Our vow of ethical practice for when shit hits the fan…
When I first took the Precepts, and then again, and then again, I felt this weird hollowness. “Wait, that’s it?”
I understood intellectually that I should commit and “work” on them in all aspects of my life but somehow the importance got diluted in the realities of day to day living.
I started and fucked up a thousand times.
“Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, come again, come.”― Rumi
But then, when life got really hot, when anger and fear and sadness and ego and cravings took over my capacity to think clearly, the Precepts became my guard rails (If you want a cheat sheet, just go to #4! OMG).
Day by day, things got better.
The Precepts are a form of ethical practice, like the ten commandments of Christianity, however as with most Buddhist traditions they are only recommendations and suggested as something to strive for. Take what you need, what feels right to you and let go of the rest.
Do the best you can.
Blow it, then try again.
The Precepts, sometimes called The Mindfulness Trainings, are written in many different ways, with different words, however the spirit of them is the same:
• First Training: Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
• Second Training: Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
• Third Training: Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of others, and myself I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
• Fourth Training: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
• Fifth Training: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingesting only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
I decided to create a single vow, words stolen from countless others and re-arranged to work for me, that I could digest and really use as part of my daily practice:
I am responsible for the cultivation of wisdom and the practice of mindfulness in my own life.
Every day is my opportunity to add more love to the world by discovering the parts of me that can benefit others.
Every moment is an invitation for me to observe my breath and move to the middle path.
Within me is pure beauty and grace and to express my gratitude for these treasures, everyday I re-commit to living the 5 precepts to the best of my ability.
Through the practice of loving-kindness towards myself and all living beings, I accept my responsibility to add more love to the world and will use all my actions to the benefit of humanity.
by Tyler Lewke
Refuge Recovery Chicago