is called taking "full share precept."

If you have problem taking the precept of not killing beings, you can take the precept of not stealing. If you like to drink like my wine-drinking disciple who didn't want to take the precept prohibiting the consuming of intoxicant, then you don't have to take this precept. You can take others.

"I like to boast. I cannot take this precept against lying." Well, you can take other four precepts.

"I cannot promise not to kill. Sometimes, unintentionally, I may kill ants and small bugs. If I kill them after taking the precepts my offense will be greater." Then, you don't have to take the precept against killing. You can do whatever you prefer, taking one, two, three, or up to five precepts, just don't miss this opportunity.

In China, if you don't have two hundred US dollar, you won't be able to take precepts. The money is not for your sash and robe, which you'll have to prepare by yourself - you can spend more money if you like good quality sash and robe and less money if you don't care. If you take the precepts and give the money to your teacher and his temple as an offering, two hundred dollars is not too much.


What is "laity"?

What is a laity? A laity is one who believes in Buddhism, upholds the five precepts, and practices the ten good deeds and who has not left the home-life.

What are the five precepts? They are the precepts against killing, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct and taking intoxicant. Presently, many people have taken the five precepts. They can all be called laity, or lay people.

What are the ten good deeds? The ten good deeds are just the opposite of ten bad deeds. The ten bad deeds are: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, these three are conducted with the body; greed, hatred, and ignorance belong to the mind; and lying, loose speech, coarse speech, and divisive speech are committed by the mouth, which account for almost half of the ten.

What is loose speech? It is improper and deviant speech, such as saying such and such woman behaves in such and such way or some certain family is this and that. Lying is telling lies. Coarse speech is scolding. Scolding people is creating mouth karma. Double-tongued, this does not mean one has grown two tongues. It means one engages in divisive speech. He tells A about B and then B about A, trying to separate them. This is called double-tongued speech.

Turn the ten evil deeds around and they become the ten wholesome deeds. What are the ten wholesome deeds? They are: not killing, not stealing, not indulging in sexual misconduct, not being greedy, not harboring hatred, not being ignorant, not delivering loose speech, not lying, not saying harsh words, and not engaging in divisive speech. If you can refrain from doing all these bad things, than you will be wholesome. Lay people should abide by these ten good deeds. All lay people must observe the five precepts and practice the ten wholesome deeds.


Precepts should be requested from a left-home person

To uphold precepts is just to do no evil but do all good. How many precepts are there? Many, there are the five precepts. Those who have taken three refuges with the Triple Jewel and who like to take one step forward should take the five precepts. After having taken the five precepts, another step forward will be taking the eight precepts, and then the ten precepts that is the Shramanera precepts.

Lay people who like to take precepts must request them from a left-home person. To transmit precepts means to give you precept substance. A person who transmits the precept substance to you must be a Bhikshu. In the Vinaya, a Bhikshuni is not allowed to transmit precepts.


The basic rules to be observed by a Buddhist

The five precepts are the most fundamental rules that a Buddhist should follow. They are: not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying and not consuming intoxicant.

If you take the precept against killing and constantly refrain from killing, you will be rewarded with longevity. You will live a long life. Why is it that some people have long life span while others have short life span? Those who had upheld the precept against killing are rewarded with a long life while people who liked to kill have the retribution of a short life.

Why should one observe the precept against stealing? It is because stealing causes others to lose their wealth. What is stealing? It is covertly taking away properties and materials belonging to others. What's your retribution for stealing others' things? You will get the retribution of not being able to hold your wealth long. For example, you may be rich originally, and all of a sudden you get robbed. Sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicant are similar. For instance, you may not be observing the rule against sexual misconduct and you have affairs with other's women. In the future, others will also prostitute your own wife or daughter. These are all retributions.

Lying - if you don't cheat people, you will not be cheated. "I have never cheated any one in my life. Why is it that many people cheated me?" Didn't I just say that the matter of retribution is not limited to one lifetime? It crosses over three lifetimes, past, present, and future. You may not have cheated any one in this life, but do you know how many people you had cheated in your previous life? "I don't know." If you don't know, then it is right that people cheat you.

A little wine doesn't hurt. However, if you drink a lot your will become confused and do crazy things. That's why drinking wine is prohibited in Buddhism.

If we were to elaborate, the five precepts consist of many principles. The main point is that when our hands are not doing killing, our minds should also not give rise to thoughts of killing. This is truly upholding the precept against killing. It is the same with the precept against stealing. Our hands are not stealing and our minds are also free from the thoughts of stealing. Regardless of the value of objects, as long as you use or take them stealthily without getting permission, it is considered having violated the precept against stealing.

A very simple example: Someone bought a bottle of wine that you liked, "What's his is also mine and what's mine is still mine." You went ahead and helped yourself with a glass of wine. This is violating the precept against stealing and the precept against consuming intoxicant.

Someone says, "I don't drink, so I won't violate this precept." You don't drink wine but you drink milk. Perhaps you find in the refrigerator a carton of milk. You go ahead and drink it with no concern as to who's the owner. Someone else asks you, "Whose milk is it?" "I don't know." You consume it without knowing whose milk is it. Aren't you being reckless?

Milk itself is not an issue but you drink it without the owner's consent is violating the precept against stealing which includes all things edible and useful.

I was told a few days ago that someone in another house is stealing others' food to eat, which has caused some people affliction. Though the thief violated the precepts, however, those who bought milk or wine should also reflect upon yourselves. "Why he stole my things? How is it that he stole my food? Oh, I had stolen others' food to eat in my previous life. I should just let the whole thing go." This is the thought the food owner should give rise to.

However, the person who steals cannot think that, "I steal your food now and in the future I'll let you steal mine." You don't even know whether you will have things to eat in the future. If you don't have anything how can others steal from you? We should not harbor the thought of stealing. I will not casually use things that are not bought with my own money. It will be fine and not considered violating precepts if you get prior permission from the owner. If you use others' things with no permission granted that is violating the precept against stealing. In a more subtle aspect, if you take even a blade of grass or a needle without the owner's permission is called breaking the precept. The precepts of not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying and not consuming intoxicant are the same. With my explanation of one, you will understand the others.

Why some people can ascend to the heavens? It's because they upheld the five precepts. The blessing of those ascended to the heavens may be boundless and limitless. However, it is exhaustible. When the five signs of decay appear, the heavenly beings will still fall. Being born in the heavens is not ultimate either.

Ashuras have some merit and virtue that they created with affliction. One example is for one to do meritorious deeds with the intention to compete. "I donated five dollars to the temple. How much have you donated?" You want to know how much other people have donated. "I have donated ten dollars. You have also donated ten dollars? Then I want to donate twenty." If you always want to compete with others for number one, you will be certain to fall into the realm of Ashura in the future. You will have amassed some merit and virtue for sure, but it comes from the intention to win. We can say that this is fighting for fame. "Do you see so and so is number one. He gives the most money." These are all the merit and virtue that warrants a rebirth in the realm of Ashura and that is just fighting for being number one.

When you practice Buddhadharma you must truly realize cause and effect so that you won't be confused. Perhaps you cannot create fame here so you go somewhere else to do it. You make everyone here know and say, "Oh! Do you know so and so go to New York to do great merits." This is planting the cause to be reborn as an Ashura in the future.

If you get angry whenever you talk, or want to be the number one in whatever matters, these are all seeds for Ashura rebirth. If you don't cut off your affliction, all the merit and virtue that you create are defected. They are not pure merit and virtue. We should do meritorious deeds but we should not want people to know if I am the number one or the number two. There's also another type of people who don't want to be known. He will tell you in private, "Do you know, I donated five thousand dollars to such and such way-place. No one knows about it. I am only letting you know." This type of people is also Ashura. They are worse than the Ashura type that I mentioned previously. Why is it? It's because this is Yin type Ashura and not Yang type.

They pretend that they don't want to be known and yet they advertise even more in private. Thus, it's said, "If one is not true on the causal ground, the retribution one obtains will be crooked." If you don't plant a proper seed the result will not be proper. Then what kind of fruit will you be harvesting? Being reborn as an Ashura! What's bad about being an Ashura? There are many, such as fighting wars every day, etc. Will you say that's good?

Where people come from? They also come from places where they cultivated upholding the five precepts and practicing the ten wholesome deeds. However, their cultivation is of lower grade. Ashuras are the result of cultivating the five precepts and ten goods deeds of medium grade. As for the heavens, it's top grade. There are many details in there if we are to analyze it.


Can smoking be allowed?

Perhaps one does not have the intention to boast, but one can tell lies without even thinking. Telling lies can be very quick. One does not have to think what lies to tell before saying them. For instance, when someone asks you, "Have you stolen something?" You will say, "I didn't" without having to think even if you have. Then, you will have committed one stealing offense and add on top of it another offense of lying.

Another example is a person who went outside to smoke. When he came back, I asked him, "How many cigarettes have you smoked?" "I didn't smoke." I said, "Some people saw you." "Oh. I smoked one cigarette." You see. He said he didn't smoke and then said he smoked one cigarette. I said, "How many cigarettes have you got left?" "Three." "Where are the other seven?" "Well, I don't know." I picked up a club and hit him right on the head, "pa!" "Do you know what is this? Does it hurt?" "Yes." "Yes? Then why did you lie?" "Well, the Vinaya doesn't prohibit smoking." "Have you studied the Vinaya? Do you know for sure that it doesn't prohibit smoking? Smoking is included in the precept against taking intoxicant." "Oh! I didn't know."

The smell from smoking is the worst. Not only one smells bad outside, inside his body it also smells bad. Bodhisattvas and Dharma protecting good spirits will not want to protect you when they find out you smell smoke. No matter how great a merit and virtue you may have, they will leave you alone and you will have many accidents occur to you.

We don't have to talk about others. Right here, we have this one person, who smoked stealthily and caused a very dangerous incident to occur. It happened because of smoking and he still didn't know about it.

People who smoke will fall into the hell of flames after they die. The hell of flames is specially prepared for those smokers. Whoever likes to smoke has the chance to go down there. If you refrain from smoking, you will cut off the path toward the hell of flames. If you don't, however, you will have a share of it in the future. People do not know the seriousness of such matter and do whatever they like. When you understand, you will not do it. Smoking is a more severe problem then drinking.

Why didn't Shakyamuni Buddha prohibit smoking but disallow drinking? It is because during that time when the Buddha was in the world no one knew how to smoke.


The importance of taking the five precepts

If one can uphold the five precepts and practice the ten good deeds, one will ascend to the heavens. The five precepts - not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, and not taking intoxicant:

Not killing is being kind and compassionate,

Not stealing is being righteous,

Not engaging in sexual misconduct is being an outstanding person,

Not lying is being a loyal and faithful person,

Not taking intoxicant is being a proper person.

Killing brings the retribution of a short life span,

Stealing brings the retribution of a poor and difficult life,

Sexual misconduct brings the retribution of being born as pigeons or mandarin ducks.

Birds are impractical and lustful. If one is this way one will be reborn as a bird.

I often say this to you and you never pay much attention. I will not mind the trouble to say this to you once again. What is it? People must not kill, because all living beings have either been our relatives or friends since limitless kalpas. They perhaps had been our parents or ancestors. That's not for sure. If we kill beings that could be our parents of the past who had committed offenses and being reborn as pigs or cows, it will be the same as killing our own parents indirectly.

As for stealing, it's said, "One should not do to others what one would not like done to one." You should not do things that you don't like done to you to others. Since we don't like been stolen of our belongings, we should not steal others' things or wealth.

In the law of cause and effect, the punishment for sexual misconduct is very heavy. Husbands and wives should not casually get divorced. If you get married and then get divorced later, in the law of cause and effect, your body will be divided into two parts because you had two relationships. You will be sawed into half from head to toe. You will be sawed into as many pieces as the number of marriages you have. If one woman had married a hundred men, she would be cut into one hundred pieces. Each man would get a piece of her.

What's bad about being cut into fragments? It will be hard for the spiritual nature to get together again. The chance is difficult to get by. If the chance does not arise, the spiritual nature will forever be incomplete and be much like woods and grasses. One will become an insentient thing. It's because your nature is fragmental and insufficient to function as a sentient being. Even if you can become a sentient being, you will become a swarm of eighty-four thousand mosquitoes. Those mosquitoes will in turn become mosquitoes without any awareness of how to change their course. With their backs to enlightenment, they will merge with the mundane world. They will be unable to turn their backs on the mundane dust and unite with enlightenment. They will continually be born and die within the cycle of transmigration.

Thus, it's said, "Once the human body is lost, it will not be recovered in tens of thousands of kalpas." If we lose the human body, we will have to pass through millions of kalpas and still may not be able to regain it.


The benefit of taking the five precepts

Not caging birds in this life, one will not be put into the jail in future lives;

Not fishing in this life, one will not become a beggar in future lives;

Not killing in this life, one will not encounter disasters and difficulties in future lives;

Not stealing in this life, one will not be robbed in future lives;

Not engaging in sexual misconduct in this life, one will have good marriage in future lives;

Not lying in this life, one will not be cheated in future lives;

Not drinking in this life, one will not lose sanity in future lives.


"Not caging birds in this life, one will not be put into the jail in future lives." Think about it. When you put a bird in a cage, you take freedom away from it. You are not abiding the constitution of this country. This country advocates freedom. Caging a bird is the same as putting the bird behind bars. The bird will start chanting the mantra, "retribution, retribution!" In the future, the bird will come before the Jade Emperor, who is the Lord of the Heavens, and suit you left and right. The Heavenly Lord will say, "Okay, this person has not being fair. He shall undergo the retribution!" You will then go to jail in future lives. This is because the bird has been chanting the mantra of retribution from morning to night. When the Lord of Heavens hears it, he gives the verdict of this man being put behind bars.

I don't recall whether it's in this life or some other lives in the past, I was deluded and didn't understand principles then. I saw people fishing so I went fishing too. I was quite fond of doing it. When the fish took the bait, it would cause the water to ripple. At this time, swing the fishing pole upward and the fish would be hooked. What happened to me afterward? I became a beggar in next life, handing out a bowl to beg for food because I couldn't get anything to eat. Thus, it's said, "Not fishing in this life, one will not become a beggar in future lives." It's quite bitter to beg for food. It's only right that we Buddhist do less fishing.

Someone may say, "I can do less fishing, just once a year. And I will only fish for small and not big fish. Will that be okay?" Well, a small fish is a life, and a big fish is also a life. You fish once is killing, you fish many times is also killing. However, if you fish less, your debt will be less; fish more, more debt. That is to say, if you fish for half a pound, you must pay back eight ounces in the future.

Killing -  Not killing in this life, one will not encounter disasters and difficulties in future live. If you refrain from killing all living beings, in future lives, you will not be killed and you will be free from all disasters and difficulties. You will not be killed by gunshots, burned by fire, or drawn in water. Since you didn't kill in previous life, you will also be free from all illnesses.

"Not stealing in this life, one will not be robbed in future lives." If you don't rob others of their things, no one will rob you in future lives. Why were you robbed? It's because you had stolen and robbed people in previous life. You thought it was quite good to steal others' belongings. This life, they snatch it back. This revolving cause and effect is quite inconceivable.

"Not engaging in sexual misconduct in this life, one will not undergo marriage changes in future lives." What does it mean by marriage changes? They could mean divorce or troublesome marriage. This is the result of one's failure to follow precepts. Those who had engaged in sexual misconduct will be born with a bad bodily odor. Whoever had not observed precepts, his or her body will have a very bad smell in this life. The smell will be so strong that no perfume can cover it. Men usually like women. But when they smell this odor, they will run away. Women are also fond of men, originally, if a man has such a smell, women will also run away from him. Such a person will not be loved. Since you did not uphold precepts, your body is not fragrant. If you uphold precepts in a serious manner, your body will emit a fragrance, which is called "adorned with fragrant light."

The Fragrant Concubine of Chin Dynasty in China, perhaps a native of a remote tribe, always emitted a fragrance. She didn't have to use perfume or fragrant soap bar. She had this natural fragrance from her body that is more fragrant than anything else. The deluded Chinese emperor waged a war and took her back. He called her "Fragrant Concubine," which had caused all of his other women to become jealous. The emperor had many wives and the empress killed her out of jealousy. This Fragrant Concubine was no longer fragrant.

In this life, if you do not engage in sexual misconduct and never get involved in affairs with other men or women, you will not get divorced in future lives. Since you had not been faithful in previous life, your marriage is not a happy one in this life. Various conditions have occurred to disrupt your marriage. This is the retribution of engaging in sexual misconduct.

"Not lying in this life, one will not be cheated in future lives." If we don't lie in this life, no one will cheat us in future lives. If someone cheated us, "Oh, I had lied in previous life so I am cheated in this life."

Someone told me that the four people from the Philippines do not really want to leave the home-life. They're taking the advantage of this chance to come here and after they get here they will not leave the home-life. I said that it's all right. I know very clearly their intention to fool me. I still believe them because I don't want to cheat people and I also believe that people will not deceive me. Even if I know someone is cheating me, I will not bring forth the thought that he is. The person when hears it may say, "Oh! That's good." In this world, people are putting up defensive front against each other. You fear that I may cheat you and I am afraid that you may deceive me. Am I taking a loss by not minding being cheated? If I am, it doesn't matter.

"Not drinking in this life, one will not lose sanity in future lives." Why is it that you get crazy, lose your sanity, or have mental illness in this life? It is because you had drunken too much and taken a lot of drugs in previous life. Therefore, the insane nature still continues into this life. The circular flow of cause and effect is this way whether you believe it or not. Whether you believe it or not is not of my concern, I will say it just the same.


There's no benefit in studying Buddhadharma

"I have studied, investigated, and listened to Buddhadharma for a long, long time and I have not gained any benefit!" What benefit do you want? In fact, you have gained great benefit without knowing it. What is it? When you study Buddhadharma here, you don't go out and murder people. Therefore, you are not among those murderers. Is this not benefit? When you come here to attend Dharma lectures, you will not be found among theft criminals. If you don't listen to lectures you may get involved in stealing, robbery, or even arson. Now that you study Buddhadharma, you are free from all these crimes. Won't you say that's benefit?

When learning Buddhadharma, you do not indulge your body in sexual misconduct. You don't go out to engage in sexual conduct. Since you don't have such conduct, you don't have a share in the raping crime. You do many proper things and have no share in any crimes. Isn't this just benefit? When you study Buddhadharma, you won't tell lies or go out to cheat people. Then, you don't share the crime of lying. This is purifying your mouth karma. Not creating the offenses of killing, stealing and lusting, you are purifying the body karma. If you can go further to refrain from drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, you will be purifying your mind karma. Since you don't consume those intoxicants, you don't have a share in the crime of drug abuse.

If purifying the three karmas is not the benefit of learning Buddhism, then what is it? If you don't study Buddhadharma, you may kill, you may steal, or get involved in arson. Policy will catch you and put you behind the bars, perhaps for life. Won't you say that's suffering? Since you are studying Buddhadharma, you are free from all these problems. If this is not the benefit what is it then? Therefore, we should not get weary in the study of Buddhadharma.


Will shunning away from taking precepts give you true "freedom"?

Someone may say to you, "Don't take the precepts. What do you take them for? Why get some "precepts" to restrain you?" This is a deviant view. You think that not taking precepts is being free. But it's very easy to fall into the hells that way. That will be true "freedom". If you take the precepts, you will have the protection of precepts, having the support of precept marks, percept dharma, and precept substance. You will not fall into the hells that easily. Even if you do fall into the hells, you will get out quickly. If you like to be free and don't take precepts. Later, when you fall into the hells, no one can tell you for sure when you will come out.

If you have taken precepts, the time span in the hells can be shortened. It is like having committed a great crime and got caught by the policy. However, since you work as a personal guard or attendant for the president, he will write a note ordering for your release. If you don't have such a relationship, you won't be released for who knows how long. The principle is the same. When you have the protection of precepts, the long time span of your suffering can be shortened to very brief. Therefore, don't get smart and say, "It's good not to take precepts."

It's good for you to take precepts. Let me say this to you, "Having taken the Buddha's precepts, living beings enter the position of all Buddhas." When living beings take the precepts of Buddhas, it's the same as having entered the position of the Buddha. Therefore, don't disparage the precepts or slander the Vinaya of the Buddha.


What if I broke the precepts?

"Precepts" is the mother of Buddhahood. If you want to become a Buddha, you must uphold precepts and you cannot break them. Having transgressed the precepts is just like drifting in the ocean in a leaking boat. Isn't the boat going to sink? Violating the precepts is just like the boat sinking to the ocean. When you have taken the precepts, you must uphold them. If you don't, it's the same as having leaks. When you leak, you are having outflows and not non-outflows. Having non-outflow is not breaking precepts. When you break the precepts, you have outflows. What should you do? You must mend it. How? By creating merit and virtue. You can create merit and virtue by either donating money, or contributing effort. By redeeming your offenses and establishing merit before the Triple Jewel, you will wipe out your offenses.


The story of an old cultivator

There's this old cultivator who was a lay person and not a left-home person. He had taken the five precepts and an additional rule of "silent eating." However, except this silent-eating rule he broke all the five precepts. The precept protecting spirit that protected this rule hoped that he would violate it so that he could also leave. This person, nonetheless, never broke this precept. He always kept silent when he ate.

Later, this precept spirit appeared in his dream, "You have transgressed all the precepts. Why haven't you broken this silent-eating rule? Break it quickly so I can leave you."

This old cultivator thought to himself, "I only hold this one silent-eating rule and still I have this precept spirit protecting me." Thereafter, he found a virtuous Dharma Master and retook the five precepts. Consequently, he cultivated and accomplished the Way.

Every one has his or her own set of causes and conditions. Taking precepts is a very important matter in Buddhism.


Manjusuri Bodhisattva's Precious Pearl

When Manjushri Bodhisattva was practicing the Bodhisattva way, he had never lied. Nor had he committed the offense of killing or stealing. In general, he upheld precepts strictly. How can we prove that he followed rules and never stole things? Once, he told other Bodhisattvas, "Ever since my initial resolve to cultivate, I have held the rule of not stealing. Therefore, my belongings will not be stolen by anyone. Not only no one will steal from me, even if I leave my most valuable things on the ground, no one will pick it up and walk away with it."

Some Bodhisattvas didn't believe him and said, "We like to actually experiment it. Take your most valuable thing and put it in the middle of the city gate, which is the busiest place. Leave it there for three days. If no one picks it up that will prove that your statement is true."

Manjushri Bodhisattva agreed, "Okay! Let's try it out." Thereupon, he put his most precious pearl (all Bodhisattvas possess many precious and valuable things) in the middle of the city gate. Many people passed the gate in the next three days and sure enough, no one had picked it up. Other Bodhisattvas then knew that Manjushri Bodhisattva had truly upheld the precept against stealing.


Don't act as your own defense lawyer

Different people explain the same Buddhadharma in many different ways. Accordingly, the method of cultivation is also different. Each person has his or her own interpretation. Therefore, there are distinctions of many different types and viewpoints.

For instance, true cultivators of Buddhadharma should not smoke, drink, or eat meat. There are some Buddhists who say, "The Buddha's precepts prohibit people from killing, stealing, indulging in sexual misconduct, lying, or drinking. However, there's no mentioning of smoking. Therefore, smoking is not included in the precepts." This is self-justification. Smoking is covered in the precept against drinking. They want to act as their own defense attorneys so they say smoking is not a violation of the precepts.

A person with true wisdom will not do anything that is not proper. He will refrain from doing bad things and not just those mentioned in the precepts. We should change all our bad habits.

We talk about not eating meat and not killing. Not to kill includes not to eat meat and not to eat meat also includes not to kill. It is because if you don't kill, you will have no meat to eat. Some Buddhists say, "The Buddha prohibited people from killing but not from eating meat. The Buddha allowed people to eat the meat of three kinds of purity - which one has not seen or heard killed and which is not killed for one. Eating the meat of these three type of purity is allowed." This, also, is a self-defense because he cannot let go of the taste of meat.

I met a professor before who could not get by for one day without eating meat. He said, "If I couldn't get meat to eat, it would be okay if I could at least get to smell it." So you see, every one has his or her own ideas and views and they are all different.

In learning Buddhadharma, one must study precept, concentration, and wisdom. Precept is just "do no evil and do all good." We refrain from doing whatever that's bad but do all good things. Concentration is the vigorous study of chan meditation. Wisdom is the result of concentration and concentration comes from upholding precepts. By practicing these three non-outflow studies, we extinguish greed, hatred and ignorance. Being free from greed, one will not fight. When one does not fight with others, one seeks nothing. When one does not seek, one will be selfless. When one is selfless, one does not pursue personal advantage. All these are related. Studying Buddhadharma is just to follow the teaching in a precise and honest manner. Don't take chances and shortcuts, just cultivate honestly.


What are pure precepts?

You should pay special attention to this word "pure." What does "pure" mean? It means having no defilement, which is just being pure and clean. Not having the slightest defilement is the kind of purity in which one gives rise to not even a single thought.

Pure thought - If you just uphold precepts on the outside and say, "I don't kill." However, inside, you complain about others constantly. Or, perhaps you get angry with people. All these are violation of the precept against killing.

Stealing - You don't have to steal physically. When you envy other's wealth or skills, or become jealous of people, you will have transgressed the precept against stealing.

Sexual misconduct - If you constantly false think about the opposite sex, that's been impure and break the precept prohibiting sexual misconduct.

Pure precepts mean clean. To be without the slightest defiled thoughts is pure precepts.


Always look for our own faults

How can we look for our own faults? First of all you must see your own faults and not to look for others faults. Don't be like a camera that always takes picture outside and is never able to take the picture of it's inside. That is to say, it is unable to reflect upon itself. If you constantly look for others faults, "That person is really bad. He drinks, smokes, and takes drugs. He is truly bad and cannot be taught and changed. This person steals things and that one kills. And look at that man, he always boasts." You always look at other's faults and do not do the slightest reflection on yourself, "Have I committed killing today? Have I given rise to the thought of stealing, of deviant views, of lust? Have I lied today? Have I taken any wine today?" You never return the light and let it shines on yourself, but instead, always let it shines outside.


Don't regret it at old age

You have worked so hard through out your life and in the end you still feel regret, "Ai! I have wasted all my life. I let the time past in vain. It's truly a pity." You feel sorry for yourself, "How could I have been so reckless? If I hadn't been drinking that much in this life, how would I be so stupid? If I hadn't gambled in this life, how would I be so poor now? If someone had taught me, I could have cultivated in this life. It's such a pity that I had not met a good and wise teacher." Well, even if you had encountered a good and wise teacher, you would not have recognized him. You took it for granted and let the teaching of a wise teacher past through your ears like a breeze. You have never worked to change your own bad habits and get rid of your own faults. That's why you feel sorry when it comes to the end.