Giving and Receiving the Teaching of the Precepts.

Great Master Dogen


The Great Precepts of the Buddhas are kept carefully by the Buddhas; Buddhas give them to Buddhas, Ancestors give them to Ancestors. The Transmission of the Precepts is beyond the three existences of past, present and future; enlightenment ranges from time eternal and is even now. Shakyamuni Buddha, our Lord, Transmitted the Precepts to Makakashyo and he Transmitted them to Ananda; thus the Precepts have been Transmitted to me in the eighty-fifth generation. 1 I am now going to give them to you, in order to show my gratitude for the compassion of the Buddhas, and thus make them the eyes of all sentient beings; this is the meaning of the Transmission of the Living Wisdom of the Buddhas. I am going to pray for the Buddha’s guidance and you should make confession and be given the Precepts.

Please recite this verse after me:–

Preceptor followed by congregation:

All wrong actions, behaviour and karma, perpetrated
by me from time immemorial, have been,
and are, caused by greed, anger and delusion which
have no beginning, born of my body, mouth and
will; I now make full and open confession thereof.

Preceptor alone:

Now, by the guidance of the Buddhas and Ancestors,
we can discard and purify all our karma of
body, mouth and will and obtain great immaculacy;
this is by the power of confession.

You should now be converted to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the Three Treasures there are three merits; the first is the true source of the Three Treasures; the second is the presence in the past of the Buddha; the third is His presence at the present time. The highest Truth is called the Buddha Treasure; immaculacy is called the Dharma Treasure; harmony is called the Sangha Treasure. The person who has realised the Truth really is called the Buddha Treasure; the Truth that is realised by Buddha is called the Dharma Treasure; the people who study the Dharma Treasure are called the Sangha Treasure. He who teaches devas and humans, appearing in the sky and in the world, is called the Buddha Treasure; that which appears in the world, in the Scriptures, and becomes good for others, is called the Dharma Treasure; he who is released from all suffering, and is beyond the world, is called the Sangha Treasure. This means that, when someone is converted to the Three Treasures, he can have the Precepts of the Buddhas
completely: make the Buddha your teacher and do not follow wrong ways.

The Three Pure Precepts

Cease from evil.

This is the house of all the laws of Buddha; this is the source of all the laws of Buddha.

Do only good.

The Dharma of the Samyaku Sambodai 2 is the Dharma of all existence.

Do good for others.

Be beyond both the holy and the unholy; let us rescue ourselves and others.

These three are called the Three Pure Precepts.

The Ten Great Precepts

Do not kill.

No life can be cut off; the Life of Buddha is increasing; continue the Life of Buddha; do not kill Buddha.

Do not steal.

The mind and its object are one; the gateway to enlightenment stands open wide.

Do not covet.

The doer, the doing and that which has the doing done to it are immaculate therefore there is no desire; it is the same doing as that of the Buddhas.

Do not say that which is not true.

The wheel of the Dharma rolls constantly, lacks for nothing and needs something; the sweet dew covers the whole world and within it lies the Truth.

Do not sell the wine of delusion.

There is nothing to be deluded about; if we realise this we are enlightenment itself.

Do not speak against others.

In Buddhism the Truth, and everything, are the same; the same law, the same enlightenment and the same behaviour. Do not allow any one to speak of another’s faults. Do not allow any one to make a mistake in Buddhism.

Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others.

Every Buddha and every Ancestor realises that he is the same as the limitless sky and as great as the universe: when they realise their true body, there is nothing within or without; when they realise their true body, they are nowhere upon the earth.

Do not be mean in giving either Dharma or wealth.

There is nothing to be mean with; one phrase, one verse, the hundred grasses, one Dharma, one enlightenment, every Buddha, every Ancestor.

Do not be angry.

There is no retiring, no going, no Truth, no lie; there is a brilliant sea of clouds, there is a dignified sea of clouds.

Do not defame the Three Treasures.

To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom: do not criticise; accept everything.

These sixteen Precepts are thus. Be obedient to the teaching and its giving; accept it with bows.

Reprinted with revisions from Zen is Eternal Life by Roshi P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, pp. 211-214.


  1. Traditionally, at this point in the text, the priest conferring the Precepts gives the number of his/her own generation; in keeping with this tradition, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett has included the number of her generation here.
  2. Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenement