philosopher wrote:My aspiration over the last couple of years has been to follow the 8 precepts perfectly, but I find it difficult without the support or camaraderie of anyone else. But because they run so counter to mainstream society, it'd be great to have a "support group" of sorts. Any suggestions? I try to just read as much dhamma as I can since this helps a lot. And over the years, seeing the negative effects of breaking them and how doing so disturbs blissful states of peace has also been helpful.
Your suggestion is a good one, Philosopher. I decided a few years ago to make the committment to ordain with the 8 precepts. I can say that the first year was difficult, in some ways, with adapting to the eating schedule, but over time the body adapts. Taking onboard the brahmacariya and excluding the possibility of intimacy was maybe even more difficult; the mind is used to the idea of partnering, intimacy, and the emotional benefits of having a joyous and loving partner. Once that is removed, at least for me, I went through a kind of grieving process, mindful that I was separating from what I had known for all of my adult life. Today, I'm just very equanimous about it, and don't miss day to day the natural quest for intimacy and partnership. I feel a freedom to perceive women as "sisters' in a sense, and not as possible partners. Letting go of these patterns truly frees one to go deeper into the practice in many ways.
The other aspects of the 8 precepts really do cultivate the mindfulness of the path. Living a minimalist life, and removing from the radar entertainments, intoxicants, adornments, and having a simple approach to sleep habits again, frees and settles the mind to focus on the Dhamma and the practice. There are still awkward moments, as unless one is living in a wat, you're constantly confronting situations that place you in opposition to the lay world around you. I turned down an offer of a lunch seminar, for example, as it starts at noon through 130, and that is past the midday. I find myself excusing myself from things like this at times, and it can be awkward as I don't broadcast my practice to others. In other cases, I attend the function, and I just don't eat, having eaten silently earlier at 11 am, from the simple, inexpensive meals that I prepare for each day. No big deal, usually.
Wisely reflecting, I use this food not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening, not for beautification, but only for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it healthy, for helping with the Spiritual Life;
Thinking thus, I will allay hunger without overeating, so that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease.