I take refuge in Buddha
I take refuge in Dharma
I take refuge in Sangha
Taking refuge means joining our intentions to that of the Buddhas and Ancestors, vowing to live our lives as the Buddha that we really are. We take refuge in the wisdom and harmony of the Universe and of each other. We study the precepts together because we can learn so much in shared discussion with each other.
So, we take Refuge.
Then we take to heart the three Pure Precepts: Do no Evil, Do only Good, Embrace and Sustain all Beings. These are literally as deep and as vast as the Universe. They are the ground on which we live our lives.
And finally the ten Grave Precepts, vast in their own way, are the more spelled out guidelines on how the live and learn to live the life of the bodhisattva.
Affirm life--do not kill
Be giving--do not steal
Honor the body--do not misuse sexuality
Manifest the truth--do not lie
Proceed clearly--do not cloud the mind
See the perfection--do not speak of others' errors and faults
Realize self and other as one--do not elevate the self and blame others
Give generously--do not be withholding
Actualize harmony--do not be angry
Experience the intimacy of things--do not defile the Three Treasures
These precepts are not commandments. They are meant to assist us in our practice not condemn us in our failures.
John Daido Loori says: When you break a precept, you acknowledge that, take responsibility for it, and come back to the precept again. It's just like when you work with your breath in zazen.
The precepts are like wise and compassionate teachers with whom we can study for our whole lifetime. They encourage us to continually deepen our understanding, question our thinking and our desires, act in the most skillful and compassionate ways we can and then evaluate how we did.
We study together to pool and share our experience and our insights. We are each others' teachers and companions along the way. As we study the Precepts we take Refuge in Buddha and Dharma and most especially Sangha.