Another re-posting from the now deleted ‘Marcus’ Journal’ I’m afraid – but one that I absolutely must place here for being so very close to my heart. On the 10th of May, 2008, my spiritual journey reached something of a culmination and new starting point as I undertook, along with three Dharma brothers, a formal and very beautiful ceremony to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and formally vowed to uphold the Five Precepts.
The ceremony was undertaken at the Hanmaum Seon Center in Anyang with my preceptor, who chose my Dharma name, being Seon Master Daehaeng Kun Sunim. The ceremony was led by Chong Go Sunim, and the other preceptees were Carl, Joe, and Joseph. Suki, Park and Amy from the Saturday group, and both ordained and laypeople from the temple, were also in attendance. Part of the ceremony involved me reading out a speech that I’d written for the occasion. This is the text of that speech:
The Dharma is simple. I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha, and today, gladly and in public, in this wonderful temple, with my good Dharma friends, and under the guidance of good Dharma teachers, I undertake to follow the five lay precepts – the basic moral and training requirements – and thus formally, for the first time, become a Buddhist.
It’s simple. I vow to abstain from killing, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from telling lies, and from taking intoxicants. I do this for myself and for my friends, for my family and for my community; I do this because this practice IS the Dharma. It is not just the foundation, it is also the goal, not just the starting point, the five precepts are the Dharma itself. I follow the five precepts for the sake of all beings.
Someone might ask me why I want these restrictions, why I feel the need for these rules. But the precepts aren’t a prison, they are the key. Through the precepts we find freedom. Through my aspiration and vow to follow these trainings I allow my own true nature to act upon the world. These precepts are my deepest intentions, which here, today, I give voice to.
Of course I’m going to fail. Killing is inevitable in every mouthful of food I eat, no matter how strict a vegetarian I am. Stealing happens every time I posses something while others do not. Sexual misconduct lies in wait in almost every advertisement I see, every TV channel I watch. I tell lies when I say “I’m fine” or “good morning”. And what of intoxicants, do I count sugar? Do I stop drinking coffee?
Zen Master Daehaeng has reformulated the precepts, where traditionally they start with ‘do not’, she has given them new voice: ‘Love all beings equally and compassionately’, ‘Give alms and create virtue’, ‘Cultivate a pure and upright body and mind’, ‘Speak only the truth and uphold trust’, ‘Always maintain bright and upright wisdom’.
This is simple. This is the Dharma. And although I will stumble, and greed and anger and delusion will set me off course, in vowing to follow these precepts I am re-orientated. My efforts alone are not enough, sheer determination alone is not enough to follow these precepts. Yet by vowing to do so I allow the precepts to guide me and I allow the deepest and most fundamental part of me to respond.
This is my Buddha-nature, my foundation, my inherent nature, the part of me that is already the precepts, that doesn’t need the rules or the ceremony, that doesn’t need the chanting or the incense, but which responds to my vow and which wishes, through me, to fulfill it.
Thus the Five Precepts are, just as they were first set down by Sakyamuni Buddha and recorded in the Pali texts, “a vehicle of happiness, a vehicle of good fortune, a vehicle for liberation. Let our virtue therefore be purified and shine forth.”