1. What is “taking refuge”? and why?
Taking refuge in the Three Jewels is the returning and relying on the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Buddha stands for the kind nature and virtues. Dharma is the meaning of the Truth, and of all things that are true like the truthful spoken words. Sangha represents the harmony of a group or a formation of minds, also epitomizes the beauty arising out of harmonỵ. Thus, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are the embodiments of the Truth, the Goodness, and the Beauty.
Taking refuge in the Three Jewels (or Triple Gems) is a natural developmental path for an individual.
2. Can I take refuge again if I already took refuge before?
If you already took refuge but did not fully understand the true meaning of the act at the time, then you can take refuge again.
3. What are the Five Precepts?
The Five Precepts are commitments to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, deception, and intoxication.
4. Why undertake the Five Precepts? What are the benefits?
Undertaking the precepts is a long-term self-betterment journey, such that we gradually change the bad habits that go against the five precepts. When undertaking the Five Precepts we pledge to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, ourselves, and to all presents that we will commit to and walk the path of the Five Precepts. Thus, after undertaking the precepts, no one demands that we must change immediately so that the precepts will not be violated, rather, it is just an unflinching determination on our part to change ourselves within a period of time. A mature person is one who lives harmoniously without destroying other life forms (no killing) within one’s means, is self-sufficient and without greed (no stealing), maintains proper manners with others without illegitimate sexual acts (no sexual misconducts), lives truthfully in one’s words (no lying, deceiving), and in a life that is ever-reaching for an ideal, in a noble direction (without drinking, gambling, drug addictions.) Therefore, the undertaking of the Five Precepts, although a Buddhist tradition, in reality, accords with the natural evolution of mankind.
5. Where is the origination of the Bodhisattva Vows or Precepts? What are the Bodhisattva Precepts?
There are several types of Bodhisattva Precepts. There are the Bodhisattva Precepts that originated from the Brahmajāla Sutra, which comprise of 10 major vows and 48 minor vows. There are Bodhisattva Precepts for the lay Buddhists, which has only 6 major vows and 26 minor vows, and were excerpted and renamed by the Buddhist patriarchs during the Ming and Manchu dynasties so that the precepts would conform to those eras.
The Bodhisattva Precepts from this pledge are derived from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Adornment sutra). Please read “Avatamsaka Sutra Ten Vows or Precepts” (Kinh Hoa Nghiêm Bồ Tát Thập Giới) by Venerable Master Hang Truong. These Precepts focus on a Bodhisattva’s spirits, taking into account a broad but realistic picture that covers situations and conditions of modern life times, and especially help at home people, besides monks and nuns, to cultivate.
In this respect, Bodhisattva Precepts are model practices that help us make changes and practice the habits of Bodhisattva, with the ultimate purpose of becoming a Bodhisattva. Undertaking the precepts (Five precepts, Ten Precepts, Bodhisattva Precepts) is making a commitment to practice, not pressuring ourselves to conform to strict rules and regulations. It sets about training ourselves to become Bodhisattva.
6. What are the Bodhisattva Ten Precepts ?
- Giới phổ nhiêu ích: benefit all living beings.
- Giới bất thọ: Will not undertake any precepts of pagan life; only follow the Buddhist precepts.
- Giới bất trụ: Will not undertake any precepts in order to be born into the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.
- Giới không hối hận: Will not undertake any act of felony, cheating, subservience, will not break the precepts.
- Giới không vĩ tranh: Will not deny the existing precepts, add new precepts, nor take the precepts to create sufferings; undertake the precepts to bring peace and joy to others.
- Giới bất não hại: Will not use the precepts and rules to learn black magics, manufacture drugs, or harm others; undertake the precepts to help other people.
- Giới bất tạp: Will not have bias views; will not undertake the precepts haphazardly; will contemplate causation and conditions, undertake precepts to let go of attachments.
- Giới vô tham cầu: Will not be ostentatious or showing off.
- Giới vô quá thất: Will not think highly of oneself and look down on sinners; focus only on upholding the precepts.
- Giới vô hủy phạm: Practice the 10 precepts, know that violating the precepts are caused by unbalanced mind.
The ten precepts are basic foundation of a humane lifestyle: refraining from killing, stealing, adultery, lying, two-way talk, harsh/ evil speech, nonsense speech, greed, hatred, and wrong views.
7. What is short term home-leaving life or temporary ordained?
Temporary ordained is leaving home life for a limited time. For this practice, you will shave your head, wear sash, carry bowls, and undertake the Ten Novice Precepts and Ten Bodhisattva Precepts, just like other novice monks and nuns.
8. What is the importance of practicing home-leaving life?
Being ordained is the highest and most precious virtue of Buddhism in the last 25 centuries. In the present time, especially in the United States or the Western hemisphere, it is hard to ordain and join the sangha like in our home country. Urgent needs and other constraints in our life make it difficult to practice. Therefore, if we have a chance to partake in a monk or nun daily life, no matter how short, we will cherish the Sangha, have more belief in Buddhism and its practice.
9. Is short term home-leaving life a form of practice to create future affinity?
In practicing living a home-leaving life to create future affinity, you sow a good seed in hope of being able to enter a monkhood/nunhood in future life. In Laos or Cambodia, they have a tradition in which one becomes a monk or nun for seven days to show love & respect to their parents before getting married, or after a parent pasess away. The short term home-leaving life practiced here has a more altruistic purpose: becoming a monk or nun for the sake of others. For example, if you have a loved one who is ill, you become a monk or nun in his place so that he will receive the merits and get well.
10. When undertaking the five precepts, Novice precepts, Bodhisattva precepts, how long do we keep them? Is it just during this event?
- Undertaking the Five Precepts, we keep them for life, it’s a “life-long commitment”.
- Undertaking Bodhisattva Precepts, we practice for life; think of them as a “life-long education”, instead of strict rules. Therefore, after undertaking the precepts, we should continue to recite them to remind ourselves and consider them our life’s compass.
- Undertaking the Novice Precepts, a total of 10, we keep from the December 13 to December 20.
11. If we have already undertaken the Bodhisattva precepts, can we take them again?
Yes, you should undertake the precepst again to remind, recollect, and understand them better. The Avatamsaka Sutra Ten Vows or Bodhisattva Precepts can be undertaken multiple times.
12. Can I join the Home-Leaving Life while I undertake the Bodhisattva Precepts?
Anybody who becomes short term monk or nun should undertake the Bodhisattva Precepts.
13. If I would like to join the Home-Leaving Life, what clothing and accessories should I prepare?
People who participate in Home-Leaving Life will need the followings:
- Black robe (áo tràng đen)
- Sash (áo giới màu nâu)
- Meditation outfits (thiền phục xám)
- Bag (túi xách)
- Sitting cloth (tọa cụ, tấm vải dùng ngồi thiền)
- Bowl (bát ăn cơm)
- Black sandals, black socks (giày đen và tất đen)
Clothing and accessories listed above are nessessary items for everyday life of a monk or nun. You cannot undertake the precepts if you do not have the right attire and the necessary accessories.
14. If I undertaken Boddhisattva Precepts, what clothing and accessories should I prepare?
Boddhisattva Preceptees will have to wear uniforms:
- Black robe (áo tràng đen)
- Sash (áo giới màu nâu)
- Sitting cloth (tọa cụ, tấm vải dung ngồi thiền)
- People who undertake the Bodhisattva Precepts should bring black or dark color shoes and black socks to match with their attire, but it’s not an obligation.
15. Do I need to shave my head if I undertake the Bodhisattva Precepts?
Only people who participate in the Home-Leaving Life need to shave their head. You don’t need to shave your head if you just undertake the Bodhisattva Precepts.
16. Where can I get the attire and accessories for the Home-Leaving Life or Bodhisattva Precepts?
Please contact Huệ ..
17. I do not have a black robe, can I wear a gray robe?
Black robe and brown sash are the proper attire for those who are ordained for the Home- Leaving Life or Bodhhisattva Precepts. You can not undertake the precepts if you do not have the uniforms. You can contact Huệ . to purchase the robes and sash.