Khandro Rinpoche annual retreat 2012: 5 precepts/ Upisaka vows – 8/31/12

Beginning this morning by looking at Pratimoksha vows, the 5 precepts, or the lay vows.  Now, today being auspicious full moon day, as often as possible, for practice.  It is virtuous and an effort that is in direction of aggregating vast merit in taking vow. This is the primary reason for vows, particularly the Pratimoksha vows, or individual vows of diverse kinds- lay, or those undertaken by monastics.  More and more detailed- these are all very important.   Primarily from perspective of engaged diligence in practice. So whatever you are learning, – isn’t just retained as intellectual – whether or not – I encourage you all especially seniors – you are all wealthy with knowledge, a vast heap of profound teachings from so many wonderful sources.  Not only that- there is a trace, in some cases even a hint of bodhichitta and devotion. (laughter) Since it is there, very wonderful qualities generated by self, sometimes enforced by … of the teachings.  Since these qualities are there, it is even more important to look at where life is with dharma- how much you know, how much if that is being practiced at level of not having so much attachment, ignorance, aggression. May not have abject anger, but you have aggression to a blade of grass, but you have aggression to food you are eating, but you have aggression to food you can’t’ stand, but you have aggression to forms not to your liking, but you have aggression to different kinds of sound, or lack of sound. All the hints of aggression must be seen – you are creating karma with every action – how you walk, how you talk, how you think, how you engage, even your breath- is karma- is a cause. So, with wealth of dharma and devotion and bodhichitta you feel, how much of that is a flaw in your precious human birth is a constant examination meditators must bring about, mindfulness, awareness, and awake to decide what to cultivate and abandon. This is very important. So, see how much reluctance there is to turn to defeating neurosis. Or are you careless to that?

Are you reluctant to change habitual patterns? Whether immense attraction to distractions external and internal, or drowning in self- indulgences. As a Vajrayana meditator, an indicator of immense romance you have with own self, with pursuit of happiness, with dwelling in sadness and happiness, you want freedom from suffering, there is no harm in that. Don’t want suffering; there is no harm in that. But dwelling in it complete destroys rising above mundane approach to self- attachment. Diminishes arousing fearlessness, patience, non- attachment. Then such dwelling in own wish for happiness is gross ignorance and self- attachment, in all these regards, dharma is not easy, sometimes painful even, but applying dharma to those areas … progress in path of practice. Even going backwards, there is progress in path of practice. Essential to cultivate, called training the mind, learning so many level s of teachings of dharma- referring to self a Vajrayana practitioner. Some of you even teaching others/leading others. If teaching others you aren’t doing what you are telling others to do, be careful with hypocritical tendencies.    In order to actualize teachings, tame my mind; take training of discursive mind, with wisdom of discernment, awakeness, able to bring to fruition the dharma. With that intent, take vows. Vows are called protection – protection of self, amulet/armor of protection to protect your own mind and become basis of actualized dharma. With that intention, we take vow, the simple innye vows, and vabaskaia vows- usually taken on all auspicious days. taken from preceptors. Preceptor isn’t self-appointed. I’ve heard that in some case someone volunteers to be preceptor. (laughter)  The preceptor is someone who holds vows. – A complete shamen –s aehenma or bhikkhu vows- being a monastic isn’t enough, ideally. Someone who has given them has held them impeccably for 15 years at least.

However, lay vows that are taken on auspicious days are a simple first level. They can be taken by self- in presence of 3 jewels representations, particularly a statue of Buddha, dharma and stupa. Making vast offerings- one can repeat the vapaskaija vow- taken from dawn to dusk to dawn of the next day, or 24 hours.

I told lopöns I would do it for full moon, I think it good to relate to do for whole retreat

(A couple of students) asked to take of longer. One year- but had question about pest control and meat.   And vow of not killing,

Do you kill for meat? Directly, no. but indirectly, consumption makes a contribution to killing, best to be vegetarian. If you can, for lay vows reduce meat as much as possible.   But health may require it, or circle of family/friends says to eat meat. Then don’t refuse – just keep in simple way.

As for Pest control- protect lives as much as possible. Occasionally, we have things- rodents, mowing, and termite infestations. As a person who has vows, as much as possible, clean without having to destroy lives much as possible. For example, cutting branches instead of spraying, remove the bug infested section far away. At no point can one be careless- can’t be to not work too hard. So apply pesticide instead. Sometimes, turn to apply pesticide as a last resort.  I leave it to each individual to see how humane an approach you have taken, if it is the final step.  Exertion is important. Then compensate by prayers, dedication for transference of consciousness to rebirth, feeding other animals, donating to feed other beings in memories of those you took life. Arouse great sympathy, and revulsion to how difficult it is to live in world and engage in dharma; at best, should inspire more. Not letting emotions to impede path. So, reflect on karmic debt to sentient beings, in face of that, my own reluctance, laziness has no value. That’s the transformation that has to happen, adverse circumstances have to be taken to path of Buddhas, if taken to dharma, is good to. It is possible due to karma for a Buddha to arise from chaos.  Always trade –

Taking one life to save 100, the merit goes to that one being killed, and that is good.

What does it mean, not to take life?

Instead of trying to give the “right answer,” think of how difficult it is.  This you walk out this door, you kill a lot. remember all the different things. – for 5 years, 3 months, until your birthday- all sweet (laughter)  on the other hand- gain and loss, gain and loss (laughter) Understand what you are undertaking very important, so you don’t take vows and then get scared. Flexibility is important, but one must not not understand. Constant mindfulness must be cultivated by all meditators.  But you lack exertion that you are taking, so when you say

1. “I fully and completely vow to refrain from taking life. “One should not act with intention to kill a being primarily. You shouldn’t enjoy or let mind be satisfied from action of killing, and having killed a being, mustn’t dwell in gaining of killing. Must not disregard the killing, if genuine remorse and sympathy is there, then though indirect killing, the karmas are lightened.

Then when you start taking the vow:

2. “I fully and completely vow to refrain from taking that which is not belonging to me.” Usually this said to be stealing but it can be anything.  Even picking up a hammer and using it, you broke this precept, if you pick up someone from the sanghas’ tools without asking. You need to truly aware of needs to ASK, to make a request. Making a demand is as good as taking. It must be humble request, made with humility.  It shows how much you are relying on others. The second precept is very important. People think “I don’t steal.”  This is not true. That cushion you are sitting on belongs to someone else. The rice you are offering isn’t yours.   Handouts without asking (laughter)  negative not because of effort, – precepts – teaching on interdependency translates into sense of gratitude.  Understand that is very important.

3. “I fully and completely vow to refrain from engaging in sexual misconduct.” Most of you are lay, and not much spoken, but sexual misconduct can be very deep.  From emotionally misusing another, being deceptive in your relationship, being disruptive to others relationship, disregarding own body with respect, another’s body with respect. Or having no genuine l-k in relationship, intoxication of desire that drowns life. There are many meditators in room.  All the approaches you have in life are good. But obsession with sexual desire that often dominates all the good qualities you have. So, you must be careful to know what you are entering into to.  It will make you meet, if not tendencies- “oh, this is a weakness I have”.  We ignore it; we keep it as a secret from others. This is not only sexuality, or stealing, but whatever else we conceal behind good manners and politeness. Eventually, you believe in secrecy itself, that the problem isn’t there.  Taking vows makes you uncover and address the issue.  How much of that makes to relate to other- not relating with other humans as humans, often as a lump of flesh. Causing you to not have kindness. Prepares an attitude of “what can I gain from this? How can I not loose from this“?” subtly creeping of negatives overshadows all the virtues.  You wake up thinking, “I am going to practice bodhichitta”, but between sexual desire and bodhichitta, sexual desire always wins!” (laughter) this will take a lifetime- Practice, and contemplate, it must make you see. Taking the precept makes you see if you have the power.   If you don’t, you have a problem, and aren’t able to process these desires, which all of us experience. It is good to supplicate that you don’t get in the future, though impermanence is there. If there is no problem today with desires. Maybe you will tomorrow. If you do have a problem today, maybe you won’t tomorrow. For those who it could be a problem, think about it.

4. “I fully and completely vow to refrain from misuse of speech.”  This is more than not lying, this is about all the 4 unvirtuous actions of refraining from false speech, refraining from slander, refraining from harsh speech, and refraining from gossip.  When I look at the names of those requesting over longer time, I am uncertain of how you can keep this one over a longer time. Knowing you all well ….but I am happy to be proven wrong. (laughter) If you can keep “mischavas” – if you can keep this one (lists 4) – I’m not sure- without that,  some of you could have become  good practitioners long ago. Some of you who have lived with me will have seen – knowing what everything one does- expressing everything immediately in word. A sense of not contemplating what you say.  These are weaknesses you have.  When you say,” I am ready to take them for life,” as a person who knows you, I don’t know if you will keep until dusk today! (laughter)  If you prove me wrong, I will be very happy. If you want to take for like and prove me wrong, then I accept the challenge, I accept the bet. (laughter) But I don’t want you to lie to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.  So, when you say “I don’t want to — taking the lie is going to be the very first lie, then there is a tremendous paradox, a contraction. Have to be very sure if you are taking for life. Is wonderful, you should do it, but can you?  For me to recite 5 lines? Very easy. But for you to keep it? Very difficult.

5. “I fully and completely vow to refrain taken fermented and distilled beverages to hurt mind.” For some of you, this is easy. But for some of you, this is a sore point. If this wasn’t’ there, you’d take. Some of you ask, “Why couldn’t we just take the first four?” (Laughter)  These many years of being with you all has been an interesting journey.  Many things I haven’t had to do. But drinking is very important for you all, isn’t it? Wine.  Why is it so difficult? So?  I still haven’t understood, except that it is a habit, that it is an addiction. Some say it is a social gathering requirement. But I have been in many non-Buddhist gatherings where there is no drinking.   Many people –non-spiritual people, just don’t drink. They don’t seem to have any problems saying “I don’t drink, don’t smoke.” But among Buddhists, seems to be convention that you will be rejected for not sharing a glass of wine. You can hold it. (Laughter)  I’m not sure how many people are watching you drink or not. (laughter)  if a photo is taken and you have to be drinking, just do this. (Rinpoche holds up glass like raising a toast (laughter))  This is the easiest precept to keep.  The first 4 are difficult; this is easy. How many people have gotten Enlightened without getting drunk?  I am learning …For example, among young people, they say “being a Buddhist is living a life of such strict discipline. “ I don’t know what they are talking about. (laughter) I think the fact that I don’t allow people to do that here. it’s I don’t allow people to drink alcohol here, if this is having “the flavor of life.” After some of the pictures I have seem of “the flavors of life being enjoyed,” I’d rather not taste it! (laughter) “Heedlessness leading to a lack of mindfulness.” Then when is there time to think of bodhichitta, impermanence, Enlightenment. absolute truth.  A small spark can cause an entire mountain range to burn. But a small spark of heedlessness can demolish a forest of work.  One can take 30, 40, 50 years of work and it can be destroyed by a glass of alcohol.  To make it clear, it isn’t something against alcohol; it’s the power of intoxication that is the problem. We are not about talking a sip of wine, a glass of wine, if it’s polite and helpful of others.  In the context of empowerment, there is a dab of wine involved.  But, the vow itself doesn’t crash to the floor because you sipped a little wine. But if that sip triggers the birth of addiction, intoxication, you need to judge your own mind. If you are for sure it won’t create a big disaster, the vow doesn’t break from taking a sip of wine. It breaks because it could lead to breaking work, breaking the steadfastness of commitment to beginning to avoid unvirtuous conduct.  When you take vows today, you do so to make a strong determination to let go of attachment to intoxicants.

But generate in mind, be honest- don’t do it from limitation- based on someone else’s inscription, no one knows you better than yourself, absolute honesty to yourself- visualize in front go yourself.

You will break them? That is why vows are given very often.

without being brave, courageous, none of us will obtain any kind of fruition any capacity to be developed must be founded on courage braveness, of all the qualities, being fearless, brave to continually to overcome contact negatives- making more stronger heart, more brave. It is base of, the foundation on which all over qualities will grow.

One important thing is to know how often we break them.  Vows are always the mirror that reflects the discrepancies between your view and your actions. And use vow to develop determination to not again, have to go through the sojong, purification- lama roar has been working on repeating and repairing vows,  just doing King of Aspiration or Maitraya Aspiration will repair the vows.  It is very important, again and again. Perfection is the resultant state, not on the level of the path, meditators will find it much more joyful to engage on path of precepts if you lack the imperfections, but…is changeable, can decrease, and we can gain victory eventually. A lack of courage can occur by thinking how constantly we break precepts.  We should use it to give birth to revulsion.  In samsara, it is very difficult to be in view, physically.  Find solitude, happiness in silence, resting in minds own nature: in these three, will be able to hold vows more carefully. The vows show how to engage in path of practice. We can’t talk about views, while body is still engaged in mundane actions, speech is still mundane, and mind still chaotic.

Vow to create revulsion to business of body, speech and mind,

From me, you will get request to five up to give up addictions to medicine. But medicines, you are permitted to take. Certain things of no benefit of all are forbidden substances. I have always been very strict about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Some of you used to be harsh on other people: “we don’t do this, you shouldn’t.” Branding someone who drinks and smokes as bad.  Sort of excommunicating them. Not a good attitude to think, all of us have weaknesses. If not this, then something else.  When addressing this issue, a lot of gentleness must be there.  Can help others, but I know that I can say certain things that you will take in right spirit. But among yourselves may not be able to say something without hurting, if someone is addicted to alcohol, smoking, or other drugs- it’s harmful, we all know that.  Shouldn’t do that which will make them think they aren’t entitled to be in shrine room, that they are lowly, that they are not able to be part of community. There should never be such an approach. In one way or other we are all indulging in negative activities. There should be happiness, friendship, healthy building of community, but never an attitude of superiority, high and mighty because it’s not something we do.

(editor’s note: since a few folks at the recent Khandro Rinpoche retreat asked, here is the version of the 5 lay vows I have been following for years, adapted from the Vietnamese Buddha TIcht Naht Hahn.)

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