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  Tam quy Ngũ Giới - Trưởng Lão Thích Thông Lạc Bản tiếng Anh
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  • 1. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 1 THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM BY THE VENERABLE ELDER THICH THONG LAC Translated from Vietnamese into English by Tam Nhu PUBLISHED IN VIETNAMESE BY THE PUBLISHER OF RELIGION 2012
  • 2. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 2
  • 3. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 3 [The translator is a student of Buddhism and has made her best to carry out this translation work to support those who wish to learn Buddhism but could not read the book in Vietnamese. However, there would be areas of the work where correction or improvement may be needed. There have been helpful supports from many enthusiastic and kindhearted friends in this regards. Further constructive comments and recommendations are most welcomed to make the work better.]
  • 4. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 4 PREFACE If you wish to follow a spiritual set of beliefs, you would need to research and understand it thoroughly. If it is indeed the truth of humanity, then you can have faith and live your life in accordance with its teachings. Otherwise, if a religion1 builds up metaphysical world and takes beliefs 1 [translator] The original Vietnamese word of the Venerable Elder Thich Thong Lac is “tôn giáo” and its literal English translation is "religion". This word will be used several times in the whole book in two different ways: (1) religion as a set of beliefs and worship (e.g. of a superhuman controlling power, God or gods etc) and (2) religion as a spiritual path including practical psycho-ethical aspects with methods for people to practice to overcome sufferings.
  • 5. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 5 in monotheism or polytheism, then it can be illusionary, unpractical, and less concrete; you should reconsider so as not to take a premature decision. It would not only bring no benefit to your life, but also infuse superstitious, abstract and backward thoughts to your mind and make you become a blind, fanatic, superstitious, backward follower. As such, if you want to follow Buddhism, you need to really understand:
  • 6. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 6 1. Who is Buddha? 2. What is Dharma? 3. Who is Sangha? You should not close your eyes and take belief, instead, be selective so that your pure soul and mind shall not be polluted by the illusions of the falsified religious thoughts that can ruin your entire life. So when you want to take refuge in the Three Jewels and Five Precepts in order to become a Buddhist disciple,
  • 7. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 7 you need to study the Buddhism thoroughly. In your research of Buddhism, if you only read the expanded canons, little could you understand the Buddhism. In your research of Buddhism, if you just go to pogodas listening to the teachings there and thus have beliefs to take refuge in the Three Jewels, this is not a right approach! Carelessness may lead you to miscreance which is very difficult to be later unrooted and thus
  • 8. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 8 resulting in tremendous inner conflicts and distress for you. Before listening to the teachings of the religion that you consider to follow, you should find a Master, not one with a Master’s degree but one who has been following strict moral principles and never violated even a minimal precept throughout his entire religious life. Such a Master is the fully awakened one who will be able to guide your Buddhism study in a correct way. And once the religion that you
  • 9. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 9 select is in accordance with your heartfelt wishes, it shall bring practical benefits to you in your life journey to your true religion. With all respects The Venerable Elder Thich Thong Lac
  • 10. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 10 PART 1: TAKING REFUGE IN THE THREE JEWELS Before taking refuge in the Three Jewels, you need to understand what it means. There are two parts of this expression: 1. Take refuge 2. The Three Jewels First of all, what does the term “take refuge” [Vietnamese: “Quy Y”] mean? This means “to come back to rely on”. The word comes from the Sanskrit word “Namah”. People rely on their parents. They rely on their parents for many things to grow up - food and shelter, education and support
  • 11. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 11 in their business, weddings and other events in life. However, other than those, they would not be able to rely on their parents. For example, when they get sick, their parents cannot bear the sickness for them; or when they suffer from anger, hate or sadness, their parents cannot remove such suffering for them. Or when they die, their parents also cannot substitute them. Therefore, there are many aspects that people cannot rely on their parents. As such, you look for a refuge to be sheltered from all the sufferings which neither your parents nor any of your close ones can help you with.
  • 12. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 12 As each human being would have his or her own sorrows, you could not rely on anyone else to escape your sufferings, you thus take refuge in the Three Jewels. By relying on the Three Jewels, you are free from sufferings, i.e. you take control of your life, aging, sickness and death and terminate the reincarnation. Now is the second term – “Three Jewels”. What are the Three Jewels that you can rely on and be free from sufferings? The Three Jewels are: 1. The Buddha 2. The Dharma 3. The Sangha ***
  • 13. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 13 FIRST – THE BUDDHA So who is the Buddha? The Buddha2 is a human being with flesh and bones who was born by his parents in an ordinary way like us and was brought up with milk, porridge, rice and food. When he grew up, he got married and had a child similar to others. He also had sorrows due to sickness, anger, sadness etc. Particularly after his visit to the four 2 [translator] “…the Buddha or ‘Awakened One’…was Siddhattha Gotama (Sanskrit: Siddhārtha Gautama), Sakyamuni, the ‘sage of the Sakya people’….lived and flourished during the fifth century BCE in eastern India and died some time around 400 BCE”. Source: Sayings of the Buddha, New translations by Rupert Gethin from the Pali Nikayas, Oxford World’s Classic, Oxford University Press, 2008
  • 14. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 14 gates of the city, he saw the four scenes of sufferings of a human life: 1. The first scene is of an old man walking difficultly in tremble with a stick. 2. The second scene is of a sick person crying in pains. 3. The third scene is of a dead person whose relatives were sobbing in deep sorrows. 4. The forth scene is of an ascetic walking peacefully and calmly on his way for food. Seeing these four scenes and the sufferings of a human life, he thought: "I will have to experience these same
  • 15. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 15 sufferings." No one could escape these sufferings due to the law of cause and effect; therefore, he decided to let go of the worldly life and accepted an ascetic life to find a practicing method for liberation and master the four sufferings of a human life (living, aging, sickness, death). He has achieved such liberation. He has attained the truth of humanity. And so his first discourse to the five ascetics (Kondañña, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanāma, and Assaji) is the Four Noble Truths. Buddhism was born with these four truths offering mankind an education program to equip human beings with a
  • 16. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 16 sufficient moral foundation, which is based on the causality law, having human being as its core, and helping people to live without creating sufferings to one’s self and others. Based on the four truths, he has mastered his living, aging, sickness and death and put an end to rebirth. We are also human beings like him and were born by our parents similar to him; he was successful in his practice for liberation from the suffering circle, then we can also do that! Whatever he could do, we can do the same. He is a human being, we are also human beings. With such strong
  • 17. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 17 belief in human beings, there is nothing that we cannot succeed, isn’t there? We have belief that the Buddha was a human being, he was not born as a saint or bodhisattva etc. coming from outside of this world. If he were born as a saint reincarnated to this world from some other worlds as described in the expanded canons e.g. when he was born, he walked seven steps on seven lotuses with one arm pointed up and the other arm pointed down saying “In the whole sky and land, I am the unique”, then he must have already been an enlightened one who was obviously different from human beings and came here to assist
  • 18. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 18 and help us, then we could not become like him through practice. The truth is not that. Expanded canons often tell legends of deification of the Buddha. How someone who had been born as saint had to go through six years of extreme austerity due to following heretic teachings. It is obvious that there is exaggeration in these stories which has invented an imaginary religious leader. During the whole six years, he could not see the right and not right methods; therefore, he had to undergo considerable studies and practice of other schools rather than his own.
  • 19. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 19 After six years of extreme austerity and heretic practice, he nearly died and was described in the canons as “when the Buddha was in extreme austerity he ate very little, and thus he looked like a skeleton with skin, and if someone touched his stomach the person would also touch his backbone”. Even this description is an exaggeration as if it were true then he had been dead. We know that the Buddha performed utmost austerity but it was not as extreme as above mentioned by the Patriarchs who had altered the texts. He was a brilliant and healthy person with extraordinary will in his practice.
  • 20. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 20 After six years of extreme austerity, he could not find the way to liberation, as such he renounced all existing methods of other sects and schools to create his own method, and he found the truth, a true path to liberation. Because of his compassion to living beings, he gave us his teachings. So the Buddha was actually a human being like us and not from Tusita heaven. Thanks to this truth, we believe that we – human beings – can attain this liberation. As such, no one can make us change our belief that the Buddha was actually a human being. Therefore, if there is
  • 21. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 21 someone coming from other worlds to teach us, we would not follow such person. Reading the world history, we are confident that in this planet there was a real person from India who took ascetic life after renouncing his throne, fame and wealth, his wife and son and later attained full enlightenment as Buddha. The following generations respected him and created a religion after his name – Buddhism, but this is not his intention. In Buddhism, there is no Saint, Creator, Almighty, Saviour and those following Buddhism stand on their own feet to save
  • 22. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 22 themselves instead of relying on other powers. Nowadays there are Buddhist sects full of other powers and heavenly authority which are impractical and make people lose trust due to their superstitious and begging nature. Therefore, we need to return to the self-reliant root of original and righteous Buddhism, which means to return to the Sakyamuni Buddha. To return to the Sakyamuni Buddha is to take refuge in the Buddha. Today you have understood which Buddha you chose to take refuge in. Apart from the Sakyamuni Buddha, there
  • 23. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 23 is no other Buddha that you should take refuge in. So now join your hands together in front of you, turn yourself toward the Buddha statue and in silence make your vow to take refuge in Him and then make your bow to Him once. ***
  • 24. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 24 SECOND – THE DHARMA So what is the Dharma? Dharma is the teachings of the Buddha andhis experience in his practicetoattain full enlightenment to teach human beings to reach the same result. So why his Dharma is a shelter for us to be free from sufferings? Is the dharma the chanting of Amitabha? Or the zen meditation without any positive or negative thought? Or Hua Tou, Koan? Or mantra, or to exorcize by clasping hands, or reciting, or bowing and chanting Buddha’s name in penitence?
  • 25. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 25 No! The Buddha did not teach us the above methods, instead, he taught us the Four Right Efforts i.e. to prevent and eliminate the evilness, to start and develop the goodness. His method is very practical, he taught: “When my mind is greedy I know my mind is greedy, when my mind is not greedy I know my mind is not greedy”. Craving is an evilness which bring sufferings for self, for other people, for both. Once we know something is evilness, we will immediately exterminate it in our mind. When we take refuge in the Dharma, our mind is free from sorrows. Relying on parents cannot
  • 26. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 26 free us from sufferings, only by relying on Dharma could we get rid of sufferings. When our sick bodies ache, no matter what diseases in our bodies, by following the Buddha’s method the sickness will be put to an end and there would be no more ache (Observe the body on the body to overcome sufferings). Example: when we have headache, we would gather our mind to focus on the breath and stay with the breath. And how do we stay with the breath? First of all, we gather our mind to focus on the breath: “Inhale I know I’m breathing in, exhale I know I’m breathing out”. With right mindfulness of the
  • 27. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 27 breath, we create a thought for the mind: “With calmandstill bodyoperation, Iknow I’m breathing in; with calm and still body operation, I know I’m breathing out”. When the mind rests peacefully in the breath, the headache disappears. Relying on parents could not help us to overcome headache, only by relying on the method to prevent and eliminate the evilness can we overcome our sickness. As such, by taking refuge in Buddha’s method we could master the four sufferings of human life: living, aging, sickness, and death; there is no other method than this for us to rely on to go beyond sufferings.
  • 28. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 28 The method to master the sufferings is so beneficial, it is called the moral foundation which bases itself on the cause-and-effect law and considers mankind as its core for development, and teaches people living without creating sufferings for themselves and others; as the method brings so much benefits to people’s life and society, it deserves its name as Dharma Jewel. Such a beneficial method is worth taking refuge in, isn’t it? Taking refuge in the Buddha alone is not enough for a complete liberation, so we also need to take refuge in the Dharma. ***
  • 29. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 29 THIRD – THE SANGHA So what is the Sangha? Sangha is Buddhist monks who have practiced and attained the true enlightenment, living like the Buddha and abiding by full principles without any tiny violation, and are the bright examples of right conducts and virtues for people to follow. Sangha is a Holy monk who heightens the virtuous conducts of Buddhism and is the bright example for people to follow and practice Buddhism. Therefore, it is not easy to find a Holy monk who has attained true
  • 30. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 30 enlightenment and is so rare, so hard to find and meet nowadays. Once you find such a person, you should take refuge in the person, this means to take refuge in the Jewel of Sangha. How to choose a Holy Monk? To choose a holy monk is to choose one who shaved his hair and beard, putting on the Kasaya (monk’s robe), leaving home, living without family and houses, whose mind is as white as the seashell and as open as the space, and always feel satisfied with basic material conditions. In our life, if we could find such a Holy monk, we should follow his example as a torch light to show us the way.
  • 31. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 31 It’s not easy to find the Jewel of Sangha. It’s actually very difficult! It’s extremely difficult! You should not take refuge in any monk you meet just to fill up the Three Jewels. To follow Buddhism, you should not listen to anything that comes to you. It’s necessary to carefully choose a teacher as the Buddha has taught: “If you want to learn Buddhism, you should choose a teacher who has finished craving, anger, and ignorance”, or being close to: “ see the Holy monk, is fluent in the method of the Holy monk; practice the method of the Holy monk; see the enlightened monk, is fluent in the
  • 32. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 32 method of the enlightened monk, and practice the method of the enlightened monk”. Such a monk is worth considering our teacher. If you could not find such a teacher, don’t take refuge in the Jewel of Sangha. You should wait until you find the right Jewel of Sangha to take refuge in all three jewels; until then, please don’t be in a hurry to devote your life to miscreance; it’s such a waste of a human life. Though Sangha is listed as the third Jewel, it’s the most important in the Three Jewels. Without the Jewel of Sangha, we could never be awakened to the truth; without being awakened to the
  • 33. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 33 truth, we could not support and follow the truth; without following the truth, we could not attain the truth. As such, the Jewel of Sangha is the most valuable jewel. If you are born during the time of the Buddha or an Arhat, this is an unlimited fortune. The Jewel of Sangha is priceless; however, the Buddha passed away so long ago and thus you cannot ask him when you encounter difficulties in practice. The followers only follow his example of virtues as recorded in the history. Taking refuge in the Jewel of Buddha only is not enough. Therefore, if
  • 34. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 34 we want to fulfill our practice to attain complete liberation, apart from the Jewel of Buddha – a good example of virtues in our way for liberation, there are more things we need. Jewel of Dharma is the canon texts, the discourses taught by the Buddha which are now gathered in the Nikayas by the Patriarchs. We all follow these teachings to perform our practice, but when we have questions or difficulties we cannot ask the canons. So we take refuge in the Dharma but could not have answer for our questions to complete our practice. Therefore, the
  • 35. By The Venerable Elder THICH THONG LAC 35 Jewel of Dharma is precious but not as precious as the Jewel of Sangha as the former has both advantages and disadvantages i.e. not completely advantageous. The Jewel of Sangha is a person who lives like other people but has attained the truth and thus is experienced in practice to guide others. Therefore, if we take refuge in the person, we will be awakened. After we are awaked to the truth, he will teach us to follow the truth. Soon after following the truth, we will attain the truth. After attaining the truth, we will master: living, aging, sickness and death and put an end to rebirth.
  • 36. THREE JEWELS AND FIVE PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISM 36 In summary, amongst the Three Jewels, the Jewel of Sangha is the most useful. Thanks to the Jewel
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