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Subject: Bodhisattva's Precepts
Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2001 12:44:20 -0400
From: Vincent Ng

I have recently heard that there is such a buddhist teachings known as the 'Bodhisattva's precepts.' It is much like the 5 precepts that one undertake in buddhism. I was told there are some 6 major precepts and 28 secondary ones in the Bodhisattva's precepts. While I do read extensively on buddhist sutras, I have not come across these precepts. Could the monastic please guide me with some understanding on these matter and perhaps point me to appropriate sutras that deals with these precepts or conducts.

Most of my english speaking dharma friends are unable to guide me to the source. We do however know of the 6 paramittas practiced by Bodhisattvas.

Thank you

Vincent NG


Dear Vincent,

There are no canonical sources for the Bodhisattva Precepts. The Pali Canon has no mention at all of these Precepts, which were introduced after the rise of Mahayana. The idea was to encourage the practice of compassion. It is a sort of meditation in action. In this case, the Precepts or Vows are taken with one's teachers and the public as witnesses. It is a "public" version of the Sadhana practice where one is assigned a special "deity" (often a Bodhisattva) to visualize and meditate on.

Sadly, many "Buddhists" today take such initiations for the "power" they think it gives. It is even called "empowerment". However, properly practised, these meditation makes one humble, yet knowledgeable because one is constantly reminded of Bodhisattva qualities. The Bodhisattva Precepts also work in this manner.

However, unlike Precepts, which are voluntary and renewable when you break them, the Bodhisattva Vows are more strict, and demand more dedication. Precepts on the other hand are given because people have the tendency to be weak and break them. So we '"take" them regularly (like when we visit the temple) or mindfully recite them for ourselves.

Precepts must be practised because of our love and compassion for others, not just for good karma. Proper practice of Precepts form the foundation of good meditation practice, which in turn encouraged clear wisdom.



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