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The heart of our practice is zazen (meditation) and ethics. The ethical foundation of Zen Buddhism is the Five Precepts. We uphold the Precepts through active and ongoing work in our life. The Precepts are taking responsibility for our own life and cultivating ethics of body, speech, and mind.

The Precepts are the way an enlightened person lives. We work with the Precepts by observing the consequences of upholding them or falling short of them, noticing that stress and difficulties decrease when we uphold them and increase when we don’t.

Receiving the Five Precepts is vowing to do our best to be an ethical human being. We do this by making vows—to cherish living beings, tell the truth, not steal, be sexually responsible, and avoid intoxication.

The Precepts are balanced with both negative and positive aspects. We not only intend to avoid unskillfulness, but we also vow to act in a positive way.

The Five Precepts are common to all spiritual and religious traditions.

The Five Precepts

I vow not to kill, but to cherish all life.

I vow not to steal, but to respect the things of others.

I vow not to lie, but to speak the truth.

I vow not to misuse sexual energy, but to be respectful in mind and action.

I vow not to misuse drugs or alcohol, but to keep the mind clear.

The Five Precepts are received at a ceremony before the community as a way to seal our commitment and receive community support for our intentions.


Precepts classes
This is a series of five classes where a small group is able to explore the many facets and complexities of the precepts and their embodiment in everyday life. Classes are offered at Heart of Wisdom and Great Vow.

Precepts writing
Each person writes about their personal exploration and understanding of the precepts.

Sewing a wagessa
Each person hand sews a wagessa, a strip of cloth symbolizing the Buddha's robe. After receiving the five precepts, the wagessa is worn while meditating, on retreats, and at other community functions, as an outward expression of our vows.

For more information about taking/receiving the Five Precepts, contact the Director of Training at the monastery.