The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism:

Engaged Buddhism

"We will not just say, “I love her very much,” but instead, “I will do something so that she will suffer less.” The mind of compassion is truly present when it is effective in removing another person’s suffering." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Engaged Buddhism means to take compassionate action to aid in the relief of human suffering.

When we see something wrong that is causing others to suffer, it is our duty as Buddhists to take action in a peaceful, and mindful way to end their suffering.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh formed the Order Of Interbeing in the mid 1960’s. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained six members into the order, three men, and three women, on the full moon day in February of 1966.

During the ceremony, the six ordainees vowed to study, practice, and observe the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing.

Thich Nhat Hanh coined the phrase, “Engaged Buddhism” to refer to taking compassionate social action

The Fourteen Precepts Of The Order Of Interbeing later became known as, The Fourteen Precepts Of Engaged Buddhism.

1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

(Do not worship idols, or blindly follow Buddhist teachings.)

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 non-attachment 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.

(Let Go Of Your Attachments)

3. Do not force others, including 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 narrowness.

(Let everyone follow their own path. Don’t force others to follow yours.)

4. Do not avoid contact with 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.

(Always acknowledge that suffering "Dukkha" is real. This is the first of The Four Noble Truths )

5. Do not accumulate 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.

(All beings suffer, some suffer too little, some suffer too much ~Buddha)

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.

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 in the depths of your consciousness.

(Always being mindful of the present moment is the first step to enlightenment.)

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.

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, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

(Right speech is part of The Eightfold Path)

10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious 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.

(Right livelihood is part of The Eightfold Path)

12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.

(The first of The Five Precepts)

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.

(The second of The Five Precepts)

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. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relationships, 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 lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

It is not enough for us to be compassionate. We must take action. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion.

The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefitting others, one needs to be engaged, and involved.
~Dalai Lama

Embrace The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism. When you witness suffering take action no matter how small to help relieve that suffering.

Let go of attachments, and embrace nirvana.

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Recommended Reading:

Not Turning Away: The Practice of Engaged Buddhism

The Beginner's Guide to Walking the Buddha's Eightfold Path

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

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