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The Five Precepts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 17 Oct 2023, 21:08

Upāsaka means male lay follower. A female lay follower is called an Upāsikā. We make the determination to follow the five precepts.

These (in no particular order) are:

  • To refrain from false and harmful speech.
  • To refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
  • To refrain from taking what is not given.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct (misconduct here is defined as infidelity or sexual abuse).
  • To refrain from consuming intoxicants that lead to careless behaviour and breaking the other four precepts.

They aren’t vows or commandments. They are training rules and guidelines that one strives to follow to live a moral life and maintain peace of mind.

The precepts are important for two reasons. First, by keeping them, you are no longer causing harm in society. This means you become a person that others can trust. Which is important. We all know stories of spiritual people who tarnish the reputation of spirituality by behaving in immoral ways.

The other reason is for one’s own benefit. By taking the precepts, one is training the mind to abandon unwholesome tendencies that lead to suffering (both for ourselves and others). By not engaging in immoral activities, one does not become stressed by the unwanted repercussions that come back at you (like a boomerang).

The precepts cover roughly a third of the noble eightfold path (right speech, right action, right livelihood).

The five precepts will also reveal the mental dispositions that keep causing us problems in life.

For instance, my biggest problem was with intoxicants. It was a long, hard struggle for me to become free of those. I used to be an addict and have had problems with substance abuse since I was a kid. I won’t go into details here because it will make this article too long. But I may perhaps share more about that in a future article when I am feeling braver.

Without a foundation in morality, one will struggle to make much progress on the spiritual path. Morality is an important component for developing peace of mind.

Without it, one will also struggle to meditate. Regret and remorse will prevent one from entering the deep states of absorption known as samādhi.



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Asoka

Pain, the power of intention, and Samadhi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 6 Oct 2023, 21:17

Quite fatigued today. Lots of rain here. I have a sore shoulder, the pain is unrelenting, it has been like this for weeks, I have no idea what I’ve done to it. I probably should see a doctor, but I really dislike using phones and making appointments and don’t feel up to the traveling, so I keep putting it off.

Whilst sat in meditation today I remembered the Buddha say that he suffered from backache almost constantly, and that the only time he got relief from it was when he went into samadhi. So, I tried that, but couldn’t get into samadhi. So, I turned to face the pain instead. Felt it throbbing in my shoulder and noticed how it spread down my arm with a buzzing sort of pain.

I tried to just see the pain as sensations without the perception of like or dislike. Exploring what happens when I move the breath energy through that area, using the breath to bring ease to it. Sometimes that worked and other times it didn’t.

It was hard to sit still for long as my arm kept needing to be moved into different positions as it got very uncomfortable. It was hard practising walking meditation also, as the movement kept jarring the shoulder. But there were moments where I stayed centred with the meditation object and remained there for a good while, and I did seem to enter a momentary samadhi and yes, the pain did go away. But maintaining that state was not always easy.

The mind would sometimes show a lack of inclination to practise, and thoughts about doing something else grabbed my attention. Then I remembered that this is one of the five hindrances, and I don’t have to follow these impulses or thoughts.

(n.b. the five hindrances are: greed, hate, sloth, restlessness, and doubt)

I have the power to choose, to set an intention. I can consciously choose to continue meditating and stay with the object of mindfulness. That’s where my power lies, in choosing. So, I choose to do so each moment, making that choice over and over instead of going along with the hindrances. That worked for a bit, but sometimes a loud noise would pull me out of it, and I had to start again. 

Samadhi is not easy, but it is a very important part of the noble eightfold path. That unification of mind is essential. I notice the difference on the days I don’t practise. It definitely helps. 

Movement is exercise for the body, and stillness is exercise for the mind. 

A mind that keeps wandering and has difficulty become still, is a sign that it is getting out of shape. Learning how to bring the mind to stillness and steadying it, strengthens the mind, it does it a lot of good.

Even if the meditation seems like a waste of time. One can learn a lot about how the mind works from the simple exercise of attempting to keep it centred on one thing. It reveals a lot about what makes us tick, what our desires are, our angst, our delusions. Can be very interesting.

 


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