Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/02/2014

Not Taking What Is Not Given | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to refrain from taking that which is not given.

The training rule to refrain from taking that which is not given can be understood simply as refraining from theft and stealing but, if we pay close attention to the wording of the precept, we see that there are other possible interpretations which require a much more careful approach.

In daily life I don’t believe most of us reading this blog engage in outright theft (although I could be completely wrong on that count) so the Second Precept (its position in the traditional enumeration of the Panca Sila) may not be something we give much thought to. But look a little more closely and you may be disturbed by what you find.

Take, for example, the following cases:

You’re at your in-laws’ house and you forge
t to bring toothpaste so you use theirs.

There is a bottle of creamer in the office kitchen that belongs to someone else and you use a little in your coffee.

You download a PDF of a book that is on sale elsewhere without paying for it.

So, are any of these instances of sullied if not broken precepts?  Clearly nothing was offered in these cases but to call it theft might feel like a stretch to some. I would suggest that, in my own limited wisdom and experience, we follow our conscience to the degree that it has been cultivated. I know that I will be working on just these types of scenarios in the coming weeks as I undertake a virtual Ango and prepare for Jukai at Treeleaf Zendo.

May we practice to  perfect our generosity, purify our sila, deepen our samadhi and develop true wisdom.

I undertake the training rule to relieve the suffering of others in whatever ways I can.

The third voluntary precept that I’ve taken on is intended to bring the essence of karuna 0r compassion to the fore of all that I do. More than simply seeing this as an aditthana to be recited to be quickly forgotten I hope to be pro-active in the face of  suffering both big and small. Whether it’s the quotidian suffering of my wife and children that I can help to ameliorate by being attentive and helpful in the morning or he desperate suffering of an obviously ill homeless person or even my own suffering that is always bubbling there under the surface I hope to transform my heart through practice into a font of unending compassion for all beings.

Sabbe satta sabba dukkha pamuccantu!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/31/2014

Not Eating Meat – Second Abhaya-cariya Precept

I undertake the training rule not to eat the flesh of any animal slaughtered for food.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/30/2014

The First Precept – Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to refrain from killing and injuring living things.

Throughout the next 36 days I want to focus each post on each of the training rules I’ve devised for myself or adapted from traditional sources. It’s hard not to feel a little presumptuous doing so but, having seen the benefits of following such a code, I feel that even if there is some pride and arrogance there it is outweighed by the fact that I am living my life in a less harmful way. So, without further ado, onto the first precept.

The first precept, the admonition not to kill any living, is one of the features of early Buddhism which distinguishes it from most other religions (Jainism being the only one I know of to go further in this direction).  Despite later ideas that entered the teachings about killing as a skillful means, it has always been pretty clear to me that there is no justification, any under circumstance, to kill any living being.  And, even as I say that, I openly admit to having found myself in a situation where I felt compelled to take the life of bed-bugs that we discovered a few years back in our apartment. The only redeeming aspect of my decision to kill these beings was the fact that I understood that what I was doing would lead to suffering for me later and that there was no rationalization to make it better.

One beautiful way in which I have found the precept rendered is in the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra:

A disciple of the Buddha shall not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through incantation or deviant mantras. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of killing, and shall not intentionally kill any living creature.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/29/2014

Smile When You Don’t Know What Else to Do

I intended to write about this yesterday but it was late bythe time I finished meditation. Anyway, these more other-oriented training aspirations that I am working with seem to be having a positive effect upon my outlook and behavior so I feel that they are, at the very least, worth sticking to even if they have been largely designed by an unenlightened worldling. Still, there are times when I find myself wandering about in confusion without the energy or understanding needed to use discursive techniques. So, imagine my delight when o rediscovered the power of smiling practice.

Bhante Vimalaramsi makes much of smiling as a key component in his metta instructions and although I have used it before I eventually switched to another practice due to my own incontinence. And yet nothing has proven to be quite as powerful in overcoming sticky and torpid mind states than a sustained, mindful smiling countenance.
Now, don’t get me wrong and think I’m advocating simply slapping a maudlin grin on your face and walking out the door because, for me at least, it has taken some time to figure out how to do this well. What I have learned is that I don’t need to go around smiling like a maniacal idiot or imbecile but, once I have the feeling of a genuine and gentle smile on my face, I simply need to soften it fom time to time to keep it going. The idea of softening gas proven especially useful on NYC streets where most people either walk around in stone-faced aversion or with lips puckered in photojournalistic modeling poses. Why does it work so well? Not sure but it’s a great lesson in humility and a reminder that maybe we don’t have it all figured out.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/27/2014

More on Buddhist on Chivalry

The more I work on the list of training rules that I have come to call the Abhaya-cariya precepts (I ask your indulgence here as I find that there is a certain inspirational power in using names such as “Fearless Conduct”) the less certain I am that it is correct to call them a code of Buddhist chivalry. And yet, what oher term is there to describe a practice intended to enoble one’s view and behavior for the sake of the greater good and personal liberation? Call me a romantic (something which I am not often accused of) but it seems to me that my idea of how these precepts might work if I am able to follow them in letter and spirit is analogous to my childhood idea of the good knight errant who travels about doing good and saving damsels in distress. Only in this case the damsels might be better thought of as homeless people or even one’s own heart of loving-kindness and the dragons hatred, apathy and desperation. But,  even if I am kidding myself the whole idea still seems like skillful means that will obtain good result.

In the end I intend to compile a list of thirty-six (chatinsa if I’ve got my Pali right) precepts and that number is fast approaching. I added three additional training rules today, one which appeared as an aditthana in my Daily Practice Outline (dealing with not using media that inflames lust or hatred), one which I have used in the past as an occasional practice on uposatha days (giving to at least one person a day) and a third which may seem a little more controversial. The last rule I added today asks me to refrain being alone with a. Ember of th opposite sex and is meant to both preclude the possibility of anything untoward ever happening and even the suspicion thereof. It may seem backwards but if I have learned anything absolutelyut the defilements it’s that they can arise withoit warning and swamp the undeveloped mind. Perhaps one of their greatest tricks is to convince you that they’re not so strong after all qnd that there’s truly nothing to worry about until its too late. What’s more this rule exists in the Vinaya and is also a custom in Islam as well so I’m in good company.

Anyway, I thank all of you who are reading and if anyone has any comments or suggestions about this whole endeavor I would love to hear them. Be well!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/26/2014


I have been listening to a series of guided metta meditations by Ajahn Achalo of late and am impressed not only with his methodical approach to the topoc but by his willingness to use different meditation techniques (meditation word, visualization and even Buddhanussati). And then, of course, is the fact that one gets the sense that they are listening to a teacher who is profoundly concerned with one’s welfare.

There are many things which intrigue me about the metta methods taught by Ajahn Achalo but the one feature in particular that stands out as unique to his approach is the idea that we need to cultivate loving-acceptance with the breath before we even move onto radiating loving-kindness to ourselves. The way the venerable ajahn describes it, metta has a dual natur with loving-acceptance being the cool, rceptive aspect (the yin if you will) and loving-kindness the active, warmer quality (the yang). If this has been previously presented elsewhere I have missed it but it changes the way I will be practicing the brahmaviharas and I will be extending my formal sit time to a minimum of 45 minutes simply because the process of settling in takes a good half hour. I will be posting the link to the meditations shortly but I encourage everyone to look the ajahn up in the interim. Sukhi hotu!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/25/2014


Maybe it comes from years of trying to assiduously follow the precepts but for whatever reason I find that making a conscious determination to follow a training rule obtains a good result. So, as I contemplate the set of training rules that I am working with, I keep finding new areas in my life that I have neglected to address and that I think could benefit from being included. One area that sprung to mind this morning was that of peacemaking and my consistent failure to effectively do so especially at work. As a result, I would like to include in my personal list of precepts a rule that might go something like the following:

May undertake the precept to promote harmony and concord whenever there is conflict or disagreement.

As a precept to be recited on a daily basis it obviously needs to be short, terse and memorable but there is so much more that I would like to say about it. I often find myself in situations where my business partner is complaining about another company we are working with and I have almost invariably supported his ideas and stoked the flames of aversion up until now. From now on I would like to try to offer him an alternative perception about the difficult party and to help us think of ways that we could come to a mutually beneficial solution ot, at the very least, to open our narrow view of the situation. How can I consider myself a disciple of the Lord Buddha if I were to do anything less?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/23/2014

Purification of Conduct

May I purify my conduct through the practice of the Five Precepts, the Ten Paramis and by training in the discipline of the Triple Gem.

Last night, or this morning, I quickly posted the remnants of what I am describing as a Code of Buddhist Chivalry. I have now rewritten them but will continue to modify them as I see fit since I intend to use the as practic guidelines and recite all fourteen of them every day before my formal meditation. I’m sure that some people may take issue with my conflation of medieval Christian and Islamic notions of chivalry and Buddhist doctrine but to me, in my current role as a lay person, it just seems to fit. But this explanation surely begs the question of why I feel compelled to even call these training rules a code of Buddhist Chivalry at all so it looks like I have some explaining to do.

As a child I was deeply influenced, as most boys in our culture are, by stories of heroic deeds but even more so by the ideas of honor, virtue and nobility of character. Unfortunately my ideas skewed pretty much to the martial side so I spent my days during recess literally fighting the boys who preyed upon the weaker girls (that’s just how it happened to play out in my schoolyard). My fighting for all the wrong reasons continued through elementary, high school and into adulthood until I started to take the Dhamma a lot more seriously whereupon I more or les quit it and a boat load of other unskillful behaviors. And yet that energy and the idea of fighting for a worthy cause never quite went away but simply went into hiding. Now, much in the way the devout Muslim thinks of jihad as a spiritual struggle, I am seeking to turn the desire to be a force of good in the into a battle to overcome the defilements and to make some positive impact, however small, on he lives of those around me.

So far, in the scant few days I have been practicing with the code, I have seen great benefits which are well worth the effort. I can’t be sure if these praftices themsleves will lead to the development of wisdom but it is clear that the mind will be much more free of remorse and I should get better results from formal meditation. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/23/2014

Towards a Buddhist Chivalry

In the intervening days since my last uploaded post i had written several others but was not able to upload them. I was forced to sign out of the app on my phone which erased all of the drafts. I had been working on a series of training rules that i was experimenting with and had them all written and ready to post. I was able to save a few of them and want to post what i have now lest i lose it again. Suffice it to say there is much more to come but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

May I purify my conduct throught the practice of the Five Precepts, the Ten Paramis and by training in the discipline of th Triple Gem.

May all that I think, say and do be inspired by kindness and compassion.
May I strive always to be of service to others.                            
May I help to relieve the suffering of others in whenever and wherever I find them.
May I give the lion’s share to others in all my dealings.
May I always put the wants of others before my own.

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