Śīla: Self-Discipline for Living in Harmony

We consider how practicing self-discipline and living a well-ordered life brings about peace of mind, particularly during stressful and uncertain times in our lives.

This Dharma talk is Part Two in a six-part series delivered via Zoom Meeting exploring the core Mahayana Buddhist teaching of the Six Paramitas: giving, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.  The Six Paramitas describe the characteristics of a well-lived Buddhist life, and endeavoring to practice them in everyday situations is a lifelong journey.

Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)

Please review the Bodhisattva Precepts

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you practice these precepts in your daily life?
  2. Is there meaning in doing one’s best, even though one is not able to practice these perfectly in daily life?
  3. Which of these do you think our world needs most at the present moment?

Honen’s Perspective on upholding precepts (from The Passages on the the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow)

If the original vow required us to make images of the Buddha and to build stupas, the poor and destitute would surely have no hope of birth, but the fact is that the rich and highborn are few, while the poor and lowborn are exceedingly many.  

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Bodhisattva Precepts

In Mahayana Buddhism, the following Bodhisattiva Precepts are commonly taken by both lay and monastic practicers to affirm their commitment to the ideals of Mahayana Buddhism:

The Three Treasures

  1. Taking refuge in the Buddha
  2. Taking refuge in the Dharma
  3. Taking refuge in the Sangha

The Three Pure Precepts

  1. Do not create Evil
  2. Practice Good
  3. Actualize Good For Others

Ten Grave Precepts

  1. not killing         
  2. not stealing 
  3. no debauchery 
  4. not lying 
  5. no trafficking in intoxicants
  6. not talking of the faults of other members of the sangha 
  7. not praising oneself and belittling others
  8. not bringing harm through stinginess 
  9. not letting one’s anger lead to resentment 
  10. not denigrating the Three Treasures 

True Victory

In a recent address to the Sangha, our temple President began his remarks with the words, “I would like to offer my condolences to Reverend Adams. . .”  Wondering what loss I should be grieving, I momentarily searched my memories of the preceding weeks.  Then he finished his sentence with the words, “. . . for the inhospitable treatment your Minnesota Vikings received from the San Francisco 49ers yesterday afternoon.”  I grew up in Minnesota and the previous day those two professional football teams had faced off for the Division Title.  Having suffered defeat at the hands of the 49ers, the Minnesota Vikings lost their chance to play in the Super Bowl on February 2.  For many families, Super Bowl Sunday is a major social event that rivals the traditional winter holidays as an occasion for gathering friends and loved ones for elaborate feasting and celebration—or drowning your sorrows in bean dip and hot wings if your team happens to be losing.

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In gratitude for the living beings that support our lives

November has arrived and another holiday season is fast approaching. Thanksgiving at the end of this month marks the beginning of a season of feasting, during which we will have frequent occasions to come together with family and friends to enjoy delicious food.

In some Buddhist temples led by monks and nuns who observe monastic precepts, or detailed rules for living in a monastery, keeping a vegetarian diet is encouraged to avoid causing suffering for animals that would be raised for food. I have visited Buddhist monasteries in China that have special ponds where live fish and crabs that have been purchased from the market can be released to live out their lives under the protection of the Sangha.

Outside of monasteries, it is common for lay Buddhists throughout the world to eat meat and fish.
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Shared Ancestors

As summer vacation draws to a close we prepare to welcome the Autumn Equinox with our Ohigan Service on Sunday, September 23. Looking back on the lively season of temple activities that we enjoy between our bazaar in late June and our Obon in mid-August, I fondly recall the week of our Summer Terakoya Buddhist summer camp, when the sound of joyful children’s voices could be heard all day long at the temple.

This year our theme for Terakoya was Buddhist Holidays from around the world that commemorate important events in the life of Sakyamuni Buddha.
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Learn from the Buddha’s heart of great compassion

On Sunday, May 20, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., we will hold our annual Gotan-e Service at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, celebrating the birth of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu tradition.  As I reflect on the profound impact that Shinran’s life and teachings have had on my own journey in the Nembutsu, I find myself recalling memories from ten years ago, when I was just beginning my formal study of Jodo Shinshu as a newly enrolled student at the Chuo Bukkyo Gakuin Buddhist Seminary in Kyoto.

I remember sitting around a cluster of desks while we ate our bento lunchboxes during my first week in the seminary, listening to my classmates speak about their varied backgrounds and life experiences.  The eldest in our group was a retired firefighter who was looking forward to pursuing his personal interest in Buddhism.
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Olympic Victory

Growing up in Minnesota, my favorite sport was alpine skiing. As a teenager, I competed in slalom racing on my high school ski team and the great sports hero of my youth was Olympic slalom champion Alberto Tomba. Our team practiced at a local ski hill that somehow managed to rise out of the flat surrounding farmland, gradually increasing in elevation over the years thanks to innumerable dump truck loads of dirt. I never came close to winning a race, but I enjoyed practices because the course of gates was set differently each time, transforming the otherwise unremarkable little hill into a challenging and exciting place to ski.

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Ānanda’s Kind Heart

February is the month in which the Buddhist traditions of Japan observe the Nirvana Day Service commemorating the end of Śakyamuni Buddha’s life in this world and his passing into parinirvana approximately 2,500 years ago. We invite you join us at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple for our Nirvana Day Service on February 11, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. As the Buddha approached the end of his life, he settled on a spot between twin sāla trees in a grove on the edge of the city of Kuśinagara in northern India to spend his last days in this world.

At that time, the Buddha’s disciple and constant companion Ānanda asked for specific guidance regarding how the Buddha’s remains should be venerated. The Buddha’s initial response is that wise householders will see to the veneration of his remains, so Ānanda and the other monastic disciples should remain focused on the goal of realizing awakening. Out of kind concern for the faithful householders, Ānanda humbly solicited guidance for those who would venerate the Buddha’s remains after he had departed from this world.
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