Taking Refuge and Observing the Precepts

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Here is the traditional text, in Pali and translated into French, recited when taking refuge and taking precepts, according to the ritual of the Theravada school.

Generally, the refuges and the five precepts (or eight during festivals or exceptional circumstances) are taken in a pagoda, in front of a bhikkhus or a bhikkhuni; if this is not possible, in front of a lay person who knows the ten precepts well. If there is absolutely no one, you can take them yourself. This ritual gives rise to a dialogue whose formulas, recited in Pali in the Theravada tradition (presented here), have been fixed over the centuries.

The disciples say: "mayam bhante tisaranena saha attangasamannagatam uposatham yacama" (We ask you for the triple refuge as well as the eight precepts).

We begin by paying homage to the Buddha:
namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhassa
namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhasa
namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhasa. »
(Tribute to him, the Perfect, the Blessed, the Awakened)

Then we take refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha):
“buddham saranam gacchami (I go to the Buddha as a refuge)
dhammam saranam gacchami (I go towards the Dhamma as towards a refuge
sangham saranam gacchami. (I go towards the Sangha as towards a refuge)

The formula is repeated three times, as much to mark veneration for the three Jewels as to ensure that the reciter pronounces them, at least once, in all conscience.

« dutiyampi (for the second time) buddham saranam gacchami
dutiyampi dhammam saranam gacchami
dutiyampi sangham saranam gacchami. »

« tatiyampi (for the third time) buddham saranam gacchami
tatiyampi dhammam saranam gacchami
tatiyampi sangham saranam gacchami. »

The bhikkhu says: “tisarana-gamanam nitthitam” (the triple refuge is complete).

The Five Precepts

The factors that determine whether a precept is violated have been defined in the commentaries. The precept is violated only if all the conditions mentioned below are fulfilled. If one is not, the precept is still intact. If we have violated one or more precepts, we must repeat them with the firm intention of not violating them again in the future.

– The disciples:

1-“panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept not to kill)

Do not kill refers to all living things, including insects.

The first precept is violated if:
There is a living being (pano) which we know is alive (panasannita); one intends to kill him (vadhacittam); one acts to kill him (upakkamo) and death results (tena maranam).

2-“adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept not to take what has not been given to me)

The second precept is violated if:
There is an object belonging to someone (para parigga hitam); we know that it has an owner (para parigga hita sannita); one intends to steal it (theyya cittam); one acts to steal (upakkamo) and the object is carried away (tena haranam).

3-“kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept not to commit adultery)

The third precept is violated if:
One intends to have sexual intercourse (sevanacittam) through contact with the genitals, anus or mouth (maggena maggap pati padanam); one has intercourse (sevanappayogo) and experiences pleasure (sadiyanam).

4-“musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept not to lie)

Not lying also includes: not backbiting, not swearing, and not talking about unnecessary things.

The fourth precept is violated if:
There is a lie (atatham vatthu); the intention to lie (visam vadana cittam); the word is spoken (tajjo vayamo) and the other believes what has been said (parassata dattha vijananam dattha vijananam).

5-“sura meraya majja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept of not using alcohol or drugs that lead to neglect)

Alcohol means: champagne, wine, beer, pastis, whiskey and others. Drugs: opium, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine and others. Cigarettes and medicines containing alcohol are not included.

The fifth precept is violated if:
The substance is alcohol (mada niyam); there is a desire to drink it (patu kamyata cittam); it is drunk (tajjo vayamo) and passed through the throat (pitappa vesanam).

The Eight Precepts

The third precept is modified as follows and three new precepts are added:

3-“abrahmacariya veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept of not having sex).

6-“vikala bhojana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept of not eating after noon until dawn the next day)

In the afternoon, you can drink fruit juice or consume one of the following substances: honey, butter, molasses or sesame oil (products considered as medicine in the time of the Buddha).

The sixth precept is violated if:
In time from noon until dawn of the following day (vikalo); one consumes (ajjho haranap payogo) food or what is considered food (yava kalikam) and swallows it (ajjho haranam).

7-“nacca gita vadita visuka dassana mala gandha vilepana dharana mandana vibhusanatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept to abstain from dancing, singing and performing; from the use of perfumes, make-up and accessories that beautify the body)

Refrain yourself from dancing, singing and playing music and also refrain from watching or listening to others singing, dancing or playing music. Skin care creams are allowed.

The seventh precept is violated if:
There are entertainments (nacca-dini); we move to see or listen to them (dassanat thaya); we look or we listen (dassanam). For the second part, there are accessories to beautify the body (makeup, perfumes, jewelry = maladinam), we are not sick (anunna takarana bhavo) and we use them (alankata).

8-“uccasayana mahasayana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. »
(I strive to observe the precept of abstaining from high and comfortable seats and beds)

In Asian cultures, these seats are reserved for people of higher social rank than oneself. This precept must counter pride and also languor

The eighth precept is violated if:
There is a large (or high) bed or armchair (ucca sayana, maha sayanam); one is aware of the size of the piece of furniture (maha sayana sannita) and one sits or lies on it (ucca sayana).

– The disciples: “imam atthamgasamannagatam buddhapannattam uposatham imanca rattim imanca divasam sammadeva abhirakkhitum samadiyami. »
(I resolve to observe correctly these eight precepts of the Uposatha, determined by the Buddha, for one day and for one night)

– The bhikkhu: “appamadena rakkhitabbani. (Observe them without neglect)

– The disciples: “ama bhante. (Yes Venerable)

Article published by the Institute of Buddhist Studies (https://bouddhismes.net/)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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