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Lions Roar : January 2017
Below, I share some of the ways I have clarified my own values as I reflect on traditional Buddhist vows, precepts, and philosophy. I’m not putting these forth as alternatives to the traditional forms, nor am I suggesting that others adopt my values. I hope that this offering will encourage and support you in doing your own work of values clarification, in the service of living the life that matters to you. In my own tradition of Zen, following Dogen, we speak of the sixteen precepts, comprising the three refuges, the three pure precepts, and the ten grave precepts. These sixteen pre- cepts are the lifeblood of the Buddha, the essence of the path. So they’re a good place to start. The Three Refuges The three refuges are: “I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the dharma; I take refuge in the sangha.” Taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, collectively known as the three treasures, is at the very heart of the Buddhist life. Since the time of Shakyamuni, Buddhists of all traditions have affirmed their entering the path by taking refuge. Some Values Based on the Three Refuges • I value the wisdom, experience, and guidance of people who have found liberation amid suffering, and I value remembering that liberation is possible. • I value all teachings that help me understand suffering, touch gratitude and connectedness, and live in alignment with my highest values and aspirations. • I value the companionship, support, and guidance of anyone doing the sacred work of becoming fully human, in turn offer- ing my companionship, support, and guidance to others. The Three Pure Precepts Traditionally, the three pure precepts are: ceasing from evil, doing good, and saving all beings (or actualizing good for others). Today, some Zen schools frame the three precepts as not-knowing, bearing witness, and taking action. These pre- cepts are powerful because of their all-encompassing vastness and seeming simplicity. They require us to clarify for ourselves what living by them really means. Three Sets of Values Based on the Three Pure Precepts • I value attending to the myriad ways in which I cause harm or am complicit in harm-causing, directly and indirectly, individ- ually and collectively; I value seeing how I cause harm when my mind is overrun by grasping, aversion, or delusive certainty. • I value seeing the essential humanness in others, remembering that, but for causes and conditions, others who cause harm are just like me and I am just like them. • I value remembering that the only salvation is together with all beings, with neither self or other excluded. • I value diminishing suffering and doing less harm to myself, the world, and all beings. • I value okayness—unconditioned enoughness—and ways of living that cultivate it. • I value being of service to the world and all beings. • I value not-knowing and befriending life’s inevitable uncer- tainties; I value remaining with my own painful feelings of doubt, which are the cost of living from not-knowing rather than delusive certainty. • I value not turning away from suffering in myself and others, remembering that bearing witness is itself whole and complete, even as I do what I can to relieve that suffering; and I value remaining with my own distress and feelings of helplessness or powerlessness that bearing witness may entail. • I value the perspective that includes brokenness as part of wholeness, suffering as part of freedom, and death as part of life.