Five Yogis Take 8 Lifetime Precepts in Takoma Park Ceremony
By Catherine Brousseau | Oct 8 2012
In the Takoma Park sangha, five long-term yogis took the Eight Lifetime Precepts on Sunday evening, September 23. In a simple but powerful ceremony, lead by Venerable Dhammasiri, abbot of the Washington Buddhist Vihara, the yogis made a public declaration of intention to follow the path of Buddhist practice in life.What are the Eight Lifetime Precepts? They are different from the Eight Precepts yogis often take on retreat.
The Eight Lifetime Precepts were created in the 1990's by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery. Among long-term practitioners there was a growing desire for a simple ritual allowing them to express their deep commitment to Buddhist practice in the whole of their life: ethical living, mental development, and insight. Seeing this, Bhante G took the traditional Five Precepts for the laity and expanded the speech acts, added livelihood, and called them the Eight Lifetime Precepts. They are:
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from sensual misconduct.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from malicious speech.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from harsh speech.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from useless speech.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from wrong livelihood and from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.
The event took place within the regular Sunday evening class of the Takoma Park sangha at Willow Street Yoga Center. After a beautiful guided meditation led by Bhante Pannawansa and time for questions, the ceremony began. The five yogis came forward. They asked Bhante Dhammasiri to administer the "Three Refuges together with the Eight Lifetime Precepts." Consistent with an ancient format, the yogi's made this request three times. Bhante Dhammasiri led them through the Three Refuges chant in Pali, the language of the oldest Buddhist scriptures. Then the yogis declared the Eight Lifetime Precepts in English. Bhante responded: "Having well undertaken and kept the Eight Lifetime Precepts, together with the Three Refuges, one should strive on with diligence." Then he gave each yogi a certificate with their Pali name, and tied a blessing string on their wrist. Bhante followed with short talk on the precepts as the necessary foundation for serenity and insight. He closed with a metta chant and this charge: "With morality, good birth is gained; with morality, wealth is achieved; with morality, perfect peace is attained. Therefore, morality should be purified."In addition to the verbal commitment made by the yogis, the ceremony held symbols of another set of core Buddhist teachings: the three characteristics of existence.
- As a reminder of anicca, the teaching on impermanence, they received a wrist string, which stays on until it wears out and falls away, just like all phenomena.
- As a reminder of dukkha, the teaching on dissatisfaction, they dressed in neutral colors, instead of clothing chosen to "look good."
- As a reminder of anatta, the teaching on not-self, they received a Pali name, stretching the confines of one’s usual identity and the notion of who “I am.”
It was a happy experience for the five yogis taking the "Three Refuges together with the Eight Lifetime Precepts," and a happy occasion for all of us witnessing their commitment. We continued the celebration over tea and snacks and conversation. A blessed evening from start to finish!