Living Mindfully

By developing peace and serenity through ethical and conscientious living we can transform a society based on greed and excessive consumerism to one in which thoughtfulness and compassionate action are of the greatest value.  Imagine.  As you meditate on each precept below and allow them to permeate the awareness of your mind, also try to be aware how each one can be translated into action and incorporated into your daily routine.  

"Peace on earth begins in the heart"  -Darren

1

Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology.  All spiritual ideologies and ways of thought are guiding means and should not be perceived as absolute truths.  There are many roads to spiritual enlightenment.  Groups that claim their way of thinking is the only correct way fail to recognize the validity of the diversity of individual spiritual experience.

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.  What we observe, think or feel to be true today may be different tomorrow based on new experiences.   Don't be afraid to let go of old ideas to make room for new ways of thinking.

3

Do not force others, especially 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.  Let children form their own views, knowing that ultimately, your actions and behaviors will serve as a model to guide them.

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.  How often do we fail to look at those who are sick or homeless, choosing to ignore their plight because it is easier for us?

5

Do not accumulate and horde 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.  Society breeds consumerism causing many to buy things they don't need and adds to financial difficulties for individuals and society at large. Be aware of your consumerism and how it may stress your finances and distract you from loving relationships.  Share with those who are less fortunate. 

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.  Hatred begins in the mind and moves to the heart.  It can be the source of illness and war. It is destructive to our body, mind and spirit ... and ultimately to the larger society.  

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.  Peaceful meditation is a method to achieve harmony of mind, body and spirit and to achieve overall well-being and improved health.

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.  It is wise to monitor what we speak and be aware of how what we say may affect others and society. Our tongues can be powerful weapons or the source of much joy.

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 to bring society to awareness.  Awareness and active participation can facilitate changes in individuals and society.

10

Do not use your spiritual community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A spiritual 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 realize your ideal of compassion.

12

Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.  Capital punishment and abortion devalue life and do not help others learn that life is precious.  Isn't it ironic that we kill people to show that killing is wrong?

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. Sexual expression should take place with 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 life into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings. Act responsibly and be aware of how your actions might affect you, others and the world in which you live.

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Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced "Tick Not Hahn") is a Zen master, scholar and peacemaker who has written over 30 books and was nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize.

These precepts, although slightly adapted here,  are further explained in  Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, 3rd edition, (2005) by Thich Nhat Hanh: Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. 

Other suggested reading by Thich Nhat Hanh: 

    Peace Is Every Step

    The Miracle of Mindfulness

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