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The Healing Power of the Precepts
by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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The Buddha was like a doctor, treating the spiritual ills of the human race. The path of practice he taught was like a course of therapy for suffering hearts and minds. This way of understanding the Buddha and his teachings dates back to the earliest texts, and yet is also very current. Buddhist meditation practice is often advertised as a form of healing, and quite a few psychotherapists now recommend that their patients try meditation as part of their treatment.


Experience has shown, though, that meditation on its own cannot provide a total therapy. It requires outside support. Modern meditators in particular have been so wounded by mass civilization that they lack the resilience, persistence and self-esteem needed before concentration and insight practices can be genuinely therapeutic.M any teachers, noticing this problem, have decided that  the Buddhist path is insufficient for our particular needs. To make up for this insufficiency they have experimented with ways of supplementing meditation practice, combining it with such things as myth, poetry, psychotherapy, social activism, sweat lodges, mourning rituals, and even drumming. The problem, though, may not be that there is anything lacking in the Buddhist path, but that we simply haven't been following the Buddha's full course of therapy.


The Buddha's path consisted not only of mindfulness, concentration, and insight practices, but also of virtue, beginning with the five precepts. In fact, the precepts constitute the first step in the path. There is a modern tendency to dismiss the five precepts as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to our modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: They are part of a course of therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem: regret and denial.


佛陀的修行道不仅包括了念、定、内明的修练,还包括以五戒为起点的持戒。实际上,戒德构成了行道的初阶。现代人往往把五戒当作[基督教]主日校规加以排斥,认为这些戒律来自已不适应我们现代社会的旧式传统规范。然而,这种说法忽视了佛陀制定戒律的本意: 戒律是受伤心灵的对治疗程的一部分,特别是针对自卑心理的两种病根悔恨与否认。

When our actions don't measure up to certain standards of behavior, we either (1) regret the actions or (2) engage in one of two kinds of denial, either (a) denying that our actions did in fact happen or (b) denying that the standards of measurement are really valid. These reactions are like wounds in the mind. Regret is an open wound, tender to the touch, while denial is like hardened, twisted scar tissue around a tender spot. When the mind is wounded in these ways, it can't settle down comfortably in the present, for it finds itself resting on raw, exposed flesh or calcified knots. Even when it's forced to stay in the present, it's there only in a tensed, contorted and partial way, and so the insights it gains tend to be contorted and partial as well. Only if the mind is free of wounds and scars can it be expected to settle down comfortably and freely in the present, and to give rise to undistorted discernment.

当我们的行为未能达到某些操行标准时,我们或者为之悔恨,或者作两种形式之一的否认,一是否认该行为确实发生,二是否认该标准的有效性。这些反应,就像是心的诸种伤创。悔恨的伤创是开放性的,一碰就痛;  否认的伤创则好比是某个痛点周围的痂疥,硬化扭曲。心以这些形式受创之后,就难以安住当下,因为它发现自己停歇之处,不是生疼外露的血肉,就是钙化坚硬的纠结。即使强迫它住在当下,它也只能以一种紧张、扭曲、片面的方式待在那里,那么它得到的洞见,往往也是扭曲、片面的。心只有去除了伤创与疤痕时,才能够指望它舒适、安适地住于当下,升起真如明辨 。

This is where the five precepts come in: They are designed to heal these wounds and scars. Healthy self-esteem comes from living up to a set of standards that are practical, clear-cut, humane, and worthy of respect; the five precepts are formulated in such a way that they provide just such a set of standards.

这便是五戒的用处所在:它们是为了治愈这些伤创与疤痕而设计的的。健康的自尊来自于践行一套实用、明确、合乎人性、值得敬重的准则;  五戒的制定方式,正是为我们提供了这样的一套准则。

Practical: The standards set by the precepts are simple no intentional killing, stealing, having illicit sex, lying, or taking intoxicants. It's entirely possible to live in line with these standards. Not always easy or convenient, but always possible. I have seen efforts to translate the precepts into standards that sound more lofty or noble taking the second precept, for example, to mean no abuse of the planet's resources but even the people who reformulate the precepts in this way admit that it is impossible to live up to them. Anyone who has dealt with psychologically damaged people knows that very often the damage comes from having been presented with impossible standards to live by. If you can give people standards that take a little effort and mindfulness, but are possible to meet, their self-esteem soars dramatically as they discover that they are actually capable of meeting those standards. They can then face more demanding tasks with confidence.


实用: 戒律所定的标准可谓简单不有意地杀生、偷盗、行不当性事、说谎、用醉品。遵照这套准则生活,是完全有可能的。尽管并不总是容易、方便,却总是可行的。我见过有人把戒律译解成听起来越发崇高、圣善的标准举第二戒来说,把它读成不滥用地球的资源但是,就连那些如此另解戒律的人自己也承认,奉行那些标准是不可能的。凡是与心灵受创者打过交道的人都知道,那种伤创常常来自被要求奉行一套不可能达成的标准。如果你能够给出一套需要付出一些努力和念住,但有可能达到的标准,那么当人们发现自己的确有能力达到那些标准时,他们的自尊感将会大幅度提升。接下来就能够怀着自信,面对难度更高的任务。

Clear-cut: The precepts are formulated with no ifs, ands, or buts. This means that they give very clear guidance, with no room for waffling or less-than-honest rationalizations. An action either fits in with the precepts or it doesn't. Again, standards of this sort are very healthy to live by . Anyone who has raised children has found that, although they may complain about hard and fast rules, they actually feel more secure with them than with rules that are vague and always open to negotiation. Clear-cut rules don't allow for unspoken agendas to come sneaking in the back door of the mind. If, for example, the precept against killing allowed you to kill living beings when their presence is inconvenient, that would place your convenience on a higher level than your compassion for life. Convenience would become your unspoken standard and as we all know, unspoken standards provide huge tracts of fertile ground for hypocrisy and denial to grow. If, however, you stick by the standards of the precepts, then as the Buddha says, you are providing unlimited safety for the lives of all. There are no conditions under which you would take the lives of any living beings, no matter how inconvenient they might be. In terms of the other precepts, you are providing unlimited safety for their possessions and sexuality, and unlimited truthfulness and mindfulness in your communication with them. When you find that you can trust yourself in matters like these, you gain an undeniably healthy sense of self-respect.

明确: 戒律的条文不带假如、而且、但是之类的虚词。这意味着给出的指南是极其明确的,无可适从的含糊与不足诚实的强辩,在此并无余地。一件行为要么符合戒律,要么违背戒律。如前所述,这类标准奉行起来是十分健康的。凡是有过教养孩童经验的人都知道,孩子们也许会抱怨严格刻板的规矩,但实际上,这种规矩比 起那些含糊不明、多有回旋余地的规矩,他们觉得更有安全感。明确的规矩不允许隐秘用心的存在。举例来说,假设杀生戒允许你在其它生灵的存在对你不便时把它们杀死,那样就把你的方便放在了高于你对生命的慈悲的位置。方便与否即成为你的潜在标准我们都知道,秘而不宣的潜规则为虚伪和否认的滋长提供了大片的沃土。不过,你若是坚守戒律界定的标准,那么如佛陀所言,你就给众生提供了无量的安稳。没有任何条件能让你夺取生命,无论机缘何等不便。你所持的另外几条戒,也让你对众生的财物安全和性安全,提供了无量的保障,也让你在与众生的交流之中,为他们提供了无量的诚实和念 住。当你发现,自己在这类事情上能够信任自己时,便获得了一种自尊感,无可否认,它是健康的。

Humane: The precepts are humane both to the person who observes them and to the people affected by his or her actions. If you observe them, you are aligning yourself with the doctrine of karma, which teaches that the most important powers shaping your experience of the world are the intentional thoughts, words, and deeds you choose in the present moment. This means that you are not insignificant . Every time you take a choice at home, at work, at play you are exercising your power in the on-going fashioning of the world. At the same time, this principle allows you to measure yourself in terms that are entirely under your control: your intentional actions in the present moment. In other words, they don't force you to measure yourself in terms of your looks, strength, brains, financial prowess, or any other criteria that depend less on your present karma than they do on karma from the past. Also, they don't play on feelings of guilt or force you to bemoan your past lapses. Instead, they focus your attention on the ever-present possibility of living up to your standards in the here and now. If you are living with people who observe the precepts, you find that your dealings with them are not a cause for mistrust or fear. They regard your desire for happiness as akin to theirs. Their worth as individuals does not depend on situations in which there have to be winners and losers. When they talk about developing loving-kindness and mindfulness in their meditation, you see it reflected in their actions. In this way the precepts foster not only healthy individuals, but also a healthy society a society in which the self-respect and mutual respect are not at odds.

合乎人性: 戒律即对持戒者,也对受其行为影响者来说,都是合乎人性的。你若持 守戒律,就等于是遵奉业力原则。根据业力原则,在影响你如何体验世界的力量当中,最重要的是你在当下选择的动机的 思考、言语、身行。这意味着你并非是无可作为的。每作一次选择在家、在职、游戏时你都在世界的持续造作当中行使着你的力量。同时,这项原则允许你,从完全由你掌控即你 的当下动机的角度,衡量自己。换句话说,业力原则并不迫使你从相貌、气力、脑力、商业才干等等更多地依赖你的旧业而不是现业 的角度衡量自己。再者,戒律不刺激负疚感,也不逼着你痛 悔旧时失误,而是令你把注意力放在即刻当下一直存在着的圆满持戒的可能性上。如果你与持戒者共同生活,就会发现同这些人交往,不会是引生不信任或恐惧的因缘。他们把你对幸福的欲求视为己出。他们的个人价值不依赖于那些必须分出输赢的场合。当他们谈论在禅修中发展慈心和念住时,你发现这也体现在他们的行为上。以这种方式,戒律滋养的不仅仅是健康的个体,而且也 滋养着一个健康的社会一个自尊与互敬并行不悖的社会。

Worthy of respect: When you adopt a set of standards, it is important to know whose standards they are and to see where those standards come from, for in effect you are joining their group, looking for their approval, and accepting their criteria for right and wrong . In this case, you couldn't ask for a better group to join : the Buddha and his noble disciples. The five precepts are called "standards appealing to the noble ones." From what the texts tell us of the noble ones, they are not people who accept standards simply on the basis of popularity. They have put their lives on the line to see what leads to true happiness , and have seen for themselves, f or example, that all lying is pathological, and that any sex outside of a stable, committed relationship is unsafe at any speed . Other people may not respect you for living by the five precepts, but noble ones do, and their respect is worth more than that of anyone else in the world.

值得敬重: 当你采纳一套准则时,了解它们由 什么人制定、看清其出处,是十分重要的,因为在效果上, 等于你是在加入那些人的团体,寻求他们的赞许,接受他们的对错标准。在这里,没有比佛陀和圣弟子的团体更值得加入的了。五戒被称为圣者赞许的准则。根据经典对圣者的描述, 他们不是那种因为某种准则普遍流行便予以接纳信受的人。为了觅得真乐之道,他们投注了自己的生命。并且,对于一切妄语都 是病态,稳定、负责的性关系之外的性事俱不安稳等等诸如此类的例子他们已经亲眼见过。别人对你持守五戒也许不以为然,但圣者们必然会敬 重此事。他们的敬重较之世上任何人的敬重,价值更高。

Now, many people find it cold comfort to join such an abstract group, especially when they have not yet met any noble ones in person. It's hard to be good-hearted and generous when the society immediately around you openly laughs at those qualities and values such things as sexual prowess or predatory business skills instead. This is where Buddhist communities can come in. It would be very useful if Buddhist groups would openly part ways with the prevailing amoral tenor of our culture and let it be known in a kindly way that they value goodheartedness and restraint among their members. In doing so, they would provide a healthy environment for the full-scale adoption of the Buddha's course of therapy: the practice of concentration and discernment in a life of virtuous action. Where we have such environments, we find that meditation needs no myth or make-believe to support it, because it is based on the reality of a well-lived life . You can look at the standards by which you live, and then breathe in and out comfortably not as a flower or a mountain, but as a full-fledged, responsible human being. For that's what you are.


[1]译注: 此处意指持戒者无需前文所述的种种辅助手段,而是藉观想自身的戒德,升起喜乐满足,修出入息念 。

最近訂正 11-27-2010