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. These calls are a half-hour long and each call is devoted to discussing one of the sixteen Precepts. If you're interested in studying the Precepts with Diane, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference calls are open to all, regardless of where you may practice, and do 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. There are sangha members who can help with this, including by providing you with a kit to get started. You can find two Precepts recitations in the our liturgy book.