Receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts is to take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and to publicly affirm the principles by which you endeavor to live your life for the benefit and awakening of all beings.

This fall, Stone Creek will be offering the opportunity to receive the 16 bodhisattva precepts. This process involves meeting with a teacher, sewing a rakusu (small robe) as part of a sewing group that will meet weekly beginning late October through April, and participating in an 8-week study group. If your practice is grounded in Stone Creek and you would like to request to receive the precepts or learn more, please speak to Jisho or Meg.

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts of the Buddha Way and the Vow of Repentance

The Triple Treasure

I take refuge in buddha,
Vowing with all beings, embodying the great way, perfect like vast space.
I take refuge in dharma,
Vowing with all beings, deeply entering the teachings, wisdom like the sea.
I take refuge in sangha,
Vowing with all beings, bringing harmony to all, free from every hindrance.

The Three Pure Precepts

With purity of heart
I vow to refrain from doing all harm
I vow to do all that is good
I vow to benefit all beings

The Ten Major Grave Precepts

1. I vow to refrain from killing. I vow not to take life willfully.
2. I vow to refrain from stealing. I vow not to take what is not given.
3. I vow to refrain from harmful sexuality. I vow not to misuse sexuality.
4. I vow to refrain from lying. I vow not to say what is not true.
5. I vow to refrain from getting intoxicated. I vow not to cloud the mind.
6. I vow to refrain from speaking of the faults of others. I vow not to gossip.
7. I vow to refrain from praising myself and disparaging others. I vow not to be arrogant.
8. I vow to refrain from begrudging. I vow not to be stingy.
9. I vow to refrain from harboring anger or hatred. I vow not to hate.
10. I vow to refrain from denigrating buddha, dharma, and sangha. I vow not to hold false views.

The Vow of Repentance

All the karma ever created by me,
Through beginningless greed, hatred, and delusion,
Born of my body, speech, and thought,
I now fully avow.

Receiving the Precepts: Jukai

Receiving and Wearing the Rakusu

The rakusu is a small version of the Buddha’s robe. Receiving it and wearing it, you wrap yourself in the Buddha’s teaching as you endeavor to follow the buddha way. The rakusu is not only a symbol but a real form of receiving and maintaining the buddha way.

Robe Verse

Great robe of liberation
Field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathagata’s teaching
I vow to free all beings.

Dai sai geda pu ku
Mu so fuku den e
Hi bu nyorai kyo
Ko do shoshu jo.

Care and use of the rakusu

The rakusu is treated with respect — caring for it is caring for the body of buddha practice. So it is put on after raising it in respect and reciting a verse, it is worn for practice events, and it is kept safe and clean.
At Stone Creek Zen Center the rakusu is normally worn for all zazen, but at the same time you are not required to wear it. You are welcome to bring your rakusu into the zendo, sit down for zazen, and then raise the rakusu, recite the verse, and put it on. Or you may do that before entering. At some centers rakusus are put on at the end of morning zazen after the group chants the robe verse three times in unison. This timing has particular symbolism relating to round-the-clock residential practice, so it is not done at Stone Creek.
Your rakusu is intended to be worn for zazen, service, ceremonies – for any practice activity. It is not generally worn for ordinary daily affairs or where it might get dirty. If you are about to wash dishes at the zendo and are wearing it, you can take it off or turn it around or tuck it into your jacket. It is taken off before entering a bathroom. At Stone Creek, there is a hook to hang it on outside the toilet.
When you prepare to put on the rakusu, take it out of its bag and put it, still folded, on top of your head. Gassho and recite the verse one or more times. Putting it on top of the head is a gesture of respect — putting it higher than your highest faculty. You can alternatively show your respect by raising it higher than your head in your hands as you recite the verse. You are welcome to choose to recite the verse from one to three times, in English and/or in Japanese, an eminently chantable language. There is no “must” about these ways of relating to the rakusu, but please practice them. Ignoring the tradition and discarding these ways hastily, you won’t know what you are missing. Keep your rakusu at home on an altar, in a drawer, or in some other safe and clean place. It will age and fray, as all things naturally do. You can gently clean it with water; you can replace worn straps. You can sew another one at any time.

Receiving a Dharma name and Lineage Document

You formally receive your rakusu in the precepts ceremony. At that time you receive a dharma name, with which you enter the lineage of buddhas and ancestors. Our Soto Zen lineage comes from Japan, so you will receive a name in Japanese and English. This name is not intended to be used as your usual name. It is a private, though not secret, name. Your dharma name will be inscribed on the back of the rakusu.
In the precepts ceremony you also receive a lineage document, called a kechimyaku, or blood lineage, in Japanese. The lineage document is folded and wrapped. Keep it in a safe and clean place. It traces the line of people who have handed on the teaching, person to person, from Shakyamuni Buddha to you. It is partly symbolic of the personal way this teaching has been passed from one to another, and it is also partly literal. These teachers have passed the dharma, each to the next, for millennia. Now it is yours, so keep it well.
You endlessly receive and transmit the teaching whether you have a rakusu and a lineage document or not. Having it does not confer some validation of your practice beyond others’ practice; it is a gift and a reminder of the tremendous effort and connection that link us. It does not empower you to give the precepts to others.

The Meaning of Receiving the Precepts

In receiving the precepts you are formally entering the Buddha Way, making a personal commitment to the path of awakening in a tradition kept alive for twenty-five hundred years. We say the dharma and the precepts are handed down, and you receive the lineage document, to express the living teaching carried person to person. It is handed on only through individual sweat, heart, and mind given to following the path, creating the path as you walk.
We each transmit the dharma to others at all times and in all places. This is the nature of life. Awakening to this and realizing or manifesting it is our path. Maintaining the precepts by your committed practice of the Way is of immeasurable benefit to you and to others. Receiving the precepts is your gift. Maintaining them is not only practicing them yourself, it is how they are passed on; this is the way of expressing gratitude for the gift.
Zen is awakening to the reality of life and the buddha nature of all beings, and Zen is manifesting or realizing this in your body, speech, and mind. Zen is the precepts and the precepts are Zen. The precepts are guides for our actions, guides for acting in accord with the Buddha Way. They are guides for living in wisdom and compassion. Thus they are not rules but directions and aspirations we endeavor to fulfill. The precepts are body and mind realization of the Way.

Additional Texts on the Precepts


To receive the precepts is to transmit the precepts. To transmit the precepts is to awaken to the buddha-mind. Therefore, to realize the buddha-mind is to receive the precepts in their true sense.

1. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the everlasting dharma,
not arousing the view of extinction is called
the precept of not killing.

2. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the ungraspable dharma,
not arousing the thought of gaining is called
the precept of not stealing.

3. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the dharma that is free from attachment,
not arousing a desire to attach oneself to anything is called
the precept of not having sexual greed.

4. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the inexplicable dharma,
not speaking a single word is called
the precept of not speaking falsehood.

5. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the intrinsically pure dharma,
not being blinded by ignorance is called
the precept of not getting intoxicated.

6. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the flawless dharma,
not faulting others is called
the precept of not speaking of the faults of the sangha.

7. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the nondiscriminating dharma,
not distinguishing oneself from others is called
the precept of not praising oneself or slandering others.

8. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the dharma that is all-pervading true reality,
not arousing greed is called
the precept of not begrudging the dharma or materials.

9. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the egoless dharma,
not turning ego into substance is called
the precept of not being angry.

10. Self-nature is wondrous and imperceptible.
Within the dharma that is undivided reality,
not arousing a dualistic view of sentient beings and buddha is called
the precept of not slandering the Three Treasures.


by Eihei Dogen Zenji

The great precepts of the buddhas have been protected and maintained by all buddhas. There is mutual bestowal between buddha and buddha; there is mutual transmission between ancestor and ancestor. Receiving the precepts transcends past, present, and future. Maintaining the precepts is verifying your life in accordance with them continuously.
Our great teacher Shakyamuni Buddha conferred the precepts on Mahakashyapa; Mahakashyapa conferred them on Ananda. In this way the precepts have been handed on with great care from teacher to disciple, the transmission reaching to the present head of this temple as the ninetieth generation.
Now I confer these precepts on you. By respecting and following them you repay the kindness of the buddhas and ancestors. Receiving and maintaining this living wisdom, you become part of its transmission into the future.

Receiving and maintaining the precepts begins with purifying the karma of your body, speech, and thought by shining a light on it and openly avowing it. This is the power of repentance, which opens the way for you to receive the sixteen precepts of the Buddha Way. The verse of formless repentance is:
All my past and harmful karma,
born from beginningless greed, anger, and ignorance,
through my body, speech, and thought,
I fully avow it all.

The Three Treasures
The heart of the precepts is taking refuge in the Three Treasures: buddha, dharma, and sangha. There are three aspects to the Three Treasures. These are the Absolute, the Manifested, and the Maintained Three Treasures. All of these are now yours.
Complete perfect enlightenment is the Absolute Buddha Treasure; freedom from confusion is the Absolute Dharma Treasure; peace and harmony are the Absolute Sangha Treasure. These three are called the Absolute Three Treasures because they are all One.
The one who opened the Way and realized enlightenment is the Manifested Buddha Treasure; what he awakened to is the Manifested Dharma Treasure; those who practice sincerely are the Manifested Sangha Treasure. These three area called the Manifested Three Treasures because they are realization brought forth.
Appearing throughout the vast sky or in a mote of dust to awaken people and dragonflies, this is the Maintained Buddha Treasure. The truth that teaches animate and inanimate beings with sutras written on a leaf, in a ripple of water, this is the Maintained Dharma Treasure. Relieving suffering everywhere is the Maintained Sangha Treasure. These are called the Maintained Three Treasures because they are maintained throughout the ten-direction universe by all beings.
When you take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, you acquire the great precepts of all buddhas.

The Three Collective Pure Precepts
The Three Treasures are the precepts of your awakening heart-mind. The Three Collective Pure Precepts are the precepts of your deep aspiration to practice the Way in peace and harmony with all beings.
First: The precept of fulfilling vows and standards, refraining from doing harm.
This is the source and abode of the laws of all buddhas.
Second: The precept of fulfilling wholesome actions.
This is the teaching of perfect wisdom and it is the path of the practitioner.
Third: The precept of embracing and benefitting beings.
This is transcending the gap between sacred and profane, and it is taking oneself and others safely across the sea of delusion.
These are the Three Collective Pure Precepts.

The Ten Grave Precepts
The Ten Grave Precepts are the precepts of your world of actions of body, speech, and thought.
1. Not killing
Life as not-killing nurtures buddha-awakening and succeeding to the buddhas’ life of wisdom. Do not cut off life.
2. Not stealing
In not taking what is not given, mind and objects are in thusness, and the gates of liberation are open.
3. Not indulging in sexual greed
In the awakening world of life turning the three wheels of body, speech and thoughts, there is in reality nothing to be desired. All buddhas walk in the same path.
4. Not speaking falsely
The dharma-wheel has been turning from the very beginning and there is neither excess nor insufficiency. A drop of sweet dew moistens beings, bearing fruit as great truth.
5. Not indulging in intoxication
Where intoxicants have no hold, this is where one is inviolable. This is great brightness.
6. Not talking of the faults of others
Within the buddha dharma, we all are on the same Way, learn the same teaching, realize the same enlightenment, and carry out the same practice. Do not tear down others. Do not cause disorder in the Way.
7. Not praising oneself or slandering others
Buddhas and ancestors attain realization with the whole sky and the great earth. When they manifest as the great body of absolute reality, there is no inside or outside. When they manifest as the dharma body, there is no inch of ground on the earth. Truly, there is no one to praise and no one to slander.
8. Not begrudging the dharma or holding back
Each phrase or verse of dharma is the myriad forms and the hundred grasses. One dharma and one realization are all buddhas and all ancestors. Till now, nothing has been withheld. Do not hold back teachings or other gifts. Never begrudge them.
9. Not harboring anger
Withdrawing without attachment, setting forth without attachment, being real without attachment, being empty without attachment, therein you will see the ocean of bright clouds, the ocean of magnificent clouds.
10. Not disparaging the Three Treasures
The Dharma unfolded in manifested buddha-bodies is the world’s path of crossing over. The Three Treasures return to the ocean of all-knowing wisdom and are immeasurable. We should respectfully accept the Three Treasures and devote ourselves to them.

These are the sixteen precepts of the Buddha. When they are taught or conferred on you, you should receive them with deep respect.


Soto Zen in Sonoma County