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Upon "Becoming" A Buddhist

Ven. Dr. David Am Koe Su Beighley, Sunim

Abbot/Head Monk-White Sands Zen Center

January 5, 2023

Ten days from today, three individuals from the White Sands Zen Center will participate in the Ceremony of receiving the Five Buddhist Precepts, or in the updated version, Thich Nhat Hanh's "Five Mindfulness Trainings". This is the first group of Precepts recipients from WSZC, which only opened in August, 2022. These individuals have undertaken three months of rigorous training, reading, journaling, and discussions with each other and their Teacher. What does it mean to "Receive" the Precepts? This is the commitment on the part of these individuals to progress from being Buddhist Practitioners to Becoming Buddhist. It is the entry into not just "doing" Buddhism...but becoming Buddhist. The Precepts are the only steps on the Path that are received. Every other step on the Path involves "taking" vows. The Precepts are considered "gifts" to the Ordinants, given freely by their Teacher, as an ongoing reminder of what is involved in BEING Buddhist.

The Five Basic Precepts were part of the Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and were updated by Hanh in 1993 to reflect our changing times, circumstances, and situations.

In this post, I would like to share with you and have you contemplate what it might beam to YOU to not only receive these Mindfulness Trainings, But commit yourselves to BEING the Precepts in your daily, hourly, moment-by-moment lives...becoming Buddhist. I would like to share the Five Mindfulness Trainings which these three individuals will be receiving in less that two weeks:

White Sands Zen Center

The Five Precepts (now called “Mindfulness Trainings”)

The Five Wonderful Mindfulness Trainings below are Zen Master Thich Nhat’s Hanh’s translation of the 5 basic precepts as taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha offered these precepts to both his ordained and lay followers so that they could have clear guidelines to lead mindful and joyful lives on the path to awakening. Thich Nhat Hanh has updated the precepts so that they are beautifully appropriate and relevant in today’s society. In his book entitled “For a Future to be Possible”, Thich Nhat Hanh describes in detail how the Five Wonderful Mindfulness Trainings can be used by anyone in today’s world to create a more harmonious and peaceful life.

The First Mindfulness Training:

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Mindfulness Training:

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Mindfulness Training:

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

(Excerpted from “For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts” (1993) by Thich Nhat Hanh, with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California.) The book is also available on Amazon,

If you have read these carefully, you can then understand the commitment being made by these three individuals and their commitment to following the Buddhist Path formally, as Buddhists. It is easy to think, "This is just common sense." I agree...there is nothing magical or mystical about the receiving of the gift of these precepts. It is the COMMITMENT TO PRACTICE ONE MOMENT AT A TIME that is the extraordinary aspect of this endeavor.

I am personally very proud of each of these individuals and the hard work they have done to become prepared to receive these gifts. Please feel free to join us at the White Sands Zen Center on January 15, noon, at On The Path Yoga in Spring Lake, MI to witness this ceremony!

May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be at peace...

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