What are vows and precepts?

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What are vows and precepts?

Postby Inge » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:08 am

Are vows and precpets the same?

Are the pratimoksha rules vows?

What are the correct term to use in english in reference to the rules that govern the behaviour of the ordained and laity?

The rules of what to avoid, and the rules of what to do.

In my understanding vows is something that one have to make, that it is not something that one receive from others. Is this correct?

For a vow to be made it is not enough to say the words or think the thoughts of making the vow, there also seems that other conditions must be present. Like a inner decision of some sort. Do you know what this is?

If a positive vow is broken, does this bring negative result, or does it only prevent the positive outcome?
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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:19 am

Vows are promises. Precepts are rules.

When you take precepts, you make a promise to keep the precepts. In that sense, taking the precepts is taking a series of vows.

The pratimoksha rules are precepts.

Precepts are a good term to use to describe the explicit rules that govern lay and ordained behavior.

That's the basic stuff. The rest of your questions are a bit more complex; more to say later about this.
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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:31 am

Inge wrote:In my understanding vows is something that one have to make, that it is not something that one receive from others. Is this correct?


Precepts are given and accepted. They are given by someone who has the authority to give them; they are accepted by those who have been accepted by the preceptor. So there is a mutuality there. Also, when you take precept vows, you are making a commitment to a tradition and a lineage that stretches back to include Shakyamuni himself and the stream of teachings that descends from him.

For a vow to be made it is not enough to say the words or think the thoughts of making the vow, there also seems that other conditions must be present. Like a inner decision of some sort. Do you know what this is?


At a minimum, you make an inner resolve to keep the precepts. You make a commitment in the presence of your teacher, witnesses, and really all the enlightened ones.

If a positive vow is broken, does this bring negative result, or does it only prevent the positive outcome?


Breaking the precepts brings results that are counterproductive.

Useful reading on all this: The Path of Compassion (trans. M. Batchelor), which is a translation of the Brahmajala sutra. The Surangama Sutra has a lot to say about the value and meaning of the precepts too.
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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby Will » Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:42 am

Nagarjuna bodhisattva on the basis for one's original bodhicitta vows:

http://www.kalavinka.com/Jewels/book_ex ... 1_X-01.pdf
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby ground » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:01 am

Inge wrote:In my understanding vows is something that one have to make, that it is not something that one receive from others. Is this correct?

I don't think so. Vows are voluntarily taken. Vows are specially strong commitment and therefore they have more advantages than just following practice advice (like e.g. considering karma and its effects) if taken and kept but also more disadvantages if broken. You cannot break a practice advice but just follow it or not taking the positive or negative consequences of that. The consequences of keeping vows are "more positive" and the consequences of breaking vows "more negative".

Higher potential "gain" entails higher risk.

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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby Sherab » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:27 am

TMingyur wrote:
Inge wrote:In my understanding vows is something that one have to make, that it is not something that one receive from others. Is this correct?

I don't think so. Vows are voluntarily taken.

You can also make your own vows. All Bodhisattvas do that.
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Re: What are vows and precepts?

Postby KeithBC » Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:07 am

Inge wrote:For a vow to be made it is not enough to say the words or think the thoughts of making the vow, there also seems that other conditions must be present. Like a inner decision of some sort. Do you know what this is?

A vow is a commitment or promise. As you say, it is not enough to say the words. One must think about the meaning of the words and make a commitment to live by the promise. Saying the words without meaning them would be Wrong Speech.
If a positive vow is broken, does this bring negative result, or does it only prevent the positive outcome?
Yes, there is a negative outcome beyond the lack of positive outcome. The decision to violate a promise is an intentional negative act, and therefore has its own negative consequences. For this reason, teachers often recommend not taking a vow rather than taking one that one will not keep.

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