Originally, according to the Buddha Dharma, one receives the Precepts through one’s own efforts of seeking the Precepts in front of the Buddha images—which is by bowing to the Buddha. Some obtain the Precepts in a year, some two years, some three, some four, five, or six years. Some may not obtain the Precepts even in more than a decade. For those who have obtained the Precepts, what is meant by “obtaining the Precepts”?
It was elaborated clearly in the Buddhist Sutra that during the period of bowing to the Buddha, if one sees the Buddha emitting light, or sees the Buddha come forth to rub the crown of one’s head, then one obtains the Precepts. It is not the case that one purposely conjures up the images or the states in his or her mind, rather, it is a genuinely true state of the Buddha emitting light, or the Buddha coming forth to rub one’s crown of the head; those are the indications of one’s obtaining the Precepts. Because of these requirements, it is not very easy to obtain the Precepts. Therefore, it has evolved into the practice of transmitting the Precepts, which was permitted by the Buddha, with the condition that there be three masters and seven certifiers during the ordination. When these requirements are met, one obtains the Precepts—that is “receiving the Precepts”.
So now when you are bowing to the Buddha, you must be very sincere every day, without a minute of getting lazy. Then I am sure that you will obtain the Precepts.
In Buddhism, this is a new beginning. By your example of receiving the Precepts, all beings in the future will have the opportunity to receive the Precepts. There are a lot of people waiting behind you.
As I mentioned before, this ordination was done three years early. If it was done three years later, then there would have been thirty people coming forward to receive the Precepts. By doing it three years early, we only had three preceptees. Yet, three is not considered too few; even if there were just one preceptee, it would still not be too few. Even if there were no preceptees this time, but just we people who have come to transmit the Precepts, it would still not be considered too few because there are all these ghosts and spirits who are waiting here to receive the Precepts.
Hence, the Precepts Transmission is not merely for human beings, but for many other beings who have come here to receive the Precepts, such as the Dharma-protecting gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Pantheon of spiritual beings. Therefore, you should not worry about having no companions; there are many beings here to accompany you. There are many gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Pantheon of spiritual beings who are also bowing to the Buddha together with you!
Today I will tell you a joke. What joke? If you bow to the Buddha, the demons will run away. If you don’t, the demons will come. What are demons? When you strike up false thinking, that is bringing forth a demon.
If you have no false thinking, that’s becoming a Buddha. This is receiving the Precepts.
You should bow to the Buddha till you become so concentrated that you have only the one thought of bowing to the Buddha remaining. Then when you bow to one Buddha, you are bowing to all the Buddhas of the ten directions. In front of all Buddhas, there you are bowing to them. There is a verse that you should recite in your mind when you are bowing. It goes like this:
“The worshipper and the worshipped in nature are empty and still.” The worshipper is the person; the worshipped is the Buddha. ‘In nature are empty and still’, basically, their nature is empty. Although it is empty, “The intercession in the Path that one induces is difficult to conceive.” “This Bodhimanda is like Lord Shakra’s jewel”: The Bodhimanda is like the precious gems of the God Shakra—its light illumines everywhere. “All Buddhas of the ten directions appear within it”: once you contemplate like this, you can universally bow to all the Buddhas of the ten directions. All the Buddhas of the ten directions appear before you. In one bow, you bow to them all. When the Buddhas of the ten directions appear, your offense karma will be eradicated. That is why I am also bowing to the Buddha. That is what you should do as well.
Among the people who went to Taiwan to receive the precepts, there are some who want to retake the Precepts. Last year Guo Zhan (Heng Guan) asked me, “Is it OK for those of us who took the Precepts in Taiwan to retake the Precepts?”
Yes, OK. It is OK to receive them as many times as you like because in one time you may not have heard everything clearly. You can listen again when you retake them; that’s no problem. So those of you who received the Precepts in Taiwan should be a little more sincere. On one hand, you can lead the new preceptees to do the bowing; on the other hand, you can repent of your own offense karma at the same time. This is very important.
This year is our first time transmitting the Precepts (in America); everyone should seriously apply effort. So after you finish the Transference of Merit in a moment, you can start the bowing. Those lay people who have come from a distance may go back if they wish. If they wish to stay and bow to the Buddha, that is even better. Bowing to the Buddha is the most important thing. Essentially, transmitting the Precepts is just teaching people to bow to the Buddha—bowing to the Buddha day and night. So, we bow to the Buddha and recite the Sutras, bow to the Buddha and recite the Sutras again; we investigate and study the Buddhist teachings and texts. This is a very rare opportunity for us to cultivate together.