Receiving the Precepts

What are the Precepts?

In the Therevada tradition, Buddha's followers take a "gradual path", beginning with simple generosity, moving through a basic understanding of karma - essentially a "cause-and-effect" framework for examining our behavior and actions - then into following the precepts, and from there into the practices of mindfulness and meditation. The precepts are a formulation that provides guidance for living an upright life, for being kind and thoughtful and intentional in what we do. They form a foundation for our practice and our life.

There are many forms of the precepts in different Buddhist traditions, and there are varying levels of commitment from a basic set of five lay precepts to 250 or more in monastic communities. And "following the precepts" can vary from a loose and flexible understanding of them as a general and vague set of principles to strict adherence.

What is their Role at Red Clay Sangha?

Since its formation in 2011, Red Clay Sangha has held a monthly full moon "Precepts Renewal" ceremony in which those who have received the precepts from a Buddhist teacher refresh their commitment to living life in accordance with principles they provide, and other members of the sangha have the opportunity to recite, learn about and discuss the precepts, perhaps with a view to considering aligning their lives in this direction.

Our approach to the Precepts at Red Clay Sangha is described in the dhamma talk linked to at the right. We regard the precepts as guidelines for a thoughtful and kind life oriented around principles of non-harming, doing good, and living for the benefit of self and others. We do not see them as absolutes; rather we encourage thoughtful interpretation by individuals in the context of their life. For example, "Do not kill" can be looked at in many ways relating to diet (whether or not to eat meat, etc.) and dealing with domestic pests (rats, cockroaches, etc.). Our approach is to use the precepts as a lens to guide and inform behavior, not as a pass/fail moral imperative.

With the introduction of a guiding teacher, Red Clay Sangha's relationship with the precepts has expanded, and we are now holding occasional Precept Initiation Ceremonies for those wishing to make this formal personal statement.

Red Clay Sangha's monthly Precepts Renewal cycles through precepts from a variety of Buddhist lineages and traditions, including the wonderful Soto Zen precepts with Dogen's commentary, which were the foundational practice of Red Clay Sangha at its formation. To learn more about the Precepts at Red Clay Sangha, listen to Gareth's Introduction to the Precepts, recorded Sunday morning talks which include a detailed discussion of the particular precepts most often used by Red Clay. You might also attend one or more regular monthly Precepts Renewal ceremonies

Why Receive The Precepts?

While receiving the precepts is not something to be taken frivolously, equally it is not something requiring extensive deliberation. Reach out to Gareth, our Guiding Teacher and Preceptor, by email, or talk to him at one of our regular services. He will be happy to discuss the precepts and the process, and to work through any questions or concerns you may have.  Whether you've received them before and are considering receiving them in the context of Red Clay, or you're thinking about this for the first time, if it feels right, then do it!

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