Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Morning Gleanings: Engaged Buddhism

From the book, Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism (3rd Edition) by Thich Nhat Hanh:

The 14 Precepts of Engaged Buddhism

1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

2. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

3. Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.

4. Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

6. Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.

7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.

8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.

12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.

13. Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

14. Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns: Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.


  1. Thank you, Nick. This is a Thich Nhat Hanh book that I've not read.

    These precepts are beautiful. We can take them to ever deeper levels of action in our lives as our awareness grows.

    Peace & love to you, this gorgeous Sunday morning.

  2. Such a noble challenge to actually live according to these precepts. I wonder what it would be like to focus on one of them for a week at a time, to remind oneself of that precept again and again for a week. I would bet one's consciousness and actions and life would transform for the better.

  3. Wouldn't it be a beautiful world if only?????? Thank you for sharing this!!

  4. I like that the list starts off by saying basically, "Of course, there are other ways to look at things."

    That shows a confidence that is often lacking in more fundamentalist faiths.

  5. Carol: You are most welcome. I first read Interbeing about ten years ago. It was your posting on Thich Nhat Hanh that reminded me of it. I checked my library shelves and found this copy. After rereading it I gain—or, perhaps, regained—so much awareness that I had to share my gleanings.

    San: That’s a wonderful idea! Your insight reminds me of the introduction of the book where Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the integration and awareness that our social activities are as important as and need to be the same as our spiritual activities.

  6. Odat: You speak my mind! I cannot count the times I have looked at the pain and suffering of the world and said, “If only…”

    “You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one.”
    ~ John Lennon

    Thomas: Excellent observation! I have found as I have gained awareness of religions and religious people, the higher the level of spiritual growth one attains the less dogmatic one is.

  7. some great thought to ponder,Yes?\Hugs and God's blessing to you my friend! Mike G. said that

  8. ...Buddhism...well, no matter WHAT your religion is...these are GREAT truths to live by!!
    Happy Sunday, Nick & Alex!!

  9. I;m sure you know i will have found this really interesting. I will be back to read it again, its half two in the morning (can't sleep), and I have brain fog. I have been trying to get to your blog for days now and have been unsuccessful, at last I've got here.

  10. What a wonderful world we would live in if humanity tried to live to those tenets and I say "try" because even by trying one's life would change and therefore so would the world. Sadly only a few do this.

    Thanks Nick, for that food for thought and for the soul.

  11. Mike Golch: Yes, lots to ponder there. Hugs and blessing back at you, Mike.

    Libby: Thank you. I agree: these are universal in nature.

    Queenie: Thank you. Yes, come back. Or, even better, try to locate the book. It is much fuller than just these 14.

    Puss-in-Boots: Thank you. I, too, believe the world would change if everyone attempted to live by these. They were developed to be used by those who were part of a religious community. I think the living among others who are following them would make one’s “trying” much easier than if one attempted to do it alone.

  12. Thank you for sharing these.

  13. Wonderful post, Nick. Thank you.

  14. "Do not maintain anger or hatred".

    I *hate it* when people do that!