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Eight Mahayana Precepts

The Eight Mahayana Precepts are a set of vows that are taken for 24 hours, from first light before dawn to sunrise of the following day. The only prerequisite is that the first time one takes precepts it should be from a qualified teacher who has received the oral transmission of the practice. Thereafter you can perform the ceremony at first light yourself, reciting the prayers before an image of your teacher or the Buddha, imagining you are taking the vows from Buddha himself.

 It is good to take them on full and new moon days, and especially beneficial on Buddha Holy Days, when Karmic results are multiplied exponentionally, according to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, citing the Vinaya text Treasure of Quotations and Logic.

These Mahayana Precepts enable you to live in the essence of pure moral conduct, and since you take them with the strong motivation of cherishing and wishing to benefit all others, their value is immeasurable. Taking these precepts is a powerful and effective way for you to build, maintain and increase deep propensities for spiritual practice and attainment and thus is a profound method for giving meaning to this precious human life. 

The essence of this practice is to recall the Mahayana motivation; to take these precepts in order to become enlightened in order to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment.

The eight precepts are:

  1. Not to kill, even insects.
  2. Not to steal (Not to take what is not offered).
  3. Not to engage in sexual contact.
  4. Not to lie.
  5. Not to use intoxicants: alcohol, tobacco and drugs (except for medicinal purposes).
  6. Not to eat at wrong times.*
  7. Not to sit on high, expensive beds or seats with pride. Avoid sitting on animal skins.
  8. Not to wear jewelry, perfume, or makeup; and not to sing, dance, or play music with attachment.

*It is alright to eat a light breakfast before or after the precepts. Avoid eating black foods: meat, eggs, onions, garlic, and radishes. The main meal of the day is to be finished by midday. After that one can take light drinks, but not undiluted whole milk or fruit juice with pulp, nor any food until sunrise of the following day.

Learn more about the precepts here.