‘Striving at what is more & more excellent, more & more refined, we will realize unexcelled release.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
—Gavesin Sutta (AN 5:180)
I’ve always looked at the precepts as a form of protection—protection for myself and others from my own unskillful habits—but truth be told… I’ve been lazy. When it’s convenient for me I’ve told the ocasional “white lie” to wiggle my way out of exasperating situations. I’ve drunk alcohol when it was easier to give into social pressure than to stand up for what I believe in. And now that my garden is starting to bloom, I’m in the uncomfortable position of using either pesticides or my own ingenuity. If the Buddha were sitting next to me he’d shake his head at my shoddy practice, my blemished virtue.
So what’s a guy to do? Well, turn things around of course. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I have faith that the path does lead to true happiness. What better way to recommit than to practice the eight precepts?
When a person takes life, then with the taking of life as a requisite condition, he produces fear & animosity in the here & now, produces fear & animosity in future lives, experiences mental concomitants of pain & despair; but when he refrains from taking life, he neither produces fear & animosity in the here & now nor does he produce fear & animosity in future lives, nor does he experience mental concomitants of pain & despair: For one who refrains from taking life, that fear & animosity is thus stilled.
—Vera Sutta (AN 10:92)
I recently read part of Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo’s book Craft of the Heart and I was inspired to commit fully to Uposatha practice—not only on Uposatha days, but also the day before and after each lunar sabbath. Even more, I want to practice them full-time as much as I can.
Much of my desire to do this comes from finally choosing to take aim at stream-entry and beyond, and upping my practice—in addition to more consistent meditation, study, and charity—is the surest way. After a recent, sudden death in my family, it’s become clear to me just how unstable the world is, and I don’t want to waste my time.
Because of some unfortunate life circumstances, I’ve also found myself quasi-single and in the rare position to practice celibacy full time. I’ve also seen more and more research about how eating one meal a day has real and proven benefits for both the body and mind. Plus, I already sleep on a futon on the floor.
The most difficult habit to renounce will be shows, music, etc., since I often use that as a way to bond with my friends. That may call for some ingenuity on my part.
Of course, I know that dropping these external activities is to give me mental space to drop the internal cravings that drive to go after them in the first place. It will be interesting to see how I handle moderation in eating, in sexual activity of any kind, and in pretty much any indulgence of sensual pleasures. It will also be a great opportunity to practice the Four Immeasurables—good will, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity.
It hasn’t crossed my mind if I’m biting off more than I can chew. Actually, I’m excited to try this out. Especially knowing that there are scores of noble disciples before me who have undertaken the same vows and have experienced the joys that come from living a life of blameless conduct.
When do I start? June 1.
“Abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the fifth gift, the fifth great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans.”
—Abhisanda Sutta (AN 8:39)