The Three Refuges and the Five Precepts

Venue: Atomic Advertising Shop, Taiping

Before a Dhamma talk, we usually chant as we did just now, i.e., paying homage to the Buddha, taking of the Three Refuges and undertaking the Five Precepts. We do so in Pali, which is said to be the language the Buddha used. It is good to understand them, so let me explain them briefly to you.

Firstly, we pay homage to the Buddha. He is not any ordinary person or monk but a Buddha, a fully enlightened person, one who has achieved the ultimate liberation. We have faith that the Buddha is the highest being and we pay homage to him.

Then you recited the taking of the Three Refuges. Once a lay man asked the Buddha to define an upasaka (follower). He replied that one who goes to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for refuge is a follower. So, by taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, we qualify ourselves as followers of the Buddha, or in other words, Buddhists.

That’s all one has to do to be a Buddhist. But to be considered a virtuous follower, we would have to observe the Five Precepts. This means that one refrains from killing and stealing. Sexual misconduct is also avoided and so is lying. The worst kind of lying would be those that cause harm to others. The final precept is to refrain from taking intoxicants. Nowadays, besides alcohol, there are many kinds of intoxicants, such as ecstasy pills. Even glue and cough mixture are used. A lay person who upholds the Five Precepts is virtuous and he prevents the accumulation of unwholesome kamma. By not doing bad, we are actually doing good as we protect others from our potential evil. This, in turn, creates the conditions necessary for a good present life and future rebirths because our kamma naturally return to us in corresponding ways. Therefore, the moral actions that we do determine our future.

We’re invited here today to accept offerings and bless this new shop. Let me tell you a related story during the Buddha’s time. At that time, many monks lived a nomadic existence and travelled around to spread the Dhamma. Once, a new village called Pataligama was in the making. (This village later grew to a city called Pataliputta and is now known as Patna in India). The villagers, hearing that the Buddha and a large group of his disciples were on his way to the vicinity, invited him and the disciples for dana at their new community hall. After dana, the Buddha chanted a few verses in Pali. In essence, he said that a wise person, in the place where he lives, should provide a meal to restrained and virtuous monks; then dedicate the merits obtained to the devas there. Being honoured thus, they will honour him in return. They have compassion for him as a mother would for her own child. One who receives the compassion of devas always meets with good fortune.

Our inability to see beings that are normally unseen, such as devas, does not mean that they do not exist. I know of a Chinese nun who has psychic ability. She told me that when she was giving talks in Malaysia, she often saw ‘beings’ that were about two feet tall coming into the hall to listen. Believing that other sentient beings exist in the world, we should try remember to share merits with them, especially devas and our departed relatives. With this in mind, let us now share the merits that we have all gained with all sentient beings.

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