On the Eve of Going for Refuge in the Triple Treasure 

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We are on the eve of a ceremony of commitment, of commitment to the Triple Treasure and then also commitment to further traditional Bodhisattva precepts, the three pure precepts and the ten major Bodhisattva precepts. The structure of our ceremony is that first the ordinands receive the refuges, the refuges


go for refuge and they receive the three pure precepts and they receive the ten major Bodhisattva precepts. Sometimes if people look at the ten major Bodhisattva precepts and the 48 minor Bodhisattva precepts they might not realize that before receiving these ten or 58 precepts it is traditional to first go for refuge in the Triple Treasure. So it seems like the Mahayana in Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and now in the West, probably in Mongolia too or other places where it is practiced, when they speak of the Bodhisattva


precepts they mean the ten major precepts that we use plus 48 minor ones or some other variation but that these precept vows are received after the Triple Treasure. So we will follow that, that way tomorrow, and again seven people in this room will be going through this process of initiation, and tonight we will have a rehearsal. Is there anything anyone would like to offer at this time?


Yes? Would you say who the seven people are? Would I say who they are? Yes. Marie, Yaronne, Jane, Angela, Scott, and Carolyn. Is that seven? Or Johnny had to leave. And Johnny, you know Johnny? He was sitting right over there this morning. And Johnny. Yes, tell me your name again. Yes, Michelle. How about your ten precepts?


The ten major Bodhisattva precepts? Yes. Not killing, not taking what's not given. The traditional way it's put is not killing, not taking what's not given, not misusing sexuality, not lying, not selling intoxicants is the major Bodhisattva precepts. And then not slandering, not praising self at the expense of others, not being possessive, especially of the Dharma, not harboring ill will, and not disparaging the triple treasure.


And then I think one of the first minor precepts in the 48, I think the first, second, or third, I don't remember, is not to take intoxicants. So from the Bodhisattva point of view, it's more important that you don't contribute to other people's intoxication. And it's also important that you don't do it yourself. In the history of the San Francisco Zen Center, the Westerners started coming very strongly in the 60s. So they had to make clear that it wasn't just selling drugs. It was not using them too, because people said, I don't sell any drugs. But actually, the way we put it at Zen Center is we incorporate one minor one, we tag on to the third major one, to the fifth major one.


Also, literally, it says, it has a character for wine, you know, rice wine. Back in the old days, they didn't have such a wide variety of intoxicants. Now we have to, we don't just say, what, rice wine. We have no intoxicants, more generally understood. Yes? In the ceremonies, I heard this line, From now on, all beings are your teacher. Do not be fooled by other ways. What does this mean? Well, not being fooled by other ways means,


well, in some sense, it could mean that you understand that there's really not another way. That if there seems to be another way, you may be under the influence of being fooled, if you think there's another way. All beings being your teacher, a lot of people who come to Zen Center say, you know, that everybody is their teacher, and, yeah, they learn from everybody. So in some sense, they already understand that, it seems. But those people often bring that up in the context of not feeling like they want a teacher. They don't want a teacher because everybody is their teacher. And they'd like to stay with everybody being their teacher. They don't want to limit their teacher to one person.


So I don't think we should limit our teacher to one person. But although everybody is your teacher, most people don't know that they're your teacher. You haven't formally committed to them and told them that they're your teacher. So everybody is your teacher, and yet also, it may be necessary to commit to one particular teacher, and that one particular teacher is, you know, you start off with one particular teacher is the Buddha. That's the first teacher. And you commit to that teacher. And now that you've committed to that teacher, now everybody is your teacher. And now that you've committed to that teacher and everybody is your teacher, now you can make other commitments. But it's not like you're committing to somebody else, and that's different from Buddha.


It's in the context of your basic commitment that you're committing now to maybe one or two or six other teachers, and you're clear about what the commitment is, and what the precepts are with the teachers. So you could have innumerable student-teacher relationships, but they're not really another way. It's really just one teacher. And also the Buddha doesn't mean just one Buddha. There's innumerable Buddhas. That's the way Buddha is, is that Buddha is innumerable. So, open to learn from anybody, committed to basically one Buddha, or committed to basically all Buddhas, and there's no other way. And also be clear about what your commitment is to the Buddhas,


and also be clear about what your commitment is to human teachers who are appearing in the historical arena with you. Yes, Michelle? Can you say you're committed to one Buddha mind? Yeah, you can say you're committed to one Buddha mind. Yes? Are you going to say tomorrow, all Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas concentrate your heart on us? Yes. What does that mean, Bodhisattva, Mahasattva? Well, some people think it's like two different kinds of beings, like Bodhisattvas. Sometimes they translate Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas. But I think most of the Mahasattvas are Bodhisattvas. So Mahasattvas are like the big Bodhisattvas.


Like Avalokiteshvara. Yeah, the great Bodhisattvas, you're inviting them. But you can also say, well, I'm inviting the little Bodhisattvas too, and the Mahasattvas. So Mahasattvas is actually an advanced stage of Bodhisattva. So you can easily understand that you're inviting all the Bodhisattvas and the very advanced Bodhisattvas to pay attention to you now while you receive this robe of the Buddha Shakyamuni tradition. In historical context, or in the stage of history, the Buddha's robe was not present at the time that Buddha was awakened with all beings under the Bodhi tree. He did not have the robe we now make and wear.


He was wearing clothes, though. And before that, he didn't wear clothes. He was walking around probably more or less nude and in a very emaciated state with tremendous yogic ability, but that's the way he was. But then he decided that that was a bit much, he started to wear some clothes. But he didn't have the style of the robe worked out yet. He just wore some little bit of clothes somehow. But then later in the history of this tradition, there was a request from a royal patron, a king, that he actually create a particular style of robe that he and his students would wear. The king felt it would be clearer and easier


for him to support the Sangha if the Sangha wore similar clothing. So then the Buddha, together with Ananda, designed the style of robe that we wear now. So again, in historical time, this robe we wear, the robe of Buddha, was developed by the Buddha and the way of making it was set. And the Buddha wore that kind of robe and pretty much it's followed fairly well throughout all the Buddhist... But many people wear different robes, like the Dalai Lama has a one-shoulder robe. But that's not really a Buddhist robe. That's like a Tibetan monk's robe. When he does a big ceremony, he wears the patch robe. Ah, the patch robe. For big initiations,


you'll see that the Tibetan teachers and other teachers who don't necessarily wear that patch robe all the time, they wear it for big ceremonies. And Thich Nhat Hanh also, if you see him, he seems to be wearing just a simple, kind of like a brown, sort of Chinese-style robe. But when he does precept ceremonies, then he wears this patch robe. I don't know how many panels the one he wore was, but he wears the patch robe for big ceremonies. Yes? Not to praise yourself at the expense of others. And not to put yourself up at the expense of others. I've heard one way of talking about this, not translation of this scripture, of this precept, but


just basically, when you praise yourself, you kind of inevitably put other people down because you leave somebody out. If you ever do anything good and you want to mention it, it's probably good to first of all mention that because everyone, by the support of everyone, this good thing happened, you know, through my body, speech, and mind. If you can say it somehow, maybe in that sense you don't put other people down. But, you know, you probably should mention everybody and the list is very long, so maybe praising yourself is really, would take so long to thank everybody. You probably should just forget it and move on. Moveon.org Yes? Um...


Well... Um... In the early part of the tradition, the way the Buddha taught, somebody asked, the Buddha said, he said, the teaching of all Buddhas is refrain from evil, wholeheartedly practice good, and purify your mind. That's the way he taught in the Dhammapada, for example. This is the teaching of all Buddhas. And partly I understand it as saying, avoiding evil and practicing good, that purifies your mind. That's how you purify your mind. But then it got changed in the Mahayana to refrain from evil, practice all good, and benefit all beings. So,


it got changed from doing this to purify your mind, and it got to do this to purify other people. Now, of course, it does purify your mind, but the emphasis is to do this for the welfare of others. That's a reworking of the Dhammapada, but also in the Mahayana these three pure precepts are phrased somewhat differently. Instead of saying refrain from evil, it's phrased as embrace and sustain the forms, the ceremonies, and the regulations. That's the first one. So it doesn't really say anything about evil. It says practice these things, these forms and these ceremonies, which are conducive to liberation.


And then it says practice all wholesome activities, and then it says develop or purify all beings. So in Soto Zen, the way we actually say that first pure precept is more that way of saying that we not so much the way it is in the Dhammapada of avoiding evil, but put it more in the form of practice forms and ceremonies and regulations, which when you practice them are conducive to transformation and liberation. It doesn't say anything about evil. However, that does avoid evil. And also there is an understanding that these three pure precepts are respectively the true body of Buddha, the bliss body of Buddha, and the transformation body of Buddha.


The true body of Buddha is practicing these forms and ceremonies. When you practice these forms, when your body, speech and mind accord with these forms, that's the true body of Buddha. It's being realized there. When you practice doing good, that's the enjoyment or the bliss body of Buddha. And when beings are being transformed, that's the transformation body of Buddha. That's Buddha in the world, transforming beings. So the three bodies of Buddha are put in correspondence with these three pure precepts of the Mahayana. It's not separate


and it is understood that the four vows are understood in receiving these precepts. But it's true in the ceremony we do not say the four vows usually. We could, you know, like we end lectures with the four vows we could say the four vows at the end but that's not the traditional way. But in the temples where people say the four vows they do this kind of precept ceremony. And we say the four vows more often than we do these precept ceremonies. Precept ceremonies are like an initiation. The four vows are like daily, more like daily kind of thing, a daily expression of our vows. But I've often thought of that,


that the four great vows, the universal vows, are not mentioned in our precept ceremony. And is precept and vowing the same thing? No. You could practice a precept without vowing to practice it. You could like, somebody could say, let's steal some cookies from the kitchen. And you might say, I don't think so. I think we should go ask the head cook. If we want the cookies, let's go ask the head cook. And see if the head cook will give us the cookies. I want to steal them. And say, I don't want to. I'm not going to do it. So you refrain from stealing. But that's not the same as promising that you won't. Yeah, but the promising is different than the precept.


Just like the precepts are not the same as the ceremony. The precepts are kind of like, I don't know, they're kind of like reality. But are you committed to reality? The Buddha is your true home. Are you committed to that though? So here's the three jewels of our tradition, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. They aren't a vow. You have to promise. You have to pledge. You have to commit to them. And you go for refuge in them. But the precepts, they're refuge precepts, but they're precepts to go to refuge. But when you go for refuge, then you vow. Then you commit. Then you say, this is the way I'm going to go. So some people are actually very good. They practice the precepts quite well. But they have not promised to do so. Some other people have promised to do so,


but don't do so well with the precepts. But they have promised. They have committed. They have said, I will practice these. They don't say, I will practice them perfectly. Well, they say, I vow to eventually practice these perfectly. I vow to become a Buddha. The Buddha way is unsurpassable. I vow to become it. And a part of that is I vow to practice these precepts. And I vow to confess and repent when I don't practice them. But again, some people are really good at confessing and repenting their shortcomings. They're really good at it, but they haven't promised. The ceremony is you promise to do it. You commit to do it. Yes, Carolyn? Is the Bodhisattva renewal ceremony one thing occurrence where we're


offered the opportunity to renew our vows and see how we've been doing? That seems rather important, but after the initiation there's this way in which we can get back in touch and check up on things. Right. Before the Buddha transmitted Bodhisattva precepts, there was the individual vehicle precepts that were transmitted. And they did the bimonthly recitation of the precepts. And there was a bimonthly confession of shortcomings in the practice. But also, at the beginning of the Buddha's teaching, the Buddha did not give the precepts. The early students did not receive precepts. I guess the Buddha did not feel


it was necessary. His first students were what do you call it? They were ethical enough so he could immediately teach them wisdom practices. And they could practice them because they were already quite ethical and concentrated. And then after some time the Buddha mentioned to the Sangha that of the Buddhas that lived before him, the six Buddhas before him, three had long-lasting teaching and three had short-lasting teaching beyond their life. These six historical Buddhas before him, he said, their teaching lasted a long time, three that didn't. And one of Buddha's disciples named Shariputra said, well, what's the difference between the teaching of those six people? He said, well, the six that had long-lasting teaching transmitted precepts.


And the three that had long-lasting transmitted the precepts along with their teaching. And the three that had short-lived did not transmit the precepts. So it's like if you take three poles and you can balance them against each other, you know, like a teepee. But if the wind blows or something, they easily fall down. But if you tie them together at their intersection, they hold up much better. The precepts are like tying the teachings together. And the precepts are committing to them. Or you could even say that the three, maybe like the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. If you tie them together with the precept, they'll last longer. They won't last forever, nothing does that you put together. And then Shariputra says, well, then the Lord will now, you know, the Lord should give us the precepts. And the Buddha said, the Lord will decide when to give the precepts.


And then Shariputra said, well, when will that be? And he said, I think it will be when the community gets very big. We'll probably need to give them. Because when the community was not so big, people were right there with the Buddha, you know, there wasn't much need for any rules because people behaved quite well when they're right under Buddha's nose. But as the group got bigger and started to develop facilities like monasteries and stuff, then they started to need regulations and ceremonies. So now we have the precepts. Georgia? You have not? Well, confession would mean that you would confess the shortcomings in your practice. And repentance is that you feel the meaning of the word


repentance, the usual meaning in English is a kind of sorrow about something you've done that reforms you. So it has these three parts, repentance, sorrow, relative to your own action. It's not sorrow about other people's action, sorrow about your own action, but a kind of sorrow that repents you, that makes you want to act differently. So if you wish to act in accordance with these Bodhisattva precepts, and then you don't, then you confess, I didn't. These precepts of compassion, I promised to practice, and I didn't. I wasn't kind enough in this case not to steal. I wasn't kind enough in this case to not kill. And I'm sorry, I feel sorrow, and I want to recommit to not kill


and to not steal. I'm sorry that I did it, but I feel more determined to do better in the future. And you say that, and you feel that, and you are a different person as a result of the sorrow. It changes you, and you're more sincere and committed to compassion as a result. You're welcome. Yes? When I first came to Zen Center, we didn't, first thing in the morning, do confessionary practice and take refuge. Right, we didn't. And now we do. Now we do. And I was wondering if we missed it at the beginning, or decided it was something we should add that wasn't always there. When I was Abbot, we started when I was Abbot. And the reason we started was because I was informed.


I was informed. It wasn't exactly a revelation. It was more simple than that. I saw that at other Zen temples, they practiced that on a regular basis, in the morning, at the beginning of service. Or, you know, it's in the regular sutra book to do that. And I noticed that we only did it kind of like at precept ceremonies. Well we did we start doing it? Yeah, I think we started doing full moon ceremonies before we started to do it in the morning on a regular basis, yeah. So that was a practice that I brought up to the community, and the community said okay, and it's continued. So at least, if you live in Zen Center, at least once a day, you practice what you said you would practice


when you received the precepts. Because you said, I will continue this practice. So once a day anyway, you say, All my ancient trusted karma from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion. And once a day, you admit that you have a history of greed, hate, and delusion. In other words, you're a bodhisattva, ordinary person bodhisattva. And you fully avow this. And then, now you're ready to return home to your true nature. The triple treasure. After this admission that you have this long history of action, boredom, greed, hate, and delusion. Well,


usually we end at 5.30 and it's past, so I thank you again for your wholehearted presence here. And may we practice the Buddha way for the welfare of this world. May our intention equally extend through every being and place. With the true method of Buddha's way, beings are numberless. I love to save them. Delusions are inexhaustible. I love to end them. Dharma hates our mindless.


I love to enter them. Buddha's way is unsurpassable. I love to become it.