Na mo sa dan tuo su qie duo ye e la he di san miao san pu tuo xie(3x)
Venerable Master and all good advisors, good morning!
Everyone who is taking the precepts this time will be following the Handbook of Bodhisattva Precepts for the Laity, so you should spend some time reading this book and understand what’s written in it. Then it will be easier for you to understand when we explain it on Saturday.
First let’s explain the name, “Bodhisattva Precepts for the Laity.” If you look at the glossary on page 50, you’ll see that “laity” refers to those who have not yet renounced being or one who enlightens beings. Buddhist disciples who seek theBuddha’s path above, and transform sentient beings below are called Bodhisattvas.
Precepts are known in Sanskrit as Sila and pratimoksa. Basically, they guard against transgressions of body and mind. They stop evil and wrongdoing. They are said to be “clear and cool,” because they remove us from afflictions. They also have other meanings, such as “liberation.” We should ask ourselves why we are taking the precepts. This is a fundamental question. You say, “Someone said it’s good to take the precepts, so I followed them blindly to attend the Dharma assembly.” After taking the precepts, you have no idea why you took them. When you find out you can’t uphold them, you have regrets.
We should know that the reason so many people break the precepts after taking them, is that they never knew why they took them in the first place. Let’s ask ourselves: What difference is there between taking the precepts. I do good deeds, don’t I? Why do I have to go all the way to the City of Ten thousand Buddhas to take the precepts?”
However, we ought to ask ourselves, how do we know that our good deeds are truly good? Our view is based on our personal opinion and judgement. I thank this is good, that is not good, this should be done, that should not be done. It is all based on my own opinion.
However, if we asked the criminals in the world to explain why they commit so many crimes, they would say, "These are not crimes; they are good deeds." They acted in the way they felt they ought to act; otherwise, they wouldn't have acted that way. Living beings are accustomed to using their own standards to judge what is right and wrong and to defend their own actions. That's why we are still transmigrating in the Six Paths, creating more and more bad karma.
Having come here today, if we continue following our own habits and do not awaken, then we will not be able to leave suffering and attain bliss. We want to study from the Buddha, because the Buddha attained true liberation and genuine self-mastery.
How did the Buddha realize Buddhahood? The Buddha cultivated according to the precepts, gradually attained samadhi, and developed wisdom. Did the Buddha invent the precepts himself? No. The Buddha's precepts are inherent in each living being. It's just that we have become defiled and confused, and so we've forgotten them. That's why the Buddha appeared in the world to tell us about them. Dharma Master Sure told us yesterday that when he was studying precepts, he asked the Venerable Master, "Teacher, can the precepts show us where the Buddha nature is?" The Venerable Master replied, "The precepts areyour Buddha nature."
Fundamentally we are pure and without defilement; it is just that we became lost and confused. In studying the precepts, we are returning to the origin to regain our fundamental pure nature. Therefore, if we let the defiled mind take reign, then we can never leap out of the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. Therefore we should study the precepts, receive the precepts, and take the Buddha's wisdom—the true, proper, prefect wisdom—as our place of refuge. That is why before the Buddha entered Nirvana, he told his disciples to "take the precepts as our Teacher."
In studying the precepts, there needs to be a Way-place, Dharma Masters, and all kinds of good conditions in order for the good roots from the past to come forth. We often speak of good roots. Why do we speak of "roots"? When you look at a tree, we can see its leaves and its branches, but we cannot see how deep its roots are. How deep are our own good roots? We do not know. How deep are our evil roots? We do not know that either. But even after we have done something bad, we do not understand why we did it. Our lack of clarity is due to the fact that our evil roots are very deep. Therefore, today, we should let our good roots grow; we should have a good environment. Now that we are here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we should take advantage of such a fine environment and make great vows in front of the Triple Jewel to protect these precepts.
To be continued