Special Topics

Q5: How do we encourage our family and friends to observe the precepts? What if they cannot take the whole precepts all at once?

When I was a social worker, I used to pay care visits to the old communities in the Wanhua district. Many of our clients there had been used to living in cluttered environments since their childhood. Once, I guided a few children from the community to clean up the area in an attempt to create a different, more comfortable living space for them to experience. I wanted to show them that they do have options. Similarly, when encouraging others to observe the precepts, we can invite them to go and experience it for themselves instead of resorting to mere persuasion.
If you are willing to keep your environment clean and tidy, you will feel as if you’re living in a "Pure Land". If you refrain from lying, others will find your words more trustworthy. If you are always considerate of others, you will encounter more people who will lend a helping hand when you’re in need. If you always think wholesome thoughts, your appearance will appear gentler and more dignified. These can all be personally felt and experienced in our daily lives.
However, people may find it daunting to uphold all the precepts simultaneously. Therefore, we can choose any one of the precepts to start with, and then gradually increment them over time by including additional precepts. After all, the precepts, or prātimoksa-sajvara, are meant to help us sow the seeds for our liberation by benefiting from each specific precept we observe. For example, observing the precept of non-killing liberates us from the suffering of illnesses, while observing the precept of truthful speech helps us avoid being deceived or embroiled in disputes.

As a skillful means to introduce non-Buddhists to Buddhist teachings, we can apply what Master Sheng Yen advocated, namely, "harboring good intentions, doing good deeds, speaking kind words, and thus transforming our fortunes for the better." As long as we are willing to make an effort to cultivate greater self-awareness in our daily lives, avoid the creation of suffering, and work together to help forge a society of mutual respect and care, a Pure Land on earth can surely be realized.

Extended Reading:

Observing the Precepts Allows One to Feel at Ease

To Observe Precepts, One Needs to Have the Right View and Follow the Middle Path

Using the Psychology of Habit to Create the Right Conditions for Keeping the Precepts

Keeping Precepts, a Life Experiment

Q1: I love and enjoy freedom. So what if I lose my freedom after receiving the precepts?

Q2: Why are we afraid of taking the precepts when we clearly know that it is good for us? How do we overcome this uncertainty?

Q3: Is there any room for flexibility in upholding the precepts? If so, how do we maintain this flexibility without losing the spirit of the precepts?

Q4: Is it enough to just do good deeds regularly, or is it necessary to also observe the precepts? How should the precepts be broadly applied in our daily lives?

Q5: How do we encourage our family and friends to observe the precepts? What if they cannot take the whole precepts all at once?

Resource: Humanity Magazine #445 (人生雜誌第445期)
Translated by: Ariel Shen (沈純湘)
Edited by: Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown
Photo: Yao-chung Chang (張曜鐘)