7 points to gauge your spiritual progress – part 3 of 7

Ok, so let’s recap. The previous 2 points talk about unwavering faith and unwavering effort.

This should be understood as follows. Upon enlightenment these qualities become natural. Just like our breath. It becomes part of that enlightened being. Thus it will never waver.

The 3rd point is pristine precepts (戒律清净)

Arghhh. Did someone just roll their eyes and sigh? Very religious? Thou shalt not do that thingy? Again?

Many modern Buddhist makes it an effort to emphasize that Buddhist precepts are not commandments. Buddha doesn’t strike you down with a thunderbolt if you fail to observe a precept.

It is commonly taught that keeping precepts ensure good behaviour and good karma. Which is true. However, we should also know that the stuffs that we find in Buddhist precepts, actually help us condition our mind for the breakthrough in enlightenment.

Buddhist masters even state that inability to observe the precepts is a hindrance to enlightenment.

Upon enlightenment, the conduct of precepts becomes natural. So beware of “enlightened masters” giving excuses for not observing precepts. When one is enlightened, one does not become beyond the precepts. One’s conduct is automatically in line with the precepts. Take note!

Since this blog is for the lay community, let us examine the 5 precepts.

1. Non killing. That is training for non aversion in our mind. No matter how deplorable a being is, one does not kill. Enlightenment is a state of non hatred and aversion. Accepting all beings with loving kindness.

2. Abstain from stealing trains the mind to be non craving and content. There is no envy. Stealing is not limited to money and property. In a deeper sense it is a righteous mind. We do not even short change others or take advantage of others. We do not covet the possession of others. That include fame, popularity, relations etc..

3.Abstaining from sexual misconduct trains us to be independent of sensual pleasure relating to sex. For a lay Buddhist we do not have to be celibate.

However, in all honesty, being bound by our carnal desire is not exactly freedom right? It is all about unchaining ourselves from bondage. Not talking about the various shades of Gray, but truly becoming free from the chains of sexual desire. Interestingly, the highest state of heavens where Buddhist reborn; after they attained the stage of non-returning, is a formless realm (without a physical body) and it is without gender too.

4. Abstaining from lying is to train our mind to face the ultimate truth. One of the Truth is non self. Something that we try not to face or acknowledge. Our enjoyment in believing in a self, is embracing a lie.

Furthermore, in the course of our practice, we will discover various ugly sides to our mind. Stuffs that we either face bravely or try to avoid by burying our head in sand.

Facing our dark sides can be humbling and depreciating. However, it is only through such bravery that we see what needs to be improved.

Moreover, it is believed that lying is impossible for an enlightened mind.

5. Abstaining from intoxicant. Put it simply, if we still crave for intoxication of our senses, we are not enlightened yet. Not that enlightened being will die if they taste a drop of wine. Rather, it is like asking them to bang up their mind. Something like banging your head against the wall to null your senses. Just not a pleasant experience. Those who have experienced the bliss of meditative absorption and clarity simply prefers not to intoxicate.

A short digress…..

For the monastic community, certain precepts were set by Buddha out of compassionate consideration for the society. A selfless being is not concerned about their own rights and fancy, truly living out their existence to benefit others. Therefore observance of minor precepts is effortless too.

In summary, the conduct of an enlightened one is effortlessly in line with the precepts. They will not harm others (Non aversion) They will not steal (non craving) They will not have sexual misconduct (No desire) They will not lie (No falsehood) They will not intoxicate (Pristine clarity)

If observing the 5 precepts is laborious, then we are very far from enlightenment.

Last but not least, practice with patience. Just try our very best. If we break a precept (failed to refrain), just try again and again. We will gradually reach our goal. Remember, Buddhist practice is like exercising. We build our stamina gradually and after a while, it just becomes effortless. Have fun.

May all be well and happy.

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