Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Saka Dawa - taking the 8 Mahayana Precepts

Today is Vesak Day (or Saka Dawa) where Buddhists commemorates the birth and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha and his Parinirvana.  It  is immensely beneficial to engage in virtuous activities and spiritual practice for the benefit of all sentient beings. Today, all virtuous deeds/merits multiply by 100 million times!

Usually on special days like this, I will take the 8 Mahayana Precepts. The below is an explanation of the 8 Mahayana Precepts, taken from Venerable Thubten Chodron's website:

The 8 Mahayana Precepts are taken for 24 hours. It is especially good to take them on full and new moon days and on other Buddhist festival days. Observing precepts for even such a short time has tremendous benefits: one accumulates a great amount of positive potential (merit) in a short time. One will receive upper rebirths and eventually will attain enlightenment. One is protected from harm, and the place where one lives becomes peaceful and prosperous. One's mind is peaceful and calm; one gains control over one's bad habits; there are fewer distractions when meditating. One gets along better with others. One will meet the Buddha's teachings in the future and can be born as a disciple of Maitreya Buddha.

The 8 Precepts are:
  1. Avoid killing, directly or indirectly.
  2. Avoid stealing and taking things without the permission of their owner.
  3. Avoid sexual contact.
  4. Avoid lying and deceiving others.
  5. Avoid intoxicants: alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. (You may take prescription drugs.)
  6. Avoid eating more than one meal that day. The meal is taken before noon, and once one has stopped eating for thirty minutes, the meal is considered finished. At other times of the day one can take light drinks, but not undiluted whole milk or fruit juice with pulp. Avoid eating meat, chicken, fish, eggs, onions, garlic and radishes.
  7. Avoid sitting on a high, expensive bed or seat with pride. Also avoid sitting on animal skins.
  8. Avoid wearing jewelry, perfume, and make-up. Avoid singing, dancing or playing music with attachment.
For a precept to be broken completely, four conditions must be present:
  1. The motivation is a negative attitude such as attachment, anger, etc.
  2. There is an object of the action, e.g. a being that is killed or an object that is stolen.
  3. One does the action. If one tells someone else to kill, steal or lie, it is also a transgression.
  4. The action is completed, e.g. the being dies before oneself or one thinks, "This is mine."
The first time one takes the precepts, it is done from a master. Thereafter, one can do the ceremony before a Buddha image by regarding it as the actual Buddha.

Preliminary prayers
Taking the precepts
All Buddhas and bodhisattvas residing in the ten directions, please pay attention to me!
Preceptor, please pay attention to me! (omit if taking before a Buddha image.)

Just as the past tathagatas, the foe destroyers and the completely perfect Buddhas, like the heavenly steed and the great elephant, accomplished their objective and did their task, laid down their load (of the contaminated aggregates), achieved their own purpose, consumed their ties to samsara; as they possessed perfect speech, a mind properly liberated, a wisdom properly liberated; just as they perfectly took the mahayana precepts for the sake of all sentient beings, in order to benefit them, to liberate them, to eliminate famine, to eliminate sickness, to perfect the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment, and to realize the highest perfect enlightenment; in the same way, for the sake of all sentient beings, to benefit them, to liberate them, to eliminate famine, to eliminate sickness, to perfect the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment, and to realize the highest perfect enlightenment, I, (say your name), will also perfectly accept the mahayana precepts from this moment until sunrise tomorrow. (3x)

Prayer of commitment to keep the precepts
From now on I will not kill, or take another's property. I will not engage in sexual activity and will not speak false words. I will totally avoid intoxicants, which are the cause of many faults. I will not use high or expensive beds or seats. I will avoid eating food at improper times. I will not wear perfumes, garlands and ornaments, or sing, dance and so forth. Just as the foe destroyers abandoned killing and so forth, may I, by avoiding killing and so forth, quickly attain the highest enlightenment. May I and all beings be freed from the ocean of cyclic existence, this world disturbed by many sorrows.

Dharani of pure morality
Om ahmoga shila sambara bara bara maha shuda sato payma bibu kita budza dara dara samanta ahwalokite hum pey soha. (21x)

Dedication prayers
By having the flawless ethics of the Dharma law, pure ethics, and ethics without conceit, may I complete the perfection of ethics. Follow this by reciting other dedication prayers.

This is rendition of the Heart Sutra in Cantonese by a group of HK singers; Faye Wong , Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Jackie Cheung, Anita Mui, Alan Tam, Aaron Kwok, Sally Yeh, Kenny Bee, Chilam, etc...  my favourite is actually  Faye Wong's solo canto rendition here.  May all who read this post be free of all suffering. May all be healthy and happy.   

Tayata om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha!

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