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The Ten Novice Precepts

The true basis for the life of a novice monk or nun is the
practice of the Ten Precepts and, what are called in monastic
Buddhism, "Mindful Manners." These are concrete
manifestations of the practice of mindful living, of a life
of liberation and love. They confirm that you have left
behind the world of entanglement and are moving in the
direction of peace, love, and freedom. In fact, they are
mindfulness itself. Without mindful awareness in each act
of everyday life, these precepts and manners are lifeless,
without spirit.

The Ten Novice Precepts might appear as a limitation
of a novice's freedom, but in reality they protect it and
bring joy and harmony to you as an individual and to
your community (Sangha). When you practice the precepts,
you practice concentration and insight at the same
time; and precepts, concentration, and insight always
help you realize peace and liberation right away. Practicing
the precepts and Mindful Manners nourish your
bodhichitta (mind of love) and prevent you from losing
sight of the deepest goals of the monastic life. The Buddha
encouraged his disciples to practice the Ten Precepts
and the Trainings in Mindful Manners diligently in order
to prepare for full ordination as a monk (bhikshu) or a
nun (bhikshuni).

THE FIRST PRECEPT
On Protecting Life

Aware of the suffering brought about by the
destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion
and learn ways to protect the lives of humans
and all other species. I am determined not to
kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone
any act of killing in the world, in my thinking,
or in my way of life.

When a novice practices this precept, he or she learns
to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion and
thereby transforms the seeds of violence and hatred and
nourishes the seeds of love. Violence and hatred cause
boundless suffering. While a novice walks, sits, stands,
lies down, works, speaks, eats, or drinks, she does not
forget that all species are suffering. Protecting life is the
first practice of someone cultivating her bodhichitta, mind
of love.

THE SECOND PRECEPT
On Respecting What Belongs to Others

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation,
social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I vow
to cultivate loving kindness in order to bring joy
and peace to humans and all other species. I am
determined to share my time and energy with
those who are in real need. I vow not to steal or
take into possession anything that belongs to my
community or anyone else. I will respect the
property of others, but I will prevent others from
profiting from human suffering or the suffering
of other species.

When a novice practices this precept, he nourishes loving
kindness by working to end injustice. The first step
for a monk or nun is to live simply with only the possessions
he needs. The beauty of a monk or a nun's life
comes from this simple lifestyle, that allows them to have
more time and energy to help others and bring them lasting
joy.

THE THIRD PRECEPT
On Protecting Chastity

Aware that the aspiration of a monk or a nun
can only be realized when I wholly leave behind
the bonds of worldly love, I vow to protect myself
and to help others to protect themselves by the
practice of chastity. I know that any sexual
engagement will destroy my life as a monk or a
nun and damage the lives of others. I am aware
that having a sexual relationship will prevent
me from realizing my ideal to serve living
beings.

When a novice practices this precept, he or she is protecting
his or her freedom. Monks and nuns practice this
precept not merely by repressing sexual desire, but by
following their deepest aspiration to bring happiness to
many people. Because we value our commitment to cultivate 
true love for ourselves and everyone, we are determined
not to harm or become sexually involved with
anyone. People can rely on us and be open with us, and
we can, in turn, offer stability and counsel.

THE FOURTH PRECEPT
On Mindful Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful
speech, I vow to cultivate right speech and deep
listening in order to bring joy and happiness to
others and relieve others of their suffering.
Knowing that words can create happiness or
suffering, I am determined to say only things
that inspire self-confidence, peace, joy, and
hope. I am determined to speak the truth in a
way that brings about understanding and
harmony. I vow not to say things that are
untrue or that bring about division and hatred.
I vow not to spread news that I do not know to
be certain, nor to criticize or condemn things of
which I am not sure. I am determined to listen
deeply with love and compassion in order to
understand the suffering and difficulties of
others and to bring them comfort. I am determined
not to say things that might bring about
division or disharmony in my community of
practice, or that can cause the community to
break. I am determined not to speak to anyone
about the faults of any monk or nun outside my
Sangha or of another practice center, even
though I may think that these faults are real.

When a novice practices this precept, he realizes the
harmony of speech, views, and thought, which are three
of the Six Concords.* She nourishes compassion and loving
kindness and is able to offer happiness to everyone
who is around.

THE FIFTH PRECEPT
On Protecting and Nourishing Body
and Mind-Not Consuming Alcohol,
Drugs, or Other Items That Contain
Toxins

Aware of the suffering caused by the consumption
of alcohol, drugs, and other intoxicants, I
vow not to ingest any food or beverage that
contains toxins and that deprives me of the
control of my body and mind or brings about
heaviness or ill-being in my body or my spirit. I
am determined to practice mindful eating,
drinking, and consuming, to consume only
items that bring peace and joy to my body and
mind. I vow not to drink liquor or wine, not to
use drugs, and not to consume any other
intoxicants, including books and films, that can
poison me with violence, fear, craving, or
hatred.

When a novice practices this precept, he or she lives
wholesomely, keeping healthy and fresh in body and
mind so that favorable conditions for the practice and for
serving others can arise. In accord with the spirit of this
precept, novices also do not smoke cigarettes or drink
beer.

THE SIXTH PRECEPT
On Not Using Cosmetics
or Wearing Jewelry

Aware that the true beauty of a monk or a nun
is found in his or her stability and freedom, I
vow to adorn myself and my Sangha with the
practice of mindfulness made concrete by my
training in the precepts and Mindful Manners
at all moments. I realize that cosmetics and
jewelry only bring about an outer show of
attractiveness and foster attachment and
infatuation. Therefore, I vow to live simply and
dress neatly, wearing clean clothes. I resolve not
to use perfume, powder, or other cosmetics or
jewelry.

When a novice practices this precept, she knows that
stability and freedom are produced by practicing mindful
walking, standing, lying down, sitting, eating, drinking,
working, speaking, and being in touch every day. Stability
and freedom make life beautiful, and a novice uses
them to adorn his Buddha Land. Were a novice to wear
makeup or jewelry, it would be difficult to see the
beauty of freedom and stability shining in her face, and
people might lose confidence in the practice. When a
novice practices the gathas, the Ten Precepts, and Mindful
Manners, dressing simply and neatly wearing clean
robes, he or she manifests a purity and lightness that can
be a source of enlightenment and inspiration for many.

THE SEVENTH PRECEPT
On Not Being Caught in Worldly
Amusements

Aware that many songs, films, books, amusements,
and games can damage body and mind
and waste precious time that could be used for
study and practice, I am determined not to be
drowned in these distractions. I am determined
not to read novels, look at worldly films or
books, or seek distraction by singing or listening
to love songs or other kinds of music that cause
negative emotions to arise. I will not waste time
playing electronic games or gambling.
There is so much to learn and practice in the life of a novice that no
time can be spared for reading novels. Most novels (love, detective,
etc.) are not good for the novice. Excellent novels--great works of
literature-have to wait until the training is accomplished.

When a novice practices this precept, he or she knows
that chanting and singing Dharma songs are ways of
practicing mindfulness and sowing wholesome seeds. But
artworks that water seeds of sorrow, attachment, despair,
hatred, or craving can cause harm, and that is why she
keeps away from them.

THE EIGHTH PRECEPT
On Not Living a Life of Material
Luxury

Aware that a monk or nun who lives with too
much comfort or luxury becomes prone to
sensual desire and pride, I vow to live my whole
life simply, with few desires. I resolve not to sit
on luxurious chairs or lie down on luxurious
beds, not to wear silk or embroidered fabrics,
not to live in luxurious quarters, and not to
travel using luxurious means of transport.

When a novice practices this precept, the true beauty
and freedom of his life as a monk or a nun are protected.

THE NINTH PRECEPT
On Being Vegetarian and Not Eating
Apart from the Sangha

Aware of the need to maintain good health, to
live in harmony with the Sangha, and to
nourish compassion in my heart, I vow to be
vegetarian for the whole of my life and not to
eat apart from the Sangha except when I am
sick.

By practicing this precept, a novice shows compassion
in concrete ways. By determining to be vegetarian, a
monk or nun contributes even a little to the lessening of
the slaughter of animals. By eating at the appropriate time
and not too often, too heavily, or too late in the day, a
monk or nun is able to stay light in body and mind, and
this is conducive to the practice of mindful living and to
sleeping well at night.

THE TENTH PRECEPT
On Not Accumulating Money or
Possessions for Personal Use

Aware that the happiness of a monk or a nun is
found in solidity and freedom, I vow not to
allow money or possessions to become a preoccupation
in my life. I am determined not to
accumulate money or possessions for my own
use, not to look for happiness in the accumulation
of these things, and not to think that
money, precious objects, or possessions will
increase my true security.

When a novice practices this precept, he or she should
know that looking after the property and material goods
of the Sangha is a way of respecting and serving the
Three Jewels and not based on a wish to be wealthy as
an individual A novice needs to remember that the aim
of a monk or a nun is to practice in order to be liberated
and serve people. To be overly occupied with the financial
activities of the temple to the extent that there is no
time left for practice is a misfortune that needs to be
avoided.

From Stepping Into Freedom: An Introduction to Buddhist Monastic Training by Thich Nhat Hanh

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