The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by starter » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:40 am

Hi Friends,

After reading the following teaching in DN2, I realized any means of beautification is forbidden for a monk/nun as a means of sense restraint:

"Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to scents, cosmetics, and means of beautification such as these — rubbing powders into the body, massaging with oils, bathing in perfumed water, kneading the limbs, using mirrors, ointments, garlands, scents, creams, face-powders, mascara, bracelets, head-bands, decorated walking sticks, ornamented water-bottles, swords, fancy sunshades, decorated sandals, turbans, gems, yak-tail whisks, long-fringed white robes — he abstains from using scents, cosmetics, and means of beautification such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue."

Or probably it's not only for a monk/nun, but also for lay practitioners who hold the 8 precepts (e.g. on Uposatha days)? Should the above-listed things be all included in the 7th precept? I thought the use of mirror and creams are not only for beautification, but also for social appropriateness and health. Probably it's up to one's intention?

I also have a little trouble with the 8th precept: "He abstains from high and luxurious beds and seats" and the practice of sleeping on the floor. I guess the ancient Indian high beds and seats must be very luxurious. That's why the Buddha associated these two together. From the perspective of health and safety, it would be better to sleep on a bed with certain height instead of on the floor. I suppose it's again up to one's intention?

A little more trouble with the 6th precept: "He eats only once a day, refraining from the evening meal and from food at the wrong time of day (after noon?)." I think this teaching is for monastics or the lay in retreats, not for working lay practitioners. Otherwise we'll have to eat a lot during that one meal in order to have enough energy to work for the rest of the day, which might not be so healthy. Refraining from food after noon could be impractical for some working lay practitioners who might have to work before and during the noon hours and can only have lunch in the afternoon.

Well, at the end it's a matter of purifying the mind. I guess some formats might not be so important, as long as we have right intention and have no attachments to sensual indulgence? But these are the Buddha's requirements, the precepts, our sacred vows ...

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:39 am

The eight precepts for lay people are intended to be observed on Uposatha days or during retreats. While working, it is better to observe the eight precepts with right livelihood as the eighth if you are able to do so.

The seventh Uposatha day precept includes not using cosmetics, perfumes, jewellery, and other means of beautification, such as fashionable clothing. Wearing white clothes is customary, but other plain colours may be more practical. The point is not to attract attention to oneself.

Sleeping on the floor or on an ordinary bed without an interior sprung mattress meets the requirements to avoid high and luxurious beds. In Mahasi Yeiktha the meditators use beds raised off of the floor to avoid creepy-crawlies, but they have just a thin straw mat for padding. No comfort is gained from that.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:17 pm

The post above pretty much sums up anything I could say (and a lot more too) but on the subject of mirrors, I feel like there were probably fewer mirrors in the Buddha's time so the act of looking into one was a deliberate beautification attempt. I don't think just like walking by a mirror during your daily life or seeing your reflection in and of itself is a violation of that at all so long as you don't spend time beautifying yourself.

Just my thoughts! Otherwise the Venerable one above has much more to say :)
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by squarepeg » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:25 pm

All 8 percepts are possible to 99% of people. Sense restraint around music and television, and allowing minor transgressions (glancing and singing) to be noted and fall from mind keep faith from waining. Eating only before noon means you wake up earlyer and appriciate those who suffer to create the food you eat. also the body doesnt need more than one regular meal a day, regardless of what people say it simply dosent need more than one meal a day even if your doing heavy construction work, stay hydrated by drinking alot of water and the body will live, hunger is mental and the more you meditate the less these things affect the mind. In my opinion, these percepts force one to schedule everything but meditation, so that all free time is for meditating and cultivation. We have to be strict on our selfs. Otherwise how do we expect to be a "field of merit" to anyone else?
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by starter » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:24 pm

Hello friends,

Many thanks for your input. In comparison to your effort on sense restraint, I'm ashamed of myself for not being able to go against will/desire and for lack of power to control mind. Indeed I can go to bed early and wake up early, so that I can eat before 12. If we regard these 8 precepts as means of practicing sense restraint and mind control, then it's quite meaningful. Metta to all,

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by nameless » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:34 am

regardless of what people say it simply dosent need more than one meal a day even if your doing heavy construction work
Are you speaking from experience?

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by squarepeg » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:00 pm

Are you speaking from experience?
My job consists of light construction work, i havent had much trouble keeping the 6th percept. All i want is to offer the view point that it is still a possiblility in this day and age to keep the 8 percepts as a lay person.
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:53 pm

starter wrote:Or probably it's not only for a monk/nun, but also for lay practitioners who hold the 8 precepts (e.g. on Uposatha days)? Should the above-listed things be all included in the 7th precept? I thought the use of mirror and creams are not only for beautification, but also for social appropriateness and health. Probably it's up to one's intention?
well the precept is quite clearly meaning cosmetics for beautification, not creams for dry skin, or medical reasons.
the basis is renouncing the need to rely on things to make oneself beautiful, as virtue is a Beauty unmatched by physical appearances, the ability to leg go of a form of self, a crux to hide behind, I am sure you would of met someone who is nothing but there looks, shallow and nothing without there makeup cloths...

I also have a little trouble with the 8th precept: "He abstains from high and luxurious beds and seats" and the practice of sleeping on the floor. I guess the ancient Indian high beds and seats must be very luxurious. That's why the Buddha associated these two together. From the perspective of health and safety, it would be better to sleep on a bed with certain height instead of on the floor. I suppose it's again up to one's intention?
The rule is not about sleeping on the floor, it is about having more than you need!
The rule for the monks dictate a maximum hight, and some say this is 65cm, but the rule of thumb I use is if you can use it as a chair with your upper legs fully on the bed, and your feet flat on the floor it is not to high, but the hight is only referring to the legs, not the mattress also.
A little more trouble with the 6th precept: "He eats only once a day, refraining from the evening meal and from food at the wrong time of day (after noon?)." I think this teaching is for monastics or the lay in retreats, not for working lay practitioners. Otherwise we'll have to eat a lot during that one meal in order to have enough energy to work for the rest of the day, which might not be so healthy. Refraining from food after noon could be impractical for some working lay practitioners who might have to work before and during the noon hours and can only have lunch in the afternoon.
the allowable period to eat is between dawn and noon, although some use the clock and the winter time, adding an hour for summer time, so 12:00 in winter an 13:00 in summer.
we normally take far to much food, and it is more than possible to eat a good sized meal and breakfast and have enough nutrition to live properly on, but life situation and needs should always be considered, remember this is one day a week, not everyday.
If you are planning to do this everyday keep an eye on your weight it should level out at a point, but if it goes to low for comfort take more, simple.
I leveled out at 11.5St, and by the bmi I should be about 13.4St it was a managable weight and I felt good.
Well, at the end it's a matter of purifying the mind. I guess some formats might not be so important, as long as we have right intention and have no attachments to sensual indulgence? But these are the Buddha's requirements, the precepts, our sacred vows ...
Try just practising the aspects of the eightfold path!
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by starter » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:40 pm

I wonder if the following life-long eight precepts (not the 8 monastic precepts) were taught by the Buddha; if so I'd appreciate the name of the sutta:

1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from indulging in sexual misconduct
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from malicious/divisive speech.
6. I undertake the training rule to abstain from harsh speech.
7. I undertake the training rule to abstain from gossiping.
8. I undertake the training rule to abstain from wrong livelihood
and from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.

Thanks and metta!
Last edited by starter on Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by lyndon taylor » Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:11 pm

As to the not eating after 12pm there are medical exemptions to this rule, for things such as diabetes, where you need smaller meals spread over the day, also you're allowed to drink any liquids after 12Pm, fruit juices, milk, even ice cream is permitted by some temples, so you don't have to starve.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by binocular » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:26 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Sleeping on the floor or on an ordinary bed without an interior sprung mattress meets the requirements to avoid high and luxurious beds. In Mahasi Yeiktha the meditators use beds raised off of the floor to avoid creepy-crawlies, but they have just a thin straw mat for padding. No comfort is gained from that.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by lyndon taylor » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:57 pm

A boxspring on the floor and a proper mattress are still within the allowable height.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by Martin Po » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:26 pm

In MN21 Buddha said thus:

"Here I addressed the bhikkhus thus: 'Bhikkhus, I eat at a single session. By doing so, I am free from illness and affliction, and I enjoy lightness, strenght, and comfortable abiding.'"

I can approve it from my experiance, also when you eat once a day, your awarenes become more stablished, also there is no sloth, torpor, drowsiness etc. due to food.

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by starter » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:49 pm

As I understand, the objective of the Eight Precepts set up by the Buddha is to bring the laity closer to how the monastics practice. It's probably better to keep these precepts as they are instead of inventing the "life-long precepts" as cited and highlighted in my previous post. When I first saw the "life-long precepts" (which I learned is a later invention), I was thinking I'd rather take these instead of the monastic Eight Precepts since they are what a practitioner should practice anyway, and then I don't need to worry about the last three precepts of the monastic ones (abstain from eating at wrong times ...). But on the second thought, I doubted if these "life-long precepts" are later invented instead of the Buddha's original teaching. There's a danger that these "life-long precepts" might gradually replace the Eight Precepts set up by the Buddha. I think we'd better adhere to the Buddha's original teaching without adding such new inventions, especially confusing them with the original teaching.

Thanks and metta!

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Post by starter » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:37 pm

Greetings!

I understand that in the Theravada tradition on uposatha days "the allowable period to eat is between dawn and noon, although some use the clock and the winter time, adding an hour for summer time, so 12:00 in winter an 13:00 in summer". But I wonder if the Buddha actually set the exact hour in the suttas for this precept. I thought that at the Buddha's time there was no clock so it's not very likely that he banned eating at exactly 12:00. When he and/or his disciples were invited for lunch at the lay followers' homes (and I guess the lunch hours could be earlier or later depending on individual families), did they watch the hour and stop eating if it's passed 12:00? From when did the interpretation of stopping eating at 12:00 become the standard practice of the precept?

I thought the precept of not eating after noon was to keep the monastics from going out of the monasteries in the evenings/afternoons, and for better health/meditation. As long as a lunch is finished at a reasonable time and no more meal after that, I can hardly see an offence to the original teaching of the Buddha. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Metta to all!

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