How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

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How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Ayu » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:28 am

Some time ago, when i thought about the five precepts, they seemed very easy to me.
I don't kill anybody, don't steal, don't lie, remain true to my husband and do not drink alcohol...

But then it came to my mind, for example, that i had a problem with plant louses on my window ledge. I didn't know what to do, so i put the infected plant outside into the cold of - 5°C. I killed 40 small individuals in this way...

So I awoke to the reality that i disobey the precepts all the time, at least in my mind, if i look at them seriously. That's quite a shock and i'm aghast at that circumstance...

How to train the five precepts without being too loose and without discouraging oneself? Any personal experiences?
:thanks:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices

*** om vajra krodha hayagrīva hulu hulu hūm phat
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby shaunc » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:03 am

It's probably almost impossible for a lay person to keep them perfectly. I keep chickens & last week-end I had to treat my small flock for red-mites. The red mites are now dead, definitely hundreds of them, quite possibly thousands. If I didn't do what I did it would be cruel to the hens. That's what I like about buddhism, precepts aren't commandments. I follow them as best I can in my circumstances & try to mix in a bit of commonsense.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:31 am

I believe that the precepts are also a way in which to be conscious of our actions. Most people would kill parasites without even considering that they are killing a sentient being. Or somebody may kill and actually be happy about having killed. Remember that karma is based on intention and outcome too. So what was yor intention in killing the plant lice and mites? Were you happy about killing them? Will it maybe act to encourage you to deal with the problem differently next time (eg preventitive measures instead of erradication)?

And what if, at some point in your life, you need to steal, or lie in order to survive? In order to help somebody else?

It's not so clear cut sometimes. It comes with the territory (ie samsara). We do our best but we do not make excuses. I think it is that simple.

I sometimes try ("sometimes" and "try" being the key words :emb: ) to judge my actions in reference to the precepts before engaging in the actions. Look at my motivation before acting, look at other options first, then act. It tends to save me grief in the future.
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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby KeithBC » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:41 am

Ayu wrote:How to train the five precepts without being too loose and without discouraging oneself? Any personal experiences?
:thanks:

You increased your awareness of the precepts. That's how you train yourself. :sage: :bow:

Om mani padme hum
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Ayu » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:23 am

Thank you, shaunc, gregkavarnos and KeithBC for these answers. It is helpful because now i can see, that feeling aghast at damaging the precepts is not as bad as it feels. Worse it would be to not waste a single thought about it and feel good at the same time.
Also holding the five precepts is a training and not a command. I am allowed to smash my head against the wall as long as i like to...
It is a very important topic in this time of my life. I will start to consider the five precepts and do some purification practices every day now.
Thank you, folks. :namaste:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices

*** om vajra krodha hayagrīva hulu hulu hūm phat
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Parasamgate » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:52 pm

Ayu wrote:Some time ago, when i thought about the five precepts, they seemed very easy to me.
I don't kill anybody, don't steal, don't lie, remain true to my husband and do not drink alcohol...

But then it came to my mind, for example, that i had a problem with plant louses on my window ledge. I didn't know what to do, so i put the infected plant outside into the cold of - 5°C. I killed 40 small individuals in this way...

So I awoke to the reality that i disobey the precepts all the time, at least in my mind, if i look at them seriously. That's quite a shock and i'm aghast at that circumstance...

How to train the five precepts without being too loose and without discouraging oneself? Any personal experiences?
:thanks:


I recently had the exact same question so I asked my teacher. She told me to first read Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand day 13 the chapter on karma. It describes in detail what the conditions are for completely breaking one of the precepts by way of a karmic non-virtuous action. For instance, when I have driven my car in the past I undoubtedly have killed many insects. This is a fact. However, according to Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand day 13 this would not constitute a complete karmic action that would violate the lay vows for instance. Not to say that this karmic action, although not complete, is not negative! Far from it. Just that it is not a complete violation of the precepts if you think in this way.

Of course, we should strive not to harm any sentient creatures in any way... either as a result of complete or incomplete karmic actions. However, the very nature of samsara is such that we will *inevitably* be a condition for the suffering of other sentient beings while we are not enlightened. Our very existence in samsara is a potential condition for the suffering of others.

I asked these questions because I noticed I was developing an aversion to repeating my vows as part of a practice of the four opponent powers for fear of breaking them.

Another consideration is that not all vows are the same. Lay vows of not killing can entail a different meaning than bodhisattva vows of not killing. It all has to do with the definitions and the intent in the mind of the person taking the vows.

I hope this is of some help.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:26 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I believe that the precepts are also a way in which to be conscious of our actions.


This is a good thought, one worth remembering.

Most people would kill parasites without even considering that they are killing a sentient being. Or somebody may kill and actually be happy about having killed.


I would be happy only that the host (my dog or cat, or shaunc's hens, for example) would not be suffering from the parasite. Or that I am finally rid of my sinus infection or Montezuma's Revenge (amoebas need love and compassion too :tongue: ). HHDL once responded to a girl's question about shooting someone in self defense. HH replied that it would be all right to shoot the person, but only to wound, not kill, to stop the attacker. If I could shoot a tapeworm in the hiney (not sure if "ass" would be censored), I would, but alas, I had to use Dronsit and Cestex for my cat to eliminate (I know that's a euphemism for "kill") a parasite that could have ultimately mader her very sick, and suffer, and possibly die. Balance, I think.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby shaunc » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:01 pm

The 2 extremes are to kill without thought or to not kill regardless of the consequences to other sentinent beings. As usual the correct answer is the middle path.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Ayu » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:15 pm

And to consider these things means to become aware of the suffering all around me. Just to commit "There is suffering." Not much more.
I cannot carry this world on my shoulders but i can try to be aware.

Parasamgate wrote:...
I hope this is of some help.

Yes, thank you. :smile:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices

*** om vajra krodha hayagrīva hulu hulu hūm phat
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby 5heaps » Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:56 am

Ayu wrote:How to train the five precepts without being too loose and without discouraging oneself?

can only keep morality with correct view ie. emptiness
until then we will kill when we need to (some peoples threshold of "needing to" is greater than others) and suffer those consequences
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby byamspa » Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:45 pm

If we didn't need to fix a behavior, we wouldn't need to take a vow to alter that behavior.

So holding a vow is learning how to change an aspect of behavior, or mentality, that is not habit, and it will take time to do that.

Patience, respect for one's own learning process, and continual correction of incorrect behavior and eventually the vow will become a habit and sealed into the mindstream.
Phenomenon, vast as space, dharmata is your base, arising and falling like ocean tide cycles, why do i cling to your illusion of unceasing changlessness?
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby dude » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:42 pm

Thought gives rise to action. Action repeated becomes habit. Habit hardens into character, character becomes destiny.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby byamspa » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:17 pm

dude wrote:Thought gives rise to action. Action repeated becomes habit. Habit hardens into character, character becomes destiny.


Sounds like Yoda...
Phenomenon, vast as space, dharmata is your base, arising and falling like ocean tide cycles, why do i cling to your illusion of unceasing changlessness?
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby ground » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:37 pm

Ayu wrote:Some time ago, when i thought about the five precepts, they seemed very easy to me.
I don't kill anybody, don't steal, don't lie, remain true to my husband and do not drink alcohol...

But then it came to my mind, for example, that i had a problem with plant louses on my window ledge. I didn't know what to do, so i put the infected plant outside into the cold of - 5°C. I killed 40 small individuals in this way...

Was it done with the intention to kill?

Ayu wrote:How to train the five precepts without being too loose and without discouraging oneself? Any personal experiences?

Do not take precepts expecting your own benefit. Once you have taken them do not break them to avoid your own inconvenience. Otherwise taking and breaking precepts is just one of these games. :sage:
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Ayu » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:25 pm

:thanks:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices

*** om vajra krodha hayagrīva hulu hulu hūm phat
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Spirituality » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:36 am

This thread has been dormant for months, but I would like to add what my teacher (Geshe Sonam Gyaltsen) told us when I took the lay vows:

Formally you don't break the precept not to kill, unless you not only kill a human being (so a louse doesn't count) but are motivated to kill them. Sure - if you accidentally run someone over on the road you have a problem with your vows, but you haven't fully broken them, because you did not MEAN to kill that person. In the Gelugpa tradition you would do purification practices to get rid of the negative karma of killing a person and louses too - if you're so inclined.

Still - fully breaking the first of the lay vows is pretty tough to do as long as you don't have the intention to kill a human being. Do avoid guns though.

The other ones are messier, in fact.

Not lying - refers to blatant lying about serious topics. The traditional example of breaking this one is claiming clairvoyance and other occult powers when you don't have them. Few of us are at risk of this one. Embezzlement would also be a clear break of this vow.

No taking what isn't given: the line is cultural. When people don't generally mind, in a culture, then it's not breaking your vows.

Sexual misdemeanors: the line is where you drew it when you took your vows.

Alcohol and drugs: again, the line is where you drew it when you took your vows. Personally I don't think this one is meaningful unless it means fully renouncing alcohol.

Taken like this, the lay vows CAN definitely be practiced as a lay person. And let's face it: sangha have as much trouble with mosquitos as lay people do - so the temptation is the same too.

Of course, as a mindfulness exercise these vows can be taken much stricter. In fact, I think they should be. Do avoid killing bugs. Still - fully breaking a vow can be avoided, I think, for many people who live a life as a serious Buddhist. No need to worry about it, beyond sincerely regretting it when a bug gets killed, for instance and perhaps doing a purification practice if you feel good doing one.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Sara H » Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:57 pm

The whole point of the Precepts is to try and do as little harm as possible.

It's not possible to do no harm. Even by breathing in we kill microbes.

We just do the best we can and try as much as possible to try and minimize harm.

We have to accept that suffering exists. Where we live, is a much different climate than we used to be used to, my spouse and I.
We came from a hot, dry place.

Here, there are lots of fleas, that get on our pets and we have to kill them.

Otherwise we'd have a flea infestation, and our cat, "Boy" would be constantly itching, and his hair falling out as he is extremely allergic to them.

We have to have compassion for them, and for ourselves, and not allow an infestation.
If there was a sure way to capture fleas and release them, we would do that, but as it stands, Frontline Spray is the only method that really works and is safe enough for the animals to use on them on a regular basis.

That's part of the nature of the animal world, if you are an insect, you may likely end up in the wrong place that is not out in nature.
There's no judgment involved there, we love the Buddha Nature in them, however we can't responsibly let them in the house and get on our animals and pets.

There's no avoiding the harm, without doing an even greater one.
It wouldn't be kind to our cats or ourselves to let them be in the house, our cat Boy was covered in sores from scratching and hair falling out before we got them contained.

Just bow to it. Accept the harm and be grateful, and not full of animosity, or hate or judgement.
Try and do as little harm as possible, but realize that you may have to do some.
And just accept that, with gratitude.

In Gassho,

Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby mohitsharma » Fri May 31, 2013 6:50 am

I think the path of religion and its principles is the most difficult path in the world, even more difficult than the zig zag dangerous roads of mountainous areas of the world. Most of us are not that much strong to follow this path and make mistakes sometimes or most of the times, knowingly or unknowingly.

But I will say that we should not harm any living being deliberately or for our own benefit unless they try to harm us.
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Re: How is it possible to hold the five precepts?

Postby Dave The Seeker » Fri May 31, 2013 11:24 am

The precepts, as said are guidelines for us to do our best to follow.

In my understanding, as simple as it is, our intention is what really matters in any of our actions. If we do not intend harm and it happens then we need to learn from that experience and try to not let it happen again.

:namaste:
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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