Precepts Classes and Taking the Vows
The Precepts of skillful action are the moral and ethical teachings of the Zen Buddhist tradition. They're not rules to be followed, but suggestions on how to navigate the difficult and messy business of being human in this human world. They describe how to fully actualize the absolute truth of interconnection and oneness in the relative world of this and that. Moreover, the Precepts are among the Buddha's clearest suggestions about how to find liberation right in the middle of our everyday lives.
The ceremony of formally receiving the precepts is called Jukai. People who have received the Precepts wear a rakusu (pronounced "rock-su") during zazen, the black bib-like garment that is a miniaturized version of the Buddha's robe, the robe of liberation. In this ceremony, each person receiving the precepts has the opportunity to read a sentence or three about each of the sixteen precepts. In this way, the ceremony is extremely powerful, communal, and inspiring.
Receiving the Precepts is not something we do when we believe we will never act against them, but is itself an expression of our bodhisattva aspiration to return, again and again, to our intention to let Precepts guide our lives.
The process of aspiring to be guided by the precepts, falling short of our aspirations, and atoning for the harming karma we create is the essence of Zen. This three-part process (aspiring, falling short, and atoning) is the heart of practicing Zen in our everyday off-the-cushion lives.
Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald offers precepts classes by conference call and Zoom. If you're interested in studying the Precepts with Diane, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Taking the classes does not commit you to participating in Jukai. Sometimes people simply want to learn more about the moral and ethical teachings of Zen. However, if you are interested in formally receiving the Precepts, you will need to sew a rakusu. We can offer you information on how to do this. You can find two Precepts recitations in our liturgy book.